Should Anne Boleyn be Pardoned and Reburied as Queen?

Posted By on May 26, 2011

St Peter ad Vincula Chapel, Tower of London

The Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula

Before I start this article, I would just like to say that I am not criticising anyone’s beliefs or views and I realise that this is a very controversial topic which will undoubtedly lead to heated comments, but I just needed to state my own position on this subject and reaffirm what my mission is in running this website.

Claire and The Anne Boleyn Files

First of all, I want to explain how The Anne Boleyn Files website began. In early 2009, I had a very vivid dream about being a spectator at Anne Boleyn’s execution. I was a member of the crowd and all I can remember now is hearing Anne’s speech, being impressed with her courage and dignity, and being overcome with sheer horror and terror as I realised that this innocent woman was going to be executed. It was one of those times when you are so terrified that you cannot move or speak, you are just rooted to the spot and your mouth is like sandpaper, and all I wanted to do was to stop the execution and save Anne. As the French swordsman swung his blade I woke up in a cold sweat and shook Tim awake telling him that he had to design a website for me called The Anne Boleyn Files and that I had to get the real truth out there about Anne Boleyn. That dream led to the birth of The Anne Boleyn Files and I now spend every waking hour researching Anne Boleyn and Tudor history.

Now, I don’t believe in reincarnation or the idea that Anne was reaching to me from beyond the grave etc. I think it was just my brain’s way of giving me purpose at a time when I really needed it. I was a freelance writer at the time and I’ve always loved history, so creating The Anne Boleyn Files was the perfect project and it’s grown from a project to a full-time job or perhaps a “mission”. My mission statement, if you look at the top of this page is to give “The REAL TRUTH about Anne Boleyn “The Most Happy” ” and I try to do that by looking at the contemporary sources, researching the period, debunking myths and sharing my findings with you all. At the end of the day, it is hard to get at the truth when history is written by the victors and attempts were made to obliterate Anne, to pretend that she never existed, or to paint her as a witch and whore, but I try my hardest and I have dedicated my time and energy to revealing the truth as I find it.

Should Anne Boleyn be Pardoned and Reburied as Queen?

So, that’s me and my mission but what has that got to do with the question “Should Anne Boleyn be Pardoned and Reburied as Queen”? Well, plenty, because I didn’t wake up from that dream with the urgent need to get Anne Boleyn pardoned and reburied, I woke up knowing that my mission was to educate people, and even now, with all I know about Anne and the passion I have for her and her story, I do not feel the need to start a campaign to get her pardoned and to get her re-interred in a magnificent tomb at Westminster Abbey.

Again, I’d just like to re-iterate that I am not criticising anybody who believes that Anne should be pardoned and I have the greatest respect for Wing Commander George Melville-Jackson who, in 2005, called on Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, to pardon Anne Boleyn and who also wanted her remains laid to rest alongside her daughter, Elizabeth I. The Wing-Commander worked tirelessly on his campaign, writing to the Queen and historians, consulting a barrister etc. but it was all in vain and sadly he died without completing his mission. I wholeheartedly believe that Anne Boleyn was innocent and that her trial was a sham and she suffered a huge miscarriage of justice, and I have nothing against those who want to get her pardoned, it’s just not my mission and does not fit in with my own feelings on the subject.

So, what are my feelings and why haven’t I led a campaign to get Anne Boleyn pardoned and reburied?

  • Time and evidence – Anne Boleyn was executed in 1536, 475 years ago, and, as a barrister told the Wing Commander, it is impossible to go to court and get a judicial review when there is no new evidence. We can see that the indictments against Anne Boleyn and the five men just don’t make sense, but a court of her peers accepted these indictments and found her guilty. It is impossible for us now, 475 years later, to challenge that evidence with our own evidence and we don’t even have the full trial records to challenge. We can believe and know in our hearts that Anne Boleyn was innocent, we can question the evidence used against her, we just cannot definitively prove her innocence.
  • Where do you stop? – It’s not only Anne Boleyn who suffered a miscarriage of justice, what about George Boleyn, Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, Sir William Brereton and Mark Smeaton? What about Margaret Pole? What about Francis Dereham? What about all the other innocent victims? I don’t feel I could campaign for Anne Boleyn without campaigning for all of them!
  • History – As I’ve said before, history is written by the victors and my mission is to correct bad history and to try and reveal the truth of Anne Boleyn’s life and death, not to rewrite history.
  • My feelings on Anne Boleyn’s resting place – People often say that Anne Boleyn’s remains should be dug up and re-interred in somewhere more befitting of a Queen of England and that she is not buried as Queen, however, Anne Boleyn is buried as Queen. In 1876 and 1877 when work was carried out in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, the chapel of the Tower of London, the Victorian workers unearthed the remains of a woman thought to have been Anne Boleyn, in that she was buried where records suggest that Anne was buried. After Dr Mouat had examined the remains of Anne and others found in the chancel, they were “soldered up in thick leaden coffers, and then fastened down with copper screws in boxes made of oak plank, one inch in thickness. Each box bore a leaden escutcheon, on which was engraved the name of the person whose supposed remains were thus enclosed, together with the dates of death, and of the year (1877) of the re-interment.”1 The boxes were then buried where they had been found and memorial tiles placed on the floor of the chancel to mark the graves. These memorial tiles are “octagon panels of white marble, in which are inserted the armorial bearings of those historic persons who were interred in the chancel; their names being inscribed on the border of yellow Siena marble which surrounds each panel.”2 Anne’s tile says “Queen Anne Boleyn” so she was buried as a Queen in 1877 and does not rest in some mass grave.If you have visited the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, you will know that it is a beautiful chapel, a place of God and a place that is used regularly for services. Anne’s tile is there for all to see and on the 19th May it receives a basket of roses and flowers from visitors. I, personally, would hate to see the beautiful tiled floor ruined and the peace and tranquility of the chapel disturbed in order to re-inter Anne in Westminster Abbey. The tile may act as a focal point for Anne Boleyn fans and Tudor history lovers, but Anne Boleyn is not there. Her remains lie under that floor but those who have the same faith that Anne Boleyn had believe that Anne is in Paradise, she is with her Father in Heaven. She has no need to be re-interred and I don’t believe for one minute that she is a restless spirit haunting the Tower and other places crying out to be moved to the Abbey.I actually feel that her resting place is a fitting memorial to her. That tile at the Tower of London speaks to people about Anne’s story. Tourists wonder why a Queen of England is buried in a little chapel at the Tower and I hope that it makes them ask questions. When I go to visit that tile, I feel such peace and am very moved, I’m not sure I’d feel that in the busy Westminster Abbey.
  • Time and Energy – Researching Anne Boleyn’s life takes up all of my time, I just do not have the time or energy to launch a campaign, to seek legal advice on the matter and to rally the troops. My aim is to educate and re-educate people about who Anne Boleyn really was and I see that as a hugely important mission.
  • It won’t change anything – Pardoning Anne Boleyn and moving her body will not, in my opinion, change anything. It won’t change history, it won’t help Anne and we will still be arguing with those who are convinced that she was a whore and traitor. I sincerely believe that a pardon will not change people’s attitudes, only re-educating people will change those.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am passionate about Anne Boleyn – just ask my husband Tim who calls himself an “Anne Boleyn widower” and my children who are completely indoctrinated! – but my passion lies in education and challenging the misconceptions that are out there. Also, please don’t read this as an attack on people who do believe that pardoning Anne is their mission and I am certainly not setting out to alienate people or to say that they are wrong, I just wanted to explain why I, a woman who freely admits to being obsessed by Anne Boleyn, am not campaigning.

Anne Boleyn was Queen of England and mother of Elizabeth I and no-one can take that away from her.

I hope that makes sense and I would love to hear what you feel about this issue.

For those of you interested in Anne Boleyn’s resting place, there are some photos of the Chapel in our album from last year’s Anne Boleyn Experience – see http://www.flickr.com/photos/theanneboleynfiles/4622969596/.

Notes and Sources

  1. Notices of the Historic Persons Buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London, with an account of the discovery of the supposed remains of Queen Anne Boleyn, by Doyne C Bell, 1877, p30
  2. Ibid., p18
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