The Fall of Anne Boleyn: The end

Posted By on May 19, 2020

It’s the 19th May and we’ve come to the day Queen Anne Boleyn’s life ended at the hands of the Swordsman of Calais, but really at the hands of her husband, King Henry VIII.

‘Anne of the Thousand Days’ was executed by beheading on a newly built scaffold within the confines of the Tower of London on 19th May 1536, just under three years after she’d been crowned queen in that moment of victory at Westminster Abbey.

Six people died in a huge miscarriage of justice that May, leaving grieving families and friends, people who were supposed to grieve briefly and then pick themselves up, dust themselves down, and get on serving their king and proving their loyalty. Harsh times.

In the following video, I explain exactly what happened on that awful day in 1536 and I also share Anne Boleyn’s execution speech.

Also on this day in history, this very same day, Archbishop Cranmer made Henry VIII’s third marriage possible. Yep! Wife number 2 has just been killed and Henry is already making sure that marriage number 3 is completely above board.

There are lots and lots of Tudor history videos on my Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor Society YouTube channel, so please do consider subscribing – click here. I add new content on a daily basis. If you prefer audio, then my talks are also available as podcasts on Podbean or your usual podcast app.

If you prefer reading, then this website has thousands of articles, including one on 19 May 1536.

3 thoughts on “The Fall of Anne Boleyn: The end”

  1. Christine says:

    On this day four hundred and eighty four years ago a Queen of England was led out from her lodgings in the Tower of London, and executed in what surely be the greatest miscarriages of justice in English legal history, it was unprecedented as no English queen had ever had their blood split before, her crime was high treason against her lord and husband King Henry V111, yet then and today all these centuries later, as we debate this shocking event and the events that led upto it, we can clearly see she was merely the victim of a tyrannical husband to rid himself of a woman he no longer loved and believed he would have no sons by her, her fault was really she had failed to give him a living son and therefore she was murdured in cold blood, her so called accomplices were also murdured and that week in May 1536 saw six people dying on the scaffold on Tower green, Anne died boldly, she had been with her almoner all night, and had also sworn on the sacrament in the presence of Kingston and Cranmer that she was innocent of any crime, these actions were reported back to the king as Anne had hoped but Henry V111 ignored them, however swearing on the sacrament meant a great deal in Tudor times and Cranmer and Kingston must have believed in this wretched queens innocence, she had a little breakfast and dressed herself with great care, strangely enough she chose to wear the gable hood in favour of the French hood which she had favoured for so long, and which she is seen wearing in her many portraits, she was clad in grey and crimson and ermine, and as she appeared to the silent watching crowds one observer remarked, ‘the queen came forth in fearful beauty’, her ladies were with her and Kingston escorted her up the steps, there was a crowd of about two thousand all come to witness one of the most dreadful events in history, one observer said the queen looked dazed but she made the usual customary speech, she asked the crowds to pray for the king and pray for her, she lastly said ‘If any person will meddle with my cause I require them to judge the best’ it was similar to William Brereton speech and some could see it as an admission of innocence in the carefully worded speech, all the time Anne had been walking to the scaffold she had kept glancing behind, sadly she must have hoped to the end that a messenger would come with a pardon, but none had and thus she prepared herself to die, there were several of her enemies in the crowd, Charles Brandon the Duke of Suffolk who had always disliked Anne, with young Henry Fitzroy the kings bastard and husband of her cousin, he possibly did not hate Anne she had after all arranged the marriage between him and her cousin, there was Thomas Cromwell who had engineered the entire shameful episode he no doubt would report back to the king when it was all over, it is not known wether Anne’s women who were with her on the scaffold were the same who had been with her in the Tower from the beginning or maybe, as Alison Weir comments the king may have let her have her own friends at the hour of her death, maybe one of these were Mary Wyatt as there is a tale that Anne gave to Mary Wyatt whom she loved her personal prayer book and she kept it till death, now Anne knelt on the straw and the crowd knelt also which was a nice touch and showed respect, all except Brandon knelt and Fitzroy, an observer remarked ‘before you could say a paternoster the queens head was struck from her shoulders ‘and it rolled in the straw now turning red with her blood, her eyes and mouth quivered for a few seconds which horrified the superstitious crowd, quickly her distraught ladies covered the bleeding head and body with a white cloth and carried her to St Peter Ad Vincula where she was buried that same day, of all the scenes most poignant on that harrowing day, I have always found the image of Anne’s ladies stumbling in their grief over the green with her body with no one to assist them, the most poignant of all, they had declared they wanted no man to handle her it seems that even if they were the women the king had chosen and not her friends, then they did show some feelings for her and were grieved at her death, one of them had been her aunt also, locked up for sometime a camaraderie can form amongst those together, Anne grave had been dug and yet no coffin had been prepared for her, it is strange when we consider that Henry V111 had planned every detail of her trail and execution but had failed to have a coffin supplied, these precious remains of a once crowned and anointed Queen of England were reverently laid in an old arrow box they had hastily found and there, in the little church of St Peter Ad Vincula they performed a funeral service and prayed and no doubt wept for her who had once been their mistress, as the casket was lowered into the grave Henry V111 ordered all the stonemasons to eradicate her initials from his many palaces, he thus chose to eradicate her from all memory, her paintings were taken down and destroyed and no one was ever heard to utter her name again, as the dust settled over her coffin the king blithely had Thomas Cranmer settle a dispensation so he could marry Jane Seymour who was residing up the river in Chelsea, they became engaged soon after, how it it possible we ask ourselves that the king having loved Anne Boleyn to distraction could ever have ordered her execution? Well order it he did, those who love deeply also hate deeply and Henry was to go on to make another four marriages, none of them really successful and we can safely assume that Anne Boleyn had been the love of his life but she had also turned the king from a jovial eager to please monarch into a rather sinister one, she had told him he was not answerable to the pope but to god, because of her he had established the Church of England of which he was head, it was her undoing that he had unlimited power and such power corrupts as Thomas More once said, ‘once a lion knows his strength there is none to gain say him’, Anne Boleyn is said to have been the cause of the reformation in England something which her enemies the die hard catholic’s hated her for, and in the years that followed a wall of silence was hung about her and only once did the king refer to her, on the occasion he was married disastrously to his fourth wife Anna from Cleves, his daughter Elizabeth asked to meet her new stepmother, and the king replied ‘she had had a mother so different she ought not to meet her’, Elizabeth it is supposed inherited her mothers jewellery including the pearl necklace with the famous B initials, she is said to be wearing them in Holbeins family portrait, she had a love of pearls all her life and this could be in tribute to her mother, when Elizabeth came to the throne Anne’s name began to be rehabilitated there were many portraits done of her and George Wyatt, grandson of the man who had once loved her, wrote her first biography, Anne is remembered now as the queen Henry V111 beheaded and yet her story is fascinating, she is rightly described as the most enigmatic of all Henry’s wives, because she refused to be his mistress, and eventually became his queen, her fall is just as dramatic as her rise to power and even those who disliked her had sympathy and admiration for her, Cromwell himself described her as having intelligence spirit and courage, there were many who agreed with him.

  2. Dorothy Willis says:

    You mention one of the ladies attending the queen, but I don’t think I have ever seen a list of all of them. What a horrible job!

    1. Christine says:

      Yes she had in attendance on her when she first arrived in the Tower a Mrs. Stoner, Lady Kingston and her uncles wife, I am not sure of the others but she had no love for her aunt, and she complained how cruel it was of the king to send these women to her, as he knew she had never liked them, but it could be at the end the king relented a little and sent her favourite ladies to wait on her, one of these could have been Margaret or Mary Wyatt whom she was very fond of, it must have been a dreadful task to fulfil, having to carry her corpse and head to the chapel, the blood would have been pouring copiously from the torso and neck, yet they performed that last task for her and it is to their credit they did that, as it could not have been easy at all, most people fainted at executions it was said young Fitzroy did and Anne’s twitching eyes and mouth must have struck fear in many of the onlookers, it was a superstitious age, yet it was caused merely by a reflex condition caused by the shock of decapitation.

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