#WednesdayFact – Anne Boleyn’s remains were exhumed in the 19th century

#WednesdayFact – Did you know that remains of a woman thought to be Anne Boleyn were exhumed and examined during Queen Victoria’s reign?

View of St Peter ad Vincula Chapel and the place of execution memorial from Doyne C Bell's bookYes, during restoration work on the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London in 1876, it was found that the pavement of the chancel, where Anne Boleyn and other prominent execution victims had been laid to rest, needed repairing.

Proper foundations needed to be laid for the chancel pavement, so it was necessary to exhume the remains in that area and move them to the crypt, unless they were in stable vaults. The remains were therefore “carefully collected and enclosed in boxes, with suitable inscriptions; and all the coffins which were found intact were at once removed to the crypt.”

In the spot recorded as Queen Anne Boleyn’s resting place, the remains of a female were found. These were examined by surgeon Dr Frederick J Mouat, who made a report on his findings, before they were put in a leaden coffer inside an oak box and reinterred where they were found.

You can find out more about the exhumation and Dr Mouat’s report in these articles:

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One thought on “#WednesdayFact – Anne Boleyn’s remains were exhumed in the 19th century”
  1. Dr Mouat did leave us a very detailed analysis of the remains he examined, and they do tie in with the contemporary accounts we have of Anne by her contemporaries, the sockets in the skull are very large testament to her bewitching eyes and small jaw and her skeleton was small with narrow feet and her hands had tapering fingers, well formed and elegant a female veering towards thirty and of medium height, now there has always been debate about her actual birth date, many for years thought she was born between 1505 and 1507, yet recently it is believed she was born c 1500, due to her becoming a lady in waiting in France to Queen Mary then Queen Claude, a very young girl would not be permitted to attend upon these ladies but an older child would, so 1500 sounds more likely, Victorian analysis of the dating of bones was also in its infancy and did not have the sophisticated equipment we have today therefore I am sure the skeleton thought to be Anne would correctly date it to be between thirty to thirty five, but Mouat did not do a bad job, and it is him we have to thank for bringing this lady to life by his intensive study of her bones, she was described as elegant so was Anne Boleyn thus described by those who knew her, of small frame and very graceful of narrow waist and chest and slender neck, the portraits of her show her to have had a narrow oval face, with small jaw, she was small boned and delicate which she passed onto her daughter, also the fingers Mouat described were what Elizabeth also inherited, she was often painted with those long fingers splayed across her dress topped with huge bejewelled rings, I believe these bones to have belonged to the ill fated queen, and it is nice that they were thus re buried along with the other wretched souls who suffered, and now they all have their final resting places with their correct names and titles, as one noted the little chapel of St Peter Ad Vincula is indeed the ‘saddest spot on earth’, where lives were cut of in their prime for some, they died because of wasted ambition some died needlessly because they were a threat to some, like Anne Boleyn, Lady Margaret Pole died because a paranoid king took vengeance, there were the Seymour brothers the Duke of Northumberland maybe the latter deserved his fate, he tried to prevent a queen from taking her birthright, then there were the victims, Lady Jane Grey whose body has never been found, little Catherine Howard queen of Henry V111 whose only crime really was a lack of wit and guidance, and a victim of her own passions, the Duke of Buckingham whom some say died because of his Plantagenet blood and William Lord Hastings, beheaded by Richard 111, Sir Thomas More who died because his conscience would not allow him to live, so many died ‘ under those restless skies’, but their names live on.

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