On This Day In History – May 19th 1536 – Anne Boleyn is Executed

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May 19th 1536 – Queen Anne Boleyn, who had been arrested and tried for the crimes of incest and treason, was executed at the Tower of London.

I’ve been quite open about my Tudor Burnout, however Anne Boleyn was one of the first historical women who I learned about. Her story has always struck a chord with me, and I have always admired her strength and determination. Many still see her as a villain in Tudor history and many still call her a witch who had six fingers. This is, of course, a complete lie. Anne Boleyn was a woman who had so much determination and courage, who sought change and wasn’t afraid to stand up for what she believed in. Unfortunately, despite giving birth to a little girl who would one day rule England, she was unable to provide King Henry VIII with what he truly wanted – a son. And, unfortunately, she made enemies of some of the most powerful men in Henry’s court.

At 9am on 19th May 1536, Anne Boleyn knelt down on the scaffold at the Tower of London. She was dressed in a grey gown with a crimson kirtle beneath and it was reported by a witness that she had “never looked so beautiful”. Before she knelt, Anne gave a speech to the gathered crowd, asking that they pray for the King as he had always been good to her. She then asked the crowd to pray for her, “And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me”

Then, with Anne kneeling and blindfolded, the headsman – a swordsman sent from Calais – asked for his assistant to bring him his sword. Anne moved her head to try and track the assistant’s movements. The headsman then stepped up behind the kneeling Queen and removed her head with one swing of the sword.

Her body and head was then gathered up by her ladies and placed in an arrow chest before being taken to the chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, within the walls of the Tower. She was then buried in an unmarked grave beneath the altar, near the body of her brother – she would later be joined by another Queen, and her kin, Katherine Howard.

Today, her place of burial is marked by a simple yet beautiful slab by the altar in the chapel, along with those who were buried alongside her. It truly is a peaceful place, a place to sit and reflect upon the history of those who lost their lives and were buried within this sweet little chapel. Today you can visit the chapel and see the grave of Anne Boleyn and the others buried there, whilst on a guided tour of the Tower. I would highly recommend doing so, for anyone interested in the history of the Tudors.

Further reading:

The Lady in the Tower – Alison Weir
The Life & Death of Anne Boleyn – Eric Ives
The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown – Claire Ridgway
1536: The Year that Changed Henry VIII – Suzannah Lipscomb

Hampton Court Take Two

So as I’m sure you’re all aware from the amount I’ve been harping on and on about it on twitter and facebook for the past few weeks that yesterday I went to Hampton Court. The main reason for the visit was to see the Wild, the Beautiful & The Damned, all about sex and beauty at the Court of Charles II. But of course, Hampton Court isn’t all about that and there was plenty of other stuff to see and do. So here we go, complete with lots and lots of photos!

Of course, Hampton Court is full of Tudor bits and bobs and is best known as “the home of Henry VIII”, as well as the stories that haunt the entire Palace. The one that always gets me is that Hampton Court is where Henry found out that Katherine Howard was having it away with other men, thanks to Cranmer leaving him a note in the Chapel Royal. Katherine was confined to her chambers (the staff reckon this was where Mary II’s chambers now are) and she ran down the gallery where all the Tudor Portraits now hang, screaming out for him. Is this a true story? Who knows, but there are plenty of stories about visitors getting creeped out in the gallery, and staff members noticing some funny goings on!

Hung along the so called Haunted Gallery are an absolute cornucopia of Tudor portraits, including the famous family portrait, the famous portrait of the young Edward VI and the well known face of Henry VII.

At the end of this gallery you have the Great Watching Chamber. When we were here last time, a dude dressed up as Henry VIII received petitions in here, and I had the honour of asking him to help my “unmarried sister” find a husband. Today there were no costumed interpreters (they were too busy in the courtyard) but the room still managed to take my breath away.

Just off from here is the Great Hall, where the royalty would have eaten their dinner/massive banquets. My photos of the Hall didn’t come out very well, but here goes…

Now then, earlier on I mentioned costumed interpreters. We found these in Clock Court…

Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn decided to have a full scale argument about the fact Katherine of Aragon was still making his shirts! After Anne stormed off, Henry just couldn’t work out what he had done wrong and wandered off leaving George Boleyn to get help from the audience! Later on, Anne was much happier as Katherine was no longer allowed to make his shirts and she was going to made Marquess of Pembroke. I did wonder whether George took forward my suggestion of flowers!

After lunch we decided to take a walk around the Gardens because the weather was actually AMAZING and last time we were there it was raining too hard to even think about going for a walk around them. I was absolutely stunned at their beauty. And it was Charles II who introduced the central avenue of trees!

After this, we headed back inside and discovered a whole wing of the Palace that we had never seen before. I spotted a sign pointing to William III’s apartments leading to an extraordinarily grand staircase. Now the staircase I had seen before but we hadn’t gone up there, which is a shame because I was completely in awe seeing these wonderful rooms.

At first I thought this was a painting of a group of people in the room where we were standing. But at a closer look I realised that it was actually a photograph of people re-enacting a scene from the time of William III! This room as well (I didn’t manage to get any pictures due to rubbish lighting) was decorated with guns all over the walls in incredibly beautiful patterns. After this we were taken through a series of room which made up grand bedrooms, huge rooms with gorgeous portraits hung on the wall…

And then I was surprised by this guy…

Standing there, in all regal and kingly glory was Charles I. I may have had a bit of a moment when I saw it and jumped up and down squealing with joy. Yes, I adore this man almost as much as I adore his son and I have far too many feelings for the Stuart family. They were just incredibly unlucky, and made some bad decisions but just…wow. I adore them. As you may have gathered from my 17th Century, Stuart family rambles on this blog. And after this room full of fab, there were even more rooms that just made me long to live in the palace. Oh, and I discovered the royal toilet as well!

Wait? More Charlie? I’m not sorry at all. Anyway, after finding more fabulous portraits of Charlie I we stumbled across this absolutely stunning corridor which reminded me, somewhat weirdly, of the mansion from the original Resident Evil game.

Isn’t it just fantastic? And the best bit was that there was literally no one there! It seems these parts of the Palace are much less known about than the Tudor areas, which is so sad because these hallways and galleries are just absolutely stunning.

And that was that. I’m sure there are many more nooks and crannies to discover in this fantastic palace and I will say now that next time I go I will be spending more time in the Stuart and later era rooms than the Tudor parts. Just because…I mean look at them. I just adore Hampton Court, and it has a really special place in my heart – mainly for the massive Charles II portrait that hangs in Mary’s apartments. But not only that, it’s like something out of a fairy tale with so many hidden gems it’s unreal. I doubt I will ever love anywhere as much as I love Hampton Court, the stories that just come at you from every angle. It is certainly a very magical place. Now, I will leave you with a picture of me and a wooden man getting drunk in Base Court.