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


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

Tired of The Tudors

Picture by me

The Tudors have been a huge interest of mine since I was at least 8 years old, when we did a big project at primary school about Henry VIII’s six wives. We had to paint a particular wife, and I chose to do Anne Boleyn. My picture ended up looking like a big mess, but I ended up falling head over heels in love with them. I thought Henry VIII was proper cool, and two of his wives ended up being my utter favourites: Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard. And that love stuck with me for many years. But when I was at University I discovered the joys of the Stuart Dynasty, Charles I and the English Civil War and of course Charles II and the Restoration. From there I was hooked, more so than I ever had been with the Tudor dynasty. It was kind of like the Stuart’s spoke to me in some kind of odd way. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved the Tudors, I still read about them, still devoured everything I could get my hands on about them.

But then I discovered the online world of history blogging, and the Showtime show The Tudors.
I’m sure you’re all aware that I have posted on The Tudors on this here blog, that I still have a huge fascination with Katherine Howard and get rubbed up the wrong way when someone turns around and says that Anne Boleyn was a witch who had six fingers. But saying that, the Tudors are just everywhere. I can’t even turn a corner without hearing something about Henry VIII, there are so many books coming out about Henry and his wives, and there is nothing NEW. A few months back I ventured into reading about Mary Boleyn and was shocked at how bad the book was, so full of maybes and “Mary Boleyn was thinking this at this exact moment”. It’s great that authors are trying something new, writing about individuals within Tudor history who little is known about but when the history books start speculating, it makes me want to tear my hair out. 
In a way I blame Showtime’s “The Tudors” for making so many people start loving the dynasty and it is great that people are now getting an interest. But when people start believing that everything in the show is fact? Cue more hair tearing out. The show was a great bit of entertainment don’t get me wrong, but it was so full of inaccuracies it was unreal. The horse and carts? They didn’t come into play until much later. Anne Stanhope and her affairs with Thomas Seymour and Francis Bryan? NO. Edward Seymour’s first wife Catherine Filliol was the unfaithful one. And don’t even get me started on the fact that the show had Henry VIII having just the one sister…I love the show, I honestly do. As I said it was a great bit of entertainment but since seeing it, I have seen so many people believing everything that happened in it as fact. 
I have so many Tudor-esque books on my shelf to read and right now I am loathe to even pick them up. So much so I’ve resorted to the world of historical fiction for a bit (1066 and the Bayeaux tapestry anyone?), and part of me doesn’t want to pick a Tudor book up for a very long time. But me being me, I will because I like to learn. A lot of it will be stuff I already know but there are two books which I am intrigued about – one on Henry Fitzroy, the other on Thomas More. These should be interesting, and part of me hopes the authors don’t resort to speculation but if I’m honest I’m not holding out much hope. 
Not only that but there are so many out there who think they are the reincarnation of various Tudor people. I’ve come across at least 20 people claiming they are a reincarnation of Anne Boleyn, all of which claim to have “memories” of her. But do you want to know what the funny thing is? All of these memories either come directly from “The Tudors” or Phillipa Gregory’s “The Other Boleyn Girl”. And when I see stuff like this I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
I apologise to any Tudor fans who aren’t the type to base their stuff on TV shows and rubbish historical fiction, I have seen some amazing Tudor blogs who base their stuff on solid research and sources but I still can’t help but think that the Tudors are everywhere right now and there’s nothing new coming to light. I will certainly slog through the rest of the Tudor books I have to read but I can’t promise I’ll enjoy them as much as I once did. For now I think it’s time for me to start reading around other areas of history that interest me – the English Civil War, Charles I, the Restoration, Renaissance Italy, The Crusades. Anything but the Tudors right now thank you very much.