Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Anne Boleyn Part Nineteen: The Final Days of Anne Boleyn

                                                Written By: Katelyn Abbott

Apparently George Boleyn and the other accused men were executed on May 17, 1536 which Anne was said to have watched from her window in the Bell Tower at the Tower of London. William Kingston, the Constable of the Tower of London, reported that Anne seemed to be very happy and ready to be done with life. Anne had been hoping to be exiled with her daughter Princess Elizabeth and raise her to be a great and learned lady abroad in Europe or be forced to spend the rest of her days in a nunnery, but this was not to be. King Henry VIII commuted Anne’s sentence from burning at the stake (which was something that Anne was afraid of for she had a lifelong fear of fire and even smoke)  to beheading, and rather than have a queen beheaded with the common axe, he brought Jean Rombaud, an expert swordsman from Saint-Omer in France, to perform the execution. Imperial Eustace Chapuys did comment that Anne had blamed him for her downfall and he ended declaring that he was glad to know that 'the English Messalina' had held him responsible for her doom by saying, " I was flattered by the compliment, for she would have cast me to the dogs!" On the morning of May 19, 1536 Master Kingston wrote: “This morning she sent for me, that I might be with her at such time as she received the good Lord, to the intent I should hear her speak as touching her innocency alway to be clear. And in the writing of this she sent for me, and at my coming she said, ‘Mr. Kingston, I hear I shall not die afore noon, and I am very sorry therefore, for I thought to be dead by this time and past my pain.’ I told her it should be no pain, it was so little. And then she said, ‘I heard say the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck,’ and then put her hands about it, laughing heartily. I have seen many men and also women executed, and that they have been in great sorrow, and to my knowledge this lady has much joy in death. Sir, her almoner is continually with her, and had been since two o'clock after midnight.'


However her impending death might have caused her great sorrow for some time during her imprisonment. The poems " Defiled Is My Name Full Sore" and “Oh Death Rock Me Asleep” are generally believed to have been written authored by Anne and reveals that she may have hoped that death would end her suffering.  The lyrics of the poem " Defiled Is My Name Full Sore" is:

EFILED is my name full sore
Through cruel spite and false report,
That I may say for evermore,
Farewell, my joy! adieu comfort!
For wrongfully ye judge of me
Unto my fame a mortal wound,
Say what ye list, it will not be,
Ye seek for that can not be found.

The lyrics of the poem “Oh Death Rock Me Asleep” is:

O Death, O Death, rock me asleepe,
bring me to quiet rest;
Let pass my weary guiltless ghost
Out of my careful breast.
Toll on, thou passing bell;
Ring out my doleful knell;
Thy sound my death abroad will tell,
for I must die,
there is no remedy.

My pains, my pains, who can express?
Alas, they are so strong!
My dolours will not suffer strength
my life for to prolong.
Toll on, thou passing bell;
Ring out my doleful knell;
Thy sound my death abroad will tell,
for I must die,
there is no remedy.

Alone, alone in prison strong
I wail my destiny:
Woe worth this cruel hap that I
must taste this misery!
Toll on, thou passing bell;
Ring out my doleful knell;
Thy sound my death abroad will tell,
for I must die,
there is no remedy.

Farewell, farewell, my pleasures past!
Welcome, my present pain!
I feel my torment so increase
that life cannot remain.
Cease now, thou passing bell,
Ring out my doleful knoll,
for thou my death dost tell:
Lord, pity thou my soul!
Death doth draw nigh,
Sound dolefully:
For now I die, I die, I die.

Anne requested Lady Kingston who she knew was on very friendly terms with the Lady Mary to go before her on Anne’s behalf and, out of charity, take a private message from her to Lady Mary in which she asked for her stepdaughter’s forgiveness for any acts of cruelty or unkindness she had inflicted upon her in days gone by. Lady Kingston was surprised by this request. The apology to Anne from Mary was not of much use since there is no sign that Lady Mary ever accepted it and held her grudge against Anne through her daughter Princess Elizabeth for the rest of her entire whole life.
Shortly before dawn she called Master Kingston to hear mass with her. She swore in his presence, on the eternal salvation of her soul, upon the Holy Sacraments, that she had never been unfaithful to King Henry VIII. Anne ritually repeated this oath both immediately before and after receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist.

A picture of Queen Anne on the scaffold addressing the crowd there prior before she was executed

At the early morning of Friday May 19, 1536, after dressing, eating a light breakfast, and fervently saying her prayers as soon as she heard Mass Anne was judicially executed, not upon Tower Green despite the fact that it is the site of the execution memorial, but rather, a scaffold erected on the north side of the White Tower, in front of what is now the Waterloo Barracks again according to British historian Eric Ives. She was dressed in a red petticoat under a loose dark grey damask gown trimmed in fur and a mantle of ermine with a white linen coif to hold up her famously long and thick black hair beneath her English gable hood, earrings in her ears, and a necklace on her neck and one observer ended up saying that she had never looked more beautiful. Followed by her four ladies-in-waiting, Anne made her final walk from the Queen’s House to the scaffold and she showed a “devilish spirit” and looked “as gay as if she was not going to die.” Anne had gone on to climb the scaffold and she made a short speech to the crowd:

 “Good Christian people, I am come hither to die, according to the law, for by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I come here only to die, and thus to yield myself humbly to the will of the King, my lord. And if, in my life, I did ever offend the King’s Grace, surely with my death I do now atone. I come hither to accuse no man, nor speak anything of that whereof I am accused, as I know full well that aught I say in my defense doth not appertain to you. I pray and beseech you all, good friends, to pray for the life of the King, my sovereign lord and yours, who is one of the best princes on the face of the earth, who has always treated me so well that better could not be, wherefore I submit to death with good will, humbly asking pardon of all the world. If any person will meddle with my cause, I require them to judge the best. Thus I take my leave of the world, and of you, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me. Oh Lord, have mercy on me! To God I commend my soul.”

 It is thought that she avoided criticizing King Henry VIII to save her daughter Princess Elizabeth and her family from further consequences, but even under such extreme pressure Anne did not confess guilt to her alleged crimes, in fact subtly implying her innocence, in her appeal to historians “who will meddle of my cause.”
A picture of the first love token from King Henry VIII to Anne which she gave to Captain Gwyn before she had mounted the scaffold to be executed

According to one tradition Anne had handed her Book of Hours to one of her only remaining friends, Margaret Wyatt or Lady Lee, the sister of Sir Thomas Wyatt and the wife of Sir Anthony Lee, as a last gift from her shortly before she died. In the book Anne had return a short farewell to her inside the prayer book, “Remember me when you do pray, that hope doth lead from day to day.” There is a second tradition that Anne had kept a small trinket of great significance to her on her person until her final moments. The trinket was a small gold pendant in the shape of a pistol; the barrel held a miniature whistle and a toothpick. Anne was reportedly said to give it to a Captain Gwyn, who helped her along to the scaffold, telling him that it had been “the first token the King had given her” and “that a serpent formed part of the device, and a serpent the giver had proved to her.”

A picture of Queen Anne about to have her head cut off with a sword by her executioner Jean Rombaud

Anne’s ladies-in-waiting removed her English gable hood, her earrings, her necklaces, and her ermine mantle. She knelt upright in the French style of executions and took to reciting her final prayer which consisted of her repeating continually, “To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesus receive my soul.” Some sources said that one of her ladies-in-waiting tied a blindfold over Anne’s eyes, but other sources said that Anne was not blindfolded. According to British historian Eric W. Ives, the French executioner Jean Rombaud was so taken by Anne that he was shaken. Jean Rombaud wound up finding it so difficult to precede that to distract her and for her to position her head correctly, he was said to have shouted, “Where is my sword?” just before killing her.

The execution of Anne Boleyn had been able to consist of a single stroke to be all that was needed to end her magnificent life. It was witnessed by Charles Brandon the Duke of Suffolk, King Henry’s illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy, the Lord Mayor of London, and Thomas Cromwell as well as aldermen, representatives of the various craft guilds, and sheriffs. Most of King Henry VIII’s Council was also present. Alexander Aless, the Scots reformer, who did not know anything of the outcome of Anne’s trial, had a terrible nightmare where he dreamed that he beheld the severed head of Queen Anne with its arteries, vertebrae, and veins exposed in all of their bloody horror on the night of May 18th, 1536. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, who was at Lambeth Palace, was reported to have broken down in tears after telling Alexander Ales: “She who has been the Queen of England on earth will today become a Queen in heaven.” When the charges of adultery, conspiring the death of the King, high treason, incest, making fun of King Henry VIII’s clothes, music, and poetry, and sexual prevention were first brought against Anne, he had expressed his astonishment to King Henry VIII and his belief that “she should not be culpable.” Still Archbishop Thomas Cranmer felt vulnerable because of his closeness to Queen Anne and so on the night before the execution he declared King Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne to have been void like Katherine of Aragon’s marriage to him was before her. He made no serious attempt to save Anne’s life although some sources record that he had prepared her for death by hearing her last private confession of sins in which she had stated her innocence before God. However on the day of her death a Scottish friend found Archbishop Thomas Cranmer weeping uncontrollably in his London gardens, saying that he was sure that Anne had now gone to Heaven.

King Henry VIII failed to organize any kind of a funeral or even provide a proper coffin for Anne. Her body had lain on the scaffold for some time before a man (believed to be working inside the Tower of London) found an empty arrow chest and placed her head and body inside of it. She was then buried in an unmarked grave in the Chapel of St. Peter and Vincula. Her skeleton was identified during renovations of the chapel in the reign of Queen Victoria and Anne was given a more respectable burial. Anne’s final resting place is now marked in the marble floor in the Chapel of St. Peter and Vincula.

King Henry VIII was at Hampton Court apparently waiting for Anne’s execution to be over while Jane Seymour was choosing her wedding dress to wear in her wedding to him when he heard the fire of the canon which told him that Anne was dead. He chose to ride out to see Jane and the two of them dined together that night. King Henry VIII did require that all of the courtiers at the English Court dress in bright and cheerful colors with refusing them to wear any black once Anne was dead since he refused to let anyone mourn for Anne’s death (though some historical sources say that he wore white out of mourning of Anne's death). He ended up having all of Anne’s portraits burned, every intertwined HA chiseled from the walls and come to be unpicked from banners and silken hangings, and had Anne’s belongings(of her of her cosmetics, her furs, her gowns, her headpieces, her jewels, and her perfume along with her art pieces, her books, her collection of musical instruments, her embroidery work, and the fine carpets and ornaments, ornate tapestries, rich furnishings, and silk hangings that Anne had decorated her apartments with since they had first become hers) destroyed or either given away to other people to get rid of any physical remind of Anne from his sight. For the rest of his life King Henry VIII rarely spoke of Anne again and she was hardly mentioned by anyone at the English Court. He got engaged to Jane in secret the following day after Anne’s execution on May 20, 1536 in secret and they had gotten married on May 30, 1536 only eleven days after Anne was executed. It was a marriage which only lasted approximately a year and a half when karma seems to have struck King Henry VIII and Jane in retribution against them for Anne’s death as Jane Seymour died due to complications from childbirth after she gave birth to the son that King Henry VIII always craved. Their son was named Prince Edward who was to become King Edward IV of Edward.

Just as Anne’s family had rose to great heights with Anne’s rise to power her family had dropped to great wows with her death. Her mother Lady Elizabeth Boleyn died nearly two years after her children Anne and George’s execution on April 3, 1538 due to a broken heart from grief at the loss of her children and her father Sir Thomas Boleyn died almost a year later on March 13, 1539. Her sister Mary Boleyn ended up inheriting some property in Essex following the death of her parents and she was fortunate to live out the rest of her days relatively comfortably in obscurity and peace with her second husband William Stafford and her children. Mary had gone on to die in her early forties on July 19, 1543. A number of the remaining Boleyn family members left England and settled in Ireland in an effort to escape from the stigma of these events.




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