Anne believed that she was to die this morning at 9am. Where she got this thought from it is not quite clear, perhaps because her brother and co accused had been executed on the 17th it was only logical that she, also condemned, was to die the next day. Anne spent what she believed to be her last night on earth in prayer and at two o’clock she sent for her almoner John Skip to be with her to pray and provide her with some spiritual support. Then in the morning Archbishop Cranmer returned to hear her final confessions. Not surprisingly Anne once again confessed her innocence in all of the matters against her.
Anne was an extremely religious woman. Throughout her life she had been dedicated to the faith and had helped Henry with the Reformation of the English church. In her final days she had little to cling to but her faith. Before she was to die Anne swore on the sacrament TWICE that she was innocent of all charges and allegations laid against her. Her gaoler, Sir Kingston whom was present while Anne took the Sacrament and confessed her innocence, stated that ‘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 always to be clear’ (Weir 2001, pg. 251). Anne truly believed in her heart that she was innocent and that she would go to heaven to be with God. Why, when her very soul was at stake, a thing that Anne had proven she did not take lightly, would she lie against the Holy Sacrament? Why would she say she was innocent if she was guilty? This in itself, Anne’s strong faith and her belief in God and the purity of her soul, proves to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that Anne Boleyn was innocent of all crimes tried against her. She knew that lying to God would damn her soul for all eternity. She swore to God she was innocent and in her heart and her confessions she believed she was.
Anne spent the rest of her morning in prayer awaiting her execution. However this was not to be the case and Kingston sent word to Anne that her execution would be delayed until midday. As midday approached Anne summoned Kingston to her rooms and said ‘Master Kingston, I hear say I shall not die afore noon, and I am very sorry therefore, for I thought then to be dead and past my pain’ (Weir 2009, pg. 252). Kingston explained that there would not be much pain and Anne said: ‘I have heard say the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck’ (Weir 2009, pg. 252) then she put her hand around her neck and laughed. It seemed that Anne was ready to die. Had she resigned herself to her fate? I can only imagine what the last seventeen days had been for the once mighty Queen of England. She had been arrested, taken to the Tower of London, accused and found guilty of adultery, incest and treason, humiliated, found out her brother and four other men had been accused with her and were condemned to die. She herself had been sentenced to death, her marriage annulled and her daughter made a bastard. The toll of these horrendous events must have been overwhelming and no wonder Anne went from fits of tears to fits of laughter. Could any of this be real?! Perhaps Anne found some peace in the knowledge that despite all of this she would soon be dead and all of these lies and stains upon her would finally be over and she would have peace in Heaven.
Yet Anne’s fate was not for her to die this day. Later that afternoon Kingston had to return to Anne’s rooms and inform her that she was not to die today, but tomorrow at 9am. Anne still had one more night left to wait. What that must have been like I dare not even imagine.
The memorial upon Tower Green dedicated to those noble men and woman who were executed upon the Green. (Photo by me).
A closer view of Anne Boleyn’s name recorded on the memorial. We see here that she is referred to as Queen Anne Boleyn and the year in which she was executed. (Photo by me) There is an inscription running around the bottom of the memorial which reads:
Gentle visitor pause a while ♦ where you stand death cut away the light of many days ♦ here jewelled names were broken from the vivid thread of life ♦ may they rest in peace while we walk the generations around their strife and courage ♦ under these restless skies (Experience the Tower of London 2009, pg. 34).
There is no other experience like standing by this memorial, seeing Anne Boleyn’s name and then reading this beautiful inscription. It sent shivers down my spine and for the rest of my life I will never forget standing there.