Sunday, May 19, 2013

May 19th, 1536: The Execution of Queen Anne Boleyn and a Poetic Tribute

A statue of Anne Boleyn at the scaffold by artist George S. Stuart, from his Gallery of Historical Figures. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

On this day in Tudor history in 1536 at 8 o'clock in the morning Queen Anne Boleyn mounted the scaffold to be executed by beheading. She and her alleged accomplices had been found guilty of adultery and treason. Upon careful study, most historians and legal experts are in agreement that these were trumped up charges, and that while the trials of Queen Anne and her accomplices gave the outward appearance of due process, they were in fact a farce with a pre-determined outcome. The downfall of Queen Anne and the Boleyn faction was one of the fastest and most effective coups in history. 

Anne Boleyn is Condemned to Death, a 19th century romanticized painting by Pierre Nolasque Bergeret. Picture acquired via Flickr from Inor19.

The Tudor chronicler Edward Hall recorded the Queen's execution speech as follows:

"Good Christian people, I am come hither to die, for according to the law, and by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak anything of that, whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the King and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never; and to me he was ever a good, a gentle and sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle my cause, I require them to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me. Oh Lord, have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul"

Anne was then blindfolded and upon kneeling she was said to have repeated several times, "To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesu receive my soul."

Years ago, I wrote a poem from Anne Boleyn's perspective as she looked back on her life while she awaited her execution; it was published in issue #70 of Renaissance Magazine. I have included the poem below as a personal tribute to Queen Anne Boleyn.

The Most Happy

Anne Boleyn in the Tower of London. By Edouard Cibot, 1835. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

I was a lady-in-waiting
And you could wait no longer
I caught your wandering eye
And your lust grew stronger

I was deeply in love,
But with Henry Percy, not you
But a king can have a wife,
And a mistress, too

I would give you nothing
Without a title and a crown
Your lust, it increased
But I would not lie down

For years, your beloved companion
But never your true wife
You fought with the Pope,
And gave England much strife

Never were there two
So consumed by passion
When you crowned me your queen
In extravagant fashion

You needed a son
I delivered a girl child
Your affections quickly went
From ardent to mild

I had captivated you
For nearly ten years
Your now-hostile words
Gave me great fears

Instead of coming nightly
To my royal bed
You visited my ladies
In their chambers instead

You decided it was easier
To dispose of me
Because you knew I would not 
Agree to divorce easily 

All our precious memories
And feelings were forgotten
When you said that our own daughter
Was of witchcraft begotten

You put me on trial
With erroneous accusations
Along with my own brother
And other men of high stations

My daughter, Elizabeth
Was torn from my breast
I sit in the London Tower
Condemned to death

As I mount the scaffold
You have achieved your goal
Now unto God
I commend my soul

May my good Christian friends
Keep Elizabeth under their wing
My daughter was once mine,
Now she's only the king's.

*The title is taken from Anne Boleyn's royal motto, "The Moost Happi".

Anne Boleyn Says a Final Farewell to Her Daughter, Princess Elizabeth. By Gustaf Wappers, 1838. Picture acquired via Tumblr from auroravong.

To learn more about the life and accomplishments of Queen Anne Boleyn, as well as her tragic downfall, please read my article, Anne Boleyn: Mother of the Virgin Queen.

To learn about the bond between Queen Anne Boleyn and her only child, Queen Elizabeth I, who honored her mother in many surprising ways, please read my article, Death Could Not Separate Them: How Elizabeth I Connected to Her Deceased Mother.

Tributes are left to Anne Boleyn every year on the anniversary of her execution, either at the site of the scaffold or on her supposed burial site in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula. Picture acquired via Flickr from ThatBoleynGirl.