Every 19th May flowers are sent to the Tower of London. They are sent for a Queen to mark her death. The Queen in question was Anne Boleyn the second wife of Henry VIII; executed on charges of High Treason, Adultery and Incest on Tower Green by French swords man.
Anne is for many a wronged woman, who was unlucky enough to have caught the attention of the king of England, pushed and bullied into leaving the man she wanted to marry to become the king’s mistress by her uncle and parents. But Anne stood her ground and kept the king at arms length in one of the most frustrating and yet romantic courtships of history.
Anne has seen how her sister had been ruined by the King, she wasn’t going to be saddled with royal bastards and with the title of mistress. But Henry was so besotted with her, he moved heaven and earth and risked his immortal soul with a split from the Church in Rome to free himself from his first wife, Catherine of Aargon, in order to be able to marry Anne.
As well as a love and passion there was an ulterior motive the need for an heir for the English throne. Anne and Henry married on 25th January 1533 and rumour has it that Anne was already pregnant. Consequently Princess Elizabeth was born on 7th September 1533. .
But this is where the honeymoon ended and Anne’s woes began. Anne suffered several miscarriages. I like to think that Henry was a complex man with and that with a second marriage again producing a daughter and a series failed pregnancies that this maybe punishment from God. With his First wife Catherine now dead ,to what many believe to be cancer of the stomach, and new doubts about Anne he soon found his attentions else where with a woman the opposite in temperament to Anne, a meek and plain waiting woman, Jane Seymore.
There is a great debate among historians as whether Anne’s downfall was or wasn’t managed and produced by Thomas Cromwell, but one thing is for sure the royal court was full of rivalries and political fractions between the ruling class families. These families are ruthless, they pawn their daughters as mistresses and porn them in political alliance marriages and throw their sons in the king’s house hold and hold grudges. When weakness is shown and fortunes fall these power crazed people play dirty to win royal favour. The Boleyn’s had risen and now they were on the declining the Seymore’s were ready to take advantage.
Near the end of April 1536, Mark Smeaton a royal musician who was always sniffing around the queen was arrested, initially he denied being the Queen’s lover but this is Tudor times and eventually he confessed the means of which we can only imagine. Sir Henry Norris also was arrested he too was accused of being the queens lover. Sir William Breton was also arrested followed by Sir Francis Weston. Sir Thomas Wyatt also was accused but later released as was Sir Richard Page. This damning list was made more debauched by the final arrest of her brother who was also accused of having sex with his sister on charges of incest.
Anne was finally arrested on 2nd May and taken to the Tower. Weston, Breton, Norris and Smeaton were tried on 12th May 1536. On 15th May the Boleyn siblings stood trial in separate parts of the Tower of London. The formal charges were adultery, incest and High Treason. The juries found them both guilty. George Boleyn and his fellow accused men met their ends on 17th May 1536. Two days later Anne was also to meet her maker. Henry however did show her some care, instead of burning her, a tortuous and cruel end he gave orders for beheading and to ensure a fast end and no pain he ordered in a specialist swords man from France, Jean Rombaud. It is said that she wore a red petticoat under a grey gown.
Her final speech to the small crowd come to watch her end shows a woman who was still in love with a man who had wooed her it is below for you to judge:
“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 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 good, a gentle and sovereign Lord. And if any person will meddle of 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 too pray for me. O Lord have mercy on me, to God I condemned my soul.”
Her end was swift and it was just 1 stoke of the sword. Henry had made provisions for a clean end but no funeral arrangements and it was a workman at the Tower that found an empty arrow case for her body. She was then buried in the Tower chapel, St Peter ad Vencular.
Anne’s story for me is tragic, its not a woman fault that she have fertility problems, it was not her fault that the king noticed her and wanted her, when he first noticed her she was in love with another and it was certainly not her fault that she was used by her family her parents and her uncle to improve their status and power within court. However her legacy goes on, her daughter Elizabeth went on to become one of the finest and strongest reigning female monarchs of all history and she had many of the qualities of her mother as well as her father to help during her reign.