Today on May 19, 1536, Anne Boleyn met her dreadful fate at the Tower of London.
Anne Boleyn was the second wife of King Henry VIII, one of England’s most notorious and scandalous monarchs. He initially had an affair with Anne’s sister while still married to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. However, his eyes eventually gazed towards Anne. She initially resisted his sexual advances but became pregnant with her first child in 1532. After being forced into taking quick action, the king promptly married her during a private ceremony in London. Five months later, Anne Boleyn was crowned as Queen-consort during a lavish ceremony at Westminster Abbey.
Henry and Anne’s daughter eventually ascended the throne as Elizabeth I, one of England’s greatest queens. As time went on, Henry became obsessed with having a son and male heir. Following two miscarriages, Henry quickly determined that she would never fulfill his needs. He unfairly blamed her for their misfortune. On May 2, 1536, the queen was suddenly arrested on charges of adultery and witchcraft. A secret commission investigated Anne that included her father and uncle. The investigation claimed she slept with five other men including her brother, Lord George Rochford. A kangaroo court of jurors swiftly convicted her. She was subsequently brought to the Tower of London by barge and infamously entered through Traitors Gate.
Anne Boleyn was imprisoned at the Tower for a short four days. The Constable erected a temporary scaffold on the north side of the White Tower (the central keep), located in front of the present-day Waterloo Barracks. On the day of her execution, the queen wore a red petticoat underneath a dark grey gown trimmed in animal fur. Anne slowly walked alongside two female attendants towards the scaffold. According to eyewitnesses, she demonstrated outward bravery and grace during her final minutes, showing a “devilish spirit.” Anne made one last final speech to the crowd before lowering her head onto the executioner’s block. Most of the king’s court were in attendance to view the execution. She was buried in an unmarked grave at Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula.
“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 take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me. O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul.”