A Queen is Crowned

1st June 1533

On this day in history Anne Boleyn was crowned Queen of England at Westminster Abby. Long years of waiting, frustration and a plethora of emotions had accumulated into this one magnificent event… Anne Boleyn was finally Queen!

June 1st 1533, Wit Sunday, at approximately 7am people began to gather at Westminster Hall and it was at a little before 9am that Anne Boleyn arrived. She was dressed in purple velvet coronation robes trimmed with ermine, her long dark hair cascaded down her back and she wore a coronet upon her head.

From Westminster Hall Anne Boleyn walked seven hundred yards upon deep blue carpet which lead right to the high altar within Westminster Abby. As she walked the canopy of cloth of gold from yesterday’s procession was carried over her head. Before her was carried the sceptre of gold and the rod of ivory topped by a dove and also the Earl of Oxford, the Lord Great Chamberlin, carrying the crown of St Edward. Behind Anne walked the Bishops of London and Winchester and the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk carried Anne’s long train. Behind these were her ladies and other noble women wearing scarlet clothing.

Within the Abby all of the great peers, Lords, judges and other noble men and officials gathered as well as four bishops, two archbishops and twelve abbots, all of whom were dressed in their finest clothing. Henry VIII watched the whole coronation hidden behind a lattice work screen. Truly this day was all about Anne Boleyn.

Upon entering Westminster Abby Anne proceeded to the choir where upon a dais two steps high was St Edward’s Chair draped in cloth of gold. Here Anne Boleyn sat for her coronation. The coronation consisted of the High Mass and then Anne moved to kneel before the alter. It was here that Archbishop Cranmer prayed over Anne Boleyn and then anointed her. Returning to St Edward’s Chair Anne Boleyn was crowned with St Edward’s Crown, the gold sceptre and rod of ivory. She was now, in the eyes of the Church and God, Queen of England.

After the Te Deum was sung St Edward’s Crown was exchanged for a lighter one, costumed and made uniquely for Anne. Next Anne took the sacrament and made an offering to the shrine of the saint.

With the coronation service finally over Anne and all of the nobles, churchmen, ladies etc. returned to Westminster Hall where a great feast was prepared. Anne withdrew to her chambers for a short time while all eight hundred guests were seated.

Anne Boleyn sat at the head of Westminster Hall at a great marble table which was set on a dais twelve steps up. She sat on the King’s great marble chair, with a more comfortable chair fitted inside. She sat under a cloth of estate. Standing by Anne was the Dowager Countess of Oxford and the Countess of Worcester who would hold up a cloth to hide Anne’s face if she wished to spit or touch her mouth. The only other person to share the table with Anne was the Archbishop of Canterbury, but he sat a good deal down to her right. Below Anne were four long tables where the great noblemen and woman and members of the church sat according to their rank. Anne’s husband Henry VIII and the French and Venetian Ambassadors sat in a special box which overlooked the high table. Truly Anne Boleyn was the centre of attention at this great event.

Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk and high steward, was responsible for this great feast and for the event he wore a doublet and jacket which was covered with beautiful pearls. Throughout the feast he rode about on a horse which was covered with crimson velvet. In addition to the Duke of Suffolk, Lord William Howard also rode on a horse which was covered in purple velvet embroided with the Howard white lion. Lord Howard was in charge of serving the banquet.

The feast was a magnificent event and there were twenty eight dishes for the first course, twenty four dishes for the second course and thirty for the third course. It is unknown how much this magnificent event cost, but surely with such pomp, glamor and so many lavish dishes, Henry VIII must have spent a huge sum of money upon his new Queen.

At the end of the evening when Anne Boleyn left the great feast it is reported that she said “I thank you all for the honour ye have done to me this day” (Ives 2009, p. 181).

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Westminster Hall (photo by me)

Source:

Hu asdf Ives, E 2009, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford.

Starkey, D 2003, Six Wives The Queens of Henry VIII, Vintage, London.

Weir, A 1991, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Grove Press, New York.

Anne Boleyn’s Coronation Procession

31st May 1533

At 5pm Anne Boleyn left the Tower of London and progressed through the streets of London towards Westminster Hall. She was supposed to leave the tower at 2pm but there were some delays in organising such a huge event and so many people.

irst in the massive procession came twelve servants of the French ambassador, Jean de Dinteville, wearing blue velvet with yellow and blue sleeves. They had white plumes in their hats and they rode horses which had cloth of blue with white crosses. Next came the gentlemen of the Royal Household, walking two astride. Then came nine judges wearing scarlet gowns. Following them came the Knights of the Bath which had been newly created the previous night. Next came members of the government, church and other men of noble status including the Archbishop of York, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Venetian Ambassador, the French Ambassador, the Mayor of London, other bishops, earls and marquesses. Also in this group were William Howard who was the acting Deputy Marshal and Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk who was the acting Constable of England.

Following these noble men came Anne Boleyn herself. Anne wore a dress in the French fashion which was made of white cloth of gold and her hair was down and flowing over her shoulders. Upon her head she wore a coif and circlet which was set with very precious stones. She rode in a litter which was decorated also in white cloth of gold and pulled by two palfreys which were also covered in white demask. Covering the litter was a canopy of cloth of gold.

Behind Anne’s litter where was Lord Borough, Anne’s chamberlain and her master of horses, William Coffin. After these two men came Anne’s ladies, twelve which were dressed in crimson velvet (one of those ladies may have been Anne’s sister Mary.) Following these ladies were two carriages decorated in red cloth of gold which carried the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk and the Marchioness of Dorset and perhaps even Anne Boleyn’s mother. Then came many more of Anne’s ladies riding horseback.

It should be noted that several important people did not attend the coronation pageant including the Duchess of Norflk and Sir Thomas More. King Henry VIII’s younger sister Mary Tudor (wife of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk) also did not attend but it should be noted that she was extremely ill at the time and close to death.

There is some debate as to the reaction of the crowds to Anne Boleyn and her huge and impressive coronation procession. Some reports state that the crowds were hostile or at least silent, refusing to take off their caps. Another reports states that the people saw Henry and Anne’s HA motif and read it as “HA HA” and laughed at the future Queen. Yet other versions of the event state that the whole affair was magnificent with enormous crowds. Unfortunately we do not know the true thoughts and reactions of the people watching, but whatever it was surely the procession must have been quite spectacular!

On the way of the procession there were several pageants which included one of Apollo and the nine muses on Mount Parnassus which was designed by Hans Holebin himself. Another pageant was of a large stump in which white and red roses spilled. A white falcon (the bird on Anne Boleyn had taken on her badge) came down from heaven and landed on the stump. Then came an angel which wore armour came down and gave the falcon a crown. A third pageant was of St Anne surrounded by her children and at this poetry was read which spoke of England’s hope that the child Anne was carrying would be a son. Another pageant had angels giving crowns to Anne and a woman stating that when Anne Boleyn gave birth to a son there will be a golden world. There was also a fountain which followed with wine and children which read Anne poetry.

When Anne Boleyn finally arrived at Westminster Hall she was welcomed by King Henry VII and then had some light refreshments before thanking everyone and retiring to her chambers.

Anne Boleyn

Source:

Hu asdf Ives, E 2009, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford.

Weir, A 1991, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Grove Press, New York.

19th May 1536

For her last day, perhaps her greatest day, Anne chose to wear a dress of gray damask which had a crimson kirtle underneath and a mantle that was trimmed with ermine. She wore an English hood, a necklace and earrings. One might gloss over Anne’s choice of dress for her final moments but I think it is extremely important to stop for a moment and look at this gown Anne had chosen to wear. Anne was an extremely clever woman and she did not simply choose this outfit on a whim, no there was a strong reason behind it. Crimson or red was the colour of martyrdom and this was the third time since her arrest that Anne had chosen to wear this colour. Twice before, each time on extremely important moments Anne had worn crimson. If one remembers the day that Anne was arrested she returned to her chambers and dressed in a beautiful dress of gold and crimson. As she was taken by barge down the river Thames to the Tower of London it is said that the sun shone off her jewels and dress. Anyone that looked upon her would have seen the crimson of her dress. At her trial Anne wore a gown of black with a crimson petticoat, the second time she was to display the colour of martyrdom. Hundreds upon hundreds of eyes stared at Anne during her trial, unconsciously taking in the silent message she was trying to convey through her choice of clothing. And now once more, in her final hours, when again hundreds of eyes would be watching her, Anne chose carefully. Without having to say a word, through her gown Anne was showing her martyrdom, proclaiming her innocence.

At 8am Sir Kingston came to tell Anne that her hour was approaching and that she should prepare herself, but Anne was already prepared. She told Sir Kingston: ‘Acquit yourself of your charge for I have long been prepared’ (Weir 2009, pg. 261).

At 9am, or perhaps a little before, Anne was to leave her chambers in the Queen’s lodgings for the last time. Three years ago she had stayed in the very same lodgings on the night before her coronation, the night before she was to be raised above all others to become Queen of England. Now she left the same chambers to face her death. As she left the Queen’s lodgings Anne was accompanied by four ladies in waiting. It has been suggested that these four women were not those same ladies in waiting whom Anne detested that had been attending to her during her imprisonment. Instead it has been proposed that they were four of Anne’s ladies in waiting that had attended her during her marriage to Henry VIII.

Leaving her chambers Anne walked down the stairs from the Queen’s lodgings to the courtyard between the Jewel House and the King’s Hall. Two hundred Yeomen were there to lead Anne, her ladies in waiting, Sir Kingston and several others to the scaffold that had been erected. She walked through the courtyard and then through the twin towers of the Coldharbour Gate (which no longer stands) to the scaffold that awaited her. It has been reported that approximately a thousand people surrounded the scaffold upon Tower Green to watch the execution of Anne Boleyn, Queen of England. Of course several of those watching were the men whom had fought so viciously to bring these charges upon Anne including Thomas Cromwell, the Duke of Richmond (Anne’s step son) and the Duke of Suffolk.

Despite thousands of eyes staring at her Anne is said to have looked composed and dignified. One report states that Anne ‘has never looked more beautiful’ (Fraser 2002, pg. 315). It is great credit to the type of woman that Anne Boleyn was, that in her final moments knowing she was about to die, that she could hold herself with such composure and beauty.

The scaffold was draped in black cloth and had straw scattered across it. Upon the scaffold waited the French executioner. His sword was hidden under the straw to save Anne seeing the tool that would soon end her life. Slowly Anne took the steps that lead up to the scaffold and took her place in the centre. She turned and ‘begged leave to speak to the people, promising she would not speak a word that was not good’ (Weir 2009, pg. 266). She then asked Kingston ‘not to hasten the signal for her death till she had spoken that which she had mind to say’ (Weir 2009, pg. 266).

Anne spoke…

‘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 to speak anything of that whereof I am accused, as I know full well that aught I say in my defence 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’ (Weir 2009, pg. 266 – 267).

After her speech Anne’s ladies helped her remove her mantle, earrings, necklace and take off her hood. It is said that her long dark hair tumbled out and that her ladies helped her tuck it under a white cap to keep it out of the swords way. After this Anne is said to have thanked her ladies for their help and begged them for forgiveness for any harshness she may have showed them. She also asked her ladies not to be sorry for her but instead to pray for her.

Knowing that the Queen’s end was drawing to a close the executioner stepped forward and asked that Anne forgive him for what he was about to do. She willingly forgave him and then he asked her to kneel and say her prayers. Anne knelt and tucked her dress underneath her so that it would not fly about her legs. Some accounts from those who watched the execution say that one of Anne’s ladies in waiting stepped forward to cover her eyes while other reports state that Anne refused to have her eyes covered.

As she knelt upon the straw Anne repeated over and over the prayer: ‘Jesu, have pity on my soul! My God, have pity on my soul, To Jesus Christ I commend my soul…’ (Weir 2009, pg. 270).  It was only now, in the last few minutes of her life that Anne’s resolve began to falter. It is said that nervously she kept looking over her shoulder waiting for the executioners blow to come. The executioner seeing this turned to his assistant and called ‘bring me the sword’ (Weir 2009, pg. 271). Anne turned her head to look at the steps where the assistant presumably was. In this moment the executioner pulled out his sword from beneath the straw. Lifting it high above his head he swung it several times to build up momentum and then with one swift blow he brought it down severing Anne Boleyn’s neck, her lips still moving in prayer.

And so it was done, Anne Boleyn, Queen of England, was dead. A few moments after her death the great guns of the Tower were fired to signal that the Queen of England had been executed. After this one of Anne’s ladies in waiting stepped forward and covered Anne’s head with a white cloth before picking it up. The three others lifted up the still bleeding body of Anne and carried it away from the scaffold. Anne’s bloodied clothes were removed in one last humiliation as they were now the property of the King. There was no coffin for Anne, no formal place to rest her body instead she was placed in a chest which used to contain bow-staves. It is said to have been too small for her and thus her decapitated head had to be tucked under her arm. The chest was taken to the church in the Tower – the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula where the paving stones were lifted up and a shallow grave was dug. The chest containing Anne’s body was placed into the ground and buried. No marker was placed over the grave.

For his part after hearing of Anne’s death, Henry VIII rode to Hampton Court where Jane Seymour was staying. The next morning, May 20th he proposed marriage to Jane and the couple were married on May 30th – only eleven days after Anne’s execution. It seems as though Henry was not grieved by his late wife’s passing.

Upon hearing of Anne death it has been said that Archbishop Cranmer stated ‘She who has been the Queen of England on earth will today become a Queen in Heaven’.

 Anne Boleyn

(Image from Wikipedia)

Sources:

Anne Boleyn Letters Henry VIII Hever Castle 2009, Kay Jay Print Ltd, West Yorkshire.

Dolman, B, Holmes, S, Impey, E & Spooner, J 2009, Experience the Tower of London, Historical Royal Palaces, Surrey.

Fraser, A 2002, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Phoenix Press, London.

Ives, E 2005, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Australia.

Weir, A 1991, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Grove Press, New York.

Weir, A 2009, The Lady in The Tower The Fall of Anne Boleyn, Jonathan Cape, London.

On the 13th May 1515 Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk and The Dowager Queen of France, Mary Tudor was officially married at Greenwich Palace. The wedding was attended by Mary’s brother King Henry VIII and Queen Katherine of Aragon. The couple had married in secret several months after Mary’s first husband, King Louis XII, died on January 1st 1515. They were then married in a second, more public wedding, in France on the 31st of March. The couple had married without consent of King Henry VIII and Brandon risked death for such a marriage!

Of the marriage Andrea Badoer and Sebastian Giustinian, the Venetian ambassadors in the English court wrote home stating that…

“On the 13th instant the espousals (le sponsalitie) of Queen Mary to the Duke of Suffolk at length took place; there were no public demonstrations, because the kingdom did not approve of the marriage. Wishing to ascertain whether this marriage had been concluded with the King’s consent, were assured by great personages that it had first been arranged between the bride and bridegroom, after which they asked the consent of King Henry, who, however, had maintained his former friendship for the Duke, which would appear incredible, but is affirmed by the nobility at the Court. Have, therefore, abstained from paying any compliments either to the King or to the bride and bridegroom, but have determined to visit his Majesty in a day or two, and congratulate him on his sister’s arrival. Should they understand that the great personages of the Court intend to make public mention of the event, and that it was celebrated, they would then offer congratulations in the Signory’s name on the marriage, but not seeing it solemnized as becoming, would keep silence, to avoid giving offence.(Calendar of State Papers Venice Vol 2, 618).

Despite gaining Henry VIII’s blessing for their marriage Mary and Brandon were required to return Mary’s Dowry which included her jewels and plate. Brandon was instructed to relinquish his wardship of Lady Lisle and all rights to her inheritance and property. In addition to this the couple also had to pay £24 000 (£11,610,480.00) in yearly instalments of £1000 (£483,770.00). This may have seem to be a massive sum however records showed that six years after the marriage, in 1521, Mary and Brandon had only repaid £1324 (£640,511.48) Clearly the king was more interested in making a show rather than actually enforcing regular repayments!

The couple were married for 18 years and had four children together before Mary’s death at aged 37 on June 25th 1533.

Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor

(Image from Wikipedia)

Sources

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1871.

Carroll, L 2010, Notorious Royal Marriages: A Juicy Journey Through Nine Centuries of Dynasty, and Desire, New American Library, New York.

Currency Converter, The National Archives, <http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency/default0.asp#mid&gt;.

Loades, David 2012, Mary Rose, Amberley, Gloucestershire.

 

On the morning of May 2nd 1536 Anne Boleyn decided to go watch a game of Tennis. Anne was enjoying herself watching the game when a messenger arrived with an order from the King. She was to present herself to the Privy Council immediately.

Entering the Privy Council chambers there was not the King waiting for her nor the full council, but only three members: her Uncle the Duke of Norfolk, Sir William Fitzwilliam, and Sir William Paulet. It was there, standing before these three men, Anne Boleyn found out her fate. She was charged with adultery against the King of England – accused of having sexual relationships with Sir Henry Norris, the musician Mark Smeaton and a third lover whom the men would not name. It is said that Anne was furious at these charges and denied them completely and wholeheartedly proclaiming that the King was the only man who had ever touched her. Of course history tells us that her pleas fell upon deaf ears. Anne was told to return to her chambers and await further instructions.

After lunch they came for Anne, The Duke of Norfolk, Sir William Fitzwilliam, Sir William Paulet, the Earl of Oxford, Lord Sandys and Thomas Cromwell entered the Queen’s chambers with a warrant signed by the King for Anne’s arrest. There was probably little Anne could do, despite being Queen she was still a servant of the King and subject to his laws and commands. It is said that once presented with the warrant Anne replied: “If it be His Majesty’s pleasure, I am ready to obey.” (Weir 2009, pg. 134)

Anne was not allowed to take any of her dresses, jewellery or other belongings, nor any of her ladies in waiting with her. This must have been a huge humiliation as for years Anne had enjoyed the luxuries and comforts that being a Queen provided her with. She was taken down to the river Thames where a barge awaited her to take her to the Tower of London.

Anne must have looked a sight, Queen of England, dressed in crimson and gold, jewels glittering in the sunlight surrounded by men whom were to take her to the Tower. Her uncle the Duke of Norfolk was with her and it is said that the whole trip he tuttered and looked down upon her.

Common stories say that Anne entered into the Tower of London from the Thames through the ‘Traitors Gate’, but modern historians now know that she would have arrived through the Court Gate near Byward Tower – which was the common entrance for people of nobility and royalty. As she arrived at the Tower loud cannons were fired to signal to all of London that someone of great importance had just been imprisoned.

As Anne exited the barge and stepped onto the stone steps her legs gave way and she collapsed to the ground crying and praying furiously. She was helped to her feet by Sir William Kingston who was the Constable of the Tower. Kingston lead Anne through the tower and Anne believed that she was being taken to the Dungeons, so when Kingston turned in a direction that Anne was not expecting she was shocked.

Anne said to Kingston: “Master Kingston, do I go into a dungeon?” and he replied: “No, Madam, you shall go into your lodging that you lay in at your coronation.” (Ives 2005, pg. 334)

Anne Boleyn was lodged in the same rooms as she had stayed in on the night before her coronation less than three years earlier. Within three short weeks her life would be lost.

Anne Boleyn

(Anne Boleyn, image from wikipedia)

Sources:

Ives, Eric 2005, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford.

Weir, Alison 2009, The Lady in the Tower The Fall of Anne Boleyn, Jonathan Cape, London.

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