Sunday, September 28, 2008

Question from jessaluce - Anne's body at burial

I am curious to find more detailed information about Anne Boleyn's burial. Other traitors executed at the Tower had their heads put on display and bodies were customarily buried naked as the executioner had rights to the clothing.

What exactly was the state of Anne's body when it was buried? What became of her other belongings after her death?

[ed. note - some discussion of Anne's possessions have been covered in the posts below.]


Anonymous said...

All I know is she was buried in an arrow chest with her head on her stomach. she gave her stuff to lady lee, 1 of her ladies in waiting

Anonymous said...

The displaying of the heads of traitors after their execution was indeed customary, but was usually limited to male heads. Women's heads were only rarely displayed, and never royal female heads.

I am not sure where you read that executioners had the "right" to the clothing of those they executed. I have never heard that, nor have I encountered any evidence to suggest that it was the case in England in the Tudor period. The condemned did usually pay their executioner out of their own pocket, as well as forgive the executioner in advance for his actions. But most condemned prisoners gave away immediately before their death whatever possessions they may have had with them while in the Tower. All other goods and possessions became the property of the Crown. Most went to their graves wearing the clothes in which they were executed, as I understand it. Only in rare instances was the clothing preserved, an example being the shirt worn by Charles I at his execution in 1649.

Anonymous said...

I've actually heard that the executioner's had a right to the clothing as well.. I'll have to do a quick look to see where I read that.

Anonymous said...

Royal female heads were never displayed...

Could that be because public opinion had turned in Anne's direction, and Henry felt he'd really be pushing the matter if she was put on view?

Londoners were grumbling already, and to have a crowned queen, a mother no less, and a woman whom they saw as innocent treated in such a fashion may well have brought Henry more attention than he could have handled.

In Katherine Howard's case, there didn't seem to be that much of an outcry when she was executed. But then Henry didn't like wearing his 'horns' and putting his shame into public view wouldn't have been his style.

Margaret, Countess of Salisbury...from some accounts read of her execution, there wouldn't have been much left to display...poor lady!


Anonymous said...

Anne was beheaded on Tower Green on the 19th of may 1536.The lady Anne was brought from her place of stay at the tower wearing a gown of grey and crimson damask to the execution site their she said her speech, paid the executioner and was executed by a french executioner known as the Swordsman of calais being because she was beheaded with a sword not an axe as was the tradition normally.
Anne's head was held up in display for all to see but was never put on a pole and would never had of been because of her status and because she was female they only tended to display male decapitated heads on poles above the Tower never the female ones.
The act of being beheaded was reserved only for people of royal or noble birth.Anne's body was buried in an arrow chest and then buried in the chaple that is ajacent to the tower which is called the chapel of st Peter ad vinucla in the ground.
Her belongings were given to lady Lee one of her lady's in waiting.
The majority of those exacuted at the Tower of london where executed at Tower hill and were male.Only a minority were rxecuted at Tower Green.

Elizabeth M. said...

Eric Ives comments in his biography of Anne Boleyn that the clothes were removed after her death.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Ives does mention Anne's being taken at her burial. Not by the French headsman but by the Tower authorities. Apparently there was a custom where the higher-ups left gifts of clothing (expensive of course) to the Tower as part of a 'fee'. I think Thomas More gave away his cloak.

However, there is no mention in contemporary accounts of Anne's death that this so-called custom was followed. She was however, given money for her almoner to distribute at her excution.

Also, there is no proof that Lady Lee or anybody close to Anne followed her to the scaffold. This was mainly an invention of romance writers or based on some unfounded tradition. The 4 ladies were presumably the same matrons who attended Anne throughout her imprisonment.

Same goes for 'Mrs. Orchard' who supposedly served Anne. Alison Weir, for one, mentions her in her 6 wives book. In fact, no such person ever existed.