Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Question from djd - Heads of executed females

I hope my question does not seem silly, but here goes. I have always thought that Anne Boleyn was buried with her head in the chapel of St. Peters A.V. after her execution. The other day, I was checking out the State papers online, and I read a letter from someone describing her execution in which it was said that her head was placed on the bridge - along with other traitors. Is this true? How about the other women like Katherine H. and Jane G.? Thanks very much.


Lara said...

djd - Could you post the exact reference you saw the info about Anne's head in? As far as I know, Anne's head was buried with her (as was Kathryn Howard's, Jane Grey's, etc), but I'm curious to know the source of this other information. It might be the root of other questions that have come up about this.

Anonymous said...

I would be very curious to know the precise reference as well.

Concerning Lady Jane Grey, I have never found much in the way of specific detailed references to her burial. There was an apocryphal story that her body was held for some time without burial because St Peter's-ad-Vincula had been reconsecrated to the Roman Catholic Church, and Jane was ineligible, as a heretic, for burial in consecrated ground. But that same story says that Mary explicitly allowed Jane's body to be buried within the Chapel. The story is questionable if only because Mary did not have the authority to over-rule Church doctrine on the issue of burial in consecrated ground.

Just as a fun teaser, I will tell you that the head of her father, Henry Grey, seems not to have been displayed in the usual fashion ... or so a story from the nineteenth century claims. His head was supposedly preserved intact to the modern day.

djd said...

Okay - here is the exerpt I was referring to:

Having written the above the day before yesterday, thought it well to delay the despatch to inform the Emperor of the execution of the Concubine, which was done at 9 o'clock this morning within the Tower, in presence of the Chancellor, Cromwell, and others of the Council, and a great number of the King's subjects, but foreigners were not admitted. It is said that although the bodies and heads of those executed the day before yesterday have been buried, her head will be put upon the bridge, at least for some time. She confessed herself yesterday, and communicated, expecting to be executed, and no person ever showed greater willingness to die. She requested it of those who were to have charge of it, and when the command came to put off the execution till today she appeared very sorry, praying the Captain of the Tower that for the honor of God he would beg the King that, since she was in good state and disposed for death, she might be dispatched immediately. The lady who had charge of her has sent to tell me in great secresy that the Concubine, before and after receiving the sacrament, affirmed to her, on the damnation of her soul, that she had never been unfaithful to the King. London, 19 May 1536.
Fr., from a modern copy, pp. 10. The original endorsed: A Lempereur —De lambassadeur en angleterre du xixe de May, receues a Asti le ve de Juing.

From: 'Henry VIII: May 1536, 16-20', Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10: January-June 1536 (1887), pp. 371-391. URL: Date accessed: 12 March 2009

And here is the link to the page. There is a lot of fascinating stuff in those state papers.

kb said...

This is Chapuys to Charles V.

1 - He says he was not there 'but foreigners were not admitted'. He is working on hearsay and rumour.

2 - He is antagonistic towards Anne Boleyn a.k.a. the Concubine and Princess Mary's strongest political supporter as ambassador to her cousin the Emperor Charles V.

3 - Later on the same page there is a description of the women attending Anne gathering her body and head and taking them together to be prepared for burial.

4 - in my personal opinion, Henry would not want to display the heads of his executed queens. He would not want to be reminded of his 'foolishness'.

5 - Agree that the state papers can make for some terrific reading. However, you must evaluate the source/author in determining accuracy.

djd said...

Thanks KB! I have to admit that I was surprised to hear of Anne's head being put on the bridge. Chapuys certainly hated Anne Boleyn and I am sure the "hear say" or "gossip" around the court was a bit skewed or sensationalized by those who wished for her downfall. Kind of like a hospital where I used to work. LOL. I have learned so much from the posters on this site, and I much appreciate your comments.

Anonymous said...

From what I know, HenryVIII ordered a coffin that was too small for Anne, so her head was placed on her stomach. But later, when queen Victoria reigned, Anne was given a proper barial. I think that a string was placed around Anne's neck to attach her head again. This is not all definate, but I think it's true.

Anonymous said...

There were a lot of false reports regarding the execution of Anne and the five men. Another contemporary, HannaĆ«rt, viscount of Lombecke, reported in a letter dating to 2nd June 1536 that the five men’s corpses had been quartered. Like the report of Anne’s head being displayed on the bridge, the quartering story was incorrect.

Gareth Russell said...

Doesn't he also note only the intention to put Anne's head upon the Bridge, not that it had actually happened?