Thursday, February 04, 2010

Question from Helen - Touching prisoners on their way to execution

I've been watching "The Tudors" show and have a question re: the execution of Anne Boleyn. In the series when she was taken to the execution block people from the crowd were trying to touch her dress. Why were the crowds eager to touch the person to be executed? Some were trying to hand the accused the cross, etc.


Marilyn R said...

I have not seen ‘The Tudors’ so do not know how the event was presented in the show, but in reality Anne’s execution was a private affair within the Tower precincts away from the public gaze, as opposed to those carried out on nearby Tower Hill a few hundred yards outside the perimeter walls of the fortress.

There was a small number of dignified and restrained spectators, convened there as witnesses or because of the nature of their office – ambassadors for example, but this was not a public spectacle attended by thousands, as was often the case with the Tower Hill beheadings.

Roland H. said...

According to contemporary reports, there were about 1000 or so people on Tower Green (as opposed to 10's of 1000's) if the exeuction took place on Tower Hill.

As William Kingston stated in his letter to Cromwell, the public was invited (so to speak) but the number was obviously limited, and no foreigners were allowed (to prevent favourable reports about her death reaching the Continent).

About people touching Anne on her way to the scaffold - that's just an invention of the scriptwriters.

boohoo said...

Being executed was a big form of entertainment back in those days. They touched the person about to be executed because it was sort of like a thrill to touch someone they knew was going to die.

I haven't heard anything about any contact Anne Boleyn in particular had with the crowd on the day of her execution but I suppose it was possible.

shtove said...

No idea if there's evidence of this occurring, but I guess there's a christian connotation - touching the hem of Jesus' garment:

This is more than a celeb thing. Tangible remains of an executed martyr were a serious deal for the faithful - blood soaked handkerchiefs, stuff like that.