Anne Boleyn: What Did She Really Say?



There are few accounts of Anne Boleyn’s last words, but do we know what she really said?

The 19th of May is the anniversary of the execution of Anne Boleyn. It is an event that history will not soon forget. No matter how hard Henry VIII tried to wipe her from the mind of his subjects, her story still remains as one of the most well-known in English history.

Below are examples of what people had documented Anne Boleyn said right before her death. As you will notice most are fairly similar, but there is one that stands out from the rest. You will know immediately which one I’m referring to. When I originally read it I cringed because I strongly believe Anne would never have uttered those words in her final moments of life. At least not the Anne I feel like I know.

Perhaps you have seen these all before, and if so, I beg you to take a good look at them today and imagine Anne saying them. Imagine being in her place that fateful day. She was a daughter, a sister, an aunt….a mother. I think it’s easy for us to forget that she was real, and not a character in a movie or TV program sometimes.

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Quote#1:

Friends and good Christian people, I am here in your presence to suffer death, whereto I acknowledge myself judged by the Law; How justly I will not say, for I intend not an accusation of any one. I beseech the Almighty to preserve his Majesty long to reign over you; a more gentle or mild Prince never swayed Scepter: his bounty and clemency towards me I am sure hath been especial. If any one intend an inquisitive survey of my actions, I intreat him to judge favourably of me, and not rashly to admit of any censorious conceit. And so I bid the world farewell, beseeching you to commend me in your Prayers to God. To the O Lord do I commend my Soul. Christ have mercy on my soul, Lord Jesus receive my soul…The History of the Reigns of Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI and Queen Mary, Francis Bacon, p 80-82

Anne Boleyns execution by Jan Luyken, c.1664-1712

Quote#2:

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 am come hither to accuse no man, or to speak anything of that whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the King and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler, nor a more merciful prince was there never, and to me he was ever a good, a gentle, and a sovereign Lord. And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world, and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me, Oh Lord have mercy on, to God I commend my soul, Jesu receive my soul; (repeat) -Holinsheds Chronicle, p 796-797

Quote#3:

Do not think, good people, that I am sorry to die, or that I have done anything to deserve this death. My fault has been my great pride, and the great crime I committed in getting the King to leave my mistress Queen Katherine for my sake, and I pray God to pardon me for it. I say to you all that everything they have accused me of is false, and the principal reason I am to die is Jane Seymour, as I was the cause of the ill that befell my mistress. -The Spanish Chronicle, p 70-71

 

Image courtesy of Showtime's The Tudors
Image courtesy of Showtime’s The Tudors



Quote#4:

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 am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak anything of that whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the king and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never: and to me he was ever a good, a gentle, and sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartely desire you all to pray for me. O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul. To Christ I commend my soul, Jesu receive my soul… -Halls Chronicle, p 819

Witness account:

“She was brought by the captain upon the said scaffold, and four young ladies followed her. She looked frequently behind her, and when she got upon the scaffold was very much exhausted and amazed. She begged leave to speak to the people, promising to say nothing but what was good. The captain gave her leave, and she began to raise her eyes to Heaven, and cry mercy to God and to the King for the offence she had done, desiring the people always to pray to God for the King, for he was a good, gentle, gracious, and amiable prince.” Vienna Archives,Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10, January-June 1536. Originally published by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1887.

And so was the end of Anne’s life on Earth, but her story continues through all of us….



20 thoughts on “Anne Boleyn: What Did She Really Say?

  1. The correct statement she made is given in one of the Tudor movies made in the last few years. None of the above examples are correct, especially #3 which is very far off base. The other two are very close but not correct. She used the word “goodlier” in her speech when referring to the King.

  2. My 13th Great Aunt was dealing with her conceit as the cause of her demise. Her devotion to a man so undeserving of her prideful Love, and nothing had changed her mind about her RIGHTS in all the months she was married to him, would leave her resigned to her fate but resentful of the circumstance which had brought her so low. I choose #4 as most likely true.DCR

  3. I think number 4 is the one, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a little of all. The line ” if you meddle in my cause” just breaks my heart because if she only knew how many people have meddled in her cause and have loved her.

  4. ” for a gentler, nor a more merciful prince was there never, and to me he was ever a good, a gentle, and a sovereign Lord”
    I think she was beyond bright.. “merciful” amongst the praise.. oh yes.. She mocked him between the gesture of praising him.. Lost between the lines.. From what I read she begged for mercy and he either never got the letter or possibly interecepted by “Cromwell” or Henry ignored it.. that of course she did not know. Yes, agree though about protecting her daughter.

  5. Quote 3 is my best guess as being false. It doesn’t even remotely sound like something she would say, let alone name Jane Seymour. I myself would never have acted as kindly as she did.

  6. Acho que ate no fim ela conseguiu impressionar Hnrique vIII acho ,que ela jamais diria a 3 citao,pois ela queria proteger sua filha Elisabeth ,portanto acho que ela procuraria impressionar o rei que era um trao de sua personalidade…

  7. She wouldn’t have said that. At the end of the day Anne was wise enough to know that any snarky comments made about Henry or his new wife to be Jane, would madden the king. Even though she would be long gone, he could still take it out on her daughter. I don’t think she would want Elizabeth to suffer any reprocussions from her last and final speech. Sounds to me more like Spanish proproganda.

  8. #2 and #4 have an authentic ring to them. Francis Bacon is a bit on the flowery side, and the Spanish Chronicle is absurd. Statements from the scaffold had a tradition that Anne would have known of, with speeches often designed to protect families from retaliation.

  9. Anne was protecting her young daughter, and her parents and sister. She was far too politically astute to have said anything resembling #3. Her contemporaries would not have been fooled by her praise of Henry VIII. And her injunction for anyone who looked into her cause to judge for the best speaks as loudly and clearly as possible (under the circumstances) that she is not guilty.

  10. I think #4 sounds like something Anne would have said. She was falsely accused and condemned though.

  11. #3! – The Spanish Ambassador was known to hate Anne and to continually spread false and derogatory comments and stories about her. Not a credible story at all!

    1. From several sources I have read that Mendoza, while he had a strong dislike for Anne Boleyn, was not truly against her in the matter of her trial, being one of the few whose words we have recorded in his own writing that called her innocent and even went so far as to call the affair Henry’s folly. There is a great article about the relationship that is assumed to be mutual animosity between the two, and an accounting of how they really got on here
      http://www.historyextra.com/article/feature/did-eustace-chapuys-really-hate-anne-boleyn

      1. The OP might mean Chapuys, who was not precisely the “Spanish” ambassador but that of the Holy Roman Emperor. He may not have even spoken Spanish.

  12. I believe the quote that the writer claims the Anne she has come to know, never would have made is quote 3. I’ve never heard it nor do I believe she would ever have said such a thing.

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