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) - Holinshed’s 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… - Hall’s 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….