Sunday, May 19, 2013

And thank you for coming

Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's second wife and the mother of Elizabeth I, was executed on this day in 1536. The charges against her, trumped up by a group led by Thomas Cromwell, were incest, adultery and high treason.

From the scaffold, she addressed the spectators who came to see her beheaded:

"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 heartily desire you all to pray for me. O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul."

Following her speech, she was blindfolded and led to the block, where she repeatedly prayed, "To Jesus Christ I commend my soul." As she placed her head on the stone, she began to cry and spoke her last words:

"Oh God, have pity on my soul. Oh God, have pity on my soul."

She did say the famous words, "The executioner is, I believe, very expert, and my neck is very slender," but these were spoken to the Constable of the Tower on the day before her execution.