In the event, Anne escaped the flames. Henry VIII had her beheaded instead.
Anne was executed on Tower Green at 8 a.m. on Friday, 19 May 1536. The Tower of London was cleared of foreigners for the occasion and the gates were locked shut. Nevertheless, there was still a large crowd waiting to see her die.
She was wearing a crimson petticoat, a grey, fur-lined damask gown, and an ermine mantle and hood. She looked as if she was happy to die at last after all the trouble she had been through.
Anne mounted the scaffold (left foreground) before making her last speech:
‘Good Christian people. I have not come here to preach a sermon. I have come to die… As for mine offences, I here accuse no man. God knoweth them. I remit them to God, beseeching Him to have mercy on my soul.’
The mantle was removed. Anne’s hair was tucked into a cap. One of her attendants blindfolded her. ‘To Jesu Christ, I commend my soul,’ she said as she knelt down on the block.
Anne was beheaded with a two-edged sword from France. The executioner had hidden it in the straw on the scaffold. Anne kept turning her head towards him, even though she couldn’t see what was coming.
To fool her, he called for someone to bring his sword. Anne looked that way and the executioner whipped her head off before she knew what was happening.
HISTORIC LONDON: X MARKS THE SPOT Question 125. It was traditional to behead people with an axe. Why was Anne Boleyn executed with a sword?
‘Scintillating’ – Literary Review
‘Sets an example that will be hard to equal’ – Daily Mail
Waterstone’s recommendation of the month