A look at the last hours of Anne Boleyn
By Sarah Ginther
Lady Anne Shelton, refusing to enter into the ploy for gossip, hushed Mary, reminding her that enough had already taken place these past few days for her to report to her husband. For it was a late spring morning and the dew was just lifting from the blades of grass and the sun was beginning to shine on the east side of the Tower. A tower that had become a prison to many traitors or threats to the Tudor throne now found itself housing a Queen, Anne Boleyn.
The past few days seemed to have ticked by as slowly and painfully as had any day known to a man awaiting death, but Anne endured them with the greatest sense of peace about her. Her ladies-in-waiting may have seen many of her emotions but it was the eyes of one who lay unseen that was privy to the last lost moments of Anne Boleyn.
They say that those near death begin to have experiences that no words can fully convey. These experiences strike fear in some while evoking great joy in others. No matter the reaction, they affirm what many had pounded into their head from many preachers for many years, they affirm that the end of this life is really just a beginning of another.
* * * * *
A pounding at the door echoed through those grey stone walls that sent chills running down the spines of all, even those with the most hardened hearts towards Anne. Pushing open the door, few other words mattered, and the point was clear, “It is time, we must go!”
Lunging forward, forgetting her current place, was a lady unseen with a presence unknown to most, except one. Anne turned as if to an empty space.
“What is it?” beckoned a lady-in-waiting “Have we forgotten something?”
Shaking her head as to say ‘no’, Anne’s face filled with a quizzical look. Unbeknownst to her, her realities were beginning to shift. Katherine stepped back, taking in the lot wondering if it was just her and Anne who had shared in that moment. The rest, remaining unmoved, began to shrug at the occurrence, while Anne simply stepped forward, with the elegance of a queen, out of that terrible tower room for the last time.
Moving with such grace and simplicity, Katherine was finally getting used to the changes that had often frustrated her so much since that sorrowful January day. She almost surprised herself with the ease in which she kept up with the group as they weaved through the tower’s halls.
From the archways of the tower to the steps ascending the platform stationed on the Tower Green were many commoners and royalty mixing ranks. Some wailed and bemoaned the loss of another queen while others shouted the news already known to Anne, that her marriage was null and void and that the King would soon marry again.
“Peace and confidence is what they expect, but have peace knowing this is not the end.”
Anne, whispering and taken back, spoke softly, “Who is there? Please show yourself.”
Again the worlds echoed, “Peace and confidence is what they expect, but have peace knowing this is not the end.” Finally arriving to those last few steps Anne closed her eyes as to take in one last time the glory and grace that nature had to offer.
Upon ascending those creaky wooden steps, Anne gathered herself and one last time wished to speak to the crowd. “The only thing betwixt my body and your heavenly glory is this man’s blade,” she thought. “God grant me the grace to speak with the grace of a queen,” she prayed.
The sun seemed to lose its lust for light and gave way to gray skies. Squinting her eyes as to see what was causing this change she again heard the comforting voice that accompanied her on her last few steps. Except this time it was accompanied with a firm grip on her right arm just above her elbow. Frozen in place Anne paused, appearing to gather her thoughts, but in reality grappling with what was causing this grasp on her arm.
As if submitting to the chaos of death or realizing the fullness of life, Anne spoke softly, “If you are here to guide me I will let your words be mine, for it is evident you are here to guide me in these last moments of mine.”
With a Spanish accent that continually emerged and a comforting grip Katherine whispered the words that would ring throughout the ages, “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.”
Knowing now that the one who accompanied her was the one that came before her, Anne glanced, wishing her eyes to confirm what her heart knew to be true. Moments before being blindfolded she gazed one last time into the crowd and saw the face she knew had spoke those words to her. With a half smile on her face, as to say, ‘thank you’, a blindfold was placed over her head. Kneeling at the block, she repeated several times “To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesu receive my soul.”
“To Jesus Christ I commend my soul…” echoed Katherine.
All noises faded and the world seemed to spin. Watching as if a spectator, Anne began to heave with tears; yet none came. Confusion overwhelming her, she watched as they wrapped her body to be taken off for burial.
“Anne. You’re okay! It’s over now. Breath deeply, you are okay,” stated the familiar voice.
“Katherine, Katherine is that you?” mumbled Anne.
“Yes it is,” she returned.
“Why are you here? Where am I?”
Taken back to her first dreaded moments on the other side of death that January day, Katherine of Aragon stated, “The pain is over. I’m here now because on this side what separated us before remains no more. All who act in peace are beckoned closer Him, all who do not are left to their own demise a great ways away.”
“What happened? Was that you who walked with me?” beckoned Anne.
“Yes, for when we come to our last moments on this earth that is where the walls are thin.”