It is 8am on the 19th of May in the Year of our Lord
1536. The setting is Tudor England in the grounds of the
Tower of London, kneeling on the ground is a young woman
aged somewhere between twenty-nine and thirty-five. Her
small neck, on which there is a large mole the size of a
walnut, rests on a block. On her left hand there is a
very small extra finger.
She is, of course, Anne Boleyn, Queen of England, second
wife to Henry 8th, mother of Elizabeth I, who will
eventually become Queen of England. But at this time she
has yet to attain her 3rd birthday. Anne who has been
found guilty of treason and for this the penalty is
Behind the supplicant, Anne, stands the executioner, an
expert swordsman, specially brought over from Calais,
France. In his hands he holds a French sword. A fair
distance away the King, Anne’s husband, is mounted on
his horse awaiting the signal gun that will declare him
to be a free man.
It takes only one stroke of the
Frenchman's sword to sever Anne’s slender neck and to
detach her head from her body. As the executioner holds
her head up high for the large crowd who have gathered
to witness the first public execution of an English
queen, Anne’s eyes continue to move and her mouth
continues to utter her dying prayer “To Jesus Christ I
commend my soul; Lord Jesu receive my soul. "Upon
hearing the signal gun that announces that his second
wife is dead, Henry the 8th shouts to his men around him
"Loose the hounds and away!" and sets off immediately to
Wiltshire and to Wolf Hall. Here preparations have been
made over the last few days, whilst Anne awaits her
execution in the tower, for a celebration of Henry’s
betrothal to Jane Seymour of Wolf Hall. Ten days later,
they are married in Whitehall.
But back to Henry’s second wife. It is unclear in which
year Anne Boleyn was born but history puts the dates
somewhere between 1501 and 1507. Her ancestral home is
said to have been that of Blickling Hall in Norfolk.
Here Anne was born and spent her childhood though not in
the current house but an earlier house that was on the
same site. It was her father, the ambitious Thomas
Boleyn, who had engineered his second daughter Anne’s
marriage to the monarch, after Henry 8th had discarded
his first daughter, Mary. Although the affair with
Anne’s sister was brief ending sometime in 1525, it is
said that she gave birth to a son who she called Henry
and it was widely believed that he was the king’s son
having a strong physical resemblance to the king.
Further proof of Henry’s illicit affair with Anne’s
sister Mary was the fact that he sought and received a
papal dispensation ‘to marry the sister of a woman with
whom he had engaged in unlawful intercourse’.
In 1528 a Member of Parliament insulted
the king’s morals by accusing Henry of sleeping with
Anne’s mother and also her sister, to which the king
replied “Never with her mother”. It is widely believed
that Anne not only having eleven fingers also had three
breasts. She is described as no great beauty, as was her
sister Mary, with a sallow complexion, black hair and
black-eyed. Yet she had both wit and style, which
commended her to the King. To hide her defects Anne took
to wearing necklaces like dog-collars and long sleeves
that dangled over her hands. The other ladies at court
also adopted this style.
Henry was married to Katherine of Aragon, who described
her rival Anne as ‘‘a woman who is the scandal of
Christendom". Although married, this did not stop the
King pursuing and bedding other women. Though with Anne
he met his match as she said "she would either be his
wife and Queen or nothing at all". Henry, being deeply
infatuated with her, set about trying to get a divorce
from Katherine from the Pope on the grounds that
Katharine had been his dead brother's wife. The Pope,
however, refused so in the end Henry declared that
England should be free of all Papal rule and that he
himself would be head of the church. Thus allowing him
to marry Anne, who having seen her goal in sight had
yielded to the King and was pregnant with
After the birth of a daughter, Henry’s
affections began to cool and his eyes to stray. His
attentions turned to one of his wive's maids of honour:
a young girl called Jane Seymour, a quiet and timid
girl. Finally tired of Anne’s nagging and there being no
sign of a son and heir, Henry charged Cromwell and the
Duke of Norfolk to carry out a secret investigation, in
order to find grounds on which Henry could justifiably
discard his second wife Anne. Cromwell and Norfolk, keen
to curry favour with the King, took less than one week
to compile a lengthy list of his wife’s "shameful
adulteries" with men that included her own brother Lord
Rochford!It was a clear case of treason, which of course
brought with it the death penalty for both Anne and her
so called lovers, thus freeing Henry.
The date for Anne’s execution was set for the 19th of
May and at Anne’s request, a swordsman from France had
been brought over to perform the deed. To the
astonishment of her jailer, whilst in the Tower, Anne
was neither melancholy nor frightened but was very
merry, laughing and making joke. However, on the day of
the execution, she was not so merry and seemed amazed
that no reprieve had been forthcoming.
After her execution it is said that her body was stuck
in an old arrow chest with her head tucked beneath her
arm and that she was buried in the Chapel in the Tower.
Other accounts say that she was taken by friends and
family and buried at a Norfolk church. There have even
been reports that her heart was cut out and stolen and
was found in the south wall of a church in Elvedon Park,
Thetford in 1836. And that this heart was subsequently
reburied in Salle
Given this account of her life and of her death is it
any wonder then that Anne’s spirit might be restless and
that on the anniversary of the fateful days she appears
at her childhood home of Blickling Hall.
Dressed all in white and carrying her dripping, severed
head, she arrives in a coach driven by a headless
coachman and four headless horses.
The coach slowly travels up the drive of Blickling Hall
and upon reaching the front door of the Hall coach and
driver vanish, leaving just the spectre of Anne.
This ghostly apparition then glides into the Hall, where
it roams the corridors until daybreak.
Not satisfied with one haunting, Blickling also lays
claim to the ghost of Anne’s father, Thomas Boleyn who
as a result of his strivings, lost not only a daughter
but also a son. This is given as the reason for his
penance that he is required to perform every year for a
thousand years after his death in 1539.Once a year, for
a thousand years, he has to attempt to cross 12 bridges
before cockcrow. His route takes him from Blicking to Aylsham,
Like his daughter his head is severed and once again the
headless horses are harnessed to a phantom coach. As
with his daughter he too carries his head underneath his
arm, but flames gush from his mouth rather than blood.
Henry 8th Six Wives
Katherine of Aragon – died 7th January 1536 at Kimbolton
Castle just after her 50th birthday.
Jane Seymour - born 1506 married 30th May 1536, died
24th October 1537, after childbirth.
Anne of Cleves - married 6th January 1540, annulled 6
months later, with Anne becoming the King's honorary
sister. Survived the king and died in 1557.
Catherine Howard - born 1521, married 28th July 1540,
executed on Monday 13th February 1542.
Katharine Parr - born 1512, married 12th July 1543, was
almost sent to the Tower but survived Henry who died on
28th January 1547. Katherine eventually died on 5th