19th May – on this day in 1536, Anne Boleyn was executed in the Tower of London after being the Queen of England for only 1000 days.
Today we pay tribute to this enigmatic woman whose story forms an important part of the rich tapestry of Hever Castle’s history.
Hever Castle was Anne Boleyn’s childhood home and a place she came to several times throughout her life to seek refuge, whether escaping gossip or recovering from illness. It also formed the unlikely backdrop to a sequence of tumultuous events that changed the course of Britain’s history, monarchy and religion.
Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII
Anne captured the attention of King Henry VIII and it was his love for Anne and her insistence that she became his wife rather than his mistress that led to the King renouncing Catholicism and creating the Church of England.
Despite a relentless courtship, Anne refused to be Henry’s mistress, saying: ‘Your wife I cannot be, because you have a Queen already. Your mistress I will not be’, thus forcing Henry to take action in order to be able to marry her.
When Anne failed to produce a male heir the King grew weary of her, and she was imprisoned in the Tower of London accused of incest with her brother, adultery with several gentlemen from Court, witchcraft and treason. She was found guilty and became the first English queen to be publicly executed.
Anne Boleyn’s Prayer Books
Hever Castle is fortunate to house two of Anne Boleyn’s prayer books, on display in the ‘Book of Hours’ room. She wrote in these beautifully illustrated books and they bear her signatures.
These personal prayer books were popular in England from the 13th century until the Reformation and earned the name ‘Book of Hours’ from the short services to the Virgin Mary which were read at eight fixed hours during the day – including Matins and Vespers.
These books also contained a calendar of church festivals, psalms, prayers, favourite saints and services for the dead. The earliest one on display at Hever was handwritten on vellum in Bruges, c. 1450, and bears the poignant inscription Le temps viendra (the time will come), Je Anne Boleyn.
The other is believed to be the prayer book Anne took with her to her execution at the Tower and bears the following inscription: ‘Remember me when you do pray that hope doth lead from day to day. Anne Boleyn.’ – ‘Book of Hours’, c.1528.
Anne Boleyn’s Final Words
In 1542 the chronicler, Edward Hall, recounted Anne’s final words:
“Good Christian people, I have not come here to preach a sermon; I have come here 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 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. To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesu receive my soul.”
Find out more about the history of Hever Castle, Anne Boleyn’s childhood bedroom, and the replica of the carriage clock that Henry gave to Anne as wedding gift. You can also see portraits of Anne Boleyn on display in the Inner Hall, her childhood bedroom, and the Queens’ Chamber. In the Long Gallery is a stunning waxwork exhibition illustrating three key events in Anne’s life.