Where is Anne Boleyn Buried?

“Intelligence, Spirit and Courage”

A True and Exact Draught of the TOWER LIBERTIES, survey'd in the Year 1597 by GULIELMUS HAIWARD and J. GASCOYNE.

On the morning of May 19 1536, Anne Boleyn went bravely to her death in a private execution at the Tower of London.

It took only one stroke of the executioner’s sword to sever her delicate neck, the very same neck that the poet Thomas Wyatt had once praised as ‘fair’ in one of his admiring verses. It was then left up to her four ladies to move and prepare her body for burial.

Anne’s head was covered in a white cloth and carried by one of her ladies. Her body was undressed and ‘wrapped in a white covering’ and placed in an old elm chest.

Although only a short while ago Anne had been Queen, loved and desired by a King, no provision had been made for a proper coffin.

Chapel Royal St Peter ad Vincula

Anne’s women carried her body approximately 65 metres (Ives, Pg. 359) to the royal chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, passing the newly filled graves of Norris, Weston, Brereton and Smeaton, and buried her in the earth beneath the chancel pavement in an unmarked grave (Weir, Pg. 273).

Although Anne was executed at 9 o’clock in the morning her body was not buried until ‘the same day at afternoon’. According to Weir it is likely that the delay was caused by the need to wait for someone to arrive to lift the paving stones in the chancel and dig the shallow grave – no provision had been made for this either (Pg. 273).

Before burying Anne her attendants removed her garments and jewellery and distributed them to the Tower officials as customary after executions. The King would then redeem the items for a substantial sum (Weir, Pg. 274).

The matter of exactly where Anne Boleyn was buried is a difficult one. Some evidence points to Anne being buried next to her brother, George Boleyn, while other evidence suggest Anne and George were some distance apart.

In 1876, Queen Victoria approved the restoration of the royal chapel of St Peter ad Vincula and the remains of those buried beneath the sunken altar pavement were excavated, examined and ‘identified’.

Anne Boleyn's Memorial Plaque*

The remains were then

‘reverently laid in individual leaden coffers, which were screwed down and placed inside oaken outer coffins one-inch thick, these being sealed with copper screws. A lead plaque bearing the name and arms of the person thought to be inside was affixed to the lid of each coffin, and all were decently reburied in the place where they were found, just four inches beneath the altar pavement, which was then concreted over and laid with decorative octagonal memorial slabs of green, red and white marble in a mosaic design, each having a border of yellow Sienna marble and the names and armorial crests of the deceased.’ (Weir, Pg. 327)

I feel that I should point out that historian Alison Weir does not believe that the remains identified as Anne Boleyn were in fact that of Henry VIII’s second Queen. She instead concludes that

‘we can be almost certain that Anne’s memorial stone does not mark the last resting place of her actual remains, and that she lies beneath Lady Rochford’s memorial’ (Pg. 327)

I hope to look in more detail at the Victorian excavation of the Chapel Royal and Alison Weir’s conclusion in a separate article.

Visiting the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula today

You can visit Anne Boleyn’s final resting place and pay your respects at St Peter ad Vincula on your next trip to the Tower of London. The Chapel can be accessed through a Yeoman Warder tour (check the daily programme on arrival) or in the last hour of standard opening time, usually from 4.30pm.

Other notable Tudor personalities are also buried within the chapel, including George Boleyn, Jane Grey, Catherine Howard, Lady Rochford, Thomas More, John Fisher and Edward Seymour.

For me, being so close to Anne’s physical remains was very moving. I kept picturing her ladies cradling their mistresses blood stained head and body whilst waiting for someone to dig her shallow grave.

I imagine that those few hours must have seemed so surreal and felt like an eternity.

Only three years and thirty-seven days after Anne Boleyn had first dined lavishly as Queen of England, she now lay dead and all but forgotten by those at the English Court who now chose to turn their back on the past.

But one thing is for certain; I have not forgotten her and I know that many others around the world remember this remarkable woman.

In the words of Thomas Cromwell, Anne was ‘intelligence, spirit and courage’ (Ives. Pg. 359).

References
Ives, A. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, 2004.
Weir, A. The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, 2009.
Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula
*Image copyright, Donald Greyfield at Find a Grave.

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Comments

  1. Janet Silvester says:

    Which book and author is this from?

  2. Natalie says:

    Hi Janet, not sure I understand the question. Sorry

  3. KC Russell says:

    I wrote Alison Weir about this very topic when I could not find any statements that suggested Anne’s bones were anywhere other than in a common receptacle. Since I am a complete novice at this stuff it is entirely possible it is mentioned somewhere that I missed. Alison did kindly reply and referred me to Doyne C. Bell`s Notices of Historic Persons Buried in the Tower and also said that she did “quite a lot of background research in order to put the committee`s findings into context.” I hope that is helpful to the discussion.

  4. Sarah says:

    Thank you :)

  5. Nyel says:

    I just love the article! I also find interesting say that someone think that the remains identified as Anne Boleyn were in fact the remains of Katherine Howard, and also, they still not found the remains of George.

  6. Tracey Burdus says:

    I have only discovered this website today and Im so excited, I love the Tudor era and Im eager to learn more about this fascinating time in history and the colourful characters that lived during that time. Thankyou for sharing your obvious love and knowledge of this time.

  7. Raisa says:

    Hi everybody! I’ve just discovered this site and I’d like you to give more information. Sorry if I don’t write at a 100% correct, but I am a bit tired now. Not so long ago I saw a documentary where Anne’s burial place was discussed, and beginning from the notes taken by the doctors who saw and studied the final rests of all the people buried there and quite next, they reached the point that the woman burried when nowadays a memorial stone is placed is Anne, but that is true only in the case that she was 35 or more by the time of her death. The other females were more or less 20 and 29 years old. If we think in Catherine Howard, we know that probably she is the female of 20 years old, and the other one would be Jane Seymour, but, knowing that Jane married George around 1525 and by that time she would probably be about 19/20 years old, by the time of her death she would be around 35 or more, leading the possibility of being Anne the female of 29 years old. The doctors of the Victorian period quickly recognised the body of Jane Grey as she was the youngest one and around 15/16 years old by the time of her death.

    I would also like to ask you if you know why the government hasn’t provided a better place for Anne, one proper of her condition, a Queen, one of the most important consort queens ever known.

    And I also read that each year a bounch of red roses are sent for Anne the day she died although nobody knows who send them. Have you heard something about that?

    And finally I would also like to ask you if anybody knows that some astrologysts (I thinks) made a study based on true notes of her life and concluded she was born at the beginning of May, but I also read that Henry was so angry with her that he decided to delay her death til the 19th because it was her birthday.

    Sorry for written so much, but I’ve always been very interested in Anne and I’ve read everything I could find of her.

    • Jessica says:

      Hello Raisa,

      It’s perfectly fine to write quite a bit. i would have done the same haha.
      Your argument makes quite a bit of sense except in one area. Jane Seymour is not buried in the Chapel Royal St Peter ad Vincula, but next to her husband Henry VIII in the St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Therefore the body of the 35 year old inspected at the Tower cannot possibly be the one of Jane Seymour as her remains are confirmed to be elsewhere. The Chapel Royal St. Peter ad Vincula was reserved for (usually) the high-class criminals the Tower imprisoned, this being the main reason for their graves being unmarked. The monarchy simply didn’t wish for anyone to know who they were since they, as convicted criminals, were not worthy. Many of them were not even given proper coffins. Jane Seymour on the other hand was given an elaborate burial that Henry VIII had himself created for her. She was in fact, the only of his wives to be given a proper queen’s funeral. Henry is buried next to her as he saw her as his “true” wife and is said to have loved her the most. Personally i believe is wasn’t so much as “love” but more of the fact that she was the only wife to produce what he so desperately wanted, a legitimate male heir.

  8. Dawn says:

    Yes, I have also read that flowers are delivered on the anniversary of her death by someone unknow for many years I think it is a wonderful gesture. I was there in April there were flowers there then. I think people lay flowers all the time now.
    As for the re-burying Anne in a more elaberate tomb, I honestly don’t think that would bring her any more recognition than she already has already. She has tens of thousands of people every year wanting to pay their respects, learn about her and admire who she was and her achievements.
    The chapel where she is buried has a wonderful feel of tranquility and peace, (even with all the tourism of the tower around it). I like to think that Anne would enjoy the peacefulness of the chapel after her very eventful life and cruel death, and appreciate the small plaque that marks her place of rest. She needs no more grand gestures, as Henry had shown her, they brought her little happiness in the end. Anne has been disturbed before, so let us leave her to eternal rest now, besides her beloved brother, George.
    After all, the Tower would hold some good memories for Anne, she stayed there before her coronation, while she was carrying her first child, imagine how happy she was then….’The Most Happy’… :)

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