I am delighted to be hosting day five of Roland Hui’s book tour for his latest book, The Turbulent Crown: The Story of the Tudor Queens.
To celebrate the release, Roland has written an informative guest post that dispels some of the myths about Anne Boleyn’s incarceration at the Tower of London. I’m also excited to announce that thanks to the generosity of MadeGlobal Publishing, I have a copy of Roland’s book to give away! (See conditions of entry below).
Ten remarkable women.
One remarkable era.
In the Tudor period, 1485–1603, a host of fascinating women sat on the English throne. The dramatic events of their lives are told in The Turbulent Crown: The Story of the Tudor Queens of England.
The Turbulent Crown begins with the story of Elizabeth of York, who survived conspiracy, and dishonour to become the first Tudor Queen, bringing peace and order to England after years of civil war. From there, the reader is taken through the parade of Henry VIII’s six wives – two of whom, Anne Boleyn and Katheryn Howard, would lose their heads against a backdrop of intrigue and scandal.
The Turbulent Crown continues with the tragedy of Lady Jane Grey, the teenager who ruled for nine days until overthrown by her cousin Mary Tudor. But Mary’s reign, which began in triumph, ended in disaster, leading to the emergence of her sister, Elizabeth I, as the greatest of her family and of England’s monarchs.
Conditions of Entry
For your chance to win a copy of The Turbulent Crown, you must be subscribed to On the Tudor Trail’s newsletter (if you are not already, sign up on our homepage where it says ‘Free Enewsletter Subscription’).
Then simply leave a comment after this post between now and 10 March 2017. Don’t forget to leave your name and a contact email. Please note that I have comment moderation activated and need to ‘approve’ comments before they appear. There is no need to submit your comment twice.
This giveaway is open internationally.
A winner will be selected randomly and contacted by email shortly after the competition closes. Please ensure you’ve added firstname.lastname@example.org to your address book to avoid missing my email.
Anne Boleyn at the Tower of London – Fact and Fiction
By Roland Hui
Perhaps the best way to visit and learn about the Tower of London is to take a tour offered by its Yeoman Warders (or Beefeaters as they are better known). Formerly military personnel in Her Majesty’s armed forces, these men, and now a woman – Moira Cameron; appointed the first female Yeoman Warder in 2007 – hold a ceremonial position at the Tower, which includes offering visitor services to close to 3 million tourists annually.
As tour guides, the Warders enthrall their audiences with colorful tales of the Tower’s history – secret murders within its walls, daring escapes from its confines, and gory executions upon the block. Needless to say, the beheadings – seven are known to have occurred on Tower Green – are a most popular subject, one often subjected to some misinformation and exaggeration, unfortunately. Stories such as those of Queen Katheryn Howard expressing her eternal love for her executed lover Thomas Culpepper before the axe fell upon her own neck, and of old Margaret Pole – chased around the scaffold until she was hacked to death as it is told – continue to fascinate, even though they fall short of truth. Just as captivating is the tragic end of Queen Anne Boleyn. As the Warders often tell it, when she was accused of high treason in 1536, she was brought here and imprisoned in a house still standing on the Green. Not long afterwards she lost her head on a scaffold where a glass memorial now stands. However, a look into the historical records about Anne’s fall reveals that these are misconceptions about her stay at the Tower of London.
Besides the White Tower, the massive central keep of the fortress, one of the most imposing features of the Tower of London is St. Thomas’ Tower, or Traitors’ Gate as it is more commonly called. This gated archway formerly gave access to the River Thames, and prisoners were routinely rowed in through this entrance. According to the Warder whose tour I took on an autumn afternoon some years ago, Anne Boleyn too arrived by this gate. But truth be told, Anne (and later her daughter Elizabeth too when she was arrested in 1554) never came this way. Instead, she had landed at Tower Wharf and was taken in by a drawbridge into what was then called Court Gate (that is the Byward Tower). This was the entrance generally used by persons of prestige.
Inside the Tower of London, as it is often repeated, Anne Boleyn was held in the Queen’s House (the Queen being the present day Elizabeth II). Although the building does date from the Tudor era, Anne was not imprisoned there but in the royal palace. Sadly, these lodgings, once stretching from the White Tower to the Lanthorn Tower, no longer exist.
When the end finally came for Anne on the morning of May 19, 1536, she was said to have lost her head on a scaffold built in front of the Chapel of St. Peter Ad Vincula upon the Green, where a glass memorial to the Tower’s victims now stands. But again, a closer look at primary sources about Anne’s stay at the Tower suggests otherwise. One report mentioned that the scaffold was by the White Tower, that is probably along its northern wall. The scaffold built for Lady Jane Grey, beheaded in 1554, was described as being in the same place. Hence the present day execution site, recognized as such since the 19th century era, was a fabrication; no records indicate that it was actually there. It was probably designated as the infamous sad spot because of its picturesque setting with the chapel as a backdrop.
While the Yeoman Warders’ presentations may sometimes lack accuracy, they are invaluable in bringing history alive, allowing us to walk in Anne Boleyn’s footsteps. One of the stops along the way is the Chapel of St. Peter’s. Unless one attends a service within, one is only allowed inside in the company of a Warder. It is here that Anne’s resting place is found, the chancel laid in marble by order of Queen Victoria, containing amongst others, Anne’s coat-of-arms.
On the day I visited, someone had left a rose on the chancel floor. Although Anne’s marker was hidden beneath the hanging cloth of the altar, I have no doubt it was left for her. Such tributes to her are common, the Yeoman Warders say, adding to the richness of Anne’s legacy at the Tower of London.
Roland Hui received his degree in Art History from Concordia University in Canada. After completing his studies, he went on to work in Interpretive Media for California State Parks, The U.S. Forest Service, and The National Park Service.
Roland has written for Renaissance Magazine and for Tudor Life Magazine. He blogs about 16th-century English art and personalities at Tudor Faces at: tudorfaces.blogspot.com.
Be sure to follow the rest of Roland Hui’s book tour!