Anne Boleyn’s Heart

After Anne Boleyn’s execution, a number of stories arose about Anne’s body being removed from the Tower of London and reburied elsewhere.

Other legends also emerged about Anne’s heart being stolen and hidden.

St Mary's Church Ewarton

One such legend is connected with St Mary’s Church, Erwarton, in Suffolk where it is said that Anne Boleyn requested her heart be buried after her death.

Anne’s uncle, Sir Phillip Calthorpe who had married Anne’s aunt, owned the original Tudor mansion. The legend goes that Anne Boleyn spent time here as a child and before her execution was heard to say that the happiest days of her life were spent at the Hall.

In c. 1837-38, during renovations, a heart-shaped tin casket containing dust was discovered in the chancel wall. It was reburied beneath the organ with a small plaque marking the spot and relating that after her execution at the Tower of London on May 19 1536, Anne’s heart was buried in the church by her uncle, Sir Phillip Parker of Erwarton Hall.

Historian Alison Weir believes the story to be highly unlikely ‘since heart burial had gone out of fashion in England by the end of the fourteenth century’ (Pg. 323). She goes on to say that the uncle in question was in fact Sir Phillip Calthorpe of Erwarton, who was married to Amy (or Amata) Boleyn, Anne’s aunt.

Sir Phillip Parker was a later owner of the Hall and had the original Tudor wings demolished rebuilding the Hall in 1575 with materials from the original home.

The Elizabethan Hall is privately owned and not opened to the public but you can visit the church.

Click here to see some wonderful images of the inside of the church.

Although now closed, the local pub was called – The Erwarton Queen’s Head!

References
Weir, A. The Lady in The Tower, 2009.
http://www.suffolkchurches.co.uk/erwarton.html
http://www.onesuffolk.co.uk/ShotleyPC/History/
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Comments

  1. I seriously do not see Anne’s heart being removed from her body and reburied somewhere else. With the way she was buried, the lack of care in not having a proper coffin but an elm chest, the speed in which Henry wanted her out of the way… I just don’t see it happening.

  2. Anne Barnhill says:

    I agree with Sarah–I think her body was removed with great haste and little planning. I can’t imagine anyone coming back later for a heart. And to have carved it out at the time would have been noted somewhere. Whereever she is, I hope she is resting in peace. THanks for a cool article!

  3. Poor Queen Anne Boleyn, Wondering as human who will die and meet the immortals who have gone centuries before, how Anne suffered, leaving a child behind. She must have gone through torment and anguish. For a queen so full of life and ideas, to be put as a spectacle on the chopping block and then the royal body dumped as a garbage… The gift of Elizabeth the Tudor princess to the English throne and its people was a story worth telling, but will the reader ever know how Anne influence the child from birth on to the age of three? Poor Anne Boleyn so degraded and her biography as a queen still a mystery to me, even though I have read a great number of books. An American songstress sang: Women is loosers… Anne Boleyn!!! ATK

  4. Although I can understand the haste in which Henry VIII quickily tried to be rid of Anne, I highly oppose the fact that there was no personal emotions between the two- relating to the sexual attraction in which King Henry lusted after Anne. As well, with Katherine of Aragon (example) he was very impatient to get rid of her- as with others. To conclude, he was generally a impatient man.

    Sorry for that, back to the topic!

    Evidently as clearly, we could see Henry was haste to be rid of her although I can also see that Henry couldn’t care less to what happened to her, so her request could have been easily ordered! In addition, he had answered her request to get a French sword’s man as her executor who had travelled from France to England so surely he wouldn’t mind whether her heart was removed? In any case, her Uncle was a fairly wealthy man so he could of asked his king’s permition and I see no reason why he would not permit; she was dead anyway!

    Although on the other hand, although she had wished to have her heart buried in her childhood shadows in her Uncle’s mansion by her Uncle himself, I must admit that Anne was a infamous/unpopular woman by many, uncluding her family and relatives and the hate never ceased as she acceded to the throne!
    So, I’m not sure her Uncle would have respected her wishes much or even paid a heed as she was dead anyway and as someone pointed out, carving a heart out was out of fashion in the 14th century as we could doubt the wish as Anne was modern and never failed to exceed her cultural practices!

    However, I could also argue that (to many) Anne was intelligent and knew her enemies so I do not think Anne would humbly ask of a favour to a foe. Adding, we could acknowlege that many sympathised Anne’s unfair execution and trial despite their dislike for her and said that her last speech was humble and modest which definitely influenced their opinions about Anne Boleyn to the point where her story became almost a tradgedy. Also, I cannot imagine anyone else’s heart which would be buried in the Hall- judging by the evidence we have, taking into account that there was ‘cob webs’ meaning it must of been old (500 years or so?) so we can presume it was Anne’s.

    Anne Boleyn was supposedly witty so it could’ve included the characteristics of her being unpredictable and we all know that Anne is a facinating character in history. Hard to nail down, too! So something like this seemed like a humble request of Anne which would have been pretty reasonable judging by her circumstances.

    To conclude, there is this saying: there is no smoke without fire!
    Basically, rumours don’t JUST start without there being any suspicious/relevant events/acts.

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