Thursday, July 03, 2008

Question from Kat - Anne Boleyn's burial


I saw an image of Ann Boleyn's grave, has she always been interred at that site or was she moved for any reason? Is it a proven fact that she was interred there and also, were any of the tombs, grave sites of the Tudor's seriously damaged during WWII? Thanks!



32 Comments:

Blogger Elizabeth M. said...

Anne Boleyn was originally buried in an elm arrow chest within the Chapel of St. Peter-ad-Vincula within the confines of the Tower of London. Sadly, a proper coffin was neglected to be provided who had been Queen of England. In the 1870s, the chapel went under extensive renovations, and many bones were disturbed. The body of Anne Boleyn was one supposedly identified, one of the criteria being used to aid identification being the long, thin neck. The bones were re-interred. But therein lies the rub. There is a story that Anne's remains, as well as the remains of several other unidentified victims, were placed in a common receptacle and re-interred in an area of the chapel not far from the altar, several feet away from the marker in the marble floor for Anne Boleyn. Katherine Howard, her cousin and fellow Queen, has a marker, as well, and her bones may very well have been among those mixed in with Anne's in the common receptacle. So Anne is buried somewhere in the chapel, but maybe not in the exact spot of her marker, and she may not be resting alone. If this story is true--my friend Diane took a trip there many years ago and got chatty with the gentleman giving her tour--then it is a sad postscript to the fascinating life of Anne Boleyn. She was a remarkable woman and surely deserved a better final resting place. My self, I have always found it a pity her daughter Elizabeth I never felt it appropriate to give her mother a more fitting burial. But then she never tried to formally rehabilitate her mother's reputation, either. It has been theorized that by doing so, it would have raised questions about her own legitimacy right to the throne, and given the turmoil following the death of Edward VI, the brief ascension of Lady Jane Grey, and Mary Tudor's tenacious battle to gain the throne, perhaps this was the wisest course.

July 03, 2008 11:59 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth M. said...

It would be so neat if the story of a common lot of bones is true, if they could be re-exhumed and put together in a forensic laboratory. It would be a forensic scientists dream, and a historian's delight if the different bodies could be somewhat pieced together. Alas, it will never happen. I doubt the Queen would ever give permission for such a project--I do not know for sure if the chapel is a royal peculiar, thus needing her permission. But it is a fun thought.

July 03, 2008 12:21 PM  
Anonymous PhD Historian said...

Anne Boleyn was indeed buried inside the Chapel of St Peter's ad Vincula (St Peter in Chains) within the Tower precincts. The exact location of her original burial is no longer known, however. In the middle of the 19th century, the entire Tower was "restored," including the chapel. Unfortunately, much of the "restoration" was badly done, resulting in some serious alteration and damage to the original fabric of the buildings. That included the chapel. Many of the bones buried beneath the chapel floor, including those of Anne Boleyn and Jane Grey, were exhumed and moved. They now lie as a co-mingled group under a wall and unrelated monument to the left of the altar (as you face the altar). There is a plaque nearby on the floor noting the relocation of the bones. In a previous post to this blog, however, I described visiting the chapel privately on a research trip and being allowed to inspect areas not seen by the tourist public. That included the vestry, which doubles as the Yeoman Warders' break room. One of the warders moved a water cooler and lifted a floor tile beneath it to reveal still more bones lying loose beneath the floor, without any marker or identification. The upshot is that so much alteration has been done over the centuries that the bones of the various persons buried in the chapel are now scattered and unidentifiable. Anne Boleyn's bones are certainly among them, but there is no way to identify which are hers and where exactly they lie.

While the Tower and the area around it (especially the docks just to the east) did suffer damage during the London Blitz of WWII, the Chapel and the graves it contains were not seriously damaged.

July 03, 2008 12:39 PM  
Anonymous Nasim said...

To my knowledge, the remains have never been removed, but have always been buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower.

There is a myth that sometime after her execution her body was confiscated by family or friends and buried elsewhere (I believe the supposed location is said to be Hever?). However the idea is highly controversial and one that cannot be backed with sufficient evidence. It would have been extremely hard to move the body without the knowledge of the authorities, and I find it hard to believe that Henry VIII would have granted permission for the relocation (and I find it hard to believe that Anne’s family who were busy distancing themselves from her in last days, would then proceed to attempt to move her body in loving remembrance – although perhaps I am being a bit too cynical here : ). After Anne’s death, all mention of her name was kept to the minimum yet issues regarding a new burial place for her would have only resulted in her name resurfacing. So it is probable that her remains along with her memory were neglected and left be.

In the nineteenth century, remains believed to be that of Ann Boleyn’s were examined by a Dr. Mouat, and there was no suggestion that the corpse had been tampered with. Her body was discovered by her brother’s, in front of the high altar, and she was reburied in that chapel. I don’t believe that there is any reason to doubt that the chapel is her final resting place. There is the possibility that the remains examined by Dr Mouat was not Anne, but there is also evidence to suggest that his assessment in this respect was correct as the individual was buried in a suitable location, had been decapitated and was female. Admittedly such examinations back then were not as advanced as now so some of Dr Mouat’s assessments can be questioned, however the location of the remains strengths the argument that it is Anne. Plus in Doyne C Bell’s work, “Notices of the Historic Persons Buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London”, he mentions that in the nineteenth century (at the time the chapel was renovated and the remains examined):

“the grave into which, at on the 19th May, the old elm-chest containing the remains of his sister Anne was cast, was dug by the side of him.”

So if the remains had been found in an old elm chest (and we know that Anne was apparently buried in such a chest which had original contained bow-staves), this just further strengths the idea that this is her.

So in short, there is every reason to believe that she has always been buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula. Hope that helps!

July 03, 2008 1:38 PM  
Anonymous Kristen S. said...

Anne Boleyn has always been buried in Saint Peter ad Vincula (St. Peter in Chains). In the 19th century the chapel was rennovated and as a result the remains of Anne, as well as Lady Jane Grey, and Katherine Howard (among others) were discovered and identified. The markers were then placed above the approximate places were the remains were returned.

July 03, 2008 2:28 PM  
Anonymous PhD Historian said...

Elizabeth M. is correct in that the bones of several women, including but not limited to Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard, and Jane Grey are interred in a common grave or vault beneath the wall to the left of the altar, as I stated above. The marker(s) to which Kristen S. refers is actually a single marker plaque noting ALL of the persons buried together, and the marker specifically states that they are interred together and several feet away from the marker (i.e., the marker is not over the exact spot). According to one of the curators of the Tower, with whom I spoke three years ago about this matter, the collected bones were deliberately placed in a spot that was then made inaccessible and the marker placed away from that spot, specifically to prevent future grave-robbing by possible souvenir hunters or vandals, including 19th century personnel of the Tower. The exact location of the collected bones is now unknown, at least as far as the public record reveals.
I can assure you that the remains of Jane Grey, about whom I am an expert, have never been reliably identified, not even in the 19th century (though her father's mummified head is purported to still exist). There are indeed stories, however, of Anne Boleyn's bones having been identified, but it is worth pointing out that many of the supposed identifications carried out in the mid 19th century were based on only the most rudimentary of forensic techniques and many have since been disproven. False identifications include a set of bones once thought to be one of the Princes in the Tower (Edward V or his brother Richard) but later shown to be ape bones from the royal menagerie that was once housed in the Tower.

Elizabeth M. - To answer your question, yes, the Chapel in the Tower is indeed a royal peculiar, as are Westminster Abbey, St George's Chapel at Windsor, and I believe also the chapel at St James' Palace. As such, none of the bones buried there can be disinterred without the express permission of the monarch. Since H.M. has steadfastly refused to allow the disinterring of the bones at Westminster Abbey now labeled as those of both of the Princes in the Tower (a different set from the ape bones), it is unlikely that she would allow similar work at St Peter's ad Vincula. And I cannot blame her. I doubt she relishes the thought of setting a precedent that might allow her own bones to be dug up in a few hundred years and submitted to examination.

July 03, 2008 8:06 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth M. said...

I must be watching too much Law and Order Criminal Intent or something. (Vincent D'Onofrio is my sweetie, much to my husband's amusement). Just got this thought in my head about how neat it would be to take the skulls and use the face modeling techniques to come up with reasonable facial likenesses. However, Phd Historian, I do agree with you, let them rest in peace. Though one of my goals in life is to visit England and make a pilgrimage to the gravesites of Henry VIII's queens, and place a flower or two in the chapel of St. Peter-ad-Vincula in honor of Anne Boleyn.

July 03, 2008 11:41 PM  
Anonymous Nicole said...

All the answers were fascinating. Even tho I didn't ask the question I'd still like to say thanks to all those that left answers. Reading all of them was very interesting!

July 04, 2008 2:59 AM  
Anonymous Nasim said...

I think to disturb the remains to satisfy our curiosity is unnecessary even if it would answer many controversial questions. For example I would love to know of Anne’s appearance and we have the technology today that enables such results. But such a matter is not incredibly important and I feel very uneasy about such an examination. However I admit that I am in favour of attempts to exhume remains in order to rebury the individuals properly. For myself I see that as an attempt to assign some degree of respect to those buried there.

But admittedly I am biased in this as my utter fascination and sympathy with Anne Boleyn renders me shocked and dismayed over the current state of her remains and wishful that she was buried in a far more respectful fashion.

July 04, 2008 10:08 AM  
Blogger Foose said...

I guess I'm semi-unashamed to say I disagree, but then if I were Queen of England I would be first at the tomb entrance, hammering loudly with pick and axe to break it down and inspect the contents.

In fact, I am always disappointed that each successive generation of British princes decides to pursue military careers (or musical theater, in certain cases) rather than taking advantage of their peerless connections and unparalleled insider access to read History. Oh, if only William or Harry were interested in persuading Granny to open up the tombs!

I'm always reading about the analyses of Egyptian and South American mummies, and even the Florentines recently exhumed Francesco I and Bianca Cappello to test out the authenticity of the popular arsenic rumor. (They were chock-full of it, apparently). Think, oh think, what we could learn from assembling those bones in the Peter-ad-Vincula crypt -- perhaps there's a little hand with a sixth finger somewhere ...

If I were a royal person, I hope I would be public-spirited to consider my body a public gift to succeeding generations. I don't think the Queen should worry about someone digging her up, as she has lived a blameless and respectable life; it's only the scandalously interesting corpses (and the victims of suspicious deaths) historians are after.

July 11, 2008 9:33 PM  
Blogger Lonsoleil said...

I agree with Foose 100%.

As an American that's fascinated by Tudor history, I would GLADLY donate money to the aid of exhumation of these bones for scientific curiosity.

Facial reconstruction from the bone structure of their skulls WILL FINALLY let us know what these people looked like!

The reason I feel this way is because the many portraits that I've viewed of Tudor Monarchs, such as Anne Boleyn or Lady Jane, differ from artist to artist.

The artists of that era were also not very good at capturing specific likenesses of the people they were painting. In other words, most of the woman in the portraits of that era LOOK ALIKE!

So yes, I wish that The Queen would give permission for an exhumation and scientific study of these bones to take place.

I don't think that Anne Boleyn is going to care, she's been dead for hundreds of years!

August 04, 2008 2:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if Her Majesty has been approached about re-opening the communal resting place in St Peter ad Vincula? I know that she has refused permission for what is thought to be the remains of the 'Princes in the Tower'in Westminster Abbey, but as this is a communal grave that was 'created' in the 19th century she may be willing to give permission for identification of the bones to enable them to rest with the respect to which they are due.

The argument for privacy and for the bones to continue undisturbed is vitiated by the the fact that they were buried individually and were subsequently placed together. I agree that to recreate the facial soft tissues, and therefore the appearance, would be very interesting. A case could surely be made for this in the interest of historical record in an age of advancing science. It needs scholars from forensic medicine and history to collaborate and put a reasoned, academic argument to Her Majesty - and to find the funding. Any volunteers?!

October 05, 2008 2:48 PM  
Anonymous Gaffzilla said...

Not only would an exhumation be historically interesting but would allow these long-dead historical figures a proper re-burial in individual caskets with accurate markers so that the people of the world can visit the Chapel and pay their respects properly. Gareth :)

October 06, 2008 5:33 AM  
Blogger susan haigh said...

I have read many books regarding Anne Boleyn and never tire of her. It is such a shame that her bones can not be studied. At least we would finally find out the truth about her sixth finger. I am beginning to believe that it is all lies, made up by Catholics who wished to protray her as a witch. It seems to have been quite a convenient way of strengthening a case against her. I like David Starky am a serious fan of Anne Boleyn and believe that she deserves a fanstatic buriel site, which we could all go to.

November 09, 2008 5:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am fascinated by Ann Boleyn. The way her life ended was tragic. But the way her remains have been treated is even worse. She deserved better. I would love to see her and the others receive a proper burial. I also gree that the facial reconstruction would be amazing. Since the bones have already been disturbed, I don't see what it would hurt.

January 17, 2009 11:30 AM  
Blogger Pam said...

I have been fascinated with Ann Bolyen since my early teens. All I have read about her make me believe that she was the love of Henry's life. But that he had such a great conceit of himself and the need of a male heir overrode his love. While their are many stories of Ann's ghost being seen, I feel Ann made her peace before she died,and that no matter where her bones may lie,she is content. Henry is the one that should walk for eternity!!

February 17, 2009 12:20 PM  
Blogger Pam said...

Having been fascinated with Anne Boleyn since my young teens,I still feel no matter where she rests,she should be undisturbed. Anne had a turbulent life,with much put upon her by her family. I believe she made her peace at the end; Henry is the one who ought to be disturbed. I had read that it was said when he died,that the dogs would lick his blood,and supposedly his coffin leaked and that the exact thing happened. Who knows? But for Anne,the portraits of her show a lovely woman;a woman who helped bring the Protestant religion to England. RIP Anne!!!

February 18, 2009 2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just heard recently that Anne Boleyn's remains were definitely found. Identified by her ring during a restoration process in 2004. Does anyone know if this is true or speculation?

March 20, 2009 1:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if the comment about the restoration of 2004 is true? I doubt it, but I'm always hopeful!

I'd like to know how they defin. identified her also?

April 01, 2009 11:11 AM  
Blogger nikkola said...

I would love to see Ann Boleyn good name restored by exam. her bones and getting the rumors stopped about her sixth finger, i think someone would have mentioned in the restoration in 19th centuring?

May 04, 2009 11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

IT always drives me slightly potty when this conversation comes up, which is does, fairly regularly. Whilst I'm more than happy to let people have opinions, it does amaze me sometimes what is expressed.
Why do people think that Anne is buried direspectfully? I work at the Tower and the Chapel is a beautiful, peaceful place which is used for spiritual worship every single day. The Yeoman warders, the staff at the Tower and the public who come in their thousands show plenty of respect for these people.
To dig up the graves would me a massively disruptive, disrepectful and completely unnecessary procedure, done for nothing more than morbid curiosity. It's not about money to invest, it's about showing respect for our heritage, not simply selling another photo opportunity.
Let the dead rest. They deserve it. Life was hard enough for most of them, at least let them have eternity.

May 26, 2009 6:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone looking for an accurate likeness of Anne need only look at the sketch done by Hans Holbein the Younger. His sketches done in preparation and as reference for painted portraits are incredibly accurate. In fact, they're probably more accurate than his paintings which were undoubtedly stylized and "beautified," for lack of a better description. His sketches weren't meant for public display, but they're incredible to see. If you're ever at Windsor Castle, they have a collection of something like 60 Holbein sketches.

May 28, 2009 6:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadly even Holbein is strictly accurate because there are no definite sketches or portraits of Anne surviving from her lifetime. They were all destroyed in the aftermath of her fall. The only surviving image we know for definite is her is a damaged medallion from her coronation. The rest are up for debate and many of the most famous sketches are reportedly of Henry's sister, Mary Tudor/Brandon (hence the famous B necklace could easily be for Brandon, not Boleyn) It appears to be the Victorians who desperately wanted a definite image of their favourite Tudor heroine who decided that was her.

June 01, 2009 6:40 AM  
Blogger Hayley Ridgley said...

Not all of them, but many of them, Many artists during that time named the images at the top of the portaits, many of anne boleyn's portraits were named, some in english and some in latin and french, eg as "Anna de Bullen".

June 21, 2009 5:06 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

I just returned yesterday from a visit to London that included the Tower, Westminster Abbey and St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle.

It is unseemly, when compared to the resting places of the other monarchs and their families, that Ann Boleyn should still lie questionably in the prison in which she was executed.

With the oversight of historians, DNA evidence could now be collected that would insure Ann's correct identity. My own opinion is that she should be moved to Westminster Abbey near the daughter she fought to protect.

Lady Jane likewise was a blameless teenager caught up in power politics and she harmed none. She deserves better as well. I am a Howard descendant but feel less sympathy for Katherine. Even though immature, she was married to the King and should have known better.

Ann was a highlight of English history and was said by all to have wit and brains that were certainly passed to her daughter. She should be treated with the respect to which her status and legacy entitle her.

Ha, I think I should send a suggestion to this effect at once to Her Majesty. Look how the Queen has provided for her own parents. They are lovingly at rest in beautiful St. George's Chapel in a large and respectful enclave near other Kings and Queens of Great Britain.

June 22, 2009 12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Warder of the Chapel pointed out to me last week the tile just below the gold cloth on the left side of the alter that marks her burial site. It is a simple yet beautiful chapel, and one can feel the history and the intrigue of the centuries while standing facing the alter, only a few yards away.

July 02, 2009 4:54 PM  
Blogger Azaria said...

I was at the Tower recently and the Yeoman Warder was telling the story that the bones of Anne Boleyn, Jane Grey and Catherine Howard have all been definitively identified and he pointed to their individual resting places - Anne was identified by her sixth finger, Catherine by the fact that she was buried in quicklime, and Jane by her youth.

I don't believe a word of it, personally. Show me some sources.

I'm disappointed by the fact that the Yeoman Warders tell such made-up stories, when history as it happened is fascinating enough.

I have to say, there's no way HM the Queen would ever countenance having the bones dug up again, I think less for wanting to risk her own body in future than for not wanting to disturb them. And yes, it is her chapel and nothing may be done to it without her consent.

When the chapel floor was dug up in the nineteenth century, they found 1300 bodies. Only 30-something of these were identified, the rest were given a (mass) Christian burial. Having given them a respectful, decent and Christian burial, I think it's highly unlikely that the royal family will be persuaded to dig up the past again.

There are a lot of questions I'd love to see answered, but I think we just need to accept that we're never likely to have those answers.

Also, somebody mentioned something about DNA testing?! Where do you suggest we get the comparison samples from?

July 21, 2009 8:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I very much appreciate the comments and discussion. There are many times I've wondered about the final resting place. But, we must move on and live the life our souls lead today. I cannot go back; I must leave it behind.

August 08, 2009 7:04 PM  
Anonymous Bill H. said...

Anne Boleyn was convicted of treason, witchcraft, and prostitution. It was Henry's purpose to dump the entire load of garbage on her and destroy her memory forever. She was executed by beheading, the punishment for treason. As a convicted witch she could have been burned at the stake. Henry gave her the mercy of a form of execution that was quick and painless. This was the only mercy he showed her. The fact that her body was burried in consecrated ground seems to me to show that Henry VIII did not believe that she was a witch.

Elizabeth never tried to rehabilitate her mother because it would have reminded everyone of whose daughter she was. In fact, unlike her sister Mary, Elizabeth never had the Parliamentary bill declaring herself a bastard repealed. It would have raised too many old issues.

Elizabeth based her claim to the succession on Henry VIII's will and the parliamentary bill allowing Henry to name his own successor. This is the only time in English and British history that parliament allowed anyone except itself to name the successor to the throne. Remarkably, all three of Henry's children named in the will reigned as King or Queen of England. They reigned in the order that Henry named them: Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth. The will was carried out to the letter.

October 12, 2009 9:17 PM  
Blogger Aly said...

Bill, she wasn't convicted of prostitution, she was accused of cuckolding the King with several different men, one of whom was her brother.
Henry the VIII's will wasn't carried out to the letter. Edward VI changed it on his deathbed at the request of John Dudley. I say request, Dudley pretty much forced him to do so. Edward also really never reigned. He was under age, didn't attain his majority until Dudley was sure he was going to die. Edward named his cousin, Jane Grey his successor, and Dudley saw to it that it was carried out (Lady Jane was married to one of his sons). After that, the succession was to go Jane's two sisters. She was queen for nine days. Parliament allowed it. Mary I got angry and came to take what was rightfully hers.
Ok, sorry, now to the question: I would love to see a true likeness of those in the Chapel, but I know its not going to happen. I love the Chapel. It is so beautiful, and so peaceful. I get such a feeling of solace being in there. The fact that Anne Boleyn or Katherine Howard aren't buried where their markers are doesn't bother me.
Someone stated that Henry couldn't have thought that she was a witch because she was buried on hallowed ground. Henry didn't have much of a say when it came to this. He didn't want a say. He wanted to forget the fact that this woman had made him look weak and humiliated him in front of the whole country. I'm not saying what she was found guilty of was right, but I'm saying, Henry didn't have much to do with it. Cromwell was the culprit in this situation. And Anne wasn't the only one to be executed to be put to rest in St. Peter ad Vincula. Katherine Howard? What about Jane and George Boleyn? Guildford Dudley, Jane Grey's husband?

October 26, 2009 9:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a fascinating blog...My question to you all...Has the Chapel at Windsor Castle ever gone thru renovations that may have disturbed or "moved" HENRY VIII and distinguished company around?

November 29, 2009 12:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They recently identified King Tut's grandparents and parents through DNA testing, and their remains are 3,000 years older than those buried in St. Peter ad Vincula. They could easily do DNA testing to give them all a proper buriel. They know exactly where the remains of Elizabeth I is and could identify Anne with compairing their DNA. Along with the others, there are many relatives they could use to identify them. (given of course there is still viable DNA remaining)

March 06, 2010 10:28 PM  

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