May 18th, 1536: Anne’s Final Sunset

I’m sure that the sad and grim events that transpired today are well-known to followers of this page. Expecting to die on the 18th, Anne took the sacrament at 2 a.m., and by now all who were in contact with her must have been convinced of her innocence. Even her old enemy Chapuys was impressed by the fact that Anne, before and after receiving the Sacrament, affirmed to those who had charge of her “on damnation of her soul, that she had never offended with her body against the King.”  In the 16th century, to speak anything other than the truth at such a time would be to invite the utter condemnation of God. Anne had nothing to gain and her salvation to lose by lying.  She was prepared, “and no person ever showed greater willingness” to die.  Yet, cruelly, the execution was delayed twice.  In the hours that passed between the morning of the 18th and the 19th Anne said many things that have inscribed themselves powerfully in our collective “memory” of her story.  Undoubtedly the most famous: When being assured by Kingston that “there would be no pain, it was so subtle” Anne replied, “I have heard say the executioner is very good, and I have a little neck.”  And then, according to Kingston, “she put her hand around [her neck], laughing heartily.”  Kingston interpreted this to mean that Anne had “much joy and pleasure in death.”  This has always struck me as a strange interpretation. What do you think?

 

A later depiction of Anne at prayer, “the last sunset of Anne’s earthly life.”
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