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Digital Subscriptions > History Revealed > March 2017 > Boleyn vs Cromwell

Boleyn vs Cromwell

From the back streets of Putney to the court of Henry VIII, omas Cromwell’s climb to power was largely thanks to Anne Boleyn. But it was to be a short-lived friendship, as Lottie Goldfinch reveals

THE DOOMED ALLIANCE OF THOMAS CROMWELL & ANNE BOLEYN

FRIEND AND FOE Thomas Cromwell was instrumental in ensuring Anne Boleyn’s rise to queen, but also in her execution
BRIDGEMAN IMAGES X1, GETTY X4

At 9am on 19 May 1536, as London began another busy day, a young woman was escorted through the courtyard at the Tower of London. Dressed conservatively in a black robe, flanked by four servants, she walked slowly towards the black-draped scaffold that had been erected for her execution. The 1,000-strong crowd murmured as she mounted the scaffold steps and turned to face them.

This was no petty criminal. The woman preparing to meet her end was none other than Anne Boleyn, Queen of England; the woman for whom King Henry VIII had overturned his country’s religion, set aside a wife and queen of 24 years, and taken on the might of the Pope and Rome.

LAST DIGNITY

The execution had been scheduled for 9am the previous day, but had been postponed, first by three hours and then rescheduled for the following morning. The official reason given for the delay was that the French executioner hired to perform the bloody task had not yet arrived in England. Uno cially, it seemed Henry - keen to re-marry - was waiting impatiently for the once longed-for marriage to be formally annulled. "I heard say the executioner was very good and I have but a little neck," Anne was reported to comment upon hearing of her temporary reprieve, placing her hands around her own throat.

"Cromwell must surely have allowed himself a small nod of satisfaction"

The next day, as Anne knelt in the straw and awaited the blow that would end her life, those around her looked on with a mixture of horror and fascination. Perhaps wishing to avoid protests from the Queen’s supporters, or maybe to a ord her one last dignity as queen, the time and date of Anne’s execution had not been announced. Nevertheless, commoners and nobility alike thronged through the open gates of the Tower to watch the gruesome spectacle.

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About History Revealed

Discover the real King Arthur with our exclusive article from archaeologist Miles Russell, who believes that the legendary figure was in fact a Dark Age warlord. Elsewhere, Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell go head to head, take a look at life on the Thames in the Victorian era, and learn about the forgotten storyteller who wrote one of our most-loved fairytales.
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