English Reformation: Queen Anne Boleyn
|Anne Boleyn ( c. 1501 – 19 May 1536) |
Oration to Saint Anne Boleyn from John Foxe, martyrologist
The same year in which William Tyndale was burned, which was A.D.1536, in the beginning of the year, first died lady Katharine, princess dowager, in the month of January. After whom, the same year also, in the month of May next following, followeth the death also of queen Anne, who had now been married to the king the space of three years. In certain records thus we find, that the king, being in his jousts at Greenwich, suddenly with a few persons departed to Westminster, and, the next day after, queen Anne, his wife, was had to the Tower, with the lord Rochford her brother, and certain others, and, the nineteenth day after, was beheaded. The words of this worthy and christian lady at her death were these:
"Good Christian people! I am come hither to die, for according to the law, and by the law, I am judged to death; and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I come hither to accuse no man, nor to any thing of that whereof I am accused and condemned to die; but I pray God save the king, and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler, or a more merciful prince was there never; and to me he was ever a good, a gentle, and a sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best.
"And thus I take my leave of the world, and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me. O Lord have mercy on me! To God I commend my soul."And so she kneeled down, saying,
“To Christ I commend my soul:” “Jesu, receive my soul.”Repeating the same divers times, till at length the stroke was given, and her head was stricken off.
And this was the end of that godly lady and queen. Godly I call her, for sundry respects, whatsoever the cause was, or quarrel objected against her. First, her last words spoken at her death declared no less her sincere faith and trust in Christ, than did her quiet modesty utter forth the goodness of the cause and matter, whatsoever it was. Besides that to such as wisely can judge upon cases occurrent, this also may seem to give a great clearing unto her, that the king, the third day after, was married in his whites unto another. Certain this was, that for the rare and singular gifts of her mind, so well instructed, and given toward God, with such a fervent desire unto the truth and setting forth of sincere religion, joined with like gentleness, modesty, and pity toward all men, there have not many such queens before her borne the crown of England. Principally this one commendation she left behind her, that during her life, the religion of Christ most happily flourished, and had a right prosperous course.
Many things might be written more of the manifold virtues, and the quiet moderation of her mild nature, how lowly she would bear, not only to be admonished, but also of her own accord would require her chaplains plainly and freely to tell whatsoever they saw in her amiss. Also, how bountiful she was to the poor, passing not only the common example of other queens, but also the revenues almost of her estate; insomuch that the alms which she gave in three quarters of a year, in distribution, is summed to the number of fourteen or fifteen thousand pounds; besides the great piece of money which her grace intended to impart into four sundry quarters of the realm, as for a stock there to be employed to the behalf of poor artificers and occupiers. Again, what a zealous defender she was of Christ’s gospel all the world doth know, and her acts do and will declare to the world’s end. Amongst which other her acts this is one, that she placed Master Hugh Latimer in the bishopric of Worcester, and also preferred Dr. Shaxton to his bishopric, being then accounted a good man. Furthermore, what a true faith she bare unto the Lord, this one example may stand for many: for that when king Henry was with her at Woodstock, and there, being afraid of an old blind prophecy, for which neither he nor other kings before him durst hunt in the said park of Woodstock, nor enter into the town of Oxford, at last, through the Christian and faithful counsel of that queen, he was so armed against all infidelity, that both he hunted in the aforesaid park, and also entered into the town of Oxford, and had no harm. But because, touching the memorable virtues of this worthy queen, partly we have said something before, partly because more also is promised to be declared of her virtuous life (the Lord so permitting) by others who then were about her, I will cease in this matter further to proceed.
This I cannot but marvel, why the parliament holden this year, that is, the twenty-eighth year of the king (which parliament three years before had established and confirmed this marriage as most lawful), should now so suddenly, and contrary to their own doings, repeal and disable the said marriage again as unlawful, being so lawfully before contracted. But more I marvel, why the said parliament, after the illegitimation of the marriage enacted, not contented with that, should further proceed, and charge her with such carnal desires of her body as to misuse herself with her own natural brother, the lord Rochford, and others; being so contrary to all nature, that no natural man will believe it.
But in this act of parliament did lie, no doubt, some great mystery, which here I will not stand to discuss, but only that it may be suspected some secret practising of the papists here not to be lacking, considering what a mighty stop she was to their purposes and proceedings, and on the contrary side, what a strong bulwark she was for the maintenance of Christ’s gospel, and sincere religion, which they then in no case could abide. By reason whereof it may be easily considered, that this Christian and devout Deborah could lack no enemies amongst such a number of Philistines, both within the realm, and without. Again, neither is it unlike, but that Stephen Winchester, being then abroad in embassy, was not altogether asleep; the suspicion whereof may be the more conjectural, for that Edmund Bonner, archdeacon of Leicester, and then ambassador in France, succeeding after Stephen Winchester, did manifestly detect him of plain papistry, as in the sequel of their stories, when we come to the time, more amply (the Lord granting) shall be expressed.
And as touching the king’s mind and assent, although at that time, through crafty setters-on, he seemed to be sore bent both against that queen, and to the disheriting of his own daughter; yet unto that former will of the king so set against her then, I will oppose again the last will of the king, wherein, expressly and by name, he did accept, and by plain ratification did allow, the succession of his marriage to stand good and lawful.
Furthermore, to all other sinister judgments and opinions, whatsoever can be conceived of man against that virtuous queen, I object and oppose again (as instead of answer) the evident demonstration of God’s favor, in maintaining, preserving, and advancing the offspring of her body, the lady ELIZABETH, now queen, whom the Lord hath so marvellously conserved from so manifold dangers, so royally hath exalted, so happily hath blessed with such virtuous patience, and with such a quiet reign hitherto, that neither the reign of her brother Edward, nor of her sister Mary, to hers is to be compared; whether we consider the number of the years of their reigns, or the peaceable-ness of their state. In whose royal and flourishing regiment we have to behold, not so much the natural disposition of her mother’s qualities, as the secret judgment of God in preserving and magnifying the fruit and offspring of that godly queen.
(vol. 5, pp 232-234).
Foxe, John (1516-1587) The acts and monuments of John Foxe; with a life of the martyrologist, and vindication of the work, by George Townsend, 8 volumes, reprinted by AMS Press, New York, 1965.