News & Opinion | October 26, 2020 7:00 am

Henry VIII Specified Details of Anne Boleyn’s Execution, Warrant Book Reveals

New details on an unsettling moment in history

Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn
Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.
T.L. Raab

Truth may be stranger than fiction, but truth can also be a lot more unpleasant than fiction. If you’ve had reason to doubt that as of late, a piece of newly-discovered history relating to the English royal family may well surprise you — and leave you horrified. It has to do with Henry VIII, he of the multiple wives and general infamy, and it reveals a deeply sadistic side to the onetime monarch.

Writing at The Guardian, Dalya Alberge describes the discovery of a warrant book in the National Archives with previously-unknown information on Henry VIII — and on the execution of his second wife, Anne Boleyn.

Specifically, the warrant book in question contains instructions from Henry VIII on just how he wanted Boleyn to be executed. Readers learn that he had decided against burning her to death, and had instead ordered her execution to involve decapitation.

The warrant book also contains instructions from Henry VIII as to where, specifically, Boleyn’s execution was to take place.

“What it shows is Henry’s premeditated, calculating manner,” said historian Tracy Borman. “He knows exactly how and where he wants it to happen.” Henry VIII is not exactly remembered as one of history’s most beloved monarchs, but even so — this is a particularly unsettling piece of information to digest.

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