Anne Boleyn’s Arrival at the Tower May 1536, by Gayle Hulme

After several sorrowful hours we eventually turn the bend in the river and the four turrets of the White Tower come into view. Up until this moment I had never really understood what people meant when they said they were petrified with fear. Now my feelings have changed from desperately wanting to get up to not being sure whether I have the strength in my limbs to disembark on my own.


How different this arrival seems from my last arrival by river in May 1533. On that day fifty barges all sixty foot long, together with countless other vessels accompanied my barge to the Tower. Amongst other things who could forget the spectacle of the mechanical dragon in front of me periodically belching out fire and smoke?

I arrived that day to begin four days of coronation celebrations. On that occasion I was five months gone with child, married to the finest King in Christendom and all was set fair for a long and happy life as Queen of England.

No such welcome awaits me today, no bunting, no glittering barges, not a street pageant or smiling child in sight. Today the Tower of London is not a place of celebration and safety, but a building of abject terror and loathing. How can the sight of a building, which three years ago brought about such jubilation, now strike a blood curdling fear into the depths of my soul?


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