Did Elizabeth I Ever Visit Anne Boleyn's Grave?

Elizabeth wearing one of her mother's
initial pendants, a letter "A"
Queen Elizabeth I seems to have had an aversion to tomb-building. Unlike most long-lived monarchs, she never began building her own tomb in her lifetime. Nor did she ever build the tomb her predecessor, Mary, asked for in her will (which Mary wanted to share with Katharine of Aragon, who never got a tomb, either.) Nor did Elizabeth build one for her little brother, the short-lived King Edward VI, or finish constructing the tomb for her father, Henry VIII. So, perhaps it's not surprising she never moved her mother from her grave in the chapel floor of St. Peter-ad-Vincula in the Tower of London.

From the ring she always wore that secretly concealed her mother's portrait, and the favor she showed her maternal relatives, Elizabeth held her mother's memory in honor, though she could never publicly speak about Anne Boleyn. To decree that her mother was innocent would be to defy her father, and the justice system as a whole. Some of the lords on the jury that condemned Anne were still living, and to say their verdict was unjust would be to call their integrity into question. It was a can of worms Elizabeth just couldn't open.

Courtesy of Findagrave.com
Though she never built a better tomb for her mother, did Elizabeth ever visit Anne Boleyn's grave in the Tower?

When Elizabeth was a prisoner there under the reign of her sister, she probably was never given the opportunity. There is some debate as to whether she was imprisoned in the Bell Tower or the royal apartments (which are no longer extant.)

In either case, she was eventually given a small measure of liberty to walk around the top of the wall or in the garden behind the royal apartments, but she would not have been allowed to walk all the way across the Green to the chapel. She would not even have been able to see the chapel, if she was lodged in the queen's apartments.
Map of the Tower of London in Elizabeth's day
with locations marked in color
The royal apartments are marked in red
The Coldharbor Gate is marked in green
The Bell Tower is marked in purple
St. Peter-ad-Vincula is marked in blue
The site of the scaffold would have
been to the right of the blue arrow

As queen, Elizabeth only stayed at the Tower of London a few times, probably because of its ugly memories and association. She stayed for a several days when she took symbolic possession of the Tower upon ascending to the throne in late November, 1559 and then the night before her coronation ceremony, as was the tradition. She left on the morning of her coronation and to my knowledge, never returned.

We have no record of Elizabeth ever visiting the chapel of St. Peter-ad-Vincula, but that's not certain proof that she didn't. But it wouldn't ordinarily be a place that a king or queen would go, and so it would have required a special trip, and thus been notable.

Elizabeth would not have attended religious services St. Peter-ad-Vincula, which was essentially a parish church for the soldiers, servants, and their families. The royal family worshipped at the Chapel of St. John on the second floor of the White Tower, or Elizabeth could have a private service in the chapel of the royal apartments (where Anne Boleyn received her last communion).

St. Peter-ad-Vincula was on the other side of the Tower from where the royal apartments were located, which meant a quiet private visit could not be accomplished. To get there, Elizabeth would have had to march past the Jewel House with its staring guards, through the Coldharbor Gate, across the wide expanse of the Green, trailing a large herd of ladies-in-waiting and curious courtiers. It would have caused a stir of gossip, something Elizabeth was trying hard to avoid.

With these factors in mind, it's unlikely Elizabeth ever visited Anne Boleyn's grave. But she honored her mother's memory in many other ways.

1 comment:

  1. Queen Elizabeth was not completely averse to tomb-building.

    "When Queen Elizabeth I visited Fotheringhay in 1566, she saw the desecrated tombs of the royal dukes
    among the ruins of the collegiate quire. Expressing disgust at this lack of respect, she ordered that their
    remains should be exhumed and reburied in the parish church. Her orders were carried out and two
    identical monuments were put in place either side of the altar wall.

    The tombs are typically sixteenth century in design; plain with panelled bases supporting pairs of
    Corinthian columns finished with friezes and cornices and a profusion of heraldic panels with Falcon
    and Fetterlock badges.

    The monument on the right of the altar commemorates Edward, 2nd Duke of York, killed at the battle
    of Agincourt in 1415. The monument on the left, his nephew, Richard, 3rd Duke of York killed at
    Wakefield in 1460, and his wife Cecily Neville, known as the Rose of Raby." Source:
    Also see