By Daphne Lockyer
A pale and dignified Anne Boleyn picks her way across the rough terrain in elegant little shoes, en route to her own execution.
Above her the sky is growing darker and more ominous by the moment. The blustery wind ripples through her ermine cape and buffets the skirts of her damask gown – its deep grey colour chosen to neutralise the bright red blood that’s about to flow.
The scaffold itself is a gruesome sight. There’s the executioner, ordered from Calais, and the glint of the 4ft-long sword that will dispatch her.
Before the end, of course, we must hear the famous, final speech – delivered by Anne while kneeling at the block – the one in which this former Queen of England, now dumped, divorced, divested of her title and about to be decapitated on the say-so of her husband Henry VIII, talks of his goodness.
‘I pray God save the King… For a gentler nor a more merciful prince there never was. Oh Lord, have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul,’ she adds, before the blade falls – at which precise moment of filming, the heavens decide to open and the rain begins to fall.
This is one of the pivotal scenes in the BBC’s brilliant six-part adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s duo of Booker Prize-winning historical novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, starring theatre veteran Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell and Damian Lewis as Henry VIII.
Claire Foy, the actress who plays the doomed Boleyn, is still reeling from the execution scene, days later. ‘Everything on that day – including the weather – was just so heightened,’ she explains. Continue reading The Tudor godfather: Henry VIII’s court was as brutal as any Mafia clan