Buried in the Tower: St Peter ad Vincula

st peter ad vincula
Photo by Moniek Bloks

The Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula, based inside the Tower of London, is the final resting place of several royal women, all of whom have been executed.

The current structure dates from 1520, although a church probably stood on the site from the 12th century. The new structure replaced a building that was destroyed by fire in 1512.

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Although several famous prisoners found their final resting place, the first royal woman to find her last resting place there was Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII. She was executed in 1536 at the Tower. Afterwards, the ladies-in-waiting covered Anne’s body. Her head was wrapped in a white cloth, although it quickly turned red from the blood. They carried the body the seventy yards or so to St Peter ad Vincula. Inside, her clothes were removed, and her body was placed in an elm chest. Here, she was buried, close to the men who had been accused alongside her.1

It would not be long before she was joined by Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury. The niece of King Edward IV of England was executed in 1541 at the age of 67. In 1542, they were joined by another Queen, Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of King Henry VIII. Her lady-in-waiting, Jane Boleyn, was executed alongside her and was the sister-in-law of Anne Boleyn. Catherine was the first to be executed, and after her head and body were wrapped up and taken to St Peter ad Vincula, the bloody straw was cleared to make way for Jane Boleyn.

Lady Jane Grey, a great-granddaughter of King Henry VII and perhaps better known as the Nine Days’ Queen, was executed in 1554. After her execution, her body was reportedly left on the scaffold, and one observer commented on the extraordinary amount of blood. It is unclear what caused the delay in burying Jane’s body, but she was eventually buried before the evening fell.2

anne boleyn grave marker
Photo courtesy of the guide

During restoration works in the 1870s, several remains were unearthed. A “tall and aged female” was supposedly identified as Margaret Pole. She was placed in a leaden coffin and respectfully reinterred.3 Close to Margaret were the supposed remains of Jane Boleyn. Anne Boleyn’s supposed remains were also found and described as belonging to “a woman between the ages of twenty-five and thirty who had a delicate frame with a small neck.”4

Catherine Howard’s remains were not identified, but due to her young age, her bones may have “already become dust.”5 The same is likely for Lady Jane Grey, who was also still in her teens.

St Peter ad Vincula can be visited as part of the Tower of London.

  1. The life and death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives p.359
  2. Lady Jane Grey: Nine Days Queen by Alison Plowden p.164
  3. Margaret Pole: the Countess in the Tower by Susan Higginbotham p.135
  4. The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII by Retha M Warnicke p235-246
  5. Notices of the Historic Persons Buried in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London p.25

About Moniek Bloks 2697 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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