5

If a 'skilled' (with sword) executioner was summoned from Calais, did he bring his own 'equipment' and, if so, is there record of him & it there?

Was the sword seized when Francis, Duke of Guise retook the area in Calais' fall of 1558? And if so, where would it have gone?

As the oldest known such executioner's sword dates from 1540, has it been lost, destroyed or 'archived'?

  • 1
    Welcome on History.SE. Right now, there are four (related, but different) questions in this question. Can you concentrate on one of them ? If need be, open a second question to ask for another point you are interested in... – Evargalo Oct 2 at 6:21
  • 1
    The scarcity of materials is incurring very confusion. Even @sempaiscuba 's execution list is not enough to say that the executioner Jean Rombaud is the line of official executioners' family ( Why on the earth Jean is standing alone in 1530 at Saint Omer as the executioner of Saint Omer? Only other 2 are from late 1700's to 1800's. – Kentaro Oct 3 at 5:21
8

Neither in the Anne Boleyn - Wikipedia account or any other account that I have read has contained the name of the executioner.

William Kingston, the Constable of the Tower, in his writings didn't use the name of the executioner.

Henry commuted Anne's sentence from burning to beheading, and rather than have a queen beheaded with the common axe, he brought an expert swordsman from Saint-Omer in France, to perform the execution.

All accounts state the French swordsman was well known, so you may assume that he used his own sword. Other than that, no further reliable information seems to be available.

Saint-Omer was outside in the Pale of Calais which was lost to England during Queen Mary's reign 22 years after Anne Boleyn's execution. It is situated about 45 km south east of Calais (north of Guinegate).

See also the question: Why was the swordsman of Calais chosen as Anne Boleyn's executioner?


The most interesting, in my mind realistic, comment on this topic is The French Sword - The Tudors Wiki

VerelaiR 9. RE: The French Sword Feb 13 2009, 11:36 AM EST
Jean Rombaud is listed in the rolls of France as the official executioner of St. Omer during the 1530s - nothing is actually known of his life, only the name and approximate dates of his tenure. And it's really a matter of deduction that he was the one who performed the execution, as English records do not mention a name. The execution of an English queen would have required exceptional skill; he would not have sent a substitute. The execution cost £23 - approximately £7,500 to 8,000 in today's money - a great amount of money.

The sword was probably one of many M. Rombaud had made for himself; heavy, sharp, two handed, highly specialized swords, and very costly; the beheading sword was unique.

Undoubtedly, he would have been a master at his grisly trade, having studied and practiced it for years with other masters. AB's execution would certainly not have been his only execution, only his most famous. Just the mechanics of beheading a individual kneeling upright, no block, in a split second instant, is difficult to fathom. However, many writers (Fraser, Weir, Chapman, etc.) give AB a block, as do a few novels and movies/series. Aside: she was not executed on Tower Green as these authors contend.

The executioner would have used his own sword, and taken it back to France; often such pieces were later melted down for new pieces, or given to the next official executioner. There is no record of what happened to it, or how long it survived.

  • £23 6s 8d
    • The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn ChapterJudgement, page 351

This comment should answer most of the OP's question.


Further comments in Tudor Q and A: Questions from Daniel - Accuracy of portraits, etc. express doubt and/or surprise about the quoted name of the executioner :

PhD Historian said...
TudorRose, I am curious. Where did you read that the name of Anne Boleyn's executioner was Jean Rimbaud? I do hope it was not C.C. Humphrey's The French Executioner, since that book is total fiction.

I have checked every primary source I have at hand, and every online scholarly database I can think of, including quite a few that are by subscription only. Yet I find absolutely no indication that the name of Boleyn's executioner was ever recorded. Even those writing in the 1530s and 1540s refer to him as simply "a swordsman from Calais" or "the executioner of Calais."

And it makes logical sense that his name was not recorded ... to protect his identity and guard against retribution coming from his victim's families.
...
Foose said...
Per Anne's executioner, there is an interesting comment from the Queen of Hungary (the Emperor's sister) at the end of May 1536:

I hope the English will not do much against us now, as we are free from his lady, who was a good Frenchwoman. That the vengeance might be executed by the Emperor's subjects, he sent for the executioner of St. Omer, as there were none in England good enough.

The last quote also confirms, that at the time, it was common knowledge that the executioner came from St. Omer and not from Calais (where he probably crossed over to England from).


Eric W. Ives is quoted by some Blogs (both of which use the same text) to be the first historian to claim that Jean Rombaud was the person in question. These claims are, I believe, false.

According to Eric W. Ives, Rombaud was so taken by Anne that he was shaken. Rombaud found it so difficult to proceed with the execution that in order to distract her and for her to position her head correctly, he may have shouted, “Where is my sword?” just before killing her.

  • Anne Boleyn (1986)
  • The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn: The Most Happy (2004)
    • the second book is an extended version of the first, incorperating new research results made since the first version.

The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn neither names the executioner directly, or does he meantion that he came from St. Omer.

The king was at his most nauseous in makng arrangements - even perhaps in advance of the trial - to bring over the executioner of Calais to kill Anne.
Chapter Judgement, page 351

In Chapter Finale page 359, where the execution is discribed, the executioner is not meantioned at all.

An interesting book review can be read here: Reviews in History - The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn

C.C. Humphreys The French Executioner series, which are historically based novels (and not historical research) were written in 2002 and 2003. The usage of the character name Jean Rombaud in these novels is probably the source of the name usage in some blogs.

The German Wikipedia uses the following source for the claim:

  • Sabine Schwabenthan: Enthauptung auf Französisch, P.M. History #2/2015, S. 31
-2

Actually, I found the source the executioner Jean Rombaud is the man from Lille. Despite the one sided claim by Mark Johnson. Source is provided below ( Just google by Jean Ronbaud, Lille, at Yahoo. )

This German page is describing what happened during the execution of Anne, ( Since I can not read German, I used the google translator. )

The original German

Jane Seymour auf der Szene erschien als die neueste Geliebte von Henry in einer langen Reihe. Im Mai 1536 wurde Anne Anklage der Ehebruch, Inzest und Hexerei verhaftet und in den Tower of London aufgenommen, und ihre fünf genannten Liebhaber wurden enthauptet. Historikern zufolge war es nicht ganz unschuldig, und sie keinen moralischen Charakter hatte.

Anne Boleyn war in ihrem Zimmer im Turm, genommen, nachdem sie gemacht hatte. Durch ihr Dienstmädchen für die Ausführung vorbereitet In der Kapelle der Turm bekam sie die Gelegenheit, um zu beten.

Die Master-Henker von Lille, stand Jean Rombaud in der Ecke des Gerüsts. Er war ganz in schwarz mit einem schwarzen Kopftuch, das nur der Mund und Kinn aufgedeckt gekleidet. Der gut gekleidete schwarze Diener Henker stand auf der anderen Seite des Gerüsts.

Translation

Jane Seymour on the scene appeared as Henry's newest lover in a long series. In May 1536, Anne's charges of adultery, incest and witchcraft were arrested and taken to the Tower of London, and her five named lovers were beheaded. According to historians, it was not entirely innocent, and she had no moral character.

Anne Boleyn was in her room in the tower, taken after she had done. Prepared for execution by her maid In the chapel of the tower she got the opportunity to pray.

The master hangman of Lille, Jean Rombaud stood in the corner of the scaffolding. He was all dressed in black with a black bandana, which revealed only the mouth and chin. The well-dressed black servant Hangman stood on the other side of the scaffolding.


Please read the comments beneath too and thanks to@sempaisucuba please refer to Wikipedia List of executioners too, this is not about the sword used when Anne Boleyn was executed but the info about the executioner, not from Calais, but from the Lille or Saint-Omer**, both of which are near Calais as stated and shown below.

enter image description here

Japanese Wikipedia says it was Jean Rombaud, a professional executioner, from Lille(English) France. People would be wondered why only Japanese Wiki says, from such an eastern country, so I would like to past the picture of the Wiki.

(For the authentication sake of the translation, please ask as JLL SE.)

enter image description here

Japanese Wiki says,

Jean Rombaud is the professional executioner from Lille. ( You can see in the link Japanese リール matches with English Lille there. Ignore Mark Johnson's claim. )

On 19th May, 1536, (cited in the Wikipedia List of executioners) he was invited to smitten-head (=beheading) Anne Boleyn to England, by Henry the 8th.

There are so few records remaining, so that it is dubious that this person even existed.

Reference from the fictional novels

Die Hand der Anne Boleyn, by C.C.Humphreys.
Der Fluch der Anne Boleyn, by C.C.Humphreys.

So your

Was the sword seized when Francis, Duke of Guise retook the area in Calais' fall of 1558? And if so, where would it have gone?

The answer would be No. Since the date, 9th May, 1536 when he was invited is too specific to describe, according to a Canadian fictional writer C.C.Humphreys. (But the data I presented above is available in English Wiki too if you read it.)

  • 3
    There is a thread discussing the question of whether Jean Rombaud might have been the anonymous "Sword of Calais" on the Q%A pages of the Anne Boleyn Files website that you might find of interest. – sempaiscuba Oct 2 at 22:28
  • 1
    The given Japanese wiki source when translated to English does not show Lille, but only France. Have edited your post. Added text to your link (List of executioners) which also does not state Lille, but Saint-Omer with no source given. Added fictional novels so that the reader knows you (jp wiki) are not giving a historicaly reliable source but a novel as source of their claims. Lille has been striked out where used. Would suggest removal. Normally I would not make such edited (changing context) but Lille is not sourced and novels are not historical sources. Revert if you disapprove – Mark Johnson Oct 3 at 3:25
  • 2
    When the page is translated, the following shows up: Jean Romubaudo (Jean Rombaud) is, France , reel of the executioner is. Also the reference given is a novel. You can revert the edit if you wish. That is why I gave the reasons in the comments, – Mark Johnson Oct 3 at 3:45
  • 3
    Sorry but Lille is not correct. List of executioners he is listed in Saint-Omer and not in Lille which comes before that. Historical letters of the time states that the executioner came from Saint-Omer (but do not state the name of the person). – Mark Johnson Oct 3 at 3:54
  • 5
    As stated 2 times you can revert the changes. And again, your source is the only source that makes this claim abd it is based on a fictional novel. All other sources state Saint Omar has the place where the executioner came from. That is research enough to make a justified statement that yozr source is wrong. – Mark Johnson Oct 3 at 4:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.