500 years on, pardon plea for Anne Boleyn

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  • Published 1.04.05

London, April 1: Britain?s home secretary is being urged to pardon Anne Boleyn, almost 500 years after she lost her head.

An 85-year-old Battle of Britain veteran is calling on Charles Clarke to pardon Henry VIII?s second wife because she was ?obviously innocent? of the crimes of adultery, incest and witchcraft that led to her being beheaded in 1536.

Wing Commander George Melville-Jackson also wants her remains to be moved from the Tower of London to Westminster Abbey, to lie alongside those of her daughter, Queen Elizabeth I.

?Ideally, I would like her to be posthumously declared not guilty of the crimes she was convicted of because a pardon only means that you are being excused the crimes you have committed,? Melville-Jackson said at his home in Norwich yesterday.

?But I got a barrister?s opinion and it seems that we would not be able to go to court to get a judicial review because, after nearly 500 years, there was not much of a chance of being able to come up with new evidence. So a pardon is the next best thing.?

Melville-Jackson has been a keen amateur historian all his life. He admits that he first ?fell in love? with Anne during history lessons as a five-year-old boy.

He initially approached his constituency MP ? coincidentally, the same Charles Clarke ? last year but Clarke refused to champion his cause. So he later wrote to the Queen, whose office forwarded the letter to the home office where, by this time, Clarke had been installed as home secretary, succeeding David Blunkett.

Melville-Jackson is still awaiting a reply from Clarke.

The former airman said: ?I have always felt that Anne Boleyn suffered a great injustice but I don?t know why, this late in life, I have decided to do something about it.

?I just woke up one morning and thought, ?Damn it, I?m going to give it a go?.

?I know there are lots of other cases of injustice in this world but Anne Boleyn was such a wonderful and gifted woman. She did great things for this nation. Really, she started us off as a nation.

?Yet she was so unjustly treated and she?s lying in a criminal?s grave. She deserves better than that. I know I am probably butting my head against a brick wall but I will go on doing so until I die.?

Melville-Jackson is trying to enlist ?celebrity? historians to join his campaign.

He has written to Simon Schama, who has already said that Anne was tried by a kangaroo court that was able to convict her only on the basis of a confession gained under torture. That confession, he wrote, provided ?a fig leaf of legality for this judicial murder?.

Likewise, he points out that Antonia Fraser believes Anne was ?certainly not guilty?, while David Starkey has said the case against her was ?hopelessly prejudiced?.

Melville-Jackson believes there would be practical benefits from giving his heroine a proper shrine in Westminster Abbey. ?There is an Anne Boleyn fan club and two-thirds of its members are Americans,? he said. ?If we did the decent thing by her and gave her a fitting resting place in the abbey, it could become a major tourist draw.?

A spokesperson for the home office said: ?We do not normally comment on individual cases under review and, I guess, the same would be true in this instance.?