- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2000

Descendants of Anne Boleyn, who was beheaded by Henry VIII in 1536, have been keeping her memory alive by sending a bunch of red roses to the Tower of London on the anniversary of her death for more than 150 years.

Mystery has always surrounded the arrival of the flowers, which have been sent anonymously to the Tower every May 19 since at least 1850.

Historians, Tower staff and thousands of visitors have been intrigued by the tradition, but until now nobody has been able to discover who was sending the annual bouquet to the chapel where she is buried.

Now, after three years of painstaking research, Maj. Gen. Chris Tyler, former director-general of the Tower, has traced the origin of the flowers back to Kent, where the woman's descendants live.

He identified the family now called Bullen rather than Boleyn and traced the relatives most likely to identify with the executed queen. He finally spoke to members of the Bullen family, who reluctantly admitted, after receiving a personal invitation to the Tower by the curious Gen. Tyler, that the flowers came from them.

The general said: "I became interested in the story of the flowers soon after I arrived at the Tower. But the Beefeaters had no idea who was sending them.

"The roses are placed on her grave in the chapel at the same time every year. But no member of the public is allowed to enter the chapel unless accompanied by one of the guards. So, on one occasion, I instructed those on guard to approach whoever was bringing the flowers.

"But the man pleaded ignorance, saying that he had just been asked to deliver them. It was then that I decided to investigate further."

Gen. Tyler began his detective work by establishing that until 1994 the order for the flowers normally was placed at a branch of the florists Longmans, which for more than 100 years has been situated close to the Tower, in Leadenhall Market.

He spoke to the owners of the company and workers who had been there for decades and established that the firm had been delivering roses to "Queen Anne Boleyn, the Tower," since the mid-1850s but always under conditions of the strictest anonymity.

However, six years ago, the order was switched to another branch of Longmans in the village of Edenbridge, in Kent which is close to the homes of many of the modern-day Bullen family. The link finally was established.

Gen. Tyler eventually won the trust of the intensely private Bullens, and a group of family members accepted his invitation to visit the Tower to see where their ancestor was imprisoned, where she died and the place she was buried.

Gen. Tyler said: "I did manage to get to the bottom of it, but I must admit I was still confused as to exactly who pays for them."

Anne Boleyn gave birth to the future Elizabeth I, but Henry VIII had her beheaded after she failed to give him a male heir. Her execution at the Tower was an emotionally charged spectacle. After declaring her loyalty to Henry, her head was struck from her body by a sword specially imported from Calais rather than with the customary ax.

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