Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn: Letter One, Approx. July 1527

by Heather R. Darsie

It is not entirely clear when Henry Tudor, King of England, fell for Anne Boleyn, but it is approximated as some point in 1526. There exists a series of letters from Henry to Anne in the Vatican Library. In 1720, the letters were published for the first time in Hearne’s Roberti de Avesbury Historia de mirabilus gestis Edwardi III. They have since been republished in other collections, with the author of this post working from a 1906 publication (please see Sources & Suggested Reading, below).

Letter One, possibly from July of 1527, shows the great anxiety Henry experienced during his pursuit of Anne Boleyn: ” On turning over in my mind the contents of your last letters, I have put myself into great agony, not knowing how to interpret them…beseeching you earnestly to let me know expressly your whole mind as to the love between us two.” Ah, the conveying of emotions in written format. In our modern world, new lovers agonize over the delicate construction of a text message and waiting for a response thereto, but the agony is the same.

“It is absolutely necessary for me to obtain this answer, having been for above a whole year stricken with the dart of love…” Love can fell even a king! But then, Henry goes on to try and pressure the fair Anne into declaring their relationship official by writing, “…if you please to do the office of a true loyal mistress and friend, and to give up yourself body and heart to me…I promise you…that I will take you for my only mistress, casting off all others…”

And, like so many other love-stricken people before and after him, Henry rounds things out with trying to make it, in his mind, as easy as possible for Anne to state whether their relationship is official. Henry even tries to set up a date with Anne; “I beseech you to give an entire answer to this my rude letter, that I may know on what and how far to depend. And if it does not please you to answer me in writing, appoint some place where I may have it by word of mouth…”

This bit of wooing seems very similar to what is still done in the twenty-first century. The familiar pangs of agony, waiting for a reply from the person of affection, and being desperate for any sort of response. Something with which almost any lover could commiserate. The letter itself provides for the chivalric idea of the noble pursuit of a lady, and appears to have eventually worked for Henry.

Sources & Suggested

  1. Luce, John W. and Company, with designs by Florence Swan (1899). Love Letters of Henry Eighth to Anne Boleyn. Pp. I-III. Boston and London: John W. Luce & Company (1906).

 



Categories: Wooing a Lady

11 replies

  1. In a recent BBC 2 programme on the Reformation and written and presented by David Starkey, he states that Anne and Henry agreed to marry in a letter dated 1527. Do you think Starkey is referring to any of the letters you have studied?

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    • It’s hard to say. As far as I am aware, all of the seventeen letters in the possession of the Vatican were written in or after 1527. There is one letter, about which I have yet to write, where it could be possible that the word from the original French could be translated either as “lady” or “wife.” But no, there is nothing that was obvious to me that Anne agreed to marry Henry. There are other letters where Henry expresses happiness about Anne’s responses, but as far as I am aware, Anne’s letters are lost so we can never be certain as to what Henry was reacting.

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