by Heather R. Darsie, J. D.
In the next letter from Henry to Anne Boleyn, Henry is devoid of anxiety after having received an expensive gift from Anne. Henry finds Anne’s interpretation of the symbolism behind her gift intoxicating, and writes to Anne:
Wellcome Library, London, via Wikimedia Commons.
“For a present so beautiful that nothing could be more so (considering the whole of it), I thank you most cordially, not only on account of the fine diamond and ship in which the solitary damsel is tossed about, but chiefly for the fine interpretation and the too humble submission which your goodness hath used towards me in this case…”
If nothing else, it seems that Anne Boleyn has succumbed to her position as the apple of the king’s eye and is now engaging with him more. Whether she did so out of true affection for Henry or out of an inability to avoid the King of England will remain a mystery, but she is now playing the game of love with Henry VIII, who continues on by stating,
“…for I think it would be very difficult for me to find an occasion to deserve it…”
Is this Henry being humble, or is he alluding to his temper or some other interaction he and Anne had?
“…if I were not assisted by your great humanity and favor, which I have always sought to seek, and will seek to preserve by all the kindness in my power, in which my hope has placed its unchangeable intention, which says, Aut illic, aut nullibi [there or nowhere].”
Anne’s letter and gift to Henry must have been the balm his heart needed. Again, there are no pangs of anxiety thus far in Henry’s fifth letter, showing that the man has grown quite emboldened,
“The demonstrations of your affection are such, the beautiful mottoes of the letter so cordially expressed, that they oblige me forever to honor, love, and serve you sincerely, beseeching you to continue in the same firm and constant purpose, assuring you that, on my part, I will surpass it rather than make it reciprocal, if loyalty of heart and a desire to please you can accomplish this.”
What a powerful declaration! Henry’s words sound almost like a sort of wedding vow to Anne. It is noteworthy that he puts “honor” before “love” in this letter. Perhaps this hints at what was to come in the more troublesome future; if Henry did not feel that Anne Boleyn was properly honoring him in the way Henry felt he rightfully deserved to be honored by her, he may not have been able to abide her personality.
Henry next asks Anne for forgiveness. It is not expressly written in the letter whether Henry his alluding to an actual incident where he offended Anne, or if the anxiety that was present in Henry’s first few letters has finally made it into the fifth,
“I beg, also, if at any time before this I have in any way offended you, that you would give me the same absolution that you ask, assuring you, that henceforward my heart shall be dedicated to you alone.”
Perhaps Anne apologized to Henry for any appearance of inconstancy on her part in accepting Henry’s affections and proposal for a relationship (maybe marriage). Being the admiring lover, one of the more human sentences follows next. It expresses Henry’s desire to be with Anne in a physical sense, with which any person who has been in love can identify. Simply that,
“I wish my person was [there] so too.”
With hindsight always being clear, the last meaningful sentence shows Henry still has faith in the outcome of what would become his Great Matter when he writes,
“God can do it, if He pleases, to whom I pray every day for that end, hoping that at length my prayers will be heard. I wish the time may be short, but I shall think it long till we see one another.”
Henry closes with,
“Written by the hand of that secretary, who in heart, body, and will, is, Your loyal and most assured Servant, H. aultre (AB) ne cherse R.”
The “AB” is enclosed in a little heart. The meaning of Henry’s signature can be interpreted as “Henricus Rex [King Henry] seeks none other than Anne Boleyn.”
Click here of the link below for the next letter.
Love learning about the Early Modern period? Are you interested in Tudor history or Women’s history? Then check out my book, Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister’, a new biography about Anna of Cleves told from the German perspective!
Sources & Suggested Reading
- Luce, John W. and Company, with designs by Florence Swan (1899). Love Letters of Henry Eighth to Anne Boleyn. Pp. X-XII. Boston and London: John W. Luce & Company (1906).
Did you like this post? You may be interested in: