by Heather R. Darsie
Henry VIII of England’s last love letter to Anne Boleyn shows how close and far the couple felt to achieving their purpose of an annulment for Henry from Katharine of Aragon, which would pave the way for Anne to marry Henry. Henry is also chiding Anne just a bit, referencing her “inutile and vain” thoughts, or baseless flights of fancy. He wishes Anne Boleyn to take heart. Henry writes:
To inform you what joy it is to me to understand of your conformableness with reason, and of the suppressing of your inutile and vain thoughts with the bridle of reason. I assure you all the good in this world could not counterpoise for my satisfaction the knowledge and certainty thereof, wherefore, good sweetheart, continue the same, not only in this, but in all your doings hereafter; for thereby shall come, both to you and me, the greatest quietness that may be in this world.
Henry continues that his messenger stayed on with Anne longer than needed so that Henry could prepare things for Anne, in anticipation of her becoming queen. He also throws in a dash of innuendo and flirtation. Henry explains:
Miniature of Anne Boleyn, attributed to John Hoskins, in the Collection of Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, via Wikimedia Commons.
The cause why the bearer stays so long, is the business I have had to dress up gear for you; and which I trust, ere long to cause you to occupy: then I trust to occupy yours, which shall be recompense enough to me for all my pains and labour.
Cardinal Campeggio claimed illness after his arrival on English soil, slowing down the proceedings surrounding Henry’s Great Matter. There were rumors that Campeggio was pro-Imperial and thus pro-Katharine of Aragon. Henry did not want Anne to be disquieted by these rumors. He encourages Anne Boleyn:
The unfeigned sickness of this well-willing legate doth somewhat retard his access to your person; but I trust verily, when God shall send him health, he will with diligence recompense his demur. For I know well where he hath said (touching the saying and bruit that he is thought imperial) that it shall be well known in this matter that he is not imperial; and thus, for lack of time, sweetheart, farewell.
Henry closes the letter lovingly with,
Written with the hand which fain would be yours, and so is the heart. R. H.
Frequently in Henry’s letters to Anne, he mentions lack of time. The fact that he took time to write Anne and carry on his pursuit of her via letter writing shows how important she was to him. One can imagine what a king’s schedule was like, even if quite a few of Henry’s affairs were tended by Cardinal Wolsey. There is not a clear picture of how Anne felt about Henry, but certain things can be gleaned from Henry’s letters. First, she was responsive to him. Second, Anne Boleyn exchanged gifts with Henry when she could. Third, she at least communicated a desire and an anxiety about taking Katharine of Aragon’s place, which Henry sought to soothe. No matter how their relationship ended, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn experienced a very real affection and desire for each other, and perspective of their relationship can still be gleaned almost 500 years later from the letters Henry wrote to Anne.
Love learning about the Queens of England? 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 Anne of Cleves told from the German perspective!
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- Anna of Cleves and the March 2019 Tudor Summit!
- Henry VIII’s Seventeenth Love Letter to Anne Boleyn
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- Phoenix Birth: Jane Seymour and the Importance of Death and Birth in Tudor England
- Love Letter Eight for Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn
Sources & Suggested Reading
- Luce, John W. and Company, with designs by Florence Swan (1899). Love Letters of Henry Eighth to Anne Boleyn. Pp. XLV-XLVII. Boston and London: John W. Luce & Company (1906).