Could this letter have been sent from Anne Boleyn to her husband, Henry VIII, while she was imprisoned in the Tower of London awaiting her trial or is it a forgery?
The letter in the British Library
A legend claims that ‘Anne’s’ letter was found amongst Thomas Cromwell’s belongings, In his rooms after his execution, in June 1540. The letter above is said to be a copy of Anne’s original letter which had been damaged.
Cromwell was the king’s Principal Secretary who many historians believe planned and arranged the fall of the Boleyn family and their friends in one foul sweep in May 1536. Cromwell certainly, gained prestige from the disgrace of the Boleyn family:
- On 8 July 1536, the king raised Cromwell to the peerage as Baron Cromwell of Wimbledon.
- He succeeded Anne Boleyn’s father,Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, as Lord Privy Seal on 2 July 1536
Many historians suspect that ‘Anne’s,’ letter is a forgery and until the original is traced it will remain a mystery.
Your grace’s displeasure and my imprisonment are things so strange to me, that what to write, or what to excuse, I am altogether ignorant. Whereas you send to me (willing me to confess a truth and so obtain your favor), by such a one, whom you know to be mine ancient professed enemy, I no sooner received this message by him, than I rightly conceived your meaning; and if, as you say, confessing a truth indeed may procure my safety, I shall with all willingness and duty, perform your duty. But let not your grace ever imagine that your poor wife will be brought to acknowledge a fault, where not so much as a thought ever proceeded.
And to speak a truth, never a prince had wife more loyal in all duty, and in all true affection, than you have ever found in Anne Bulen – with which name and place I could willingly have contented myself, if God and your grace’s pleasure had been so pleased. Neither did I at any time so far forget myself in my exaltation or received queenship, but that I always looked for such alteration as I now find; for the ground of my preferment being on no surer foundation than your grace’s fancy, the least alteration was fit and sufficient (I knew) to draw that fancy to some other subject.
You have chosen me from low estate to be your queen and companion, far beyond my desert or desire; if, then, you found me worthy of such honor, good your grace, let not any light fancy or bad counsel of my enemies withdraw your princely favor from me; neither let that stain – that unworthy stain – of a disloyal heart towards your good grace ever cast so foul a blot on me, and on the infant princess your daughter.
Try me, good king, but let me have a lawful trial, and let not my sworn enemies sit as my accusers and as my judges; yea, let me receive an open trial, for my truth shall fear no open shame. Then you shall see either my innocency cleared, your suspicions and conscience satisfied, the ignominy and slander of the world stopped, or my guilt openly declared. So that, whatever God and you may determine of, your grace may be freed from an open censure; and my offense being so lawfully proved, your grace may be at liberty, both before God and man, not only to execute worthy punishment on me as an unfaithful wife but to follow your affection already settled on that party for whose sake I am now as I am, whose name I could some while since have pointed unto – your grace being not ignorant of my suspicions therein.
But if you have already determined of me, and that not only my death, but an infamous slander must bring your the joying of your desired happiness, then I desire of God that he will pardon your great sin herein, and likewise my enemies, the instruments thereof; and that he will not call you to a strait account for your unprincely and cruel usage of me at his general judgment-seat, where both you and myself must shortly appear; and in whose just judgment, I doubt not (whatsoever the world may think of me), mine innocency shall be openly known and sufficiently cleared.
My last and only request shall be, that myself only bear the burden of your grace’s displeasure, and that it may not touch the innocent souls of those poor gentlemen, whom, as I understand, are likewise in strait imprisonment for my sake. If ever I have found favor in your sight – if ever the name of Anne Bulen have been pleasing in your ears – then let me obtain this request; and so I will leave to trouble your grace any further, with mine earnest prayer to the Trinity to have your grace in his good keeping, and to direct you in all your actions.
From my doleful prison in the Tower, the 6th May.
It is important to note that the Tudors did not find spelling to be a vital skill and there were no ‘Correct’ spellings at that time. When we look through the archives the same persons name can be spelt in six or more different ways.
Places to visit:
Hampton Court Palace http://www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/#gs.L_Nsdh0
Tower of London http://www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/#gs.SP2gHw0
Blickling Hall https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/blickling-estate
Hever Castle https://www.hevercastle.co.uk/
Sources: British Library:
C13553-42Source Add. 22587, f.22 Title of Work Shelfmark Add. 22587