6 May 1536 – To the King from the Lady in the Tower
Posted By Claire on May 6, 2014
A letter with the heading “To the King from the Lady in the Tower” and allegedly written by Anne Boleyn, while she was imprisoned in the Tower, was said to have been found amongst Thomas Cromwell’s papers. It read:
“Sir, your Grace’s displeasure, and my Imprisonment are Things so strange unto me, as what to Write, or what to Excuse, I am altogether ignorant; whereas you sent unto me (willing me to confess a Truth, and so obtain your Favour) by such a one, whom you know to be my ancient and professed Enemy; I no sooner received the Message by him, than I rightly conceived your Meaning; and if, as you say, confessing Truth indeed may procure my safety, I shall with all Willingness and Duty perform your Command.
But let not your Grace ever imagine that your poor Wife will ever be brought to acknowledge a Fault, where not so much as Thought thereof proceeded. And to speak a truth, never Prince had Wife more Loyal in all Duty, and in all true Affection, than you have found in Anne Boleyn, with which Name and Place could willingly have contented my self, as if God, and your Grace’s Pleasure had been so pleased. Neither did I at any time so far forge my self in my Exaltation, or received Queenship, but that I always looked for such an Alteration as now I find; for the ground of my preferment being on no surer Foundation than your Grace’s Fancy, the least Alteration, I knew, was fit and sufficient to draw that Fancy to some other subject.
You have chosen me, from a low Estate, to be your Queen and Companion, far beyond my Desert or Desire. If then you found me worthy of such Honour, Good your Grace, let not any light Fancy, or bad Counsel of mine Enemies, withdraw your Princely Favour from me; neither let that Stain, that unworthy Stain of a Disloyal Heart towards your good Grace, ever cast so foul a Blot on your most Dutiful Wife, and 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 Judges; yes, let me receive an open Trial, for my Truth shall fear no open shame; then shall you see, either mine Innocency cleared, your Suspicion and Conscience satisfied, the Ignominy and Slander of the World stopped, or my Guilt openly declared. So that whatsoever God or you may determine of me, your Grace may be freed from an open Censure; and mine Offence being so lawfully proved, your Grace is at liberty, both before God and Man, not only to execute worthy Punishment on me as an unlawful 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 good while since have pointed unto: Your Grace being not ignorant of my Suspicion therein.
But if you have already determined of me, and that not only my Death, but an Infamous Slander must bring you the enjoying of your desired Happiness; then I desire of God, that he will pardon your great Sin therein, and likewise mine Enemies, the Instruments thereof; that he will not call you to a strict Account for your unprincely and cruel usage of me, at his General Judgement-Seat, where both you and my self must shortly appear, and in whose Judgement, I doubt not, (whatsover the World may think of me) mine Innocence shall be openly known, and sufficiently cleared.
My last and only Request shall be, That my self may only bear the Burthen of your Grace’s Displeasure, and that it may not touch the Innocent Souls of those poor Gentlemen, who (as I understand) are likewise in strait Imprisonment for my sake. If ever I have found favour in your Sight; if ever the Name of Anne Boleyn hath been pleasing to your Ears, then let me obtain this Request; and I will so leave to trouble your Grace any further, with mine earnest Prayers to the Trinity to have your Grace in his good keeping, and to direct you in all your Actions.
Your most Loyal and ever Faithful Wife, Anne Bullen
From my doleful Prison the Tower, this 6th of May.”
You can read more about this letter in my article Anne Boleyn’s Letter to Henry VIII.
Notes and Sources
- The Life and Death of Anne Bullen, Queen Consort of England, printed by G. Smeeton, Charing Cross, Britain, 1820
15 thoughts on “6 May 1536 – To the King from the Lady in the Tower”
Poor Anne! I cant imagine writing a letter like that to my husband! I cant imagine the thoughts running through her head, especially those of her beloved daughter!
Anne boleyn is my hero, she was a great woman, i think of her life every day, i hope one day to visit her castel, to feel inside my mind , how she could be, how she could think, a woman like her.
My heart breaks for this increditable brave woman…I can’t imagine the fear she must of felt. Almost 500 years later, this letter brings tears to my eyes.
Oh, the horror she must have endured!
I read every where that it is false , according to historians , why then publish, people and replies already made show that people believe this. For me personally it sound to good to be true.
Historians disagree, not all historians discount it.
In your opinion, do think Anne wrote the letter?
No, I don’t. I don’t think that Anne would have risked angering Henry VIII at this point because of Elizabeth.
I couldn’t help thinking of Jean Plaidy’s (reissued) novel “The Lady in the Tower” which is about Anne Boleyn. She used the letter writing as the opening and closing parts of her story.
How moving how touching and how discreet. 🙂
I think she may have Claire, Yes she would have been worried about Elizabeth, but we know Anne could be reckless and spoke her mind. She had nothing to lose at this point,why not let Henry know what she truly thought of him. I think it’s quite possible she dictated it to someone to write it explaining the difference in the handwriting.
I remember seeing this letter quoted at the end of one of Jean Plaidys novels about Anne and being moved by it. As I was in my teens at the time; I was not worrying about it being genuine or not and had no reason to suspect it could not be anything but writen by Anne. With highlights by historians about doutbs being raised, especially since becoming aware that there is doubt< I have read it a number of times and asked questions about it. It is not the handwriting that makes it a forgery, that can be explained by a copy being made and the original lost or destroyed, or that it differs from her other letters to the King; it is some of the strange ways in which she writes. The anomolies can be explained by the fact that she is a frightened and distressed woman in the Tower, fighting for her life and reputation and innocence and earlier letters to the King were written at a happier time when they played the game of love.
Some of the phrases stand out like sore thumbs and do not sound like a woman writing to her husband the King, or even from noble subject to King; they are disjointed and do not appear to be what to expect from Anne or anyone else in her situation. For example would anyone write to the King that he had sent a messanger telling them to profess the truth and that if they will get the favour of the King of course I will do it? For one thing, what messanger has been to Anne with this request and would she not be asked to confess the truth in any event; the King may expect her to admit she is guilty, but would she write in a letter that she will do this if it means her safety? It does not sit with Anne's protest of innocence. The paragraph actually makes little sense and even a provocative Anne would not be so brash.
But the rest of the letter, apart from being a bit melodramatic; seem to fit her situation and how she sees herself as Henry's true and loyal wife and how she was raised into that high estate. She pleads that Henry will remember their daughter and she pleads with him to recall that she has been a good wife to him and not to abandon her to her enemies. Anne also pleads for a fair trial and for justice: she wants her day in open court and this not to be something hidden, and many of the phases in the last couple of paragraphs fit with someone attempting to win the King over to mercy and justice. Her situation is clearly getting worse; and I think she would say what was in her heart and mind to do so in order to reach Henry. He knows Anne is rash and speaks her mind, in part this may have been part of the reason that he turns on her in the first place; but he should not have been surprised that she wrote in this manner. Going certainly by the latter parts of the letter; and because I cannot see any compelling arguments to discount it; I am still convinced it is from a genuine orginal letter, even if it has been copied and may-be edited by Cromwell.
Would Cromwell have not have copied and kept it even if the original was destroyed as it was a state paper and for the official record as Cromwell probably kept everything official; being an administrator? The fact that it was meant to have been found in the state papers and filed there I believe points to the letter being considered important and its authenticity. I respect that not everyone agrees because it is also important to debate history and so called original sources and to question them as well as their intent. The letter tells us much about how Anne saw her situation and the fears she has about being thrown to the wolves and her enemies being all around her and causing the King to take this action against her. I also think the letter points to Anne still loving the King and hoping for a future with him; even if the marriage was in trouble prior to her arrest.
I thinks she was saying- sure I will tell the truth & the truth is I didn’t even think of
It is possible Cromwell or someone forged it and gave it to the king to deal her fate
knowing it would anger him…OR it never got to him because Henry cut off contact.
I find myself believing she wrote it because she would absolutely, I think,call herself Anne Bullen and tell him she always knew he would do something like this and she was
right in all those arguments! It sounds so genuine to me and like the personality I have
If Anne did write this letter; I don’t imagine Cromwell ever let the King read it.
I know Cromwell had power but he did not have the power to keep such things from the King and if Henry found out; he would have taken action as it was an offense to interfare with letters without authorization. Henry may be angry with such a letter, but this is royal correspondance and Anne, whether he liked it or not was still his wife; and Henry was in no mood to brook such interfarence from anyone. He should still read the letter, even if he destroyed it later. It is possible that for this reason that Cromwell took a copy so there was a state record even if the King burnt the original. Cromwell was not a fool; he could not withhold a letter from the King and he knew it. It is true he vetted letters and normal requests most likely he dealt with directly, but from important subjects, from abroad, from members of the council, from nobles and wives, from the wives of state prisoners, many of whom he helped financially, and other important matters; he had to bring to the attention of the King, consult with him and advise him. He may make a recommended decision, but he did not have the power to hide an important letter by the Queen from the King; it was too much of a risk.