Anne Boleyn’s Letter to Cromwell – A Show of Support for Reform

Posted By on October 8, 2010

Thank you to Olivia Peyton for alerting me to this letter from Queen Anne Boleyn to Thomas Cromwell, regarding Richard Herman, a man who had been imprisoned by Cardinal Wolsey for heresy.

The letter is included in “Original Letters Illustrative of English History: Including Numerous Royal Letters and One or Two other Collections Volume II” by Henry Ellis, Keeper of the Manuscripts in the British Museum (1824) and, as Ellis points out, “from the following Letter, if from no other source, it may be gathered that Anne Boleyn favoured the dissemination of the Scriptures in the vulgar tongue”. There is also an excerpt of this letter in Letters and Papers (LP vii.664) where it is dated 14th May 1534.

ANNE THE QUENE. By the Quene.

TRUSTIE and right welbiloued we grete you
well. And where as we be crediblie enformed that the
berer hereof Richard Herman marchaunte and citizen
of Antwerpe in Brabant was in the tyme of the late
lorde Cardynall put and expelled frome his fredome
and felowshipe of and in the Englishe house there, for
nothing ells (as he affermethe) but oonly for that that
he* dyd bothe with his gooddis and pollicie, to his
greate hurte and hynderans in this Worlde, helpe to
the settyng forthe of the Newe Testamente in Eng-
lisshe. We therefore desire and instantly praye you
that with all spede and favoure convenient ye woll
cause this good and honeste marchaunt, being my
Lordis true faithfull and loving subjecte, restored to
his pristine fredome, libertie, and felowshipe aforesaid,
and the soner at this cure requeste, and at your good
leyser to here hym in suche thinges as he hathe to
make further relacion unto you in this behalf. Yeven
undir our Signete at my Lordis manoure of Grene-
wiche the xiiijth daye of May.

To our trustie and right welbeloved

Thomas Crumwell squyer Chief Secretary
unto my Lorde the Kings Highnes.

*The words “still like a good crystal man” are here obliterated : the pen having
been drawn across them.

In this letter, Anne Boleyn is asking Cromwell to intercede in this matter and to make sure that Herman is released. Anne Boleyn would not have taken the step to ask Cromwell for his help with this matter, that of a man who had been imprisoned for helping “the settyng forthe of the Newe Testamente in Englisshe”, if she had not supported the man’s actions and the cause. It is a clear show of support from Anne.

What is interesting is that Cromwell did more than simply secure this man’s release, he employed him. I searched for “Richard Herman” in the Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, and found a letter from Herman to Cromwell, dated 2nd November 1535:-

“Has had no news. Ferdinandus has sent letters to the king of Portugal’s factor here direct from the Pope. Through the means of a page that waits on the factor, a Christian brother of mine got a sight of them and copied them with expedition, desiring me to send them with the greatest secrecy. As I can skill of no Latin, I could not assist in the writing. The intent you will perceive by the reading. May God keep the King from their wicked designs, hoping that ye be the elect of God for that purpose. Dated at the head, Antwerp, 2 Nov. 1535.” LP ix.746

This letter is evidence that Herman was being used by Cromwell as a spy, or gatherer of information, on the continent and his hope that Cromwell “be the elect of God” shows their shared beliefs.

I’m going to add Anne’s letter to our Anne Boleyn Letters page.

Here is an interesting ( and funny) video about letter writing, including images of letters written by Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I. Did people really sound like that in 1938?!


7 thoughts on “Anne Boleyn’s Letter to Cromwell – A Show of Support for Reform”

  1. Louise says:

    I think the only person who thinks that Anne did not help in the ‘setting forth of the new testiment in English’ is G W Bernard. Strange he didn’t quote this letter in his book!

  2. lisaannejane says:

    Claire, I love that video! Can you imagine this gentleman talking to a rapper from New York?

  3. Rob says:

    Very interesting indeed.

  4. Tudorrose says:

    What an interesting article, what an interesting find. This letter just proves a few things does it not, not only does it prove that Anne and Cromwell were indeed allies at that time, I mean which we all here at the Anne Boleyn files knew anyway but that she leaned more toward the new religion and learnings at the time as she so hesitently asked for this mans release from the Tower, it is funny Cromwell employing him then afterwards as a spy?! Haha. 🙂
    Though I am sure if Cromwell had not given him something to do aswell as occupy his time Anne or maybe even Henry may have found him something to do, just a guess. I wonder if Cromwell actually told Herman that his release was at Anne’s bidding or not!? Or did he just make out that it was just down to him and him alone! As I am sure if Cromwell told this Herman who had actually asked for his aquittal there would have been some kind of written response from Herman to Queen Anne sent as a thankyou. All that seems to exist through those letters is a letter to Cromwell sent from Anne and a letter from Herman to Cromwell on the matter.

    As for G.W. Bernard not making any refference or mention of this in his book it was probably because he had not come across this information or he had just simply not done enough research and just ended up missing something out that was crucial as we all can do sometimes as I would know, just not seeing certain things that are there or could be there that are sitting or standing or placed right before our eyes. As it goes things can get or just become overlooked at times.

  5. Tiffaney says:

    Awesome video 🙂 I especially love the diligent writing task of the caveman 🙂 LOL!

    ~ On another note, I am pleased that this particular letter has been brought to light. I am certain that within Anne’s first couple of years as “Quene”, she wrote a great many letters requesting pardons for those incarcerated of similar crimes. So many forget that above all, Anne’s gift to England and to the world was her conviction regarding religious reform. Without this conviction, Henry VIII would never have aspired to become free from papal rule. England would have become an enslaved nation. …And America (where I live) would have been founded deep in the blood of catholicism.

    I had a dream once of a crying Anne Boleyn (to one of her best ladies in secret chambers)… So thoroughly wracked with grief and emotional pain, Anne began to break down in front of several people (most of them her ladies). After one of her ladies rushed her into an adjoining room and away from any additional attention, Anne lamented about how tired she was of being treated so badly by so many. “My own husband does not meet my eyes!” ~The lady who was with Anne scolded her in a panicked whisper to “Pull yourself together m’lady! You cannot be seen in this condition. You are the Queen of England. It does not matter that the King doesn’t look at you… Don’t you understand…? You have changed the course of history. You have changed my world and that of everyone around you.”

    ~What “I” got out of “my dream” is that life really is such a mystery while we are in the thick of it. It is hard to see the forest through the trees, so to speak. While Anne’s heart was breaking, the foundation of the ground beneath her was getting stronger. England was becoming its own sovereign nation and this was partly attributable to the unwavering spirit of Anne Boleyn. It was her heart that Anne followed when she wrote the letter to free Richard Herman. Without her bravery, her “sharp tongue”, and her unwillingness to yield to those who disrespected her beliefs, our world would be a very different place. I am appalled that more people are not engaged in the endless sacrifices that have been made throughout history so that we may indulge in the freedoms that we have today. And just as Anne surely had no knowledge of how great the influence of her life would be, I can only hope that we still have champions among us who will drive forth the fair cause with a heart as strong and true.

  6. Louise says:

    I doubt strongly that a historian of Bernard’s capacity had never come across this letter. I think evidence can often be deliberately overlooked if it doesn’t tie in with a pre-concieved theory. Warnicke and Weir are very good at that too. Warnicke with her theory of a deformed miscarriage and homosexual circle, and Weir with her suggestion that Lady Rochford was the main source of the incest allegation. Both of them do worse than ignore evidence, they actually use evidence that never actually existed. Shameful!

  7. Barbara says:

    Hi, I’m very surprised at the responses and replies. I consider myself an amateur A B researcher–for about 20 plus years–anyone who does any research knows that you cannot pick up a history of the Reformation without them crediting Anne with basically starting it in earnest. She is regarded as a martyr of the Protestant faiths–see George Foxe. The letter to Cromwell is available in many different books and resources. She personally knew William Tyndale–original trans of New Test into English–very Reformation. If you all don’t know google has over 160,000 printed resources full view and many more than that partial view for free. On Anne, of course we have to be careful of fraudulent reporting, but that’s always true.

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