Henry VIII the Romantic Soul

Posted By on February 14, 2012

My Anne Boleyn Rose

Romance may not be something you associate with King Henry VIII – tyranny: yes, romance: no – but Henry could be very romantic at times. How do I know? Well, I’ve read the love letters that he sent to Anne Boleyn and they are beautiful.

Here are some lovey dovey extracts from the King of Romance:-

“It is absolutely necessary for me to obtain this answer, having been for above a whole year stricken with the dart of love, and not yet sure whether I shall fail of finding a place in your heart and affection…”

“And to cause you yet oftener to remember me, I send you, by the bearer of this, a buck killed late last night by my own hand, hoping that when you eat of it you may think of the hunter…” – Now that’s what you call romance!

“Written by the hand of that secretary, who in heart, body, and will, is, Your loyal and most assured Servant,
H. aultre A.B. ne cherse R”
The A.B at the bottom of the letter was in a heart – cute!

“MY MISTRESS & FRIEND, my heart and I surrender ourselves into your hands, beseeching you to hold us commended to your
favour…”

“…to remind you of this sometimes, and seeing that I cannot be personally present with you, I now send you the
nearest thing I can to that, namely, my picture set in a bracelet, with the whole of the device, which you already know, wishing myself in their place, if it should please you.”

And those are just a few romantic extracts, his letters are full of endearments and REAL feeling too. He really did love Anne.

You can read all of Henry VIII’s love letters to Anne Boleyn on our Love Letters page and they also feature in “Love Letters: 2000 Years of Romance” with letters from Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Admiral Nelson, Oscar Wilde, and Mervyn Peake. Click here for more information on that book.

Now, before you jump on me (were you going to?) and say that I should not spend my precious time defending such a monster, let me make just one point. Henry may have been a monster in many ways, but Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, two highly intelligent women, loved him passionately. Catherine never stopped loving him and fought for her marriage, and Anne waited seven years to marry him. It would be questioning their intelligence if we make Henry out to be nothing but a monster, don’t you think?

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!

On this Day in History

  • 1539 – Trial of Sr Nicholas Carew. He was found guilty of treason, after being implicated in the Exeter Conspiracy, and sentenced to death. Carew was executed on the 3rd March 1539 at Tyburn.
  • 1547 – Henry VIII’s coffin was taken to Windsor for burial after resting overnight at Syon Abbey. Apparently, some liquid leaked out of it on to the floor at Syon and this was thought to fulfil the prophecy made by Franciscan friar William Peto in 1535. He had preached in front of the King at Greenwich that “God’s judgements were ready to fall upon his head and that dogs would lick his blood, as they had done to Ahab.”
  • 1556 – Thomas Cranmer was degraded from his office of Archbishop of Canterbury for heresy.

31 thoughts on “Henry VIII the Romantic Soul”

  1. Louise says:

    Strangely, I think I feel more revulsion for Henry because he loved those women. To have felt such love, or at least believed you felt such love, and then be able to do what he did to both of them is more evil than if he had never cared about them. It also shows how shallow this man really was, to be able to write such words of love, and then be able to turn on Anne with such vengeance when it suited his purpose.

    1. yanice says:

      dark side of passion. I do not believe in passion and being romantic. It blinds the judgement and when you come to realize that the things are not as you thought them to be, you get mad. Not mentioning that some studies point to Henry`s declining health…i just read some article, not sure where and if it was not in czech (as it probably was, i dont think i would remember some medical information if written in english) about the blood type, not in the relation to the stillborn children, but to some illness, which caused the obesity and obsesivity (is it the correct word?)….. I think it that was already discussed here. Sorry, i am too tired, its 9 pm in Prague and i am getting very sleepy, I woulike to add some facts, but i can hardly keep my eyes open.

    2. MiaC says:

      Very well said, aand (I believe) very true as well. It made me think about at lot about Henry’s actions, thank you!

  2. Magdalena says:

    Henry was doubtlessly very romantic. when he loved this was not whole heart in his feelings unfortunately they stood. love changed in hatred then.

  3. BoleynInheritance says:

    Thanks for this post,
    it’s a very interesting topic. I do agree that Henry was a romantic soul in many ways, and his love letters to Anne are nothing short of beautiful, poetic and amazing. How could a woman not fall in love with such a man? I am not sure if I agree that he TRULY loved her with all of his heart, for if you love someone uncontionally, you don’t kill them.
    Anyway, I agree with your assumption that two intelligent and fierce women like Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn would not have loved Henry so much had he been nothing but a cruel monster. I think he was an arresting persona, and when he loved, he loved with everything he had, forsaking everything else and putting his beloved on a pedestal. And yet we all know what he did to those he loved, and I abhor him for that just as much as I admire his good traits.

  4. Sharon says:

    Claire,
    I feel the same way Louise does. Henry wanted what in the beginning seemed unattainable. He wanted Katherine; but for a very long time his father wasn’t 100% for the marriage. He married her before dad was cold in the grave. Of course Katherine loved him. He was the most chivalric of husbands for a while.
    Then Henry decides he wanted Anne. She wasn’t going to be his unless it was through marriage. He wooed her and she fell in love with him. He moved heaven and earth to gain her love. Then look what he did to these two beautiful women. Henry may have been romantic when he wanted someone, but he had no idea what real love was. Henry destroyed the people he supposedly loved. It is very sad that these extraordinary women fell for his lines.
    My husband says If he seemed romantic he probably was! When I asked him how could he be romantic and do what he did to Katherine and Anne, he says, “Two different days.” So, there you go!

    1. Claire says:

      I don’t think his later actions mean that he never loved Anne and I do think they loved each other passionately. I have known couples where the relationship has ended very suddenly, as if one person has completely switched off their feelings, and although this is very different to allowing the partner to be executed it does show how fickle love can be to some people. A friend of mine had her husband walk out on her without any warning, never to contact her again other than to start divorce proceedings. She is now happily married to a lovely chap but still has no clue what went wrong with the previous relationship.

      Anyway, I don’t think later hate, or worse: indifference, means that there was never love. I cannot understand Henry’s later actions but I do believe he loved Anne once.

      1. Sharon says:

        Anne certainly loved Henry, and they were very passionate together, and for a while, very happy together. Yes, Henry probably did think he was in love. What I cannot agree with is that Henry knew what real love was.
        His later actions have everything to do with who he was. He didn’t just walk away when his great love faded. He banished Katherine from his life as if she had never existed. He killed Anne.
        Passion can be very fickle. But I don’t think love is. Henry could talk himself into love one minute and turn around and talk himself right into hate the next. That just doesn’t sound like real love to me.

        1. Claire says:

          I agree, I think his later actions did have everything to do with who he was and I’m not trying to defend him at all, I just think it is possible for people to fall out of love and for Henry that could lead to him turning completely against them. His actions in 1536 were certainly nothing to do with real love but I still think that he could have loved Anne previously. Love can die.

  5. Edie says:

    I agree he loved them quite passionately but I wonder if he didn’t love the chase more! His adult life seemed to revolve around the one he was trying to get even when he WAS married. But then too, once you love someone that passionately, hate can be equally as passionate. I think Henry loved C of A but when she couldn’t produce what he wanted and Anne came along, his feelings had just stopped and to me he seemed to just forget about her. The only time he behaved cruelly towards C of A was when she fought him about divorce. Had she given him the divorce, I think he would have been happy to walk away without a worry in the world because his feelings for her had just stopped. Same with Anne of Cleves. He had no passionate feelings for her, she was willing to give in and so he could allow her to go on with her life. But then of course he wrapped his romantic chubby heart around Katherine Howard and when she betrayed him, he reacted as he did with Anne Boleyn. This is why I think Henry truly believed (or allowed himself to be persuaded to believe) that Anne Boleyn was unfaithful. As with C of A, Anne wasn’t giving him what he wanted-a meek spouse and of course Jane Seymour was now waiting in the wings.

  6. Louise says:

    Love certainly dies, and if it doesn’t die naturally you can always chop it’s head off!

    It’s impossible to know whether Henry’s early love for Anne was genuine or delusional because you can never know what’s going on in someone elses heart and mind. Either way though, if Henry’s love for Anne was not genuine then he was shallow, deluded and cruel, and if his love for her was genuine then he was even more shallow, deluded and cruel!!

  7. miladyblue says:

    Claire, while these are beautiful sentiments, given what we know of the fates of Katharine and Anne, (as well as Kathryn Howard) I think Henry today would be classified as an abuser.

    First comes the romance period, where the potential abuser showers the object of his affections with attention and loving gestures. Then comes the control period, where the abuser gradually cuts ties to the “beloveds” family and friends and other support system, isolating her, and leaving her solely dependent upon him. He wants VERY much to be the center of her universe.

    Then, of course, comes the abuse, followed by almost hysterical promises of that “never happening again,” followed by more abuse.

    It’s a vicious cycle, and in the case of three of Henry’s wives, it led to their deaths – Katharine of Aragon by extremes of emotional abuse, and Anne Boleyn and Kathryn Howard by beheading.

    It does not help that Henry was enabled by enemies of his wives attending court, prevailing attitudes toward women at the time, and, of course, that he was LITERALLY the law of the land.

    I don’t doubt that Katharine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn loved Henry – he was quite handsome, magnetic, intelligent and charming. But love for Henry was more about control, than what other people would consider love.

    It is NOT a slight on the intelligence or strength of either woman to say that such a man was able to dupe them. You read cases all the time of abusers who kill their wives/girlfriends, and their family and friends being so surprised that a strong, intelligent woman could be taken in by a monster with a handsome mask.

    Even his own daughter Mary was taken in – like her mother, Mary was a strong, intelligent, perceptive woman. It was far easier for Mary’s peace of mind, to believe that Anne Boleyn had made Henry a monster, than to believe that her own beloved father could treat her and her worthy mother in such a horrible fashion.

    1. Camille Dvorak says:

      I agree Henry was a psychopath and abusive, but I don’t think he started that way.

      I think, with Catherine, it wasn’t necessarily all about her not giving him what he wanted,
      not at first. I think her inability to give him an heir was frustrating due to the precariousness of the Tudor claim to the throne. Then, as she aged and was no longer fertile, he was faced with his own mortality and he felt she couldn’t understand that it wasn’t about her, it was about the country, and the future of the dynasty. He honestly felt that he’d tried Everything to concede to her and she rejected him and his dynastic ambitions. He must have felt that if she truly loved him she’d understand that it was for the good of the realm, and do the honourable thing and step aside.
      With Anne, she taught him everything he knew, helped him write the dirty playbook, then once she’d convinced him of his absolute power, which corrupted him, absolutely, he drank the kool-aid and decided that she had no longer had a right to speak to him as an equal.
      All along he’d been spoiled, she tipped him into psychopath, she gave him the power to absolve Himself of his sins.
      Jane, of course, was perfect because she gave him an heir then died before he could tire of her.
      Anne of Cleves failed to swoon at his feet, she had to go.
      Katherine Howard was his midlife crisis.
      Catherine Parr had had a sick husband and that brought him comfort, she didn’t flinch from his ailment, but he hadn’t been a king, at first he found her spirit distracting, until it was merely annoying. Once he put her in her place (abusive asshole) they were “fine”. She must have felt such a mix of relief and sorrow when he died.

      Anyway , thats my take on it.

  8. Carol says:

    I am sure that Henry loved Anne – in his own way. Unfortunately, he seems to have fallen out of love as easily as he fell into love. I feel that Henry was somebody who put a women on a pedastal that it was virtually impossible for her to live up to, so he was ultimately disappointed. But what an endlessly fascinating ,complex, charismatic man he was.,

  9. Chelsea says:

    …I just….am not really that….shocked over Henry’s reactions or who he was and turned out to be. I think he was purely a product of his position as a second son thrust into kingship and gradually realizing how much power he truly did have at the same time the nagging thought that it didnt matter how many vicotories of war he won or universities or libraries he funded or how his people loved him at the end of the day all of his worth, all of his self esteem was balled up into having a son. An heir. At the time the markings of a healthy righteous TRUE king was bearing sons. And thats all it boils down to to me. He did love these women with deep passion and I think genuine love, real love just like anyone else experiences it and also in the unique way that everyone experiences it differently. The thrill of the first attraction and then that chase that sends electricity downs ones spine and butterflies in the stomach at the slightest touch the barest glance. And all of these women, who Henry adored and raised them up in status and gave them jewels and courted them thinking himself as Arthur in some romance, all of them promised a son. And that is all he wanted and they failed him in that. Becuase back then thats all a woman was for. Baring sons. So we cant look at it with 21st century eyes and expect to understand. And we cant sit on our high horses and call him an abuser or cruel becuase to him his wives lied to him….well except Jane. Katherine gave him a daughter and misscarried and miscarried. Anne gave him a daughter and miscarried and miscarried. When during the years of courting they are promising nothing but nursuries of boys and future kings of England….why would Henry be dissapointed and feel betrayed when in those days alot of child baring fell to the woman as being responsible for the gender the health and carrying a child to term. And why would his love not turn to hatred. Do we not, when promised loyalty and monogomy lash out in digusted hatred when we have realized that whom we have loved and sacrificed everything for has taken another and betrayed us? Do we still speak softly and lovingly to this person? Or do we react emotionally becuase our hearts our breaking and honestly has not all of us just once, just for a fleeting moment before shaking our heads and forcing ourselves back into rational thought, possibly just for a moment wish we could just off that person who dared to betray something as beautiful as love?

    1. epiphany says:

      Absolutely right. We can’t judge Henry or what went on back then by 21st century sensibilities. The Tudor dynasty was hanging by a thread; Henry needed a legitimate male heir to hold it all together. After years and years together, KoA failed in that; Anne out and out promised him sons, and she failed as well. People didn’t understand how gender was determined back then – based on contemporary views, Henry – and everyone else – probably did think it was the wive’s fault. He had a perfect vision of them in his head, and when they failed to produce a son ,it probably felt to him as if they had lied to him.

  10. Anne Barnhill says:

    I think Henry was always a romantic at heart–why else would he have married–after all, only a couple of his wives brought political partnerships (C of A and A of C) The others, he married for love. Now, his love may not have been the long-lasting kind, but I do believe he did love his wives–except A of C. I am a bit in love with Henry myself–he was intelligent, musical, well-educated, athletic, charming, loved a good time ( Passtime with good company) an accomplished poet and was interested in just about everything. When Anne was being wooed by him, he must have swept her off her feet by the sheer power of his personality. And, that power had a downside, too.
    He wanted the perfect woman—his mother, perhaps? or some illusive dream of a woman? And when he was disappointed in his search for her, he became very dangerous. I love the love letters–so full of life and passion five hundred years later. What woman wouldn’t wish to receive such letters!
    Happy V-Day everyone!

    1. laura says:

      the thing with that is anne was engaged henry had the betrothal broken off more so had wosley break it off for him as to not make an enemy out of her, at first she did not care for him but he did woo her she fell for him and did not commit adultery or incest, even her enemies thought her fate cruel. (with the exception of ambassador chapuys who always refered to her as the great whore…)

    2. Terri says:

      Well said! I think I am a bit in love with Henry myself, for over 38 years.

  11. Debra says:

    Claire, Today I received a book I had ordered, The Love Letters of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn. I read a few and then on your site the subject was the letters. How ironic I should recieve this book today, the 14th of February. It shook me to read such beautiful letters and then remember what happened to Anne in 1536. Yes, love can fade or die and that to me, is such a shame that a wonderful and beautiful feeling can leave as quickly as it came. I look at the Henry and Anne situation from this angle. He was the king of England and no one could or dare say no to this man. He could do as he pleased, and so he would have no situation that did not go his way. What a man.

  12. TBonz says:

    Meh. Henry was a selfish pig. I believe he liked the hunt and of course, he very much wanted the son.

    I think he got bored once the quarry was captured. It didn’t help that he was the King and that pretty, eager women were all around him. He just couldn’t/wouldn’t say “no” to himself.

  13. Dawn 1st says:

    The letters are beautiful. I do believe, also, that Henry loved Anne with a passion, but I also believe, more so , that he was in ‘in love’ with the idea of being in love. The acts, the games, the gestures, the whole Courtly Love routine, were played by many, they usually had a short life span, then the players moved on elsewhere, but with Henry, and credit due here, he kept his passion for Anne for many years. But to me, it never developed into that ‘Adult’ love, we all know that those heady full on feelings that we all start with don’t last for ever, they mature into understanding, consideration, companionship and a happiness of being together, also learning to deal with the disappointments and let downs on occassion too. Henry’s love never grew up and matured, and I think its fair to say that nor did Henry.
    The pedestal that Henry placed women on was far too high,so when these ladies failed to live up to his great expectations, he was devastated, and took it personally, especially ‘after all he had done for them’. according to his eyes..
    I.M.O. Henry was not born ‘The Beast’ many see him as, yes that cruel side obviously was a part of his personality, deep inside, we all have hidden depths, but if Katherine’s sons had lived, if not hers then Anne’s, I think that part of Henry would never had reared its ugly head to the full extent we read about now. Yes, there were what we class as callous acts meted out by Henry, while he was still with KofA and Anne, but this has to be related to the brutal times in which he lived, these brutalities were going on well before, and after this period.
    So yes I do think Henry was a romantic, just not a Realist…

  14. Catherine says:

    I just found some interesting trivia, that Henry VIII was the first monarch to declare valentines day as an official holiday on february 14th in 1537. 🙂

  15. Catherine says:

    I was very surprised when I found out that Henry VIII was the first monarch ever to declare Valentines day as an official holiday in 1537. It just is not something you´d expect from a man with Henrys reputation… though he was indeed ha human being with many sides to him both bad and romantic.

    Happy Valentines day everyone! 🙂

  16. RxPhan says:

    Henry only became a monster after the jousting accident in 1536 plus, he was in constant pain b/c of his leg. Constant pain makes anyone testy.

    How he treated Katherine sounds mean to us but it makes sense if we look at it as being politically motivated instead of personally motivated. Granted, many a first wife being replaced by younger and prettier 2nd wife can relate to her problems but she had the added dimension of being a powerful and popular queen, the daughter of a powerful king and queen and the niece of a powerful emperor. The Tudors were considered upstarts and barely had a hold on the throne. Politically, getting rid of her was risky. Henry’s possible purpose in making her as uncomfortable and isolated as possible was twofold:: to get her to leave the marriage voluntarily and to prevent her from raising her own army against him. She loved Henry too much and wanted to go back to being his wife, that was her downfall.
    Anne was a good mistress. She knew how to entrance and delight. Her talents, unfortunately, didn’t make her a good wife. Much as we love her-she was a bit of a drama queen. I think after 10 yrs, Henry was a bit tired of it, hence the insipid Jane.

    Henry was larger than life-literaly and figuratively. When Henry loved, he loved big. His love was a like force of nature, much like a tsunami.

    1. Camille Dvorak says:

      Aunt, she was the Aunt of Charles V the Holy Roman Emperor.

    2. Camille Dvorak says:

      Side note, I agree, constant pain can cause someone to be testy, he’d also gotten a concussion, which can cause a change in personality.

  17. Dawn 1st says:

    Claire, that beautiful ‘Anne Boleyn’ rose, I have seen it in one of my gardening catalogues and will be ordering it, can I ask, does it have a perfume? I hope so, as I can imagine Anne was very fragrant 🙂

  18. Eliza says:

    I don’t have a doubt that Henry was very romantic.. I almost fell in love with him right now, reading the quotes of his letters!! :-p

    I also believe he truly loved Anne and possibly Katherine of Aragon in his younger years.For the latter I have my doubts, because there is the possibility he just wanted what his brother Arthur had, along with his kingdom, plus Henry was really young at the time, maybe it was teenage enthusiasm.

    What I always think is that Henry was so romantic that he loved love itself, being in love. Remember, he was too eager to fall in love with Anne of Cleves before meeting her, he even tried to reenact the chivalric tradition of the disguised first encounter of the couple!

  19. Bette says:

    The 16th Century of ‘Romantic Love’ was not what we in the 21st century see as ‘Love” ..writing this on “Valentines day’ (Google it). Henry the King had absolute power and could do what he wished with most women. Katherine of Aragon was royal (no touch no behead) other wives not so lucky. I can see it as a dance where the brightst reigns for a while… Henry’s accidents at jousting may play a part .. but he was the King and no-one could gainsay him ..I find it comforting that someone (Boleyn family?) lays roses on Anne’s grave each year in St Peter ad Vincula Chapel where she may or may not be buried!!! Anne Boleyn, happy Valentine’s day !
    Bette

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