From the Lady in the Tower – An intriguing postscript
Posted By Claire on May 6, 2017Thank you to Sandra Vasoli, author of Anne Boleyn’s Letter from the Tower: A New Assessment, for sharing some of her research with us today, the anniversary of the date of the letter headed “To the King from the Lady in the Tower”, 6th May 1536.
Over to Sandi…
There are many perplexing questions which arise when considering the letter I believe Anne Boleyn composed while in the Tower. One is how and why there appears a postscript, on the very back of the original document held at the British Library. This postscript, today, is barely legible because of the damage it sustained in the Cotton Library fire of 1731. However, the antiquaries who saw the original document before it was damaged, and who transcribed it, saved the words for us. This paragraph is the famous one in which Anne describes Henry VIII raising her from a lowly estate, eventually making her a martyr. Many historians have mentioned this comment, but few realise that it was captured as an added statement in Anne’s letter to her husband.
How do I think it got there?
I believe that a messenger arrived at the Tower seeking Anne’s final and last true confession. She offered these words and they were added to the letter before it was sent on its way to, as Anne thought, the King. Here is the text of that postscript:
“The King sending a message to Queen Anne, being prisoner in the Tower, willing her to confess the Truth, she said she could confess no more than she had already spoken. And she must conceal nothing from the King, to whom she did acknowledge herself so much bound for so many favours, for raising her first from a mean woman to be a Marquess, next to be his Queen, and now, seeing he could bestow no further honour upon her on earth, for purposing to make her, by martyrdom, a saint in heaven.”
Who do I believe was both messenger and scribe?
Ralph Sadler, Thomas Cromwell’s trusted and devoted servant.
You can read more about the letter and see a video in today’s other article – click here.
You can find out more about Sandi’s research in her book Anne Boleyn’s Letter from the Tower: A New Assessment – click here.
Photo: © 01/09/2015 The British Library Board, Cotton Otho f232v.
4 thoughts on “From the Lady in the Tower – An intriguing postscript”
I do so love the opening words of this ever so moving letter. It captures the bewilderment of innocence so aptly. don’t you think, and Sandra, I also love your description of it, in your book, as ‘poignant, courageous, noble and masterfully composed’. I think it is possible that it speaks her heart and I think she could have written it, wish she had and that Henry had read it.
Well, thank you for that compliment Globerose. But the credit is all Anne’s. You know, it’s just one of those things that, the more I read it, the more convinced I am that these are her words. I cannot comprehend someone else making up such an intimate message in the moments of truth. I do wish Henry had read it. Although I don’t think he would have altered his trajectory at that point, I believe it would have haunted him unmercifully in the coming years. But, as it stands, I also 100% believe that her daughter Elizabeth saw it, owned it, and not only preserved it, but had it copied for posterity.
Yes: if not Anne, then who and why on earth?!
Anne’s last hope is in this beautiful emotional letter, for she cannot see her husband and this is her last chance to reach him. Ralph Sadler must have added the words based on his conversation with Anne in the Tower, a message showing the desperate reality of Anne’s situation. She is grateful to the King, but if he cannot grant her justice and a hearing, he can only bestow upon her a great gift, the crown of a martyr. Anne calls for justice and appeals as a wife to her husband. This letter is authentic and beautifully phrased. I don’t believe Henry saw it. I seriously believe Cromwell kept it from him for fear that if she was allowed to come to Henry she would win her freedom or at least her life.