The following letter has today fallen into our hands, here at The Anne Boleyn Files, and we are told that it is a copy of one written by Queen Anne Boleyn to her husband, King Henry VIII, on this very day, 6th May 1536.
Here is a transcript:-
“To the King from the Lady in the Tower” – Heading added by Thomas Cromwell
“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.”1
Although the letter is dated “this 6th of May”, it is signed “Anne Bullen” and the Queen has mentioned wanting to send a message to Mr Cromwell, we are not convinced of its authenticity. Here are the anomalies which make us doubt that it was really written by the Queen:-
- The Heading – This is said to have been added by Thomas Cromwell on receiving it but wouldn’t Cromwell have written “from Anne Boleyn” or “from the Queen”. “The Lady in the Tower” seems a slightly romanticised title for Cromwell!
- The Signature – Why sign it “Anne Bullen” instead of “Anne Boleyn”, “Queen Anne Boleyn” or “Anne the Queen”? That does not make sense. It also looks very different to her usual signature, see https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/resources/anne-boleyn-words/writing-of-anne-boleyn/ although this could be because it is a copy made by Cromwell.
- The style – Although we have to take into account that the Queen is imprisoned and in fear of her life, the style does not seem consistent with her other surviving letters.
- The tone and content – Queen Anne Boleyn is accusing the King of slandering her so that he can enjoy his “desired happiness” and accuses him of sinning. Would the Queen be so reckless at such a time?
- The handwriting – If you look at the real letter (see British Library image) the handwriting is very different to Anne Boleyn’s other letters (click here to see letter written by young Anne Boleyn and Book of Hours Inscription, also see letter from Anne Boleyn to Cardinal Wolsey at the British Library). Again the story goes that the letter was a copy made by Cromwell so this may not be relevant.
- The words “for the ground of my preferment being on no surer Foundation than your Grace’s Fancy” – As our good friend Gareth Russell points out, “as early as 1530, the Venetian ambassador to London was reporting that Anne believed passionately that God had chosen her to be queen of England instead of Katherine, just as in Biblical times He had chosen Esther to replace Queen Vashti.” These words go against what Anne Boleyn believed about her position.
Whatever the truth behind this particular letter, we hope that Queen Anne has been given the opportunity to write to her husband and plead her case.
Further Information on the Letter
You can read more information about this letter, where it was found and the arguments over its authenticity in my article “Anne Boleyn’s Letter to Henry VIII” and Gareth Russell has also written an excellent article, see May 6th, 1536: The Mystery of the Queen’s Letter.
What do you think? Did Anne Boleyn really write this letter?
Notes and Sources
- From The Life and Death of Anne Bullen, Queen Consort of England, printed by G. Smeeton, Charing Cross, Britain, 1820 and Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic of the Reign of Henry VIII, ed. J.S. Brewer, J. Gairdner & R.H. Brodie 1862-1932)