Anne’s Last Letter (Commentary from Sandy Vasoli):
Today marks the 481st anniversary of a dated letter which has created a firestorm of debate over the centuries. The document is carefully preserved in the British Library, and only digital copies are permitted to be viewed since it was nearly destroyed in the Cotton Library fire in 1731. However, the individuals who saw this original, and transcribed it in their own hand, have preserved its message for us. My research on this letter has resulted in my strong belief that it is a composition of Anne’s – in fact, the last words she conveyed to her husband, Henry VIII.
There have been many questions about the circumstances surrounding the letter – too many to answer here. Instead, I will offer an excerpt from Truth Endures, which provides some of my conclusions. I also offer three extremely rare photos of pieces of the original letter.
‘…we had loved so deeply – that could not be denied – I wondered, if only I were able to see him, to speak with him, might I just be able to convince him that he was being deceived into believing such accusations?So I insisted upon an audience with the King. That demand, passed through Kingston, to Ralph Sadler, Cromwell’s devoted personal assistant, and thence to Cromwell – the master conspirator – was flatly and quickly denied. I doubted whether Henry was even consulted; the decision being made for him.
So I insisted upon an audience with the King. That demand, passed through Kingston, to Ralph Sadler, Cromwell’s devoted personal assistant, and thence to Cromwell – the master conspirator – was flatly and quickly denied. I doubted whether Henry was even consulted; the decision being made for him.
Left with no recourse, I asked if I might at least compose a letter to my husband and have it passed to him. Surely this could not be denied me? After all, I was imprisoned but not convicted. And I was still Queen.
To my surprise, I was told by Kingston- although undoubtedly the instruction came from Cromwell – that I would be permitted to dictate a short letter, but that it would be scribed for me and then sent on to the King.
Left with no alternative, I agreed.
I knew precisely what I wished to say to Henry. It was not to be a letter from an anguished prisoner begging for her life from her King. No – instead it would contain the words of a dearly beloved wife to her cherished husband. For that is what I still considered us to be.
The writing of the letter, on the 6th of May, four days into my imprisonment, proved a somber, but momentous event. Constable Kingston was present, along with other witnesses: Lady Boleyn, Lady Coffin, Lady Kingston, and the scribe, Master Ralph Sadler – of course it had to be he: Cromwell having sent his most devoted henchman to record my words.
I sighed. So be it, they would each hear what I knew, in my heart, to be the last words I would ever convey to the man who had been my life’s love, my King, and my second self.
As Sadler sat with quill poised, I began:
“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.”
Sadler frowned uncertainly at that, then asked did I not wish the signatory to read, ‘Anne the Queen’ instead? Emphatically I said no. I wanted Henry to hear the words of the woman he met, fell in love with, pursued and married just as she had been then … Anne Bullen.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sandra Vasoli is a historical fiction writer from Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania, USA. A graduate with a dual degree in English and Biology from Villanova University, Sandy enjoyed a long term career in leadership and organization development before turning her attention to her passions of writing and Tudor Era history. Sandy has written all her life: essays, stories, and articles, but Je Anne Boleyn: Struck with the Dart of Love is her first work of published fiction. Volume Two of the Je Anne Boleyn series soon followed. Sandy’s career, working for several of the largest companies in the world, allowed her the study of people, especially those in leadership positions. Thus, she is keenly interested in the bold and insightful qualities possessed by Anne Boleyn. For more information, visit her website at SANDRA VASOLI.