ABOUT BOOKS No. 4.

THE FIVE HUNDRED BEST ENGLISH LETTERS edited by LORD BIRKENHEAD

This is ANNE BOLEYN’s (1507 – 36) last letter, and it is to the man who had ordered her death, KING HENRY VIII.  Henry had given up the wife he had lived with for twenty years, Catherine of Aragon, his brother, Arthur’s widow, so that he could marry Anne.  He not only broke with Rome for her, he also faced the anger of the great powers of Europe.  Yet here is Anne, two years after her marriage to him, writing a passionate and heart-broken letter whilst waiting for her death.

This is only an excerpt from the letter but it makes for very sad reading.

‘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……

But let not your Grace ever imagine that your poor wife will ever be brought to acknowledge a fault which not so much as a thought thereof proceeded. And to speak a truth, never prince had a wife more loyal in all duty, and in all true affection, that you have ever found in Anne Boleyn…..

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…..

My last and only request shall be, that myself may only bear the burden 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 in your ears, then let me obtain this request;  and I will so leave to trouble your Grace any further….

From my doleful prison in the Tower, this 6th of May.  Your most loyal and faithful wife, ANNE BOLEYN.’

Anne was beheaded by a French swordsman on the 19th May.

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