Book review – Anne Boleyn’s Letter from the Tower: A new assessment by Sandra Vasoli.

Anne Boleyn’s final days were spent in the Tower of London after being arrested and accused of adultery. Alone and desperate to inform her husband, King Henry VIII, of her innocence on 6th May 1536 she wrote a letter to the King in the hope that he would forgive her. It read;

“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 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 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 Igominy 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 o a strict Account for your unprincely and cruel usage of me, at his General Judgement-Seat, where both of you and my self must shortly appear, and in whose Judgement, I doubt not, (whatsoever 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.”

anne-boleyns-final-letter

The origins of this one letter has been discussed and debated for years. Did Anne Boleyn really write this? Why was it found amongst the papers of Thomas Cromwell after his execution? Did King Henry VIII ever read the letter or even regret sending Anne to her death? Well Sandra Vasoli has sent about re-examining the letter and found some compelling new evidence that could potentially answer the question of whether Henry regretted his actions or not.

Sandra begins by taking us through a brief history of Anne’s relationship with Henry and the breakdown of their marriage which resulted in Anne’s imprisonment in the Tower of London. We also see the rivalry between Anne and Thomas Cromwell.

Sandra also provides what happened to the letter after Anne had written it and how it ended up in the possession of Robert Bruce Cotton and eventually the British Library. The story of the letter’s journey is incredible and Cotton’s collection also included the letters from to Thomas Cromwell from William Kingston regarding Anne’s behaviour during her time in the Tower.

The author of this letter has long been disputed with many arguing that Anne did not write it at all, however, Sandra believes that Anne may have dictated the letter to someone who put the words onto paper. Sandra also provides an analysis as to the contents of the letter. It is fascinating to see just what was going through Anne’s mind as she attempted one last time to appeal to her husband to save her life.

There is a clear timeline of events in Sandra’s book which reaches its pinnacle with Sandra’s discovery of Henry’s regret, it was said he spoke his regret as he approached his death. This discovery is fascinating and really made me look at the way I view King Henry VIII and the events that surrounded May 1536.

Anne Boleyn’s letter from the Tower is a great book that explains one particular event in the life of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII. I for one hope that this latest discovery shines a new light on an event that has been discussed throughout time. Sandra has done a tremendous job in giving a greater understanding in the history of Anne’s letter and I for one hope this discovery of Henry’s regret begins to change how we view why Henry reached the decision to execute the wife he tore the country apart for.

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Sandra recently took part in a book tour and visited Tudor Chronicles to talk about how she came to see the Book of Hours that Henry and Anne wrote notes to each other. You can read it here https://thetudorchronicles.wordpress.com/2015/09/15/sandra-vasolis-book-tour-anne-boleyns-letter-from-the-tower/

Anne Boleyn’s Letter from the Tower: A new assessment is available now from http://www.amazon.co.uk/Anne-Boleyns-Letter-Tower-Assessment-ebook/dp/B014R7227A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1442843088&sr=8-1&keywords=anne+boleyn%27s+letter+from+the+tower

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