History is full of notable figures, but far fewer in number are those who have become iconic. An indisputably iconic figure, even among the many great kings of England, is the towering figure of the Tudor monarch, King Henry VIII. He was, of course, the father of Queen Elizabeth I, Gloriana, an equally renowned monarch of her own golden age. She sought always to be and be seen as her father’s daughter, but posterity preserves what it will of a life in the public consciousness and so aside from Henry’s unmistakable and imposing personal appearance what is most remembered of him by many is that he was married on six occasions and habitually terminated his relationships with an axe at the executioner’s block—though this occurred only twice perhaps indicating more moderation in Henry’s character as a husband than he is usually credited with. There has always been something seductively attractive about this powerful man, capable of great tenderness and romance, an artist, poet and musician—and yet a ruthless and unscrupulous tyrant capable of incredible insensitivity and cruelty. This volume contains an engrossing selection of correspondence, reports and other documents concerning Henry and his wives. The central part of the book is a famous collection of love letters sent by the king to his second wife Anne Boleyn, one of his spouses who lost her head to be superceded by another beauty of the court Jane Seymour, one of Anne’s ladies in waiting. In this special and unique Leonaur edition these letters are added to by the inclusion of correspondence and other documents concerning the fate of Henry’s sometimes unfortunate women and the events that surrounded them.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
Anne Boleyn to King Henry:<br>
(The last letter)<br>
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 send unto me (willing me to confess a truth, and so obtain your favour) by such an one whom you know to be mine antient professed enemy; I no sooner received this message by him, than I rightly conceived your meaning; and if, as you say, confessing a 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 a thought thereof preceded.<br>
And to speak a truth, never prince had wife more loyal in all duty, and in all true affection, than you have ever found in Anne Boleyn, with which name and place I could willingly have contented myself, if God and your grace’s pleasure had been so pleased. Neither did I at any time so far forget myself 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.<br>
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; yea, 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.<br>
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.<br>
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; and that he will not call you to a strict account for your unprincely and cruel usage of me, at his general judgment-seat, where both you and myself must shortly appear, and in whose judgment, I doubt not (whatsoever the world may think of me), mine innocence shall be openly known, and sufficiently cleared.<br>
My last and only request shall be, that myself 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 in 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. From my doleful prison in the Tower, this sixth of May.<br>
Your most loyal and ever faithful wife<br>