The Tenth Love Letter from Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn
Guest post by Heather R Darsie
Henry VIII wrote this letter in June 1528 to his beloved Anne Boleyn during an outbreak of the sweating sickness, showing his characteristic nervousness about Anne. It is unknown whether this letter truly does follow the previous, although it seems that this letter came before the one the author understands to be the ninth letter. In the ninth letter, Anne is already ill. In this letter, Henry writes using the royal plural,
“The uneasiness my doubts about your health gave me, disturbed and alarmed me exceedingly, and I should not have had any quiet without hearing certain tidings. But now, since you have as yet felt nothing, I hope, and am assured that it will spare you, as I hope it is doing with us. For when we were at Walton, two ushers, two valets de chambres and your brother [George Boleyn, later Viscount Rochford], master-treasurer, fell ill, but are quite well; and since we have returned to our house at Hunsdon, we have been perfectly well, and have not, at present, one sick person, God be praised; and I think, if you would retire from Surrey, as we did, you would escape all danger.”
The English Sweating Sickness was a very serious disease, and could kill a person displaying symptoms within as little as three hours. One of the symptoms was profuse sweating. An outbreak of the disease in 1528 was particularly deadly, and even reached onto the Continent. It is still not entirely known what exactly the Sweating Sickness was.
Henry was reportedly afraid of illness. Grasping at straws, perhaps to comfort himself, Henry goes on to tell Anne,
“There is another thing that may comfort you, which is, that, in truth in this distemper few or no women have been taken ill, and what is more, no person of our court, and few elsewhere, have died of it.”
A person did not die within the first twenty-four hours of showing symptoms, he or she was very likely to survive. The disease frequently infected the young and wealthy, and it is unknown how the disease spread. Given that the outbreaks typically occurred in the spring and summer, insects were likely vectors.
Henry tries to comfort her and reassure Anne of his love for her, despite him flitting about the countryside to escape the Sweat,
“For which reason I beg you, my entirely beloved, not to frighten yourself nor be too uneasy at our absence; for wherever I am, I am yours, and yet we must sometimes submit to our misfortunes, for whoever will struggle against fate is generally but so much the farther from gaining his end: wherefore comfort yourself, and take courage and avoid the pestilence as much as you can, for I hope shortly to make you sing, la renvoyé [the return].”
It seems that Anne Boleyn herself was terrified of falling ill, and that the distance from Henry for an unknown length of time was eating away at her.
Henry closes the letter by telling Anne of his desire to be with her, and that he wishes Anne were less afraid,
“No more at present, from lack of time, but that I wish you in my arms, that I might a little dispel your unreasonable thoughts. Written by the hand of him who is and always will be yours, Im-H.R.-mutable.”
Sources & Suggested Reading
Luce, John W. and Company, with designs by Florence Swan (1899). Love Letters of Henry Eighth to Anne Boleyn. Pp. XXV-XXVII. Boston and London: John W. Luce & Company (1906).
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Sweating Sickness.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. Published 5 July 2017. https://www.britannica.com/science/sweating-sickness Accessed 10 February 2018
The Eleventh Love Letter from Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn
Guest post by Heather R. Darsie
The tone of this letter from late June 1528 is in stark contrast to Henry VIII’s previous two letters to Anne Boleyn: not only is he overjoyed that Anne has escaped death from the Sweat, he is also quite flirtatious. From the contents of the letter, it seems the two lovebirds have been apart for quite a length of time. The amount of time could have been made to feel even longer because of Anne’s sickness and what must have been their mutual fear over whether she would survive. Henry begins,
“The cause of my writing at this time, good sweetheart, is only to understand of your good health and prosperity; whereof to know I would be as glad as in manner mine own, praying God that (an it be His pleasure) to send us shortly together, for I promise you I long for it.”
Henry had resumed some of his regular pastimes, including hunting.
The bloodlust of the hunt may have reminded Henry of other lusts by which he was frequently taken. He gifts Anne a deer (hart), and wishes that she think of him when eating it. Even more to the flirtatious point, Henry wishes that Anne could enjoy Henry’s own flesh. With God’s grace, of course. He says to Anne,
“How be it, I trust it shall not be long to; and seeing my darling absent, I can do no less than send her some flesh, representing my name, which is hart flesh for Henry, prognosticating that hereafter, God willing, you may enjoy some of mine, which He pleased, I would were now.”
Those are provocative words coming from the King of England.
Henry then sharply changes topics, addressing the situation of Anne’s sister Mary Boleyn. Mary’s first husband died during the 1528 outbreak of the Sweat. He was very much in debt, leaving Mary in a difficult situation with two young children for whom she had to provide. Anne brought the worrisome state of her widowed sister to Henry’s attention, and he tells Anne,
“As touching your sister’s matter, I have caused Walter Welze (Welsh) to write to my lord my mind therein, whereby I trust Eve shall not have power to deceive Adam; for surely, whatsoever is said, it cannot so stand with his honor but that he must needs take her, his natural daughter, now in her time of extreme necessity.”
What interesting contents in this letter; first, a bold flirtation, then second, talking about Anne’s sister. One must wonder how Anne Boleyn reacted to the hasty change of subject.
Henry closes the letter in a similar way to his others,
“No more to you at this time, mine own darling, but that with a wish I would we were together an evening. With the hand of yours, H. R.”
Sources & Suggested Reading
Luce, John W. and Company, with designs by Florence Swan (1899). Love Letters of Henry Eighth to Anne Boleyn. Pp. XXVIII-XXIX. Boston and London: John W. Luce & Company (1906).
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Sweating Sickness.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. Published 5 July 2017. https://www.britannica.com/science/sweating-sickness Accessed 10 February 2018.
Weir, Alison. Mary Boleyn: the Mistress of Kings. New York: Ballantine Books Trade Paperbacks (2012).
Heather R. Darsie lives in the United States with her family and three parrots. Heather is writing a new biography called Anna, Duchess of Cleves, which she hopes to submit to the publisher in late 2018. Heather is an apprentice bowyer, who also enjoys knitting. She holds a BA in German languages and literature, as well as Juris Doctorate.
See more work by Darsie at Maidens and Manuscripts!