Anne Bo­leyn and Henry VIII seek news on their mar­riage ne­go­ti­a­tions, 1528

BBC History Magazine - - Tudor Letters -

This re­mark­able let­ter, jointly writ­ten by Henry VIII and Anne Bo­leyn to Car­di­nal Wolsey, pro­vides a fas­ci­nat­ing win­dow into the cou­ple’s re­la­tion­ship. In Au­gust 1528, Anne and Henry were des­per­ate to be mar­ried, and the re­al­i­sa­tion of this goal de­pended very much on Wolsey.

Henry had be­come in­fat­u­ated with Anne some time in 1526 – 17 years into his mar­riage to his first wife, Cather­ine of Aragon – but Anne had res­o­lutely re­fused to be­come his mis­tress. Tor­mented by the fact that his mar­riage to Cather­ine had yet to pro­duce him a male heir, Henry de­cided to seek a pa­pal an­nul­ment so that he could marry Anne.

In May 1527, Cather­ine’s nephew, Holy Ro­man Em­peror Charles V, sacked Rome and im­pris­oned Pope Cle­ment VII, thus pre­vent­ing him from grant­ing Henry the an­nul­ment that he craved. So the English king turned to Wolsey, his trusted min­is­ter and se­nior church­man. Wolsey per­suaded the pope to al­low the fi­nal de­ci­sion on the va­lid­ity of the king’s mar­riage to be made in Eng­land, and to send pa­pal legate Car­di­nal Cam­peg­gio to pre­side over a lega­tine court along­side Wolsey.

In this let­ter – re­quest­ing news about the progress of Car­di­nal Cam­peg­gio’s jour­ney to Eng­land – Anne put pen to pa­per first, ex­press­ing her grat­i­tude to Wolsey and re­mind­ing him that she longed to re­ceive good news about the car­di­nal. “My Lord I do as­sure y[ou I do long to hear] from you some news of the Legate,” she writes. Anne then man­aged to per­suade Henry, an un­en­thu­si­as­tic let­ter writer, to add some words of his own – and, no doubt, ex­ert some ex­tra pres­sure on the hard-pressed Wolsey.

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