THE WEDDING PLANNER
Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII seek news on their marriage negotiations, 1528
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.