I have often wondered in her final days, shut off from the world she once knew, isolated and denied news of her fellow accused, family and friends, what did Anne Boleyn feel towards the man whom had once been her beloved husband? Henry Tudor, the man whom ultimately would have the final say in her unjust demise.
It is said that Anne once declared to Henry: “But if I were to die a thousand deaths my love for you would not abate one jot.” (Ives 2005, pg. 145) I do believe that Anne loved Henry with all her heart and that at least at some stage Henry loved Anne. He had chased Anne for years, sending her many passionate love letters and lavishing her with expensive gifts. Below are just three of the famous love letters that Henry wrote to Anne during their early years of courting...
My mistress and friend.
I and my heart commit ourselves into your hands, beseeching you to hold us recommend to your good faour, and that your affection to us may not be by absence diminished. For great pity it were to increase our pain, seeing that absence makes enough of it, and indeed more than I could ever have thought; remember us of a point in astronomy, that the longer the days are, the farther off is the sun, and yet, notwithstanding, the hotter; so it is with our love, for we by absence are far sundered, yet it nevertheless keeps its fervency, at the least on my part, holding in hope the like on yours. Ensuring you that for myself the annoy of absence doth already too much vex me; it is almost intolerable to me, were it not for the firm hope that I have of your ever during affection towards me. And sometimes, to put you in mind of this, and seeing that in person I cannot be in your presence, I send you my picture set in a bracelet. Wishing myself in their place, when it should please you. This by the hand of your loyal servant and friend,
H.R. (Weir 1991, p. 163 – 164)
For so beautiful a gift, I thank you right cordially, chiefly for the good intent and too-humble submission vouchsafed by your kindness. To merit would not a little perplex me, if I were not aided therein by your great benevolence and goodwill. The proofs of your affection are such that they constrain me ever truly to love, honour and serve you, praying that you will continue in this same firm and constant purpose, enduring you, for my part, that I will the rather go beyond than make reciprocal, if loyalty of heart, the desire to do you pleasure, even with my whole heart root, may serve to advance it. Henceforth, my heart shall be dedicate to you alone, greatly desirous that my body could be as well, as God can bring it to pass if it pleaseth Him, Whom I entreat once each day for the accomplishment thereof, trusting that at least my prayer will be heard, wishing the time brief, and thinking it byt long until we shall see ach other again.
Written with the hand of the secretary who in heart, body and will is your loyal and most unsured servant.
H. auture AB ne cherche R. (Weir 1991, p. 164 – 165)
To my mistress,
Because the time seems to me very long since I have heard of your good health and of you, the great affection that I bear you has prevailed with me to send to you, to be the better ascertained of your health and pleasure, because since I parted with you I have been advised that the opinion in which I left you has now altogether changed, and that you will not come to court, neither with my lady your mother, nor yet any other way. I cannot enough marvel, seeing I am well assured I have never since that time committed fault; methinks it is but small recompense for the great love I bear you to keep me thus distanced from the person of that she which of all the world I most do esteem. And if you love me with such settled affection as I trust, I assure me that this sundering of our two persons should be to you some small vexation. Bethink you well, my mistress, that you absence doth not a little grieve me, trusting that by your will it should not be so; but if I knew in truth that of your will you desired it, I could do none other than lament me of my ill-fortune, abating by little and little my so great folly. (Weir 1991, p. 165 - 166)
These letters clearly show the strong affections that Henry held towards Anne. Calling her his friend and mistress he declared how much he missed her, hoping to soon be with her, promising his heart and body for her alone. Henry even turned an entire countries religious basis upside down with the determination to divorce his first wife so that he may marry Anne! Once they were married Henry organised an extravagant coronation, proudly showing Anne, his new Queen, to all of London. If this was not for love and the desire of a wife whom had promised him a son then what was it all for?
Yet when Anne gave birth to a daughter not the longed for promised son and then had several miscarriages this famous passionate love seemed to fade. Henry once loved Anne’s spirit and fire but as the years wore on he grew tired of it, tired of her arguing with him, biting back at his words in public, questioning his reasoning’s and purposes. He grew tired of her love of music, dancing, clothing and jewels and her adoration from those close to her. He also grew tired of her bickering and resentment over his affairs with other woman – most notably that of Jane Seymour. For Henry, this passionate love he once held for Anne seemed to be gone. But what of Anne’s love for her husband?
I wonder if Anne loved Henry to the end? What were her feelings towards him? Surely she would have felt hurt and betrayed. In her final months of freedom she knew he had taken a mistress, namely Jane Seymour and she could have been no fool as to think this would never happen – she herself had been his mistress while he was married to Queen Catherine. But did she LOVE him to the end? This is a question which has plagued me greatly and one I will never know the answer to. If it were me I do not think I would still be able to love the man whom had annulled our marriage, had declared our daughter a bastard and whom would send me to the scaffold to be beheaded for crimes which I never committed. But I am not Anne and I will never know what she truly thought and felt about Henry. What I can say is that I believe at one stage in her life, probably for many years she did love him, truly and completely with her whole heart and being. If that love continued to her final hours we will never know.
King Henry VIII painted by Hans Holbein shortly after Anne Boleyn’s execution in commemoration of the King’s marriage to Jane Seymour. Here we can see the Henry that Anne knew in the last months of her life. Henry Tudor was a man with great knowledge, wit and power yet while still an opposing figure as we can see in this painting, Henry’s famous good looks were starting to give way to signs of baldness and obesity.