There is a lot we do not know about Anne Boleyn but I was glad to learn that several of Anne’s letters have survived to this day. Letters offer a glimpse into her personality, of which we know very little!
Letter from Anne Boleyn to her father whilst in the service of Margaret of Austria
“Sir, – I understand by your letter that you desire that I shall be a worthy woman when I come to the Court and you inform me that the Queen will take the trouble to converse with me, which rejoices me much to think of talking with a person so wise and worthy. This will make me have greater desire to continue speaking French well and also spell, especially because you have enjoined it on me, and with my own hand I inform you that I will observe it the best I can. Sir, I beg you to excuse me if my letter is badly written, for I assure you that the orthography is from my own understanding alone, while the others were only written by my hand, and Semmonet tells me he letter but waits so that I may do it myself…Written at Veure by Your very humble and very obedient daughter, Anna de Boullan.”
Letter from Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII circa 1527
It belongs only to the august mind of a great King to whom Nature has given a heart full of generosity towards the sex, to repay by favours so extraordinary an artless and short conversation with a girl. Inexhaustible as is the treasury of Your Majesties bounties, I pray (you) to consider that it cannot be sufficient to your generosity; for if you recompense so slight a conversation by gifts so great, what will you be able to do for those who are already to consecrate their entire obedience to your desires? How great soever may be the bounties I have received, the joy that I feel in being loved by a King whom I adore, and to whom I would with pleasure make a sacrifice of my heart, if fortune had rendered it worthy of being offered to him, will ever be infinitely greater.
The warrant of maid of honour to the Queen induces me to think that Your Majesty has some regard for me, since it gives me the means of seeing you oftener, and of assuring you by my own lips (which I shall do on the first opportunity) that I am, Your Majesty’s very obliged and very obedient servant.
Letter from Anne Boleyn to Cardinal Wolsey, c. July 1528
In my most humble wise, that my poor heart can think, I do thank your grace for your kind letter and for your rich and goodly present, the which I shall never be able to deserve, without your help, of which I have hitherto had so great plenty, that all the days of my life I am most bound of all creatures, next the king’s grace, to love and serve your grace, of the which I beseech you never to doubt, that ever I shall vary from this thought, as long as any breath is in my body. And as touching your grace’s trouble with the sweat, I thank our Lord, that them that I desired and prayed for are escaped – and that is the king’s grace and you; not doubting that God has preserved you both for great causes known alonely of his high wisdom. And as for the coming of the legate, I desire that much. And if it be God’s pleasure, I pray him to send this matter shortly to a good end; and then, I trust, my lord, to recompense part of your great pains. In the which I must require you, in the mean time, to accept my good-will in the stead of the power; the which must proceed partly from you, as our Lord knoweth, whom I beseech to send you long life with continuance in honour. Written with the hand of her that is most bound to be
Your humble and obedient servant,
Letter from Anne Boleyn to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey
“My Lord in my most humble wise I thanke your grace fot the gyft thys Benefice for Master Barlo howbeit this standithe to non Effecte for it is mayd for Tonbridge and I would have it if your plesure war so for Sonbridge for Tonbrig is in my Lord my fathers gyft be a Vowson that he hath and its is not yet Woyd I do trost that your Grace wol graunt hym Sondrig and considering the payne that he hath takyn I do thynke that it shall be vere well bestowyd and in so doing y Rekyn my selfe moche bownde to your grace for all this that hathe takyn payne in the Kynges Matter it shalle by my daylle study to imagyn all the Ways that I can devise to do them servys and plesur and thus I make an end sendyng you agen the letter that you sent me thankyng your Grace most humbley for the payn that you take for to Wryt to me assuryng you that next the kynges letter there is nothing that can rejose me so moche, with the hand of her that is most bownde to be
Your humble and obedient servant
My lord I besyche your grace with all my hart to Remember the Parson of honelayne for my sake shortly.”
Letter from Anne Boleyn to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey 1529
Though you are a man of great understanding, you cannot avoid being censured by every body for having drawn on yourself the hatred of a king who had raised you to the highest degree to which the greatest ambition of a man seeking his fortune can aspire. I cannot comprehend, and the king still less, how your reverent lordship, after having allured us by so many fine promises about divorce, can have repented of your purpose, and how you could have done what you have, in order to hinder the consummation of it. What, then, is your mode of proceeding? You quarreled with the queen to favor me at the time when I was less advanced in the king’s good graces; and after having therein given me the strongest marks of your affection, your lordship abandons my interests to embrace those of the queen. I acknowledge that I have put much confidence in your professions and promises, in which I find myself deceived. But, for the future, I shall rely on nothing by the protection of Heaven and the love of my dear king, which alone will be able to set right again those plans which you have broken and spoiled, and to place me in that happy station which God wills, the king so much wishes, and which will be entirely to the advantage of the kingdom. The wrong you have done me has caused me much sorrow; but I feel infinitely more in seeing myself betrayed by a man who pretended to enter into my interests only to discover the secrets of my heart. I acknowledge that, believing you sincere, I have been too precipitate in my confidence; it is this which has induced, and still induces me, to keep more moderation in avenging myself, not being able to forget that I have been Your servant,
Letter of Anne Boleyn to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey
“My lord, in my most humblest wise that my heart can think, I desire you to pardon me that I am so bold to trouble you with my simple and rude writing, esteeming it to proceed from her that is much desirous to know that your grace does well, as I perceive by the bearer that you do, the which I pray God long to continue, as I am most bound to pray; for I do know the great pains and troubles that you have taken for me is never like to be recompensed on my part, but alonely in loving you next unto the king’s grace above all creatures living. And I do not doubt but the daily proofs of my deeds shall manifestly declare and affirm my writing to be true, and I do trust you to think the same.
My lord, I do assure you, I do long to hear from you news of the legate; for I do hope, as they come from you, they shall be very good; and I am sure you desire it as much as I, and more, an it were possible; as I know it is not: and thus remaining in a steadfast hope, I make and end of my letter.
Written with the hand of her that is most bound to be
Your humble servant,
Postscript by Henry VIII
The writer of this letter would not cease, till she had caused me likewise to set my hand, desiring you, though it be short, to take it in good part. I ensure you that there is neither of us but greatly desireth to see you, and are joyous to hear that you have escaped this plague so well, trusting the fury of thereof to be passed, especially with them that keepeth good diet, as I trust you do. The not hearing of the legate’s arrival in France causeth us somewhat to muse; notwithstanding, we trust, by your diligence and vigilancy (with the assistance of Almighty God), shortly to be eased out of that trouble. No more to you at this time, but that I pray God send you as good health and prosperity as the writer would.
By your loving sovereign and friend,
Letter from Anne Boleyn to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey c. 1529
After my most humble recommendations, this shall be to give unto your grace, as I am most bound, my humble thanks for the pain and travail that your grace doth take in studying, by your wisdom and great diligence, how to bring pass honourably the greatest wealth that is possible to come to any creature living, and in especial remembering how wretched and unworthy I am in comparing to his highness. And for you, I do know myself never to have deserved by my deserts that you should take this great pain for me; yet daily of your goodness I do perceive by all my friends, and though that I had no knowledge of them, the daily proof of your deeds doth declare your words and writing towards me to be true.
Now good my lord, your discretion may consider as yet how little it is in my power to recompense you, but all only with my goodwill, the which I assure you, that after this matter is brought to pass you shall find me, as I am bound in the mean time, to owe you my service, and then look what thing in this world I can imagine to do pleasure in, you shall find me the gladdest woman in the world to do it. And next unto the kings grace, of one thing I make you full promise to be assured to have it, and that is my hearty love unfeignedly during my life; and being fully determined, with God’s grace, never to change this purpose, I make an end of this my rude and true-meaning letter, praying our Lord to send you much increase of honour, with long life.
Written with the hand of her that beseeches your grace to accept this letter as proceeding from on the is most bound to be
Your humble and obedient servant,
Letter from Anne Boleyn to Stephen Gardiner 4 April 1529
I thank you for my letter, wherein I perceive the willing and faithful mind you have to do my pleasure, not doubting but as much as it is possible for man’s wit to imagine, you will do. I pray God to send you well to speed in all matters, so that you will put me in a study how to reward your service. I do trust in God you shall not repent it, and that the end of this journey shall be more pleasant to me than your first, for that was but a rejoicing hope, which ceasing, the lack of it does put to the more pain, and they that are partakers with me, as you do know. Therefore I do trust that this hard beginning shall make the better ending.
Master Stephen, I send you here the cramp-rings for you, and Master Gregory, and Master Peter; pray you to distribute them both, as she, that (you may assure them) will be glad to do them any pleasure which shall be in my power. And thus I make an end, praying God send you good health.
Written at Greenwich the 4th day of April,
By your assured friend,
Letter of Anne Boleyn to Thomas Cromwell 1535
“Master Secretary, I pray you dispatch with speed this matter, for mine honor lies much on it, and what should the king’s attorney do with Pointz’s obligation, since I have the child by the king’s grace’s gift, but only to trouble him hereafter, which by no means I will suffer, and thus fare you as well as I would ye did.
Your loving mistress,
Anne the Queen.”
Letter by Anne Boleyn to King Henry VIII 6 May 1536
” Your grace’s displeasure and my imprisonment are things so strange to me, that what to write, or what to excuse, I am altogether ignorant. Whereas you send to me (willing me to confess a truth and so obtain your favor), by such a one, whom you know to be mine ancient 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 duty. But let not your grace ever imagine that your poor wife will be brought to acknowledge a fault, where not so much as a thought ever proceeded. And to speak a truth, never a prince had wife more loyal in all duty, and in all true affection, than you have ever found in Anne Bulen – 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 alteration as I now find; for the ground of my preferment being on no surer foundation than your grace’s fancy, the least alteration was fit and sufficient (I knew) to draw that fancy to some other subject.
You have chosen me from low estate to be your queen and companion, far beyond my desert or desire; if, then, you found me worthy of such honor, good your grace, let not any light fancy or bad counsel of my enemies withdraw your princely favor from me; neither let that stain – that unworthy stain – of a disloyal heart towards your good grace ever cast so foul a blot on me, and on 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 as my judges; yea, let me receive an open trial, for my truth shall fear no open shame. Then you shall see either my innocency cleared, your suspicions and conscience satisfied, the ignominy and slander of the world stopped, or my guilt openly declared. So that, whatever God and you may determine of, your grace may be freed from an open censure; and my offense being so lawfully proved, your grace may be at liberty, both before God and man, not only to execute worthy punishment on me as an unfaithful 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 while since have pointed unto – your grace being not ignorant of my suspicions therein. But if you have already determined of me, and that not only my death, but an infamous slander must bring your the joying of your desired happiness, then I desire of God that he will pardon your great sin herein, and likewise my enemies, the instruments thereof; and that he will not call you to a strait 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 just judgment, I doubt not (whatsoever the world may think of me), mine innocency shall be openly known and sufficiently cleared.
My last and only request shall be, that myself only bear the burden of your grace’s displeasure, and that it may not touch the innocent souls of those poor gentlemen, whom, as I understand, are likewise in strait imprisonment for my sake. If ever I have found favor in your sight – if ever the name of Anne Bulen have been pleasing in your ears – then let me obtain this request; and so I will leave to trouble your grace any further, with mine earnest prayer 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, the 6th May.”