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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Henry VIII love letter exhibited

It seems even one of history's most notorious womanisers had a romantic side - at least in the beginning.

Henry wrote Anne's initials in a heart at the bottom of the letter

Concealed in the Vatican for almost five centuries, a love letter from King Henry VIII to his second wife Anne Boleyn is to go on display at the British Library in London.

Probably written in January 1528, it shows a softer side to the infamously bloodthirsty royal as he pursues her.

He assures Anne that "henceforth my heart will be dedicated to you alone," and apologises profusely for ever suggesting she could be a mere mistress.

Unfortunately, that devotion did not last and as school children learn, things ended badly for Anne. Henry eventually had her beheaded at the Tower of London in 1536 and subsequently married another four women.

Turning point

The letter is part of a major exhibition on Henry VIII opening at the British Library in April.
Never displayed publicly before, it was almost certainly stolen from Anne. It speaks of the King's "unchangeable intention" to marry her and marks a turning point in their relationship.

Before then, Anne had held out - aware of Henry's womanising reputation - and had refused any pre-marital sexual relations.
The letter - originally written in French - appears to show that she has finally made a "too humble submission" to his advances.

It reads: "The demonstrations of your affection are such, and the beautiful words of your letter are so cordially phrased, that they really oblige me to honour, love, and serve you for ever....
"For my part, I will out-do you, if this be possible, rather than reciprocate, in loyalty of heart and my desire to please you. Beseeching you also that if I have in any way offended you, you will give me the same absolution for which you ask, assuring you that henceforth my heart will be dedicated to you alone, and wishing greatly that my body was so too."

The letter is signed like a love-sick schoolboy, "H seeks A.B, No Other Rex," alongside his beloveds initials in a heart.

Historical significance

Henry battled with the Vatican throughout his life, ultimately leading to him separating the Anglican church from Rome and creating the Church of England.
He also led a brutal suppression of Protestantism.

The exhibition - which also includes portraits, tapestries and armour, as well as correspondence, official documents, maps and books - gives an insight into what drove him.

It is curated by historian and broadcaster Dr David Starkey, who said: "Henry is not only England's best-known king - with his wives, his girth and his bloodthirstiness - he is also our most important single ruler. When he came to the throne, Henry was the pious prince who ruled an England at the heart of Catholic Europe. When he died, he was the great schismatic, who had created a national church and an insular, xenophobic politics that shaped the development of England for the next 500 years."

Sir Dayvd of Oxenfordshire

1 comment:

  1. I can never keep from singing Herman Hermit's, "I'm Henry the Eighth I Am" every time I see a picture of the famous, or infamous depending on your judgment, King.

    The second song that always comes to mind is the tune, "Greensleeves", which the King himself wrote and has now turned into a traditional Christmas Carol, "What Child Is This".

    Henry had a soft side, an artist, poet, warrior and huge lust for life...he would have made a fine Knight of Moleskine, Spirit and Ale.

    Many Protestants give Martin Luther the credit for the split from the Catholic Church, but if it wasn't for the actions of Henry forming the Church of England, more out of lust for sex and power, than religious reasons, the Protestant movement would have never become what it is today.

    I've downloaded the Showtime original series, The Tudors, which takes us from Henry's first days as King and currently we are on his third wife in season two. It is a very well done piece of story telling. Historically and emotionally accurate.

    It's too bad for Henry that he is always remembered and pictured as the glutton, when in fact, he was a very handsome, strapping lad who could more than hold his on in the list. This explains why he had the thirst for women, because they had the thirst for him! It's good to be the King!

    As for the bloodthirst, what King in those times, in fact, what leaders today, didn't employ the same tactics? It's tuff to be a leader and stay at the top!

    So, when I go to Mass tonight, being raised a Protestant and converting to a Catholic for marriage, I'll say a prayer for good ole Henry, who loved the Church, but being only too human loved sex and power more. To that I can relate!

    Sir Hook Who's Family Fought for the Tudor Rose of Warrick

    P.S. I hope this exhibit is still running when we visit in July!