Written with the hand of him who wishes he were yours

From the hand of King Henry VIII in 1527 we have a letter (the first part of which was written in English, the second part in French) to the second of his six wives, Anne Boleyn. At this point, Henry was reluctantly still married to his wife of 18 years, Catherine of Aragon, and still without the son he so desperately wanted; for the past two years he had been doggedly pursuing Boleyn – a woman who had, much to his frustration, resisted his advances whilst awaiting the annulment of his first marriage – and had recently found lodgings for her in London.

Six years later, in 1533, they married. In 1536, Anne Boleyn was beheaded.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of the Vatican Library.


Darlyng thowght I haue scant laysor yet remembryng my pmes I thowthe it go covenyent to certefy yow brevely in what case oure affaires stande as tochyng a loggyng for yow we haue gotton won by my lord cardinall menys the hafe weroff colde nott haue bene fond her abowght for all causys as thys berar shall more shew yow as tochyng oure other affayres I ensure yow ther can be no more done nor more diligente usyd nor all maner off dangers better bothe forsene and unintelligible for so thatt I trust it shall be heraffter to bothe our comforte the specialltes weroff wer bothe to long to be wryttyn and hardly by messenger to be declaryd wherfore tyll your repayre hyder I kepe suyynge in store trusty it shall nott be long to for I haue causyd my lord your fader to make hys prisions wt spede and thus for lake off tyme derlyng I make a nende off my letter wryttyn wt the hand off hym whyche I wolde wer yours


Nenmoins il nappertiente pas a vng gentylle home pur prendre sa dame au lieu de suivante toute foyse ensuyvant vos desires volen tiers le vous ont royroy si per cela vous puisset revere moins ingrate en la plase per vous choysye qavez este en la plase par moy donee en vous marciant tres cordiallement quel vous plete encors avoire quelque sovenace de moy. B.N.R.I. de R.O.M.V.E.Z.

Henry R.

Modern Translation (Approximate)

Darling, though I have scant leisure yet remembering my promise I thought it go convenient to certify you briefly as to how our affairs stand. As touching a lodging for you we have gotten one through my Lord Cardinal’s means, the half of which could not have been found around here, for all causes, as this bearer shall more show you. As touching our other affairs I assure you there can be no more done, nor more diligence used, nor all manner of dangers better both foreseen and provided for, so that I trust it shall be hereafter to both our comfort, the specialties whereof were both too long to be written, and hardly to be sent through a messenger. Wherefore till your coming here, I keep something in store trusting it shall not be long to, for I have caused my lord, your father, to make his position with speed, and thus for lack of time darling, I make an end of my letter, written with the hand of him who wishes he were yours


Though it does not belong to a gentleman to take his lady in the place of a servant, however, in following your desires, I willingly grant it, that so you may be more agreeably in the place that you yourself have chosen, than you have been in that which I gave you. I shall be heartily obliged to you, if you please to have some some remembrance of me. B.N.R.I. de R.O.M.V.E.Z.

Henry R.