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The unusual discovery of Henry VIII’s twisted love letters to his wives before executing them

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In March 1951 there was a sensational discovery in the secret archives of the Vatican: 17 autograph letters from Henry VIII in which politics and religion were, for once, on the sidelines. Of these, the most important and unusual were those in which the King of England spread all his love with panache by writing to his hapless wives. The same ones he mistreated, ignored and even executed, to tragically end their lives after having acceded to the throne.

Taking into account that we are talking about possibly the greatest abuser of all the European monarchs of the last five centuries, and even of any other political leader, these missives full of pomposity and false affection are doubly twisted and cruel. «I have spent a whole year wounded by the darts of love and without knowing if I am going to find a place in your heart and affection, which, ultimately, has prevented me until now from calling you my lover; If you only love me with an ordinary love, that name is not suitable for you, because that does not denote a singular love like mine, which is far from being common, “he wrote to Ana Bolena, three years before ordering that the beheaded to marry again.

The Vatican archives had been hermetically sealed for more than seventy years, not only from the most prestigious researchers, but also from the highest authorities of the Holy See. As an exception, only a very small number of people from the Secretary of State and some ecclesiastical leaders could, in special and very justified cases, investigate them. In fact, Pope Leo XIII, who liked to promote historical studies, agreed to the request of some famous historians and scientists at the end of the 19th century and ordered that they be given access to the secret documents. That lifting of the veto produced amazement and criticism, but the Supreme Pontiff immediately settled them with the following comment: “History is History, and no one will be able to change it. The Church has nothing to fear. On the contrary, he will gain a lot, because that way many of the legends invented by his enemies will be undone.

Henry VIII, the cruel

The one who most benefited from that special permission was the Austrian historian Ludwig von Pastor, who wrote his monumental ‘History of the Church’. A gigantic essay that took him more than thirty years of hard work and research in the immense archives of the Vatican. Despite this, he was not lucky enough to find these letters from Henry VIII. The lucky one was Henry Savage, who for years had been working on a history of relations between England and the Holy See. This also distinguished historian had obtained permission from Pius XII to enter and enjoy the documents relating to the period of the 15th and 16th centuries … and there they were, among a million other files, lost and forgotten.

“It is difficult to explain why the intimate epistolary of one of the greatest enemies of the Catholic Church has been found in the Holy See and why it has never wanted to use it for controversial purposes. How they disappeared or vanished from the monarch’s hands, who could say anything? And whether they arrived in Rome before the King’s death or after, no one could determine either. It is more than probable that it was later, because if Enrique VIII had missed them, he would have given abundant work to the London executioner, “ABC assured when it reported the discovery.

This newspaper was referring to the crimes committed against the same wives to whom the love letters were addressed, especially those he dedicated to Ana Bolena and which were published, in 2016, by the
editorial Confluencias
. The distance we maintain increases the fervor of our love, at least on my part. I hope the same happens for yours. I assure you that the pain of your absence is already so great for me that when it increases, it will become intolerable, although I have the firm hope of maintaining your undying affection for me », he told his second wife.

The tragic fate of Anne Boleyn

Who knew that, three years later, he would write the report of how he wanted to be executed, after a rigged trial and a false accusation of “adultery and high treason.” The ‘lover’ arranged everything with, claiming that Boleyn had had sexual relations with several men of his court, including his own brother. The sentence was not supported anywhere, because all those involved denied the charges despite the pressure to which they were subjected. Only one of the Queen’s supposed lovers – one of the musicians in her service, Mark Smeaton – ended up recognizing what the monarch wanted, although most historians maintain that the confession was extracted under torture.

Henry VIII’s objective was to get rid of his wife, just as he had done with his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and with most of the other four he had and to whom he also wrote love letters in that Machiavellian ritual in which all ended up being victims of the terror caused by the monarch and his ambition. Of the 17 letters, eight are written in French and nine in English, and of these six were addressed to Boleyn.

“Since my departure from your side, I have been told that your attitude towards me has totally changed and that you will not return to court with your mother or in any other way. If it’s true, it can’t really help but amaze me, because I’m sure I haven’t done anything to offend you. It seems a very poor payment for the great love that I have for you to keep me at a distance », Henry VIII insisted in one of the letters to Anne Boleyn, before the death penalty was consummated.

How could someone write like that to a loved one and then execute it with cold blood and premeditation? The latter were drawn up after Boleyn’s departure from the court as a result of the rumors that had begun to circulate due to Henry VIII’s obvious attraction to her and the scandal that this entailed in the midst of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Henry VIII sent the letters to her retirement to the town of Hever, in the county of Kent. The king soon regretted his harshness and tried to persuade her to return, but it was quite some time before he could convince her.

Other love letters

It was not the only time he did it, because there were epistles with the same passion for Catalina de Aragón, youngest daughter of the Catholic Monarchs, whom he disowned shortly after marrying, suspecting that he could not have a male heir as long as he was still married to her. . All that love and those letters disappeared, and he did not hesitate to break relations with Rome and the Catholic Church because the Pope did not grant him a divorce to marry Boleyn. An episode, that of the founding of the Anglican Church, which changed the history of England forever.

And the same thing happened with Ana de Cleveris, whose marriage was annulled just six months after it was celebrated, which did not pose any problem for the monarch, since he already had a substitute in another of the companion ladies of the short-lived queen: Catalina Howard. However, she was also beheaded just two years after he sent her the same love letters, after she learned of her love affairs before –and after– the royal marriage.

These letters demonstrate the presence of the Catholic Church in England, even after the schism. Also, that Henry VIII was not exactly as history and legend have reflected him. The value and historical importance of this epistolary resides precisely in this passion of Henry VIII, who by completing it with marriage, announces his purpose to overcome all obstacles and create the Anglican Church. This precious revelation confirms how the schism was determined by the desire to marry Anne Boleyn, whom in one of the letters he describes’ not only Queen, but everything that a woman can be to a man: the lover and the most confidant. precious, ‘”ABC explains in 1951.

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