In last week’s post, I offered three possible suspects in the theft of Henry VIII's love letters to Anne Boleyn. If you read this blog regularly then you probably already figured out that I am up to my old tricks....I don’t think any of the suspects is our thief.
The clue to who did steal them may even be in one of the letters themselves.
Darling, I heartily recommend me to you, ascertaining you that I am a little perplexed with such things as her brother will declare to her. Wrote in his last that he trusted shortly to see her, "which is better known at London than with any that is about me; whereof I not a little marvel, but lack of discreet handling must be the cause thereof. I hope soon "our meeting shall not depend upon other men's light handlings, but upon your own.
Written with the hand of him that longeth to be yours
It is well known that intercepting letters was a common occurrence in the French and English courts.* On August 20th, 1528, shortly after Anne had returned to court, the French ambassador, Du Bellay makes reference to the breach of security in a letter to the Constable of France, Montmorency. He says, “Mademoiselle Boulan has returned to court. The intercepted letters that you sent me about this matter have disquieted them” (1). Was Henry reference to “lack of discreet handling” an indication that he knew his letters were being read? And what would the French court have to gain by reading Henry's love letters?
The Greatest of Enemies or Friends?
Any sort of affair that could tarnish Henry's reputation abroad was only bound to weaken his position politically too. Most importantly, Henry with a male heir was a far bigger threat to France than Henry with just a daughter. In short, the French had nothing to gain if Henry remarried and produced a heir. Perhaps a French spy for Francis I sold the letters to Clement believing that it would force Clement to denounce Henry. If a French spy did steal the letters, then they underestimated the pope’s desire to rule on the matter. As discussed in last post, Pope Clement VII needed time not evidence in the King’s Great Matter.
Who do you think stole the letters?
*Political letters with sensitive information were often written in cipher.
(1)Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume, August 1528