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This is a neat and slim little volume, containing the seventeen letters written by Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn in the 1520s which somehow mysteriously found their way to the Vatican archives, where they still remain. None of Anne's letters to Henry during their courtship survive; but the collection includes a letter she wrote to her father as a child, two letters from her to Cardinal Wolsey, and finally a letter of disputed authenticity from Anne to Henry a few days before her execution, pleading for mercy and a fair trial (she got neither). Finally, we get a surviving love letter from Henry to Jane Seymour, commiserating with her about "a ballad made lately of great derision against us" so presumably written after their relationship had become public but before Anne's execution.

There is an illuminating introduction by Jasper Ridley, including also the introduction to the 1745 edition of the letters, by William Oldys, and plenty of illustrations. The letters themselves are not immensely interesting, but do convey Henry's passion and general intense activity - two of them apparently came with a dead deer attached, personally hinted by the king and sent to Hever for the Boleyns' dinner table. I was pleased to recognise several authentic phrases from the letters in the episode of The Tudors we watched last night (episode 7, the one with the outbreak of sweating sickness and the Pope), so the writers clearly did their research.

A nice little presentation of some primary source material.

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