Page last updated at 10:40 GMT, Friday, 13 February 2009

Henry VIII love letter exhibited

Love letter from Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn (pic: British Library)
Henry wrote Anne's initials in a heart at the bottom of the letter
It seems even one of history's most notorious womanisers had a romantic side - at least in the beginning.

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.

Henry VIII
Anne Boleyn was the second of Henry VIII's six wives

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 beloved's 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.

Anne Boleyn
Anne was executed at the Tower of London in 1536

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."

Henry VIII: Man and Monarch is open from 23 April to 6 September.

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