Excerpt from UNDER THESE RESTLESS SKIES: Anne Boleyn's Letter from the Tower

On May 6, 1536, Anne Boleyn had been in the Tower for four days, following her arrest for adultery, incest and treason.

A letter was supposedly found among Cromwell's papers after his death, bearing an inscription in what may be Cromwell's own hand: "From the Lady in the Tower." It purports to be a letter from Anne Boleyn, though it does not appear to be in her handwriting. I wrote a scene in Under These Restless Skies about the letter. 

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Anne gestured to Emma. “Come hither, for I have a task for you. I wish you to write a letter for me.”

“Me?” Emma obeyed, but her eyebrows were crunched in confusion as she took a seat before the desk.

“Aye.” Anne extended her hands so she could see how they shook. Anne’s anxiety seemed to increase with every hour they spent behind these walls, though she kept finding depths of courage to steel her spine. “ ’Tis time to reap the fruit of my labors in tutoring you to read and write.”

Emma took a deep breath and withdrew a sheet of paper from the well inside the desk. She checked the nib on the simple quill pen she had been given and pulled the stopper on the bottle of ink. “To whom do you write?”

“The king. Mayhap I shall pen one to Cranmer, though I have not decided.”

Behind them, Will scrubbed a hand over his face, trying to find the words. “Anne . . .”

“He will not read it, that I know,” Anne said.

“If that is so, why did you write it?”

“Because I must. There are words I would say to him, even if he will not listen. Perchance he will read it someday. Emma, are you ready? I fear this may be long.”

“Aye.” Emma dipped the pen in the ink and tapped it on the rim of the bottle. ’Twould be the first letter she had ever written, and it somehow seemed fitting she would do it for Anne, who had labored so long to teach Emma to emulate her clear handwriting and simple spelling.

“Sir,” Anne began, omitting the usual titles and long-winded greetings. She spoke at a slow pace to allow Emma time to catch up between each sentence and to craft her words with care, spelling the ones Emma did not know.

“Your Grace’s displeasure and my ymprisonment are things so strange, that what to confess I am alltogether ignorant. You urge me to confess the truth and so obtayn your favor. If confessing the truth indeed may secure my safety, I shall do so willingly. But do not imagyne that your poore wife will confess to a sin of which there was never so much as a thought.

“You have chosen me from low estate to be your queene and companion, farr beyond what I deserved or desired; if, then, you found me worthy, lett not badd counsell of my enemies cause you to withdraw your favor from me, nor from the infant princess, your daughter.

“Lett me have a lawful tryal, and lett not my sworne enemies sitt as my accusers and as my judges. Yea, lett me receive an honest tryal, for I have no shame in the truth, and you will see either mine innocynce proven, or my guilt openly declared. If my offenses are proven, Your Grace will be freed from censure and may be att liberty then not only to punish me, but to follow your affections which have allready been setled on that party —for whose sake I am nowe as I am— whose name you know I have long been aware.

“But if you have allready determined that only my death and that infamous slandor will bring you happiness, then I ask of God that He will not call you to account for your unjust and cruell treatment of me att His judgment seat. Whatever the world may think of me, I trust in the judgment of God, and my innocynce shall be knowne.

“My last, and only, request shall be that myself alone beare the burden of Your Grace’s displeasure, and that it may not fall on those gentlemen ymprisoned for my sake. If ever I have found favor in your sight—if ever the name of Anne Bullen has been pleasing in your ears—then grant this request. My prayer shall be to God to have Your Grace in His good keeping and to direct you in all your actions.

From my dolefull prison in the Tower, the 6th May.

Your most loyall and ever-faithfull wife, Anne Bullen”

Emma sat back and laid down the pen. Anne sanded the paper. She read over the sheet of paper Emma had filled and smiled. “You did well, Emma. I believe I shall appoint you my new royal secretary if ever you tire of the role of fool.”

Emma gave her a small smile as she stepped away from the desk and dropped a curtsey. “An honor I should be grateful to accept, Your Grace.”

Anne folded the letter and poured a drop of wax from the nearby candle, into which she pressed her falcon seal. She gazed at the letter on the table before her for a long moment. “The last words I shall ever speak to him,” she mused.

Will wanted to protest, but any denial would be a lie. Even if Henry did drop the charges of adultery, he would not take her back as his wife, nor have her at court to discommode his new bride. Just like with Katharine, he would send her into exile without even a goodbye—that is, if Anne were fortunate. Will was almost certain Henry hadn’t ever read Katharine’s last letter to him, just as certain as he was that Henry would not read this one.

Unsettled, he stood and picked up the letter. “I shall take this to Master Kingston.”

“I thank you, Will.” Anne seemed to consider something and then put all the writing supplies back into the proper drawers. “You may take this back to him as well.”

“Are you certain?” Will took the small wooden lap desk from her. “What about a letter for Princess Elizabeth? Emma and I will keep it for her.”

“Nay, there is naught I could say that—” She stopped and cleared her throat. Her black eyes were glassy with tears. “You and Emma will tell her what I wanted her to know one day. I do not want you to take the risk of concealing a letter.”

Will nodded. He paused in the doorway to look back at her and saw her head over to the window to stare out onto the gardens, built for her, but where she could no longer walk.

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