Lot 55
Sold for £ 13,750 (US$ 18,084) inc. premium

Lot Details
Letter signed and subscribed ("Your lovyng assuryd ffreend/ Thomas Crumwell"), to Dr Nicholas Wotton, English delegate to Cleves, expressing considerable impatience on behalf of both the King and Council and urging him to secure an answer from the Duke of Cleves ratifying the marriage between the King and Anne of Cleves; telling that the King and his Council "doo not a lytle muse and marvayl" that he has secured no answer from the Duke as to how he and the Ambassadors from Cleves [already in England] take "the conclusion of the Mariage", now that the "the tyme of the ratification approcheth", the text in the secretary hand of a Royal Chancery scribe; with address leaf ("To myn assuered loving/ ffreende Master Wotton"), docketed as received on 19 November, one page, on paper with hand and star watermark, trace of seal on address leaf, evidence of former binding into a volume at left-hand edge, minor paper-losses affecting two or three words in lower right-hand margin extending 15 x 40 mm. into the right hand margin and at the lower right-hand-corner, light dust-staining, address leaf detached with the upper half restored, but the letter itself overall in sound and attractive condition, folio, London, 8 November [1539]


  • 'THE CONCLUSION OF THE MARIAGE': THOMAS CROMWELL PRESSES FOR RATIFICATION OF HENRY VIII'S MARRIAGE TO ANNE OF CLEVES – THE PRINCIPAL CAUSE OF HIS DOWNFALL AND EXECUTION LESS THAN NINE MONTHS LATER: "Mr Wotton After my right harty commendations These shalbe to advertise you that the Kinges highness and the Lordes of his Maiesties counsoul doo not a lytle muse and marvayl that his hieghnes sithens the departure of the Orators of Cleves and Saxe hath neither from you nor fromm the Duke of Cleves ne from any of the said Orators receyved ani maner of Letres or advertisement/ specially considering the greate charge sithens that tyme gevin unto you to wryte at the least howe they toke there the conclusion of the Mariage though you shuld have no manner other occurrentes to signifye/ And nowe the tyme of the ratification approcheth and also certain other thynges of Importance Daylly occurring hath moved his highnes the more to marvayl at this yor long protracted silence/ ffor his satisfaction wherin his grace hath dispeched unto you this berer his Servaunt Whom his pleasure ys you shall present to the Said Duke Whither you shall have written before his arryval or no to thintent in either case making his Maiesties most herty Commendations to the forsaid Duke he maye to the same intymate the cause of his cummyng and soo k[now] What answere or service he well commaun[d] him and so with all possible diligence rep[ort] his maiestie accordingly/ In the rest touching the Kinges Maiesty good and prosperous health and all other newes here you shall geve firme credyt to this said berer who canne at lenght explane and Declare the same Thus fare you hertely well ffrom London the viii of November/ Your lovyng assuryd ffreend/ Thomas Crumwell".

    It has by tradition been thought that Cromwell advanced this marriage in order to consolidate the English Reformation: 'In March, Nicholas Wotton and Richard Beard began the negotiations at Cleves but were frustrated by the stalling tactics of Wilhelm, who was still attempting to conciliate the emperor. By late summer the ambassadors had achieved success, and Hans Holbein the younger was commissioned to paint a portrait of Anne, which Wotton swore was a faithful representation of her. Many contemporaries, including Wotton, praised her beauty' (Retha M. Warnicke, 'Anne of Cleves', ODNB). By 4 October a marriage treaty was signed in London by the Cleves ambassadors. It remained for Wotton only to make final arrangements in Cleves. After further prevarication on the Duke's part – provoking as our letter shows no little impatience from Cromwell and his master – Anne of Cleves eventually departed for England, arriving at Dover on 27 December: 'On New Year's day 1540 the king caught his first glimpse of her at Rochester. However, it was immediately obvious that she was not the beauty Holbein had portrayed, and Henry found her physically repulsive. The wedding ceremony on 6 January at Greenwich was unavoidable and Cromwell took the blame... Cromwell's fall cannot be attributed to any one mistake or decision, although the Cleves marriage was the single most important factor in undermining the king's confidence in him. It was also a problem particularly difficult for Cromwell to resolve, as Henry's divorce from Anne would only lead to the king's marrying Norfolk's niece, Katherine Howard, thereby further threatening the minister's position' (Howard Leithead, 'Thomas Cromwell', ODNB).

    The recipient of this letter, Dr Nicholas Wotton (c.1497-1567), has been described as 'one of the most long-serving, and probably the last, of the great early Tudor clerical diplomats' (Michael Zell, 'Nicholas Wotton', ODNB). He began his diplomatic career with the mission to Cleves, and although this was to bring about Cromwell's destruction, Wotton's career prospered. He was rewarded with ecclesiastical promotion, being made Dean of the newly erected secular chapter of Canterbury in April 1541 and reappointed Archdeacon of Gloucester, when it became a bishopric in 1541. He was even offered, but refused, a bishopric. He remained however a diplomat first and foremost, earning him the later censure of Thomas Fuller who complained that he 'was a doctor of both laws, and some will say of both gospels ... he never overstrained his conscience, such was his oily compliance in all alterations' (The Church-History of Britain, 1655, book 9, section 2). The diplomat Sir Henry Wotton – who famously observed that 'an ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country' – was his great-nephew.

    Only 350 of Cromwell's letters are known, nearly all of which are in institutional collections, principally the National Archives and the British Library. The present letter is from vol. xxxi of the manuscripts at Towneley Hall, Lancashire, which were dispersed by sales beginning in the 1880s: see the Fourth Report of the Historical Manuscripts Commission, Appendix (1874), pp. 413; and is included by Roger Bigelow Merriman in Life and Letters of Thomas Cromwell, vol. ii (1902, reprinted 1968), p 239. The previous letter in the series, dated 7 October 1539, was sold at Sotheby's London, 12 July 2005, lot 2.
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