CROMWELL (THOMAS) Letter signed and subscribed ("Your assur[yd ffreend] Thomas Crumwell"), to Dr Nicholas Wotton, English delegate to Cleves, discussing final negotiations for the marriage of Henry VIII to Anne of Cleves, [1539]
Lot 41
£4,000 - 6,000
US$ 5,400 - 8,100

Lot Details
Letter signed and subscribed ("Your assur[yd ffreend] Thomas Crumwell"), to Dr Nicholas Wotton, English delegate to Cleves, discussing final negotiations for the marriage of Henry VIII to Anne of Cleves, the text in the secretary hand of a Royal Chancery scribe; address leaf ("To my very loving and assured ffreend mr doctor Wotton the Kinges ambassadr in the partes of Germany"); endorsed by Wotton with date of receipt "Ultima Octobr", 2 pages, on paper with hand watermark (incorporating a fleur-de-lys and figure 3 and pointing to a quinfoil), trace of seal, address leaf detached, holed, paper-losses with later restoration to the lower third section, affecting the last seven lines of text and subscription (but not the signature), further dust- or dampstaining, traces of former sewing into a volume, folio, London, 26 October [1539]


  • 'MY LADIE ANNES GRACE': THOMAS CROMWELL URGES HASTE IN FINALIZING THE MARRIAGE OF HENRY VIII TO ANNE OF CLEVES – which was to be the principal cause of his downfall and execution nine months later: "by this berer yow shall receyve the kinges highnes lettres conteynyng his graces most gentle and princely affection towardes the Duke of Cleves, with his graces divise for thencrease of their amytie which his highnes doubteth not but yow woll so discreately handel and setfurthe as the same shall take effect wherin I assure yow yow shall doo the thing that shalbe muche to his Majestes contentacion and consequently not a Lyttel to your owne commoditie...handle the matier soo that...the Duke...taketh his graces most kynde offer in most thankfull parte and that his sute and desire is that it may please his highnes to procede...with all possible diligence and yet tempering the compassing of this purpose soo as they gather none occasion to thinke that this offre implyeth any other purpose thenne is expressed for that myghte cause them to take the same in lesse thankfull parte then it is woorthie/ I have directyd my lettres of congratulacion to my ladie Annes grace whereby I doo exhorte her to the nurrishement of the amytie bitweyn those princes to the greate honor bothe of the kinges Majestie hir owne, and to the assuraunce of them and of their issew and posteritie...I doubte not but yow wooll so setfourthe the kinges Majestes presentes withe goode and modest woords as the same shalbe by your discrecion the more acceptable...".

    It has by tradition been thought that Cromwell advanced the marriage in order to consolidate the English Reformation; and to further this, an embassy was despatched to Cleves to negotiate with Anne's brother, the Duke, for her hand. The mission was led by Dr Nicholas Wotton, recipient of this letter, who has been described as 'one of the most long-serving, and probably the last, of the great early Tudor clerical diplomats' (Michael Zell, ODNB): '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). It remained for Wotton only to make final arrangements in Cleves, and this letter urges him to press on with his task; Cromwell being confident of the success of the mission and seemingly basking in the current favour of a King eager to settle the marriage and to see his new bride.

    In the event Henry of course found himself unable to consummate the marriage, with disastrous results for his chief minister, and so 'On 28 July, three weeks after the annulment of the Cleves marriage, Thomas Cromwell was beheaded and the common supposition has been that the two events were the joint consequence of Cromwell's misjudgement in making the Cleves marriage' (E. W. Ives, 'Henry VIII', ODNB).

    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. 412-13; Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the reign of Henry VIII, vol. xiv, part 2 (1895), p. 137, No. 394; and Roger Bigelow Merriman, Life and Letters of Thomas Cromwell, vol. ii (1902, reprinted 1968), pp. 238-9. For Cromwell's next letter to Wotton, dated 8 November [1539], see the sale in these rooms, 12 June 2012, lot 55. See illustration overleaf.

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