Anne Boleyn’s Letter from the Tower: A New Assessment
by Sandra Vasoli
MadeGlobal Publishing , 2015
While covering the topic thoroughly and relaying the information in an accessible manner, Vasoli had to temper her dialogue with caution. There is no solid evidence that the letter was dictated by Anne (it not being in her handwriting is clearly proven) and any reputable historian should acknowledge that.
The letter itself, elegant and clever, certainly reflects Anne’s style. As her daughter could famously speak spontaneously with practiced ease, it would not be too far beyond possibility that Anne could, even under such duress, produce such a dictated letter. Anne’s speech at the scaffold was proof of what she was capable of generating.
Vasoli, who was lucky enough to peruse the original copies — rather an oxymoron but after reading the text one understands the point — of the materials held in Britain was also able to examine other documents from Henry VIII and Anne located in the Vatican.
After these amazing opportunities for research, Vasoli compiled an excellent argument as to why the letter was composed by Anne and how copies of it survived through the centuries. Its survival was, as Vasoli stated on page 26 of her text, was because “Cromwell’s training and practice in the legal arena informed his decision not to destroy the document. Evidence must never be destroyed, but rather manoeuvred to one’s advantage to obtain the desired outcome.” Therefore, Cromwell’s efficiency and training preserved the original document; an interesting perspective.
Vasoli proceeded, with a thorough discussion of the available scholarship, to demonstrate, the letter’s path continued through the decades, via the plausible connections of many historical figures.
Was the letter dictated by Anne from the Tower? This reviewer, although not thoroughly convinced, is swayed by Vasoli’s arguments. She has backed up her conclusions by solid research of the available primary documents — indeed it could be a letter from Anne Boleyn.
This reviewer is taking a viewpoint from an article Professor Suzannah Lipscomb so eloquently wrote recently in History Today. Historical writings can be viewed in the cavalier manner of “just an interpretation” or writings can be viewed in the respectful manner of “an interpretation.” Interpretations are based on evidence and we historians do write interpretations based on analysis of available materials. Vasoli seems to have proven what Professor Lipscomb quoted Hugh Trevor-Roper as writing, ‘history that is not controversial is dead history.” Safe to say the interest still surrounding this letter will prevent the topic from dying out.
Professor Lipscomb’s article was published in the print edition of History Today and also posted on 28 January 2016, 10:10 http://www.historytoday.com/suzannah-lipscomb/question-interpretation.