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This Britain

Love notes show Henry VIII's romantic side

Clandestine love notes between King Henry VIII and his future wife, Anne Boleyn, have been discovered in the margins of books found during the first comprehensive investigation of the king's library.

In a 16th-century Book of Hours , Henry wrote, in French, to the then woman of his desires: "If you remember me according to my love in your prayers I shall scarcely be forgotten, since I am your Henry Rex for ever." Anne replied in doggerel English verse: "Be daly prove you shall me fynde/To be to you bothe lovynge and kynde."

But the investigation, published as The Books of Henry VIII and his Wives by the British Library yesterday, also shows the king's library had a practical purpose in affairs of state. Henry VIII quoted extensively from his books to defend his actions in seeking divorce and declaring himself the head of the Church in England.

Henry's personal annotations to Augustinus de Ancona's Compendium concerning Ecclesiastical Power, for example, reveal some of his thinking. Next to a passage that reads: "First, therefore, it must be said that to have several wives was not against nature in the ancient father", Henry notes: " Ergo nec in nobis ." [Therefore neither in ours.]

The book, by Professor James Carley, has a preface by the historian David Starkey and is the result of two decades of research into the collection.