In this letter Mary acknowledges the annulment of her parents’ marriage, her own illegitimacy, and her father’s position as head of a new English church. It was a letter that she had refused to write. Henry VIII considered her behaviour was influenced by her mother. Henry had mother and daughter separated and both were banishing both from court.
Having received, this Thursday at night, certain letters from Mr. Secretary, as well advising me to make mine humble submission immediately to yourself (which because I durst not, without your gracious license, presume to do before), I lately sent unto him, as signifying that your most merciful heart and fatherly pity had granted me your blessing, with condition that I should persevere in that I had commenced and begun, and that I should not eftsoons offend your majesty by the denial or refusal of any such articles and commandments as it may please your highness to address unto me, for the perfect trial of mine heart and inward affection.
For the perfect declaration of the bottom of my heart and stomach, first, I knowledge myself to have most unkindly and unnaturally offended your most excellent highness, in that I have not submitted myself to your most just and virtuous laws; and for mine offence therein, which I must confess were in me a thousand-fold more grievous than they could be in any other living creature, I put myself wholly and entirely to your gracious mercy, at whose hand I cannot receive that punishment for the same that I have deserved. Secondly, to open mine heart to your grace in these things, which I have heretofore refused to condescend unto, and have now written with mine own hand, sending the same to your highness herewith, I shall never beseech your grace to have pity and compassion on me, if ever you shall perceive that I shall privily or apertly vary or alter from one piece of that I have written and subscribed, or refuse to confirm, ratify, or declare the same, where your majesty shall appoint me. Thirdly, as I have and shall, knowing your excellent learning, virtue, wisdom, and knowledge, put my soul into your direction, and by the same have and will in all things, from henceforth, direct my conscience, so my body I do wholly commit to your mercy and fatherly pity, desiring no state, no condition, nor no manner degree of living but such as your grace shall appoint unto me, knowledging and confessing that my state cannot be so vile as either the extremity of justice would appoint unto me, or as mine offences have required and deserved. And whatsoever your grace shall command me to do, touching any of these points (either for things past, present, or to come), I shall as gladly do the same as your majesty can command me.
Most humbly, therefore, beseeching your mercy, most gracious sovereign lord and benign father, to have pity and compassion of your miserable and sorrowful child, and with the abundance of your inestimable goodness so to overcome mine iniquity towards God, your grace, and your whole realm, as I may feel some sensible token of reconciliation, which, God is my judge, I only desire, without any respect: to whom I shall daily pray for the preservation of your highness, with the queen's grace, and that it may please Him to send you issue.
From Hunsdon, this Thursday,* at eleven of the clock at night.
Your grace's most humble and obedient
daughter and handmaid."