The King’s Mistress: Letter from Anne Bassett to Lady Lisle

This letter was written around 1539 and found in Lisle Paper, Vol. I. No 86. It states that Anne of Cleves had passed through Calais where Lady Lisle was to greet her. It is around this time (1538-1539) that Anne Bassett is first rumored as a mistress to King Henry VIII.

Bassett was sent to court with her sister during the end of the reign of Queen Jane Seymour. The Queen had informed their mother, Lady Lisle, that she only had room for one lady – she chose Anne. It is sometime after Jane’s death in 1537 that Henry apparently grew interested in the young Anne Bassett. Whether or not the rumors are true we do not know. It is possible that there was only a flirtation between the two and others noticed and tried to shame the young girl. At this time Henry was in need of a new queen so every family was vying for their daughter to be the next.

In this letter we see how Anne Bassett, who was in England awaiting to serve the new queen, was relaying messages and gifts to the King on behalf of her mother, Lady Lisle. Lady Lisle’s second husband was Arthur Plantagenet, illegitimate son of Edward IV, making him an uncle to the King. He was not Anne Bassett’s father.

This letter leaves me wondering what advice Lady Lisle gave her daughter in continuing her favor with the king.

It also appears that Lady Lisle liked to bribe royalty with food. First Queen Jane, by sending her large amount of quail eggs to accept one of her daughters into her household and now the King Henry with some type of preserve or marmalade, which he clearly enjoyed.

Anne Bassett to Lady Lisle

To the Right Honourable and my singular good lady and mother, the Viscountess Lisle:

Madam,

My duty done, I humbly recommend me unto your ladyship, desiring you of your daily blessing. This shall signify your ladyship that I received your letter of Husee; and, according to the contents thereof, I have declared unto the king’s highness all things, as your ladyship willed me to do, so that his grace took the same in right good part, accepting your good will and toward mind therein as thankfully as though your ladyship had waited on her grace hither; pondering right well the charges that my lord and your ladyship hath lately been at, and do sustain, specifically at this present time. I humbly thank your ladyship of the news you write me of her grace, that she is so good and gentle to serve and please: it shall be no little rejoicement to us, her grace’s servants here, that shall attend daily upon her, and most comfort to the king’s majesty, whose highness is not a little desirous to have her grace here. And for the good and motherly counsel your ladyship doth give me, concerning my continuance in the king’s favour, I thank your ladyship most lowly therefor; trusting God shall no longer spare me life than I shall therein continue. For I knowledge myself most bound to his highness of all creatures: if I should, therefore in any thing offend his grace willingly, it were pity I should live. Madam, the king doth so well like the conserves you sent him last, that his grace commanded me to write unto you for more of the condiniac of the clearest making, and of the conserve of damascenes; and this as soon as may be. No more to you at this time, but I pray God send your ladyship long life, to the pleasure of Almighty God.

From York Place, the Monday afore Christmas day. By your humble and obedient daughter,

Anne Bassett


Source:

Letters of royal and illustrious ladies of Great Britain, from the commencement of the twelfth century to the close of the reign of Queen Mary;by [Green], Mary Anne Everett (Wood), Mrs., 1818-1895, [from old catalog] ed;Published 1846; pages 148-149

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