Martin Luther writes to Henry VIII

The Life and Letters of Martin Luther

by Reserved Smith PH.D. 1911

Martin Luthers Letter to Henry VIII – September 1, 1525

September 1 he dispatched the following missive:

Wittenberg, September 1, 1525.

Grace and peace in Christ, our Lord and Saviour.  Amen.  Indeed, Most Serene and Illustrious King, I ought greatly to fear to address your Majesty in a letter, as I am fully aware that your Majesty is deeply offended at my pamphlet, which I published foolishly and precipitately, not of my own motion but at the hest of certain men who are not your Majesty’s friends.  But daily seeing your royal clemency, I take hope and courage; I will not believe that a mortal can cherish immortal hatred.  I have learned from credible authority that the book published over your Majesty’s name was not written by your Majesty, but by crafty men of guile who abused your name, especially by that monster detested of God and man, that pest of your kingdom, Cardinal Wolsey.  They did not see the danger of humiliating their king.  I am ashamed to raise my eyes to your Majesty because I allowed myself to be moved by this despicable work of malignant intriguers, especially as I am the offscouring of the world, a mere worm who ought only to live in contemptuous neglect.

What impels me to write, abject as I am, is that your Majesty has begun to favor the Evangelic cause and to feel disgust at the abandoned men who oppose us.  This news was a true gospel ie: tidings of great joy to my heart;  If your Serene Majesty wishes me to recant publicly and write in honor of your Majesty, will you graciously signify your wish to me and I will gladly do so….

Your Majesty’s most devoted,
MARTIN LUTHER, with his own hand.

Henry VIII

This letter naturally did no good.  Indeed, though Luther was certainly sincere in his desire to conciliate, he never displayed greater lack of tact than in dispraising the King’s book and favorite minister.  After a long delay, Henry replied in a fiercer work than before, printing Luther’s missive with mocking comments, and taunting him with having caused the Peasants’ Revolt and with living in wantonness with a nun.

The King sent his epistle, which reached the proportions of a small book, to Duke George, and it was promptly published in Germany at his instigation under the title, ‘Luther’s Offer to Recant in a letter to the King of England.’