Was Greensleeves About Anne Boleyn

For today’s blog post I would like to take a look at a popular theory about the origins of the song Greensleeves.    For anyone who does not know this song was a famous one written likely sometime during the Tudor period.    Many think that it was most likely written during the Elizabethan period, however there are still some that attest that Henry VIII wrote this song himself!

We do know that Henry was a great musician, and that he loved writing music.    In this way, it is not hard to believe that he would have written this particular romantic song about his love, Anne Boleyn!    I have found the below information, and the lyrics at https://genius.com/Traditional-english-folk-greensleeves-lyrics.    I will go on to do an analysis of why this song may be about Anne Boleyn!


Traditional English Folk

This is an old folk romance song. It talks about ‘Greensleeves’, the lady who I’m assuming turns him down, and he is sad because he would do anything for her.


(poss. by Henry VIII of England, 1500’s.)

Alas, my love, you do me wrong

To cast me off discourteously

For I have loved you well and long

Delighting in your company

Greensleeves was all my joy

Greensleeves was my delight

Greensleeves was my heart of gold

And who but my lady greensleeves

Your vows you’ve broken, like my heart

Oh, why did you so enrapture me?

Now I remain in a world apart

But my heart remains in captivity

~The beginning of the song speaks of being cast off, and I believe this can be a reference to Anne denying Henry’s advances in the beginning.   She wanted to not just be a mistress, instead she wanted any child she had to be totally legitimate.   In these beginning lines we can interpret as being about the period when she rejected his offer of becoming maitress-en-titre!


I have been ready at your hand

To grant whatever you would crave

I have both wagered life and land

Your love and good-will for to have

~This part of the song seems to confirm that the writer was a great man, who had much power.   Making him at least a noble, if not royal.    The King makes much sense as a writer here.


If you intend thus to disdain

It does the more enrapture me

And even so, I still remain

A lover in captivity

~These lines remind me much of the love letters we know Henry wrote to Anne!


My men were clothed all in green

And they did ever wait on thee;

All this was gallant to be seen

And yet thou wouldst not love me

~This shows the period of Henry deciding that Anne would have to become his Queen!   He clothed his men in her color in order to prove his loyalty.


Thou couldst desire no earthly thing

But still thou hadst it readily

Thy music still to play and sing;

And yet thou wouldst not love me

~This is his continuing to offer love and marriage to Anne, and his worrying over whether he could get the divorce.


Well, I will pray to God on high

That thou my constancy mayst see

And that yet once before I die

Thou wilt vouchsafe to love me

~These lines are about the love of Anne and Henry, and at this point it seems they were likely engaged!


Ah, Greensleeves, now farewell, adieu

To God I pray to prosper thee

For I am still thy lover true

Come once again and love me

~These final lines are so much about the love shared, and plans to make their love official.   I feel that this song was likely written during the period when they were working together to find love and happiness in marriage!   I believe it is the story of their courtship!


I hope that you have enjoyed my analysis of why Henry could have written this song about Anne Boleyn.   Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!