11 July 1533 – The Pope Declares Henry VIII’s Marriage to Anne Boleyn Null

Jul11,2014 #Pope Clement VII
Pope Clement VII
Pope Clement VII

On 11th July 1533, just over a month after Anne Boleyn’s coronation, Pope Clement VII declared that Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn was null, as was the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and threatened the King with excommunication if he did not abandon the pregnant Anne and return to Catherine.

The Pope stated that he was suspending the declaration of the sentence of excommunication until September 1533, so that Henry would have time to make all the arrangements. Henry ignored the Pope’s declaration but was not excommunicated until 17th December 1538, after he had upset Pope Paul III by declaring himself head of the church in England, by persecuting those who did not accept his supremacy, by dissolving the monasteries, and by his brutal actions in the Pilgrimace of Grace rebellion. The final straw for the papacy in 1538 was Henry’s attack on religious shrines in England, which included him having “dug up and burned the bones of St, Thomas of Canterbury and scattered the ashes to the winds, (after calling the saint to judgment, condemning him as contumacious, and proclaiming him a traitor).”

Of course, although Henry VIII never returned to Catherine of Aragon, he had his marriage to Anne Boleyn annulled shortly before she was executed in May 1536.

Notes and Sources

  • LP vi. 807, 808
  • LP xiii. Part 2. 1087

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5 thoughts on “11 July 1533 – The Pope Declares Henry VIII’s Marriage to Anne Boleyn Null”
  1. If only he had made the decision earlier before all the suffering caused by the Boleyn marriage and the break from Rome
    Henry was still faithful in 1530 so Pope should have decided then.

    1. I agree that an early decision would have changed history. The specifics of how history would have changed are open to debate, however.

    2. How can you know that Henry would have not have made the break with Rome earlier? Henry accepted the Pope’s orders only so long as the Pope agreed with him.

      Henry could also have married Anne earlier if he had dismissed Archbishop Warham. Or he would have legitimized their children just like the Beauforts.

  2. This weekend just gone, I was at Ludlow Castle. I searched in vain for a pomegranate to take there for Katharine of Aragon but could not find any and ended up making a ‘pilgrimage’ down to the bottom of the hill to Tesco and buying pomegranate seeds before hiking back up the hill. I wanted to scatter them at Ludlow as an act of remembrance for Katharine and did so in the round St Mary Magdalene chapel as I thought it was a place Katharine would have spent time praying in. After I had done that, I sat thinking about Katharine and the humiliation and hardships that were heaped upon her towards the end of her life and also about Anne Boleyn and realized how much they actually had in common and how abominably Henry had treated them both. Anne was in the same position as Katharine, knowing she was dying and worried sick about the child she would leave behind, stripped of honours and with no real friends to protect them – what a terrible torment that must have been to these two women in their final days. being told you had been nothing more than a harlot during your ‘marriage’ when both women were religious in their own faiths must have stung terribly. Anne wasn’t kind to Katharine and Mary and when these things started happening to her as they had been done to Katharine, it must have been a bitter pill to swallow. I said a prayer for both these ladies at the chapel in Ludlow and hope they have peace now and the satisfaction of knowing that all of Henry’s despicable actions resulted in the end of the Tudor line anyway!

    1. Hi Lizzy…I spent 11 days in Ludlow from 29th June to 10th July, so I was there at the castle just a few days before your lovely visit. It was a very emotional visit as I was also thinking of Katherine and Prince Arthur and I think they did hear Mass in the round Madelaine Tower Chaple. I was thinking that although the couple were ill here; there must have been some days at the start when they had some happiness together at this time. The guide that waa taking a group around was pointing out the apartments were Katherine lived and the apartments were her daughter lived as well, the one with the huge Tudor red chimneys. The fireplaces were magnificent and you can see the arms of the Tudors and the Plantagenets as it was of course the home of the Duke of York, the father of Richard III and his sons for some years. It was also the home of Edward V as Prince of Wales and Prince Arthur for some years from 1497. It was interesting to be orrientated as the information boards are useless and have little information about Katherine or Arthur.

      It was in Castle Lodge next to the castle that they actually made their home and came to the royal apartments only on state occasions and when they held court; the rest of the time they had private apartments at the lodge. The lodge is said to be haunted by a 15 year old girl with reddish blond hair: is this Princess Katherine returned to her happier life? The lodge today is privately owned but from mid Tudor times the Council of the Marches were held there and the furniture inside has come from Henry VIII’s palaces. The Tudor doors and the pannelling are from Nonsuch palace. It is a cosy place and the connection with Katherine is an interesting one.

      But the most moving part of the visit was the visit to Saint Lawrence Parish Church off the square; the large Church with the huge Tower, as in the Chancel stood for three days the body of Prince Arthur and his funeral rites were here. His heart was laid to rest here before his body was taken off over a three week journey to Worchester Cathedral where a specially constructed chantry chapel was built for him. His tomb is very magnificent, and the chantry large and has all the Tudor iconograthy imagined, but there are only a few pommagranetes although the feathers of the Prince of Wales are present. The reason for this is that it was meant for Henry VII and was sent from Westminster to Worchester to be constructed for Prince Author. In 2002 a reconstructed funeral was done and the arhaelogiste explored the chantry. There is no body in the tomb, but there is a vaulted space under the northern east part of the alter where the bones are believed to be. The vault was enlarged at some point possibly meant as a resting place for Katherine had she not married again.

      I said several prayers for Katherine and Arthur’s souls and rest at Ludlow, and also at the castle in the chaple and in the royal apartments. It was sad that here they should have had their happiest time, started a family, ruled the Marches and Wales, been a young couple together, and here they were sadly and prematurely seperated for ever, buy may-be they are united in eternity, who knows. I think what you did is very moving. Sometimes seeds grow. Would it not be lovely to come back in a couple of years and see if any of the pommogranate seeds have taken hold and fruit grown? I loved Ludlow; it is a lovely and quiet town, with beautiful countryside around it. I am sure Katherine and Arthur had some happiness there, even if there was also sadness.

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