13 May 1536 – Cromwell’s Plans for Annulment Dashed by Henry Percy

Posted By on May 13, 2011

Henry Percy and Anne Boleyn

Here at The Anne Boleyn Files we have managed to get our hands on a rather interesting letter written on this very day by Henry Percy, the Earl of Northumberland and a former suitor of Queen Anne Boleyn – yes, we have spies everywhere!

Here is a transcript of the letter the Earl wrote to Thomas Cromwell:-

“I perceive by Raynold Carnaby that there is supposed a pre-contract between the Queen and me; whereupon I was not only heretofore examined upon my oath before the archbishops of Canterbury and York, but also received the blessed sacrament upon the same before the duke of Norfolk and other the King’s highness’ council learned in the spiritual law, assuring you, Mr. Secretary, by the said oath and blessed body, which afore I received and hereafter intend to receive, that the same may be to my damnation if ever there were any contract or promise of marriage between her and me.”1

What this letter shows us is that Thomas Cromwell is obviously attempting to get His Majesty the King’s marriage to Queen Anne Boleyn annulled on the grounds of a pre-contract having existed between the Queen and Henry Percy. As the Earl points out, he has already denied there ever having been a pre-contract when he was interrogated by the Duke of Norfolk and two archbishops in 1532. This was after his wife, Mary Talbot, tried to end their unhappy marriage by claiming that their marriage was invalid due to him already being pre-contracted to marry Anne Boleyn. Of course, Anne Boleyn was being courted by the King at this time so the King needed to be sure that there was no pre-contract and the matter was thoroughly investigated. Henry Percy swore an oath on the Blessed Sacrament, in front of Norfolk, the archbishops and the King’s canon lawyers, that he had never been pre-contracted to Anne Boleyn. That was the end of the matter until now.

It appears that Sir Reynold Carnaby, a King’s officer in Northumberland, was sent to see the Earl, to try and convince him to confess that he and the Queen had actually been pre-contracted to marry before Percy’s father and Percy’s boss, Cardinal Wolsey, put a stop to their relationship. Who knows what pressure Cromwell is putting the Earl under but he is refusing to be bullied into this even though he is no longer friends with the Queen. We’re glad that someone is willing to stand up to Master Secretary and stick to their morals!

Will Cromwell find another way to get this marriage annulled? We’re sure he will but Percy isn’t playing ball!

Notes and Sources

  1. L&P x. 764, Letter from the Earl of Northumberland to Cromwell, 13th May 1536

5 thoughts on “13 May 1536 – Cromwell’s Plans for Annulment Dashed by Henry Percy”

  1. miladyblue says:

    Wolsey disapproved of the match when Anne and Percy seemed to be getting quite serious – and this was before Henry’s eye had settled on Anne to the best of anyone’s knowledge.

    Would this have spared Anne from execution? Probably not, and it would have put Percy in serious jeopardy, too.

    1. Esther Sorkin says:

      Percy wasn’t jeopardized by denying Henry one grounds of annulment … Henry (and Cromwell) were well aware of an alternative basis for invalidating the marriage (the prior relationship with Anne’s sister). I agree, thought, that it would not have spared Anne, however, even though it is hard to figure out how Anne could have committed “adultery” when she wasn’t married to Henry. Henry didn’t want a living ex any more (he had had enough of that with Catherine of Aragon) and Anne didn’t have Catherine’s influential relatives. However, the execution of the mother was not enough to deny Elizabeth her right of succession. The marriage had to be annulled so Elizabeth could be bastardized.

  2. lisaannejane says:

    I always wondered why Cromwell even bothered with this. This issue was settled before Henry’s marriage to Anne. They know about Mary Boleyn and knew that that reason could work for his second annulment. So Henry knew he would get what he wanted.

    1. Baroness Von Reis says:

      lidaannejane,I think Cromwell was climbing the Kings latter for money and title, the more dirty work the more he made off with,to Anne was the Queen they both had to come up with some really damming evidense against this very strong Queen. Just my thoughts. Kind Regards Baroness

  3. Anyanka says:

    Didn’t Mary Talbot petition for an annulment due to the pre-contract? Wasn’t it denied by the church since it would cast doubt on Henry’s marriage to Anne?

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