“The kyng after his returne, maried priuily the lady Anne Bulleyn, on sainct Erkenwaldes daie, whiche mariage was kept so secrete, that very fewe knewe it, til she was greate with child, at Easter after.”
The couple had Henry VIII had just returned from their trip to Calais, having landed at Dover, on the Kent coast, at 5am that morning. We know from the dispatches of Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial ambassador, that the King spent a few days in Dover and the surrounding area “for the purpose of having harbours constructed in the said town, or at least of creating a spacious plea for asking money from his subjects for the said works”, and that he did not arrive at Eltham Palace until 24th November, but was that the only reason for the King’s tardiness? Might he have been enjoying a honeymoon with his new bride before returning to Court?
We don’t know, but it doesn’t sound unreasonable. Hall may be the only contemporary source for this earlier wedding, but Anne and Henry did begin co-habiting after their visit to Calais and Anne appears to have been pregnant with Elizabeth before their secret marriage ceremony on 25th January 1533. After years of waiting, would the couple have risked an illegitimate baby? I think that Henry was confident that his “great matter” would soon be resolved and so entered into some kind of betrothal or marriage with Anne. Once his marriage to Catherine had been annulled, this marriage would be the legal one.
Notes and Sources
- Hall’s Chronicle, Edward Hall, p794
- Calendar of State Papers, Spain, 1531-1533, p556-557