Henry and Anne in "Henry and Anne: The Lovers Who Changed History"
Henry and Anne in “Henry and Anne: The Lovers Who Changed History”
Although we know that Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn had a private, and rather secret, marriage ceremony on 25th January 1533, chronicler Edward Hall also records a marriage ceremony on 14th November 1532, St Erkenwald’s Day:

“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

Related Post

20 thoughts on “14 November 1532 – The Marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn?”
  1. As you probably know better than me, there were other ways to make a marriage than be wed by a priest, or even make a contract to marry between the parties that prevented them to wed somebody else, at least if they had had an intercourse.

    As Henry and Anne were married by a priest on 25th January after Anne knew she was pregnant, it is probable that if something else happened 14th November, it was more informal, maybe promises before the witnesses.

    But who made the decision to cohabit: Anne or Henry or both?

    1. Yes, a relationship was considered marriage and legally binding if a couple had made promises to each other, even without witnesses, and then consummated the relationship. I think the final decision on co-habitation would have been Henry’s.

      1. If there was no witnesses, how could a woman prove a marriage if the man denied it?

        It would have been a foolish woman to accept a man’s promise without witnesses, and whatever Anne was, she surely was not that.

        1. She wouldn’t be able to, but marriages were still legally binding if promises were made and consummation took place, hence the idea that Francis Dereham and Catherine Howard had actually been married/pre-contracted – they had called each other husband and wife and slept together.

          I didn’t say that Anne and Henry had exchanged promises without witnesses, it would not have been in either of their interests to do so, I was just pointing out the legalities of the time. I’m sure that Anne and Henry made sure they had at least one witness and the fact that Edward Hall wrote about it shows that he heard about it from someone, perhaps a witness?

  2. I’ve always questioned the claim that Anne was pregnant when she and Henry married 25th January 1533, especially when it’s claimed that she was pregnant with Elizabeth. Elizabeth was born 7th September 1533. I read somewhere, and I’ll have to search the internet and my bookshelf to see if I can find you the source, that Elizabeth had been premature. What are your thoughts?

    1. I strongly doubt Elizabeth was premature. Even if she had been conceived the very day of the wedding, her earliest possible due date would have been October 14th. While there’s some natural variation in pregnancy length depending on the woman (I believe birth up to three weeks before the due date is considered normal), a five weeks premature birth would have been considerably riskier to the baby in those days. It wasn’t so long ago that being born a month early left a baby at real risk of death, since lungs are the last organs to develop. (John F. Kennedy’s youngest child died not long after being born one month premature — these days the baby would probably have spent a few weeks in the hospital getting surfactant treatment and gone on to a normal life). Elizabeth might have survived a premature birth, but she would have probably have been considered fragile or in poor health for a while afterwards, and there’s no indication that anyone thought she was anything but healthy.

      I’m sure there are sources which say she was premature, but if they’re older sources which are particularly partisan towards Anne, they may have been trying to protect her from the stigma of having had sex before she was married. And jokes about “premature” first babies have been around for ages. (I remember when I was young hearing someone remark that first babies only take seven months to grow, but subsequent ones take nine. I was young enough that I took it seriously and was very confused as to why that would be :)).

  3. To Samantha:

    There is no information that Elizabeth was premature. If she was, it was a question of only two weeks as Anne took her chamber 26th August and Elizabeth born on 7th September.

    If Anne were not pregnant in January, there would have been no rush to marry before the priest but Henry would have waited for Cranmer’s annulment decision.

    1. A birthdate of 7th September 1533 suggests a conception date of between 11th and 19th December 1532. Women usually entered confinement 4-6 weeks before their due date, but there was less than two weeks between Anne taking to her chamber and Elizabeth being born. This could mean that Elizabeth was premature, or that Anne got her dates wrong, or that she purposely entered confinement late to suggest that Elizabeth had been conceived within wedlock. Eric Ives suggests that the hurried appointment of Cranmer as Archbishop, the promotion of Thomas Audley and the secret ceremony on 25th January were all because Anne suddenly realised that she was pregnant. However, I think it may have been too early for Anne to know at that point and that things may have been rushed simply because the couple knew that there was a risk of pregnancy with them having slept together since their return from Calais.

      1. How could it be too early? Maybe Anne could not know for sure, given that there were no modern medical things, but evidently she had missed her courses once or twice.

        1. It depends on the length of her cycles and when symptoms started. If Elizabeth was born on her due date, then if she was conceived around 15th December and Anne ovulated half way through a 28 day cycle, then her period would not have been due until the very end of December so she would only have missed one period and may not have noticed any physical changes. If Elizabeth was a couple of weeks early, and she may well have been with Anne not entering confinement until under 2 weeks before she was born, then she would have been conceived at the end of December and Anne’s period would have been due mid January (if her cycle was 28 days_, so she would only have been slightly overdue on the date of the January wedding. Anne may have suspected that she could be pregnant, but she could not have known for certain until she had symptoms and missed another period.

          Of course, there are women like me who had to have their pregnancies dated by a scan. My cycles could be anything from 28-45 days, so my pregnancies could not be dated by my last period date at all. Some women miss periods entirely and it doesn’t mean they’re pregnant.

        2. If Anne had irregular cycles, she may not have known; lots of women’s cycles vary. Even if she strongly suspected she was pregnant, she couldn’t be absolutely certain until the baby quickened (there’s a reason there were always celebrations and prayers of thanksgiving when a queen’s baby quickened — because that meant it was absolutely, certainly a pregnancy and not something else which had similar symptoms) and even if she conceived in the first half of December it’s very unlikely she would have felt the baby by the end of January. My guess is she experienced early pregnancy symptoms, hence the quiet January 25th marriage, but she couldn’t have been *certain* until a couple of months later.

          Claire, one thing I’ve noticed which amuses me is that lots and lots of novels insist on making Anne get pregnant during the trip to Calais. I suppose it’s because it’s more romantic for the first time to Really Mean Something by making it the occasion of Elizabeth’s conception, but the fact is that a baby conceived on November 14th would be due on August 7th. For Anne’s sake, let’s hope she wasn’t really a month or two overdue :).

  4. To Sonetka

    Even if Anne could not be sure of pregnancy, it made no difference for her and Henry. They had to marry in haste late January if they wanted to keep up the pretense that the child had been conceived in marriage.

    In that scenario, it may have been that Anne gambled believing that the pregnancy would force Henry finally to make a decision to defy the Pope regarding annulment.

    On the other hand, if the couple had some kind of marriage on 14th November after which they began to cohabit, the decision and plan was mutual.

  5. Ssurely henry and anne should have been married AFTER cranmer had declared henrys marriage to Katherine annulled ,and this was probably only done because cranmer was told to do it by henry ,or else.This marriage whether in November or January was not legal as henry still had a wife ,Queen Katherine of aragon, and Elizabeth was illegitimate for the rest of her life anyway,

    1. Well, yes, that definitely would have been the right way round but Henry believed his marriage to Catherine to be invalid, as did many many experts of canon law and scholars he asked, so he believed that it had never existed. The marriage was annulled, he wasn’t divorced, so that meant that the marriage had never taken place and so any other contract which he had entered into, regardless of when it was, was valid. Henry knew that, so that’s why the date did not matter. The marriage, whether it had taken place in November or January, was completely legal according to the law of the time because the earlier marriage had never been legal.

      1. I think the pair of them were so fed up with all the legal wrangling and then Anne found she was pregnant so they must have said, ‘let’s do it then.’

  6. Starkey writes in his Six Wives about The Royal Book which contains all the ceremonies that royalty go through. Including the reception of a new queen into England.

    According to him, a new queen was married quietly, after arriving but before having her coronation.

    s it possible that Henry was using this precedent with Anne to further strengthen thier union?

  7. I am in the camp with those authors who agree that Anne and Henry may have made a promise to marry in France, consumation of the union would then under canon law make this a marriage, and then make a more formal wedding, if private or secret one in January back in England. Given that Anne was carrying what she and Henry hoped was the heir to the throne; I would assume that they took some more formal steps to avoid the situation that Edward IV found himself in; accused of being married before Elizabeth Woodville to another woman, Eleanor Talbot, and worries over the legality of his own marriage which was also private, secret in fact with few witnesses. A secret marriage was lawful, but the church looked dimly on this as a clandestine marriage was considered to be immoral and the parties normally asked to do penance, even though the marriage was still lawful in canon law. Canon law was superior to common law in many cases and aspects of life were assigned to the church rather than civil or criminal courts to be determined upon.

    Henry and Anne were most likely married with the benefit of clergy although how they persuaded Dr Rowland Lee, who is reputed to have performed the Whitehall service that they had permission to marry and were free to wed is a mystery. The idea of the service above sounds much more romantic and on the spare of the moment; and was most likely also a lovely ceremony. There is no conclusive reason to suppose that Henry and Anne did not go through some sort of ceremony in France and then a more formal private wedding in secret, with a few family members and this time benefit of clergy; both senarios are equally possible. However, it can also be argued that Henry was not free to marry Anne on either date and that his marriage to her was still bigamous and would not have been blessed by the church at a later date to legitimize the children as Henry had lived with Anne in adultery. Both parties knew that the King was married so the second marriage between two people canonically could not be legal as they had previously committed adultery with each other. This was enshrined in canon and civil law and as far as I am aware Henry had not made legislation at this time to change this situation. This was the law under which Richard III had a valid case and was still the law as applied to Henry and Anne.

    However as Henry saw himself as free to marry, was in the process of making his own church and was about to have the marriage declared lawful in April; none of the above mattered to either party and they saw this as a proper and full marriage service; the consumation making it legal and binding.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *