14 November 1532 – The marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn?

This day in history, 14th November 1532, the Feast of St Erkenwald, might just have been Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s wedding day!

Chronicler Edward Hall can usually be trusted and according to him “The king, after his return [from Calais] married privily the lady Anne Boleyn on Saint Erkenwald’s day, which marriage was kept so secret, that very few knew it, til she was great with child, at Easter after.”

The couple had landed at Dover early that morning, having returned from meeting King Francis I in Calais to gain his support for their relationship. They then spent a few days in the Dover area before travelling back to London. They are recorded as arriving back at Eltham Palace on 24th November. Although the time Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn spent in Dover was said to be “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”, it may have also acted as a bit of a honeymoon, some time together before returning to the bustle of the royal court.

Whatever happened on St Erkenwald’s Day 1532, the couple began living together as man and wife from that point on and it was not long before Anne became pregnant. On 25th January 1533, the Feast of St Paul, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn got married in a[another] secret ceremony at Whitehall Palace.

Was Edward Hall correct in his dating of their marriage? I believe so. For the couple to suddenly begin co-habiting, and therefore risking pregnancy, I think there must have been some kind of ceremony. What do you think?

Today is also the anniversary of the marriage of Henry VIII’s brother, Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, and Catherine of Aragon, who obviously went on to become Henry VIII’s first wife. Click here to read more.

Notes and Sources

  • Hall, Edward (1809) Hall’s chronicle: containing the history of England, during the reign of Henry the Fourth, and the succeeding monarchs, to the end of the reign of Henry the Eighth, in which are particularly described the manners and customs of those periods. Carefully collated with the editions of 1548 and 1550, printed for J. Johnson; F.C. and J. Rivington; T. Payne; Wilkie and Robinson; Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme; Cadell and Davies; and J. Mawman; London, p.794.
  • Calendar of State Papers, Spain, 1531-1533, p.556-557.
  • Ives, Eric (2004) The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, p. 161, 170-171.

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23 thoughts on “14 November 1532 – The marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn?”
  1. Henry must have been happier than he had been in ages anticipating the chance for the son that he so longed for and Anne proud and ready to prove that she could accomplish what Katherine could not. May 1536 was a million miles away at this time.

    Re marriage of Arthur and Katherine: The question is out there of whether they consummated their marriage. I don’t believe so. Katherine was so pious that I don’t believe she would lie and put her soul in danger. Arthur on the other hand though most likely pious himself was a 15 year old boy. Whether 16th century or 21st century if you couldn’t perform you do not admit that to your male friends. I speak as someone who was a 15 year old boy.

    1. I disagree… I think they likely did have sex. He was not known to be sickly or anything less than a healthy young teenager and by 15 teens were typically married and expected to have sex. Unless he was gay, I can’t imagine a 15 year old kid having trouble having sex and there were multiple times when they were known to have slept in the same bed. It’s actually far more likely that there was a plan by her Spanish guardians to say they never had sex so it would be easier to justify marrying her dead husband’s brother. She was young herself and probably was told to go along with it, maybe even being told it was what her father commanded her to do. After all those years, she was probably mortified and terrified that this secret would come out, as she had everything to lose by admitting it. She was pious, but Catholics can just pray for forgiveness and all is good, according to them, no matter what the sin.

      All that being said, Henry’s case rested solely on this point, but the Bible actually contradicts itself in another passage that says it’s your duty to marry your dead brother’s widow. So his case, based on this point, is pretty weak. In the end, I think both sides had terrible cases. Katherine because she probably did sleep with Arthur and Henry because it doesn’t really matter depending on how you interpret the Bible.

      I do wish Katherine could have swallowed her pride and accepted that the marriage was over and retired peacefully. It would have saved everyone a lot of heartache and Mary likely would have remained in the succession. Anne would have been about six years younger and more likely to bear many healthy, living children. Just think if Mary could have married someone abroad and Anne and Henry had a son. Everyone would have probably been happier, except of course for Katherine due to her sacrifice. Then again, Elizabeth likely wouldn’t have reigned so these ‘what if’s are rather pointless.

  2. As far as the wedding of Henry and Anne …. there was something formal in November (IMO), although maybe a formal betrothal, not a wedding. After all, Henry and Anne had waited years without sleeping with each other, to insure that the child would be legitimate; why wouldn’t they wait just a little longer?

    According to Henry’s biographer JJ Scarisbrick, Katherine of Aragon had no motive to lie about whether the marriage to Arthur had been consummated. The public marriage with Arthur created two impediments to the later marriage with Henry … (a) affinity, which existed only if the marriage to Arthur was consummated, and, was mentioned in the dispensation allowing the marriage to Henry and (b) public honesty, which existed even if the marriage to Arthur was not consummated and was not mentioned in the dispensation. If the marriage to Arthur had been consummated, the public honesty impediment was “necessarily included” in the dispensation (even though it only mentioned affinity) but if the marriage to Arthur had not been consummated, the marriage to Henry was invalid due to “public honesty”.– for which there was no dispensation.

  3. I agree Claire. I think that since they were now sleeping together, they held some sort of private ceremony – or at least their pledge to one another – on this day. It might have been one of the most romantically connected times of their lives together, and I think they marked it, knowing they would have a more acknowledged and theologically correct service later when they could get other details sorted.

  4. Before Anne wa executed Arch Bishop Cramer announced that he had reviewed the facts about Anne and then annulled the marriage between her and Henry. Do you know the precise grounds that he relied upon to come to that conclusion? It must be written down somewhere?

    1. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was sent by Henry to annul his marriage to Anne Boleyn on the grounds that Henry had a sexual relationship with her sister Mary before they were married. This was the second attempt to end their marriage as not being valid as he had asked Thomas Cromwell to get her former boyfriend, Henry Percy, now Earl of Northumberland to say they had been promised to each other before he himself married Mary Talbot, daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury. Henry Percy and Anne had a romantic relationship back in the early 1520s but it was broken off by their parents and possibly Cardinal Wolsey and the future Earl married MT. MT in 1532 claimed that her marriage to Northumberland was not valid because he had a relationship with Anne Boleyn. The Earl was called before the Council and in the presence of several Lords and two Archbishops, took Holy Communion and swore he didn’t have a sexual relationship with Anne and they were not promised to each other. Anne wasn’t at all happy when MT made these allegations. The word of Northumberland was accepted and Henry married Anne.

      Now three years later Cromwell called on Percy again and tried to get him to lie and say he was promised to Anne, which would invalidate her marriage to Henry. Percy said no and wrote a letter to refute the whole idea. So Henry had to find another way. The former relationship with Mary Boleyn did very well as this lady was a blood relative to Anne and he shouldn’t have married her because of this. Henry had asked the Pope for permission to marry Anne on the basis of this relationship in 1527_and it is believed this permission was given but never made official. Henry was looking into the validity of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon at the time. Now Henry had the idea of stretching the truth and used his relationship with Mary Boleyn in order to invalidate his present marriage to her sister, Queen Anne Boleyn. It was a stretch but as Cranmer wasn’t working for the Pope he could find for Henry himself.

      Why annul the marriage of a woman you are about to execute? Henry wanted to start again with wife no three and have no challenges to his children with Jane Seymour being his lawful heirs. It was his will to declare his daughter Elizabeth illegitimate. Then neither she or Mary could inherit the throne. He needed his marriage to Anne to be invalid so as he could bar their daughter from the throne. Executing Anne would still leave his marriage to her as valid. Having her marriage to him annulled left him a bachelor, not a widow with no legitimate heirs and he could start again with Jane Seymour. Of course he had this confirmed by Parliament in July 1536.

      Charles Writhoseley wrote in his chronicle that the marriage was annulled because of the relationship with Henry Percy, but this had been denied and Eustace Chapuys wrote it was because of the relationship with Mary Boleyn. The Archbishop to the Court in front of witnesses, however, merely said it was being annulled because of impediments confessed to him during his visit to Anne Boleyn. Chapuys and the official Letters and Papers noted that the “good faith” clause which sometimes protected children of long married couples being declared illegitimate didn’t apply to Elizabeth . In other words the impediment confirmed by Anne was a blood relationship to her. So while the true reasons why Anne’s marriage to Henry remains uncertain, the best evidence points to Henry’s relationship with Mary Boleyn being his excuse this time around.

      1. Henry would need the marriage to Anne annulled so he could bastardize Elizabeth. thereby making all his children equally illegitimate under law. Also, I agree that the basis was Henry’s relationship with Mary Boleyn …. this is why the reason needed to be kept secret (it made Henry look foolish going into the marriage when he knew it was invalid from the outset). If it was Anne’s relationship with Percy, he would not have needed to hide the reason (that Anne lied to him about it was her fault, not his)


        1. I completely agree. Perfectly stated. I have to admit, Henry had a remarkable capacity of finding ways of getting out of situations retrospectively so as he didn’t look foolish. The man’s mind seems really to have been quite amazing, if somewhat puzzling. I don’t think anyone else could have come up with quite the almost perfect solution to everything Henry Viii did. Talk about putting your ducks in a perfect row, really doesn’t do him justice. Henry certainly had to protect himself, a very clever secret and it worked very well. Mary, declared illegitimate, because she was a daughter, so that was marriage one sorted out, invalid, Elizabeth, equally legally illegitimate, marriage two out of the way, poor Jane up next, so would he find a way to make his marriage to her invalid as well without a son? The man may be a menace, but he was certainly one who had a way to make everything sound like sense and believable, to ensure he was not a fool and his “loyal” friends could only go along with it. It is totally amazing.

  5. I love this particular post. It sounds romantic Saint Enkenwald’s Day, who I assume with a name like that is an Anglo Saxon Saint, and, yes, I believe it was a bethrothal because they had a second wedding. If they slept together and then made this pledging they were married, if they agreed to be husband and wife. A more sacramental wedding would be a more public and accepted way for the King and his new Queen to declare that nobody could say that they were not married as in January they married before witnesses and the priest asked to see proof Henry was free to marry. Henry of course lied, said the annulment and dispensation was on the way and the wedding proceeded. Whether a betrothal, wedding or canon law wedding, Henry wasn’t free to marry, even if he believed he was.

    Katherine of Aragon was his lawful wife, not even Cranmer had changed that as yet, no matter what was forthcoming from Rome. Henry had to wait for him to be confirmed as Archbishop and hold an investigation, a Church Court into his marriage, undo the first one and confirm the first one and at least until the hearing at Dunstable in April 1533,_Henry and Anne were bigamists. I don’t believe that Katherine lied about her consummation with Prince Arthur. For one thing I believe he was inexperienced, as was she and for another he was too drunk to perform. Not everyone realises that the couple were actually separated for a short period of time due to concerns about them being too young to live together. Sleeping together for one night was a public act to conform with the traditional bedding and to make certain everyone knew the marriage had been blessed and consummated and so valid. Living together and regular sex was actually believed to be bad for the health of young people. Discussions continued for a time, the agreement was reached that they were strong enough to live as man and wife and off they went. However, fate got in the way, no doubt youth did as well, then they had several weeks of ill health. There is evidence, often overlooked by historians which was presented in Spain that suggests that everything was not as well on the notorious wedding night as Arthur boasted. Katherine was witnessed crying the next morning and low whispers in her room with her ladies and she was sullen and down. In other words, no, Arthur might have thought he was in the midst of Spain, but was probably still in France. He may have thought he was making love to his bride but may well have fumbled about. Katherine knew better and had felt embarrassed and unfulfilled the next day. Arthur was boasting to his mates, well with respect, he was a fifteen year old Prince with a lovely bride, of course he is going to boast. He wasn’t going to admit nothing happened. He may genuinely have believed that all was well and Katherine was probably gracious enough to not let on.

    What about the bed sheets? We don’t actually have a record that the sheets were shown. Isabella hung hers from the balcony, but there is no contemporary evidence that Katherine showed hers. It was a traditional thing, probably not a requirement. That it was claimed later in Blackfriars that they were available for inspection is meaningless. I believe people washed their sheets or cleaned them even in Tudor times with detergent made from urine which gets stains out well enough. So probably no bed sheets.

    I don’t believe Katherine lied, although the dispensation to marry Henry is ambiguous. She was adamant that her marriage to Arthur wasn’t consummated in the extreme. No, sorry, Katherine and Henry’s marriage was valid and he only doubted it because it conveniently explained why he didn’t have living sons. Henry was just as adamant that he needed sons and he was exasperated by Katherine and Mary when they defied him. After seven years of trying to get an annulment he was finally moving on. He had a woman he loved and she was pregnant. He most certainly was happier than he had been for a long time. Now he needed to make certain Anne was accepted in public and crowned and that took a bit more than prayers and songs.

    1. I agree. I feel bad for Anne because Henry would not take no for an answer but Anne did deserve her execution. I also consider Katharine of Aragon the eternal queen. Philippa pf Hainault and Elizabeth I and all the other queens never existed.

      There was no queen of England before KOA and there will be none after her, save the goddess Mary Tudor

  6. I also think St. Erkenwald has a lovely ring to it and whilst doing some research I found he loved in the reign of King Ina of Wessex in the 7th c, he lies buried in St. Paul’s and is the patron saint of London, how lovely! Obviously it was the old cathedral before the fire and maybe they moved his bones when the renovation began, I believe that Hall was correct in his view that Henry and Anne had gone through a kind of ceremony before as after that they were actually living together, and I believe Anne would have insisted also that they pledged their union with a ceremony of some sort maybe in front of witnesse’s, it was what lovers had done through the ages and in those days it was considered legally binding, hence the furore surrounding the hapless Catherine Howard over her alleged betrothal to Dereham, Anne must have purred like a well fed cat and her complacency could not have failed to be noticed, she could not contain herself and started dropping hints that she had a craving for apples, and she said it loud and clear so everyone could hear that the King had said she might be with child, imagine the open mouths the gasps of shock, but now those at court were well aware of Annes idiosyncrasies and may well have been of the opinion that it was a wind up, however they did marry after Christmas and it was done in the utmost secrecy, to this day the legality of it is disputed as the Pope had not given the King the dispensation, he also lied to the priest, the flustered man had no choice but to wed the King and Anne and afterwards he must have prayed to the almighty for forgiveness, to Henrys new wife she was properly wed and soon would be queen in fact, but to most of Europe she was nothing better than his concubine but she did not care neither did the King, alone in the intimacy of their bedchamber they must have cursed his holiness and made fun of gouty old Campeggio, as for young prince Arthur’s boast about he had been in the midst of Spain, who would ever have thought as her maids dressed his bride the morning after her wedding night, that his careless words were to resonate down the years and call into mind his widows legality of her own marriage to his younger brother King Henry? Indeed they resonate today nearly 500 years later and most historians are agreed that it was nothing but a boast – nothing more! Prince Arthur was possibly similar to his brother in looks, his portrait bears that out but he seems to have been but a pale shadow of his boisterous younger brother, it is interesting to imagine what type of King he would have made, had he not succumbed to death so young, he had been a healthy baby and had shook of the usual childhood illness’s but had fallen prey to some malady and had not travelled for some months, however he was well enough to attend his wedding to his young Spanish bride but one of Katherines entourage remarked how frail he looked, possibly this lean pale faced young man caused his brides companion’s some concern, and after the wedding night I doubt if anyone took his boast that seriously, really all young men do boast its peer pressure, and the fertility issue was more important to those destined to be the next King and queen consort, future dynasties were at stake, Arthur was well aware of that it had been instilled in him from a young age, therefore the need to brag about his bedroom prowess was there from the beginning, eager to show those around him he was a red blooded man he made his idle boast, but really as seen there must have been quite a few present who did not take it too seriously, Arthur possibly looked weary at his wedding and I think he fell asleep through sheer exhaustion, leaving his nubile bride feeling somewhat disappointed and frustrated maybe, in the morning as Bq attest’s she was rather tearful and pensive, maybe she had been expecting too much they were both virgins and yes Arthur properly ade some clumsy fumbles in the dark but I think what really happened was a few kisses and cuddles and goodnight sweet Katherine, as mentioned also what happened to the bloodstained wedding sheets which have always been displayed as proof of the queens virginity, I find it hilarious to think of Isabella of Spain waving her laundry from the palace balcony, how embarrassing and it’s hard to imagine a Royal bride doing that today, but it was the custom in the English royal families and possibly in European ones too that the queens women would examine the sheets, no one thought anything of it and I wonder what happened on Catherine Howard’s wedding night, how had she managed to fool Henry that she was not as pure as the driven snow? Maybe he was just too delighted with his sweet young bride to not give the matter much thought, she must have shown some degree of reluctance which was in reality distaste, but to the King he mistook for the fear of the innocent, there was no blood on the bedlinen but it can happen on rare occasions that when a woman’s hymen is broken she may not bleed, it is unusual but I have heard of several cases, I think Henry was too fuddled with wine to notice much and as for Catherines women they no doubt gossiped amongst themselves that one of them had a great aunt that had shed no blood either… I do not think her namesake Henrys first queen lied about her virginity either, she was to pronounce it to the world that dramatic moment at Blackfriars when she went down on her knees at Henrys feet, and took God as her witness that she had been a true maid on their wedding night, a deeply religious and pious woman such as Katherine would not have imperilled her soul in that way, she never took the name of the Lord her God in vain, she knew it, Henry knew it and furthermore she knew all the wise men all the ministers – the bishops, all the clergy of England knew it, there could not have been a more pious woman in England than Queen Katherine of Aragon, and it’s what irked Henry V111’s conscience, belief in the almighty was very strong and years afterwards another queen was to swear on the damnation of her soul that she had been a true and faithful wife to her King, purgatory was much to be feared but in both women’s fervent statements years apart and in two very different circumstances, we can see the plain honest truth that both of them spoke when they were at their lowest, and when both their worlds were torn apart.

  7. Thanks, Christine for the information on Saint Erkenwald. Old English saints are a deep part of our inheritance and I hope his tomb was spared the fire and reformation.

    Anne was just the sort of very proud and great I am lady to ensure that she made everyone aware that Henry and she were now partners, had a sexual relationship, had married and that she carried his future heir. Some kind of ceremony happened in November 1532, intended to bind Anne and Henry and the wedding in Whitehall on 25th January 1533 was more formal because Anne knew she was with child. Both were binding in law and Henry and Anne now had sufficient witnesses to confirm that she his new Queen. Anne was definitely determined that the world knew the truth of their union and she was carrying the King’s future son. Yes, I can well imagine the scene at Court as Anne sallied forth from the Presence Chamber and announced her desire for apples and laughing about being pregnant. This was sometime in mid February so one would guess that Anne had well and truly confirmed her pregnancy and that it was the public announcements that she herself devised. The shock must have been great, because as far as most people were concerned, Katherine of Aragon was still Queen until a decision arrived from Rome. If this announcement was shocking, however, the events of the next few months were positively stunning.

    Katherine and Henry were both matched well and he was the husband that she must have really dreamt of. She taught him to be a King and he was totally devoted to her. Most people believe there was no doubt about her second wedding night. Katherine was a deeply pious Queen, she was the daughter of another deeply Catholic Queen and she was crowned at the side of her husband. The loss of Prince Arthur was no doubt tragic and hit everyone, including Katherine very hard, but they were only married for less than six months. Katherine was married to Henry for more than 24 years and it is unlikely that she knelt and lied to her husband, 2000 witnesses and on oath before God. She made a confession which she told Cardinal Campeggio that he could make public, that dhe “was a maid as when she came from her mother’s womb” when she married Henry. She actually challenged Henry to say it wasn’t so. He remained silent. It was probably the loudest silence of his life.

    Katherine Howard obviously had sexual experience as a teenager but she also knew how to fake it, I reckon. She knew how to ensure she didn’t get pregnant, so she could fool the King if she wished. I have had only one sexual partner, my husband, as that was frowned on when I grew up but I heard some of my girl chums making such claims. Whatever the truth, Henry was pleased with his young wife and may not have noticed anything wrong. Henry had a new young lively wife who put a spring in his step for a time and she made him feel good. Her reaction in the bedroom is unknown and we can only guess based on his ill health but then again wives care for husbands with ill health now so her reaction might not have been distaste. Henry treated her well and she had no cause to complain for several months. However, we know that Lent 1541 was a turning point in the marriage. Henry became depressed after his leg was bad to the point that it put his life in danger for ten days or so and he was away from Katherine for a time. Lent also limited sexual activity and Katherine looked for companions at this time to distract herself. She was sent gifts by the King via Thomas Culpeper, she later heard he was ill and sent him a letter and gifts. She met with him a couple of times. Later in the year, before the journey North, Katherine said that she was pregnant and then that she had made a mistake. Henry was disappointed. Did Katherine really make an error or did she use contraception? Did she deceive Henry and only say she was pregnant in the hope of his making a fuss of her again? Katherine seems to have been sensitive and insecure and to crave company even in a time when nobody was ever alone, especially not a Queen.

    Katherine I believe had promised herself to Francis Dereham but knew he was not suitable as the husband of a Howard and was alright about moving on after he left for Ireland. She denied that they were married or promised but he saw Katherine as belonging to him. That’s why he followed her to Court, hoping for a relationship but it was too late. Now when she was interrogated by the Council and the Archbishop she changed her confession and tried to say that Dereham constrained her or raped her but this was not supported by the evidence of Dereham or other women in the same chamber in her old household. One lady with whom she shared a bed said she couldn’t sleep because Katherine and Dereham were having sex next to her and she moved beds. Katherine Howard may not have had a sexual relationship with Thomas Culpeper but she certainly did have a full on relationship with Dereham and it complicated her marriage to the King.

    Anne and Katherine of Aragon were both very religious women and you are very correct, when their souls were at stake they both swore they told the truth. Katherine swore she told the truth in that public Court at Blackfriars and knew her soul was condemned if she lied, something people don’t understand was very important, because today many don’t understand or hold a belief in salvation and judgement, and likewise, Anne swore her innocence as she took Holy Communion for the last time, shortly before her execution. She also allowed witnesses and that this knowledge was made public. I am guessing there were gasps from those present and yet Henry didn’t spare her or intervene and this last confession confirms for me that Anne Boleyn was innocent and Henry and Cromwell set her up and wanted her out of the way. Anne was triumphant in 1533 but three years later she lost her life with the swing of a sword. Henry had turned the corner into the downward slope of cruelty he became known for.

  8. Your welcome Bq, and yes Catherine Howard did say she knew ways of how to stop falling pregnant, this is what makes me think she did have a sexual relationship with Culpeper, she was as you say sexually experienced and seems to have been highly sexed, she did enjoy sleeping with Dereham and yes one of the maids in the dormitory did get fed up with all the noises he and Catherine made, there was such a wealth of evidence against her although most of it, after her marriage to the King was circumstantial, but looking at her past, we can see how it looked to the King and his council, he had just found his adored wife had been in a relationship with the same man who was now in her household, that alone was highly suspicious and he had just said that Culpeper a man who was in Henrys employ and was much favoured by him, was seeing his wife, a note was found that confirmed that fact, a note that today all these years later sounds like it was written by a woman infatuated, Henry was an experienced man of the world and his council those old and learned men were not fools, the story of Manox her music teacher and her rompings with him came out, though that was probably just all it was – rompings, but it showed a certain amount of moral laxity in her grandmother’s household, Manox here was to blame for he was the elder and a servant and was in a position of trust, he took advantage of an impressionable young girl, Catherine I think was one of those girls who matured early, she must have been a pretty little thing with her auburn hair and large hazel eyes, maybe she was already quite bosomy and she appears to have been quite a lovable girl, there was no doubt men found her attractive she could have have possessed that quality which is so attractive to men, – sex appeal it was what her cousin Anne Boleyn had in abundance, sex appeal is different to mere good looks, and both these women found that it gave them the crown of England yet at a cost, Catherines fall from grace and execution dominates her brief life as Henry’s fifth queen yet there was more to her than that, she may have a bad press from the moral high ground, yet she as the member of a great house was given a good education, she learnt how to run a household as girls of her station had in those days, she learnt how to distill herbs and embroider, she had to learn how to manage household accounts, she learnt how to dance and so forth, she could read and write though was not fluent in any other languages except her native tongue, she was also kind hearted and she deploring the fate of Lady Margaret Pole would take her clothing and food and warm blankets to her in the Tower, she insisted upon doing it herself not relegating the task to a servant, I can see Catherine pleading with Henry to release her fighting her corner, insisting that she was just an old lady, and this is what iv always found shocking about Henry V111, when he had her executed one chilly morning she had no trial and had no time to prepare for death, she was dragged out of her prison and subjected to a most horrific end simply because her son had displeased the King, she was a high born lady, the daughter of the Duke of Clarence and the last of the old Plantaganet families, she was the cousin to the King and had served him well, she had been governess to his eldest daughter yet it seems the years of service and the blood kin counted for nothing, her end was brutal like her father’s and this act alone I find, renders Henry V111 a true tyrant, there is no account which tells us of Catherines reaction to her death but she must have been very very upset, in ‘The Tudors’, they showed the queen sneering at the Lady Mary for still being a spinster, she probably was not that close to her step daughter having nothing in common, after all Catherine was younger than her and Mary although they were both Catholics, possibly found her a bit empty headed, who knows but I doubt she was nasty to her and giggling all the time like it portrayed her in the series, in the 1970’s BBC drama series Catherine was also shown as nothing better than a tramp, as soon as the door to her chamber was shut she pulled down one of the men in her household on top of her on the bed, and I don’t think it was Culpeper anyway, the series implied she was bed hopping all over the place, I cannot remember the actress who played her, but I remember Lynne Frederick a very beautiful actress who died sadly young, she also played Catherine in the movie and her portrayal of the queen when she gave way to bouts of hysteria was very moving, a wonderful actress and it showed Cranmer standing in the room with her sombre uncomfortable, and not knowing how to treat this young woman who was shaking weeping and screaming in front of him, that scene I always remember when I think about Catherine Howard, yes there was a lot more to her than the frivolous young girl queen who brazenly met with her alleged lover in the dead of night, there were her acts of kindness towards Lady Pole and also to Anne of Cleves, she could well have insisted she was invited to court at Christmas, I doubt she was ever jealous of her she had Henrys undivided attention, she had some puppies a gift from the King and she gave one to Anne, she appears loving and generous, her tragedy was that she showered it on the wrong people, she in a sense was betrayed just as Henry found himself betrayed, years earlier Henry had complained that he had been disallusioned with Anne Boleyn as she was not as pure as she confessed to being, having lived in France for many years that was something he should not have expected but what irked him was that she had not given to him what she had obviously given others, he brought it up again when negotiations were being made to marry him to a French bride after Jane Seymours death, he said he had had enough of French ways, wether we believe Anne was a virgin when she slept with Henry is not important but what he believed at the time, and here we see how the tragedy with Catherine Howard unfolds, had she been brought up in a strict household there would have been no past to destroy her future relationship with the King, she made two disastrous choices afterwards, she let Dereham into her household and she chose to meet with Culpeper thus rendering her pleas of innocence futile, if she had finished with Dereham why was he allowed at court and in her household, Catherine must have known how sinister that appeared, he could well have bullied her but she should have stood her ground, we can see that from childhood she had no one to really advise her and it was so when she was queen, she then being infatuated with Culpeper somehow coerced Lady Rochford to arrange the meetings between them, her tragic story from the minute she was sent to live in her grandmother’s household as a child was a headlong journey to disaster.

    1. The ways in which Henry’s wives have been portrayed in fiction and film is nothing short of scandalous. The private life of Henry Viii has Katherine literally sleeping with Culpeper or some hulk as Henry, exhausted from wrestling and almost giving himself a heart attack, falls asleep, practically in the same room, which is not possible, showing a lack of knowledge about the sleeping arrangements, let alone a knowledge of Henry Viii and his wives. This parody of life behind the scenes of the grand monarch and his ladies has an older, if excellent actress playing Kathryn Howard, poor Henry sneaking around the palace in the middle of the night in what looks like a dressing gown and going to the top of some tower, throwing mutton to the dogs and chewing chicken through false teeth and moaning about his last wife.

      Anne of Cleves meanwhile must be at least forty in the film, can’t even bob into a courtesy, which given her Royal upbringing is very unlikely, has long grey hair, again unlikely, sunken gums and cheeks, missing teeth which are stained, again probably unlikely and apparently she is having a love affair with her Court painter, definitely unlikely. Henry plays cards with her on their wedding night and she agrees to a divorce. O.K. She is also shown cooking for the King after their divorce.

      Katherine Parr is briefly shown as a contented widow who is looking after Prince Edward when he meets her, highly unlikely. She knew Princess Mary because she served in her own household. She is shown as a nursing nag, going on about his weight, his diet and his bad habits. What happened to the reforming zealot?

      I can’t even recall how Jane Seymour was shown. Anne Boleyn was only there at the beginning, preparing for her execution.

      In the Tudors Kathryn Howard is a brainless bimbo living more or less in a brothel, who can read and write and dance but that’s about it. She is mostly naked and having sex in odd places, including the loo, bossing her ladies about and making threats and more dancing, oh and more sex and making cakes. She upsets Mary and then somehow managed to look angelic in Lincoln Cathedral. She wet herself before her execution and cries out for Culpeper. She is also naked while practising kneeling at the block the night before her execution.

      Anne Boleyn has been shown as just about everything. She is a nasty jealous cow in the Other Boleyn Girl who dominated Henry and takes him from her sister and then Gregory has her sleeping with or almost sleeping with her brother. Oh, and the relationship with Anne is summed up by him raping her, rather than a passionate act of love in France. In Anne of 1000 Days she is shown as brave and determined in the face of Henry’s chase, but once married she practically talks him into executing everyone around him, including More and Fisher, her pillow talk practically includes a demand that he kill Mary and Katherine, a theme continued in the Tudors and then we see a more familiar Anne, one who bravely stands up for herself at her trial and declared her innocence. In both the Tudors and the film, the passion between Anne and Henry is very real, there is a passionate moment of hot love and bold dignity at her execution. In the Tudors we also meet Anne the reforming champion and the intellectual woman. We see inside her relationship with Henry and the richness and passion of a powerful couple is presented as well as the heart breaking fall of Anne as Queen. Anne transformed in the Tudors from a sexual seductress into a bold and active Queen in the Tudors and the second season was as near to the true woman as we are likely to get, in my view of course.

      We see Jane Seymour as much more than an obedient family tool, because we are reminded in the Tudors and in the Six Wives that she pleaded for the rebels in 1536 from the North and that she tried to help Mary. We are also shown a woman who volunteered for her more peaceful role as Queen and one who is diplomatic and who has a clear agenda. She is rewarded with a mix of threats and praise from her husband. Ultimately Jane is the one who made the sacrifice of her life as she gives Henry a son. Jane is the tragic and romantic ideal whom Henry adores and wants to be buried with.

      At least in the Tudors KP is given her proper role as an educated woman and her interest in the Reformed Church is clear and full on. We see her appointments of reformed clergy to the Royal household and those of the children. We meet Katherine the Author. Henry praises her work, without perhaps delving too deeply into her writing and she has forbidden books to hide. We see Katherine take full control, however, even when not approved as formal Reagent while he is in France at War. She herself is charged with heresy and in very great danger.

      Katherine of Aragon probably gets the best from both fiction and drama. She is shown both as Henry’s beloved wife and as a pious victim, while the truth is closer to the centre. She loves chivalrous games but then we see her true bravery at Blackfriars, but she is often shown as too religious. Henry comes her bed one night only to find her still at prayer, early in their relationship, which is not factually shown. She may well have prayed more as time went on and she was outcast but she was not boring and always on her knees as we see her in movies. Katherine loved dressing up games, to be surprised and fun. However, in all of the rush to show her as dignified, this lovely side to her is rarely shown. Again we only get Katherine of the annulment, not the real enduring person.

      1. How very true, I have seen Charles Laughten in Henry V111 and he was a comical character, almost likeable and you couldn’t really fear him, they showed him throwing the bones to the dogs and I recall the tip toeing about at night, he was shown as a coarse loud mouthed man rather like a seller at the market bellowing out his leeks for sale, this is the trouble Hollywood is largely to blame for this view of England’s much married monarch, I love this film but so many watching this old film and reading fiction especially early fiction to, have in their mind Henry as a coarse vulgar oaf, in fact there was nothing coarse or vulgar about him at all, he abhorred vulgarity, on hearing a dirty poem he upbraided the courtier who had read it out, his table manners were also impeccable, royal and noble households all brought up their young to have good manners, no picking the nose or belching during dining etc, so where did this image of Henry throwing bones over his shoulders at the dogs come from? And he certainly would never tip toe about at night like a naughty schoolboy sneaking to the pantry to snatch some pies to scoff, he was King this was his domain his palace, wherever he resided at the time, be it Hampton Court Greenwich or Whitehall, the end of the film showed Henry at the fireside with Anne of Cleves handing him his meal and he said she was the best of the lot of the them, so daft yet very funny, in Plaidys ‘Murder Most Royal’ she portrayed Henry also as a vulgar coarse tyrant with a bellowing voice, yet it has been suggested he could have had a rather high pitched voice, for such a big man it could have sounded strange, but it was her appraisal of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard that I found also way of the mark, Anne was portrayed as a very ambitious girl which is true yet she described her as a raving beauty which she certainly was not, and Catherine of Aragon as a dowdy dull nun like figure whom Henry had never loved, this is also untrue as Henry had loved his first wife and had always held her in high esteem, with Catherine Howard her analysis of her character was more lifelike as she was shown as a rather soft hearted girl, it was her lovers who she portrayed as being romantic swashbuckler types, I often think Miss. Plaidy was somehow thinking of Errol Flynn at the time she wrote her novel, as it was written about the time Flynn was up in lights in Hollywood, Dereham was a fearless pirate who swore never to betray Catherines honour and who met his death bravely, in reality he was a loud mouthed thug, a mindless bully and Culpeper also was shown as a daring honourable man who loved his queen and who also died bravely, him and Catherine were shown like Romeo and Juliet, there was no mention of the possible rape of the woman who worked at the farm, there was no mention of the reckless words he said about doing ‘ill with the queen’, which sealed both their fates, yet when I first read this novel in my teens I thought that was how both Dereham and Culpeper were, charming young men both brave and reckless who had the misfortune to fall in love with the queen, the reality is very different, such is fiction but I thought at the time and still do what an entertaining novel it is and still in print, actually I do hope they show ‘The Private Life Of Henry V111’ again as it is a giggle to watch.

        1. As a film I loved it as it is a bit of a giggle at times. I would have loved to see more of the beautiful and stunning Merle Oberon as Anne Boleyn, however, but we only see her at the beginning of the film, preparing for her execution. I believe she was unavailable but it would have been an improvement I think because she was stunning. She played many roles afterwards, but the film showed Henry almost as a cruel but funny cartoon villien and his manners were atrocious. As you say he dined normally in style, with servants, several courses, a knife and spoon, no fork and everything cut into dainty pieces with many golden dishes and trenches. Leftover food was cleared away and the table cloths were cleared of crumbs. There was a full list of manners and protocols to follow, he had to put a show on and he was all very formal and of course no throwing bones. They were obsessed with fine arts of eating and drinking and hygiene and if he wanted pies at midnight, he had servants to bring them. You didn’t actually eat the pastry on pies because according to the cooking experts at modern Hampton Court where they recreate these dishes, it tasted horrible. Pastry was to preserve the meat inside and could keep it fresh for up to two weeks, which is better than most modern fridges. So he would have removed the pastry and eaten the meat. He is unlikely to have eaten pies late at night as they are poor for digestion, something he was knowledgeable about and invented his own hypscus wine to help with that. Henry did comfort eat late in life, but I don’t see him eating pies in the night.

          I have been thinking about the wedding of Henry and Anne and if he had all his ducks in a row, if you know what I mean. It must have been a very difficult moment when the priest said, and do you have the annulment and permission to marry, not just a licence. Henry had to lie about the paperwork and apparently tell him to just get on with it. Can you imagine, here is the King lying to a man of God and then ordering him to proceed? The man could hardly say no but Henry giving him orders was hardly something the King would have done a few years earlier, before his break from Katherine and the Pope. That Henry was respectful of the clergy, he also had no reason to lie because he was trusting that his marriage would be examined and sorted out by that same clergy, through legal Church law. Treating it as a theological problem instead of a legal problem changed all of that as did the creation of a political myth which showed Henry the way to ultimate power, forcing the clergy to submit totally to the Crown or face ruin and imprisonment. The Break from Rome was not completed in 1533 but he had made all but the final legal steps to make it happen, the Pope was still just about in the picture and he was only Head of the Church as far as the law of Christ allowed. Henry needed legislation to transform the process into a full Break from Rome. Henry was now showing that authority, yet he still lied because no priest could seriously marry him and Anne as he wasn’t free to marry. A very confused Father Lee, hesitated, probably panicked and carried on, taking the King’s word that an annulment had been granted and was on the way, then carried on and Anne and Henry were finally married.

          Henry’s annulment of course never would come through and he only achieved his freedom from Katherine of Aragon when the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, called a special Court in Dunstable Priory to investigate the legitimacy of Henry’s marriage. In April 1533 he declared the marriage of Anne and Henry valid and the marriage of Katherine and Henry invalid. He opened a hearing which lasted a few days to hear witnesses and to look at evidence, but most of those called didn’t appear, so he found for the King. I doubt it would have made any difference as he was going through the motions and had been commissioned by Henry to call this group of clerical experts and to make his marriage legal. Anne then appeared at Court all dressed in gold and silver in public as Queen and received homage and recognition. Her coronation in June put the icing on the cake and of course the legal framework, the Act of Succession and Supremacy confirmed Anne as Henry’s lawful wife and his power as Head of the Church in England.

          For me, this last part proves that the King was somewhat insecure about how his subjects would react to his new wife and his new religious power. Invested in the body of Anne and Henry was the only lawful succession but this was to be administered by an Oath and a new Treason Act made it treason to say you disagreed with this and supported Mary instead. You are also in trouble for writing or saying anything against the marriage and the children of this marriage. On top of this Henry gave himself the above new title. It was now treason to give the Pope his traditional title and authority and to refer to him as the Head of the Church on Earth, something believed by everyone in the sixteenth century. It took away from the Pope his limited but real authority in England as a Catholic country. It also made it treason to refuse the oath and this was the big catch. To men of learning and traditional faith like Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher, this was unacceptable and they were among a number of people executed as a result of Henry’s marriage to Anne and the legislation he and Thomas Cromwell introduced to protect that marriage.

        2. Yes he never did get his longed for dispensation and quite possibly both Henry and Anne both realised that, Henry keen to set up his own church and make himself master of his realm decided to shake of the shackles of Rome forever, from now on no Pope would ever interfere in Englands affairs again, hence the Dunstable court which Queen Mary years later never forgave Cranmer for.

      2. Hi Christine, regarding the official annulment and permission to marry Anne that would no doubt have followed, from the Pope and the Rota/Curia in Rome, no you are quite right it never arrived. On the contrary when the decision did come it was in the favour of Queen Katherine and Henry and Anne probably expected it would be. The representation from Rome had put it off and off and off and then the case was sent to Rome, something which was going to happen because Katherine knew her Appeal would trigger it. She was advised as much. We know Campeggio had a secret mission, to delay the hearing and then postpone them and have the case recalled to Rome. We know there was all kinds of political manoeuvres going on between Rome, Spain, England and the Empire which held the decision up. The timing of this decision is actually quite suspicious. It was too late but it came just as Henry was going to marry and crown Anne in any case. The political landscape changed with Henry’s announcement that he was making himself head of the Church because it divided Christendom. Henry was virtually declaring war on the rest of Europe by his actions and I suspect he knew and feared that as well. He didn’t care about what people thought about him marrying Anne, well not behind the scenes but his public actions point to the reality hitting him fully in the face. Henry needed Parliament to pass three pieces of legislation to back, legalize and protect his actions as well as lay out severe consequences to anyone who didn’t support him.
        The Act of Succession
        The Act of Supremacy
        The Treason Act.

        The penalty for refusing to swear to the first two was death under the latter and many good men and women died for their loyalty to Queen Katherine and the Holy Father and the world was shocked by the fact that among them were holy scholars like John Fisher and Thomas More and many monks and abbotts. Henry was about to find out that legislation didn’t automatically turn his people into sheep.

        However, Henry and Anne knew that they could never get the response from Rome that they wanted, but they still needed to wed within the legal framework of English law and Henry still needed people to know he had a legal basis for his marriage to Anne Boleyn. He had set himself up as the only real authority in England but he still needed the proper Church to make a declaration on his two wives. The Council at Dunstable made that decision in Henry’s favour. It was more evidence that Henry still cared about doing things in the correct manner and then he was free to crown his new Queen. The public Henry still did everything in the right way, the private one still either hesitated or made a brave noise, depending on his mood. The legislation enabled him to be confident that he acted in the national interest.

        The Pope wasn’t daft either. When he approved the final decision of the Curia, Clement sent a threat with it to issue a Bull of Excommunication. However, he gave Henry time to think about things. He gave him until September, five months to return to Katherine and abandon Anne, although he knew it was unlikely to happen.

        1. Yes Henry was ordered to return to Anne but the Pope knew most likely he never would, in Lofts biography of Anne she had the idea that Katherine was stalling for time by appealing to Rome in the first place because she hoped Henry would get weary of Anne and realise it wasn’t worth the trouble it caused, however she failed to see that this was no light fancy of her husband’s, the desire for a son coupled with his desire for Anne and together it was a heady option which Katherine could not compete with, her rival was just as equally tenacious as she herself and neither would back down, her marriage and coronation was a triumph but as we know, it was to be short lived.

        2. I agree completely, Christine, and actually it makes very little sense from our point of view, but Henry was not the philanderer of movie legend, he was actually a saint compared to Francis and to many of his married contemporaries. Henry was only unfaithful when Katherine was pregnant, normally, with the exception of his affairs with the Boleyn sisters in the 1520s. In all of his affairs he was discreet, which is why we know so little about the women he slept with, even about his affairs with Bessie Blount and Mary Boleyn, which post dated Katherine’s last pregnancy. Anne came along after Katherine of Aragon stopped menstruating and Henry had ceased to sleep with his wife before he started a serious pursuit of Anne Boleyn.

          Katherine, naturally thought Henry would get fed up because Anne acted as if she wasn’t interested and he had given up on every woman before this, but she did indeed fail to see that Anne offered him something more permanent and the sons that she couldn’t give him. Anne was young and tenacious and very determined, with staying power, just as Henry was determined to have her. Katherine, logically should have realised that this affair was going on much longer and was much more what Henry wanted long term simply because Henry had never sought an annulment before. However, Katherine was too proud to admit anything was that wrong even if she may do so in private. The longer Anne remained with Henry, the more she should have got the fact that this was no ordinary affair, that Henry wasn’t coming back. However, that is our reasoning because there was something else which explains Katherine’s almost obsessive stubbornness and refusal to give in, her own belief in her right and calling as an anointed Queen and that her marriage was valid. Henry was as stubborn as his wife and mistress so it was going to be impossible to break the cycle without any formal decision by the Church. Unfortunately, Katherine continued to be stubborn long after her suit was won but her cause lost and that led to her unnecessarily harsh treatment by the King. Henry wasn’t going back to Katherine, the Pope knew that, but a decision had been made and he had to issue the appropriate warnings and Henry was given the appropriate choice, but yes, he knew very well that Henry would choose his new wife and then the fun would begin.

          Did Katherine actually begin her case to gain time? That is an interesting theory but I believe there was much more to it than delaying in the hope Henry and Anne would give up with time, because of her belief in the justice of her cause, the only way to get a fair hearing was in Rome. Henry was thwarted by international politics, not Rome. Katherine was the Aunt of the most powerful man in Europe, Charles V and his armies were literally on the Pope’s doorstep. Clement was afraid of Charles and he put the decision of as long as possible. Just why he didn’t order the Rota to find for Katherine is a mystery but perhaps he was also frightened of Henry as well. The back and forth demands from both Katherine and Henry put pressure on Clement who took far too long, resulting in an impatient Henry leading the English Church into independence and that same King marrying Anne Boleyn and too late to be of any use to Queen Katherine.

  9. Hmm with due respect I do not find it inconceivable that Katharine of Aragon could have lied about her virginity. For all her parent’s “Their Most Catholic Majesties” religious fervour, that never stopped them lying when it suited them – I was terribly shocked when I read a biography of Ferdinand and Isabella and their duplicity during negotiations of various kinds. Then there was Katharine writing to her father behind Henry’s back about how best to manipulate the young Henry- to the advantage of Spain, no wonder Starkey made the point that of all his wives, K of A was the clearest case of actual treason. Maybe once Henry realised she had been playing him, that was part of the reason he got fed up with her, apart from the more obvious lack of a son. So to me, she could have been quite capable of lying about her virginity, especially to people she thought were beneath her. She did after all have a ruthless streak!

    1. I agree with some of what you say but we are not talking about negotiations with an enemy or in national interest, we are talking about a personal lie or truth upon which her soul relied. Katherine of Aragon made her declaration in the holy confessional and gave her permission to Cardinal Campaggio to make it public, rather than keeping it private as he was obliged to do. She later made it public herself, under oath and she never wavered and she suffered because of her stance. It would have benefited her more to lie and admit she had more to lose than the rest of his wives put together. Katherine came as a package deal with an alliance with Spain at her back, the usual contracts and she like Anne Boleyn was crowned. Yes, she would lose all that if her marriage ended but if she agreed to the annulment she would get land and castles and a financial settlement, like Anne of Cleves, only probably larger. She would also have protected her daughter. She was married to Henry for 24_years and there is no evidence that Henry was fed up with her. He only annulled his marriage because of a lack of male heir and that is why he questioned the validity of his first marriage. Katherine made life difficult for herself because she was banished from Court, forced to live in luxurious but obscure mansions in the Midlands, more or less told to live where she was told by the King, her household was reduced to 200 people and her movements restricted. She was only allowed visitors with written permission from her former husband and her only child was kept from her, even when she died. If Katherine lied then she paid a terrible price. Katherine had no motivation to lie, she had more. motivation for the truth. Even as a mother, fighting for her rights, as a Queen who fought for her rights as a co ruler and wife, Katherine lost more by telling the truth.

      Whether or not Katherine ever committed treason is highly controversial but she didn’t by writing to her family, she had every right to do so and she didn’t encourage her father to do anything against Henry. Katherine wrote to her nephew at times behind his back, only after he made moves to put her rights at risk, to attack a marriage she believed to be valid. It is controversial but her refusal to acknowledge Henry as the new Head of the Church in England could be taken as treason, save it hadn’t yet been fully extended to everyone. It was put into practice at the time that the annulment was granted by Cranmer, but it was enforced fully by the time of Katherine’s death. Mary was also in danger and took a risk, that under the new laws some claim was treason, by asking the Emperor to invade and rescue her. She was making a desperate plan to go abroad but Henry was aware of this and moved her further inland, closer to where both her mother was and himself at the time. Henry would eventually force her submission and there were threats made that Henry might have her executed under the new laws if she didn’t accept her parents marriage as not being valid, herself as illegitimate and his title as Supreme Head. Mary held out for over four years of abuse and then gave in. It is unlikely Henry would have killed his own child because he adored Mary and the evidence points to a good relationship for the rest of his life but he couldn’t have a disobedient daughter and it was Eustace Chapuys in whom she confided and trusted who persuaded Mary to accept everything and ask forgiveness from the Holy Father, which she did. Mary here, possibly had more sense for her own preservation than her mother who was quite willing to be a martyr, before she would lie and deny her marriage to Henry as valid and herself as Queen. I believe that she absolutely told the truth, regardless of what Isabella and Ferdinand did in their political treaty negotiations, which actually have nothing to do with it.

      Yes, Katherine of Aragon had a ruthless streak, she came from proud, ruthless stock and she was a Queen. Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour also had ruthless streaks. They married a man who was turning increasingly ruthless and they came from ambitious and ruthless families. All three women were engaged in a battle for their lives, their rights, their future, a struggle to survive, in a Court full of political intrigue and dangerous rivalry, where they were only safe as long as they provided the King with sons and they all paid the ultimate price. Henry wasn’t a ruthless man for many years but he became one and within a few years it had seen the death of his first three Queens. These three women were entangled in the King’s desperation for a son and heir and his desire to have his own way. They were all his treasured wives at some point, then the first two discarded like a toy a child no longer wanted, the third risked the same, but for the luck of the birth of a son and all three were married to Henry during his transformation from decent monarch to ruthless tyrant. All three women were ruthless because they had to at least attempt to survive in a ruthless, unforgiving world.

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