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

Nov14,2012 #St Erkenwald's Day

Tudor chronicler Edward Hall recorded in his chronicle:

“The kyng, after his returne [from Calais] maried priuily[privily] the lady Anne Bulleyn on sainet Erkenwaldes daie, whiche mariage was kept so secrete, that very fewe knewe it, til she was greate with child, at Easter after.”1

He is saying that Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn were secretly married on St Erkenwald’s Day on their return from their trip to Calais. St Erkenwald’s Day is the 14th November so Hall believed that the couple married on 14th November 1532, two months before their official, but still quite secret, marriage on 25th January 1533.

Hall is not the only person to give this date for the marriage. Nicholas Sander, author of “The Rise of the English Schism” and a Catholic recusant writing in Elizabeth’s reign, appears to back it up:

“The king, now impatient of further delay, though everything had not yet been duly prepared, determined to marry Anne Boleyn secretly on the 14th of the following November. He must marry her, for in no other way could he accomplish his will; and the marriage must be secret, because he and Catherine had not been separated by any judicial decision.”2

Sander is not, however, a separate source because he cites Hall as his reference. It is interesting though, as historian Eric Ives points out, that Sander chooses the November date for the wedding when that would make Elizabeth I conceived in wedlock and “he had every reason to slander Elizabeth’s legitimacy”3. Ives believes that the 14th November could well have been the date that Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn “made some sort of formal commitment” because it “does coincide with the approximate start of cohabitation.” We don’t know whether it was their successful trip to meet Francis I at Calais (and I do believe that it was successful) or some kind of betrothal ceremony which gave Henry and Anne the confidence to take their relationship to the next level and risk pregnancy. I believe that there is truth in Hall’s record, there was some kind of secret ceremony.

Also on this day…

Catherine of Aragon married Arthur, Prince of Wales, at St Paul’s Cathedral, which had been decked out with rich tapestries.4

Ten year-old Prince Henry, the future Henry VIII and Catherine’s future second husband, escorted Catherine from the Bishop’s Palace to the cathedral door. The bride wore a Spanish style white satin wedding dress, with a farthingale and “many pleats”, and a while silk veil decorated with gold, pearls and gemstones covered her face. The bridegroom was also in white satin. After the ceremony, the couple enjoyed a sumptuous banquet, while Londoners enjoyed a fountain of running wine. The heir to the throne had a young and vivacious wife, there was hope and happiness.

Notes and Sources

  1. Hall’s Chronicle, Edward Hall, p794
  2. Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism, Nicholas Sander, p92-93
  3. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Eric Ives, p170
  4. Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen, Giles Tremlett,Chapter 10 “Wedding”

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15 thoughts on “14th November 1532 – The Wedding of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII?”
  1. “Marry in haste, repent at leisure” sure doesn’t apply to Henry and Anne, does it? It took him a long time before he could marry her, so that leaves out haste in marriage. And then it only took him three years before he decided that he was (lethally) tired of her. I guess you could reverse that old saying, just for Henry:

    Marry at leisure, repent in haste.

  2. henry was still married to catherine so this was bigamy and im surprised anne went through with it ,being that she was supposedly so religious .

    1. It depends on how you look at it. Whatever you believe about Henry VIII, he obviously did believe that his marriage was never valid and that the Pope should never have given a dispensation against something that he believed was contrary to the Bible. If the marriage was not valid then Henry would not have seen his marriage to Anne as bigamous, and so neither would Anne. I do believe that Henry thought he was doing God’s will and I believe that Anne also thought that it was right.

      1. I’m no bible scholar Claire, but from what I’ve read on this, wasn’t the church’s argument that the part Henry was trumpeting was old testament or Jewish laws, such as the no pork ones etc., and that the New Testament contradicted Henry’s favourite part and even lauded those that swoop in and ‘save’ their sister’s in law if their brother passes away? That was always the general idea I got. After all; if the bible was so cut and dry (and we all know it never ever is!) not only would the church have said no, but Henry would have been far too afraid to even contemplate it! Henry was a big believer and really did swallow this stuff hook line and sinker we have to remember that. It was a different time. If the bible had only one passage on the issue and said it was unclean and would not allow heirs, Henry and the Church, not to mention Henry VII, would have put Catherine back on a ship to Spain post haste. Or married her off to Henry VII himself or another high ranking nobleman.

  3. ok fair enough i get your point but why did it take him so many years to come to this conclusion ,henry only saw what he wanted to see and just three years later he had yet another bit of insight about his marriage to anne ,and that god was speaking to him yet again.

    1. I think you’re right that Henry only saw what he wanted to see. He felt that the fact that God had not blessed him with a son by Catherine was evidence that the marriage was contrary to God’s wishes. He actually did start looking into annulling the marriage and remarrying before he met Anne so it wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction caused by falling for Anne. Obviously when Anne didn’t give him a son he became paranoid that that marriage was also against God’s law. Although it can be seen as convenient for him to feel that, I think Henry was devout and did believe it.

  4. That last part, about Katherine of Aragon and Prince Arthur, really made me feel sad, for both the young princess and the prince. sad to know how fate turned on them, and they were young and happy, full of hope. I can’t imagine how everything would be had Arthur not fallen ill and became King. Henry would be a man of peace, I believe? Anne’s life would be completely different, too. Gosh, thinking of how things would be like if the events that took place never did…
    I like to believe some things happen for a reason, like cause and effect. Not all the time, though, sometimes you have to get up off your bum and make things happen!

  5. I think Henry was blindsided by how hard his annulment was to get. At the time, the Church was amenable to dissolving marriages of the very wealthy/powerful in response to political/personal situations. Henry’s sister Margaret remarried and then had that marriage annulled to marry someone else in the time that Henry was looking for his annulment. It drove the King nuts. If Katherina’s nephew wasn’t the Holy Roman Emperor who had sacked Rome and taken the Pope hostage, the annulment would have gone through fairly easily after the proper negotiations and donations.

    1. I also suspect that Henry was surprised by how difficult the annulment was to obtain. If you can get hold of a 1932 book called The Private Character of Henry VIII by Frederick Chamberlin, there’s a similar discussion of the subject in Chapter Seven:

      ‘Henry’s sister, the Queen of Scotland, after living for years in the most open adultery with the husband of another woman, had no trouble in security the favourable action of Rome only a month or so before Henry began his proceedings; nor did her paramour meet with more opposition when he applied for his divorce.

      ‘Henry IV of Castile [incidentally, Catherine of Aragon’s maternal uncle] could have no children by his wife, so the Pope allowed him another wife on the basis that if this did not result in children he should go back to his first consort. Alexander VI (Pope) in 1498, only thirty years previous to Henry’s demand, had allowed a divorce to a King of France for the sole reason that that monarch could then marry the ruler of Brittany and so bring that province under his rule. Both of the husbands of Henry’s sister Mary procured divorces from popes.

      ‘The history of the popes was a succession of such practices; and soon the present one was to offer a dispensation for a marriage between the Princess Mary – Catherine’s daughter by Henry – with his illegitimate son the Duke of Richmond; and, indeed, but a little later he was to offer two wives without the prerequisite of a divorce!

      ‘Marriage was far from the indissoluble tie it has since become. It was then not considered strange when the Duke of Suffolk twice committed bigamy and was three times divorced after beginning by marrying his aunt [actually his first wife’s aunt]; and it excited no remark when he ended by marrying his own daughter-in-law! The United States have not matched that yet.’

      I’ve read elsewhere – the source escapes me – that bigamy was not a civil, criminal offence in Tudor England, and that it was simply up to ecclesiastical courts to determine whether marriages were valid or invalid.

      1. I personally, have always thought that the holding off on Henry’s divorce/anulment was just based purely on political matters, and fear, more than any moral or legal reason.
        And thanks for all those other details Judith, they are quite an insight.
        Can you imagine what could have happened if Mary and Henry Fitzroy had of married, they were half brother and sister, any offspring could have faced many health issues. And to be honest, how could that been deemed legal or moral, with them being so closely related…with the blessing of a Pope or not…what strange times they lived in, where annulment of a marriage seen as unacceptable, yet a marriage between half brother and sister was. Fascinating though.

        1. There’s a brief discussion of the Mary/Henry Fitzroy marriage in H. A. Kelly’s book The Matrimonial Trials of Henry VIII, in a footnote:

          ‘An indication of what was thought of the pope’s power over marriage can be seen from the circumstance that as late as October 1528 there was still talk (on Wolsey’s part, to be sure) of settling Henry’s dynastic worries by obtaining a dispensation from the pope to allow Mary to marry her brother Henry. The pope, indeed, declared himself willing to consider it if the king would put aside his demands for the annulment of his marriage.’ (2004 edition, p. 33)

          Even if Clement VII was willing to consider it, it’s hard to believe Henry VIII would have gone ahead with it. It sounds as if he was determined to be proven right and be also seen to be right, and wanted an annulment of his marriage followed by remarriage. As for the bigamy option, with Henry VIII taking a second wife and having the issue confirmed as legitimate without the first marriage being annulled, if I recall correctly the German Lutherans, including Martin Luther, thought this was the best solution and that it was better than subjecting Katherine of Aragon to a divorce after being married for so long. But it appears this was not something that Henry VIII considered acceptable.

          The whole business was certainly complicated, slippery, devious, etc. But, as you mentioned, the inability to obtain the divorce was for political reasons. Clement VII had Charles V’s armies poised ready to attack him in Italy; Charles wouldn’t allow him to annul his aunt’s marriage; so Clement was stuck. Louis XII had a much easier time: he became king in April 1498 and was divorced from his first wife and remarried to Anne of Brittany by January 1499, courtesy of a political deal with Pope Alexander VI. I wouldn’t be surprised if Henry VIII envied him.

          I also wonder what Katherine of Aragon thought of her uncle’s dodgy divorce and remarriage: whether she rationalised it on the grounds that it was different from her own case, or whether she just blocked it out as somehow irrelevant, perhaps because her uncle had no children at all by his first wife.

        2. I would imagine, Judith, that Katherine’s logic would might be on the lines of, she wasn’t childless, she had Mary. She became pregnant easily, so not infertile. The big problem was the children didn’t live long or were miscarried, so not the same as her Uncle at all, which is true really, and I can empathise with her on that. And at the end of the day the Pope said it was ok, so it was, to her.

  6. In my own family history going back hundreds of years there were many first wives.
    Quite a few male relatives had first wives who were discarded/divorced after years of marriage for not producing an heir. My ancestors were affluent so for them a male heir was important. Even the Catholic ones were able to get a divorce. I am not sure how, but I believe there was something in the doctrine way back then about marriage and conception being the reason for the union between man and woman. Since Katherine could conceive, had given birth, and produced a live child maybe this was different. I guess I should do some research but I hate religious stuff. My Catholic friend said that canon laws have changed. I am sure my ancestors paid off people too.

  7. Two secret marriages! Talk about making sure you are well done! Sander is citing Hall but as you say: he is sort of contradicting himself a bit here, for is not Nicholas Sander the source that all historians like to write off as he is openly prejudiced against Anne and says a lot of stuff to slander her and form the popular myths about her?

    To Sander Anne and Henry having any sort of marriage prior to the conception or birth of Elizabeth must have come as a shock he could not explain away. However, if the marriage between Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII had not yet been declared legal or illegal by the curia which it had not, then it really would not have mattered in the eyes of the Church or Nicholas Sander if Henry and Anne married in November 1532 or January 1533, or in fact both times, as they were committing bigamy; going through a form of marriage while not being legally free to marry and so Henry now had two wives. That is how Sander would have seen it. Orthodox Catholic doctrine would not have recognised Henry’s wedding as they saw him as still being married to Catherine.

    Henry could not have known that the Curia would declare for Catherine and set up his own court under Cranmer to declare his marriage to Anne valid and his marriage to Catherine invalid. The two decisions were within days or weeks of each other. But in January as the Church saw it Henry was still married to Catherine and so not free to marry Anne. Sander would still have believed the marriage not to be valid and that Elizabeth was not legitimate. I really do not think to an Orthodox Catholic it would have made any difference how many ceremonies Henry and Anne went through, until the Curia decided he was still married to Catherine.

    I have no reason to doubt that Henry and Anne had two ceremonies, but why bother? Unless there was something about getting married in France that Henry may have believed was not right and he had to make sure the marriage was legal in England by marrying Anne here as well. I find it an interesting choice of date of the first ceremony: the same date as Catherine married Author: something psychological going on here, may-be?

    I also find it interesting that you give credence here to Sander just because he has another source to back him up when you do not give him much credence for a lot of other things?

    1. “I also find it interesting that you give credence here to Sander just because he has another source to back him up when you do not give him much credence for a lot of other things?”

      Erm, I don’t. If you look in the article I say:

      “Nicholas Sander, author of “The Rise of the English Schism” and a Catholic recusant writing in Elizabeth’s reign, appears to back it up:

      ‘The king, now impatient of further delay, though everything had not yet been duly prepared, determined to marry Anne Boleyn secretly on the 14th of the following November. He must marry her, for in no other way could he accomplish his will; and the marriage must be secret, because he and Catherine had not been separated by any judicial decision.’2

      Sander is not, however, a separate source because he cites Hall as his reference.”

      I don’t give credence to Sander at all, I point out that he uses Hall as a source.

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