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15 March 1532 – Henry VIII uses foul language to his archbishop

Posted By on March 15, 2016

William_Warham,_Archbishop_of_Canterbury_by_Hans_Holbein_the_Younger Breaking news! Yes, on this day in history, 15th March 1532, King Henry VIII used “foul language” to William Warham, Archbishop of Canturbury, after the archbishop criticised the king in the House of Lords when Parliament was discussing the proposed annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

Carlo Capello, the Venetian ambassador, recorded what happened in a letter to the Council of Ten, the government of Venice:

“On the 15th instant the Parliament met to discuss the affair of the divorce, and the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke against the King much to the indignation of his Majesty, who used foul language to him, saying that were it not for his age, he would make him repent of having said what he did against his Majesty.”

Oh dear! I wonder what was considered “foul language” back then! I bet the words and the threat left the archbishop, who is thought to have been in his early 80s, very shaken. It definitely made him back down in his outspoken opposition to the king’s plans.

Warham died five months later, on 22nd August 1532, while visiting his nephew in Hackington, Kent. He had been Archbishop of Canterbury from 1503 and had also served Henry VIII as Keeper of the Great Seal and Lord Chancellor. He was buried in Canterbury Cathedral, having left instructions to be buried near the spot where Thomas Becket was killed. On 30th March 1533, the office of Archbishop was filled by Thomas Cranmer, a man who supported the annulment wholeheartedly and who was able to declare the annulment of the king’s first marriage on 23rd May 1533.

Notes and Sources

  • Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 4: 1527-1533: 754.

3 thoughts on “15 March 1532 – Henry VIII uses foul language to his archbishop”

  1. Banditqueen says:

    Foul language has been around as long as language. However, I would imagine that it was normally used by the lower classes, the gentry probably had more elaborate forms of cursing. Henry was generally known for respect to the clergy, but if angry could issue threats and the foul oaths as anyone else. It must have been rare for him to swear so in a threatening manner and such an inappropriate manner to warrant comment, to be aimed at such an elevated person as the Archbishop of Canterbury was shocking, to the header and to the audience. He was attacking an elderly man, a revered person of the cloth, he was using terrifying threats, he must have frightening him. He must also have shocked the witnesses and hearers alike, he must have frightened and alarmed them. That Henry did not follow up his threat, however, shows that he was still tempered by wisdom, his counsel, his own ability to control himself and act with reason, his ability to measure the threat and his own ability to read a situation accurately. Henry was not a paranoid sociopath as yet, he could still control what he did, he could still change his mind. He did not need to do more than threaten, but it was enough to frighten and shock. For the poor old man, the Archbishop, it was unsettling, frightening, he did not know what to do. He was in his 80s, his health frail, this must have seemed to him a cruel betrayal. The Church he had loved and served his entire life was being turned upside down, the King he had served was a very different person, was leaving the queen who was loved, the country was moving forcibly away from Rome, his world was moving too fast; even the King had shown him terrible disrespect, he did not want to be part of it anymore. From now on it can be assumed that Warhams health deteriorated quickly as within months he was dead. Thankfully he went to peace before witnessing the nightmare that Henry and his successors would unleash on England as their so called religious reforms, martial escapades, personality cults and enforced uniformity took hold of a perplexed population.

  2. Rhonda says:

    Interesting that Henry didn’t have the man killed. We know that Henry didn’t take it very well when someone tried to stand up to him. Also, age didn’t stop him from executing Margaret Pole, an elderly woman who committed no offense other than being related to people who could challenge his throne. I could never understand why he did that to her. It was not as though she was likely to produce heirs who might be a threat to his royal status.

    1. Christine says:

      He was furious that her son Cardinal Pole had escaped him Rhonda so with Henrys usual reasoning he decided that since he couldn’t have the son the mother would do instead, Henry was still quite genial at the time he was contemplating annulling his marriage to Katherine it was only later on after years of frustration and his subsequent head injury had occurred that he became the tyrant of legend, he could well have had a soft spot for Warham as he had served him well therefore to have had him executed just because he had a different point of view would not have made Henry look very good, that’s what a tyrant would have done but Henry was far from being that at that moment in time.

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