17 May 1536 – Henry VIII’s Marriage to Anne Boleyn is Annulled

Posted By on May 17, 2011

We have just heard the news that Archbishop Thomas Cranmer called together a special court at Lambeth Palace this morning and announced, in the presence of Sir Thomas Audley, the Duke of Suffolk, the Earl of Oxford and “others”1, that the marriage between King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn was null and void. The King and Queen were not present and were represented by proctors.

This sentence of “nullity” means that it is as if the marriage never happened and it automatically makes their daughter Elizabeth illegitimate because her parents were never married. The King can forget the woman who is waiting for her death in the Tower and move on with his life and marry again.

We do not know the grounds for the annulment, the Archbishop simply said that it was “in consequence of certain just and lawful impediments which, it was said, were unknown at the time of the union, but had lately been confessed to the Archbishop by the lady herself.”2 Charles Wriothesley3 takes this to mean that the Queen confessed to a pre-contract with Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, but the Imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, believes that “the said Archbishop had pronounced the marriage of the King and Concubine invalid on account of the King having had connection with her sister, and that, as both parties knew of this, the good faith of the parents cannot make the said bastard legitimate.”4 So, an impediment of consanguinity, meaning that the marriage was incestuous because of the King having had a previous sexual relationship with Anne Boleyn’s sister, Mary Boleyn.

Sounds a bit like history repeating itself, isn’t this similar to how the King got out of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon?! What do you think about this?

Notes and Sources

  1. LP x. 896
  2. Chronicle of England during the Reigns of the Tudors (Wriothesley’s Chronicle), Charles Wriothesley, Volume 1, p41
  3. Ibid.
  4. LP x.909
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