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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

17 thoughts on “17 May 1536 – Henry VIII’s Marriage to Anne Boleyn is Annulled”

  1. Courtney says:

    poppycock!!!!

  2. Kim Kloes says:

    Wasn’t there some sort of dispensation that Henry had received for Anne specifically mentioning this sort of relationship? I thought he had that base all covered prior. How did they get out of that one?

  3. Lady Meg says:

    No offense, but why the picture of the fabricated movie based on Philippa Gregory’s novel?

    1. Claire says:

      Because it is the stereotypical view of Henry torn between the two Boleyn sisters and it is thought that Henry’s marriage to Anne was eventually annulled because of the impediment of consanguinity, i.e. his prior relationship with Mary Boleyn which made his marriage to Anne incestuous.

      1. miladyblue says:

        I finally started watching that movie, and the nicest thing I can say is, “Wow, pretty costumes!” Other than that…

  4. Esther Sorkin says:

    It is very similar to the grounds for dissolving his marriage to Catherine — a problem known to exist at the outset used to annul a marriage that did not result in a son. Theologically, I think the case for annulling the marriage to Anne is stronger than it was for annulling the marriage to Catherine — Deuteronomy 25:5 mandates that a man marry his brother’s widow if there were no children (as with Catherine and Arthur), but there is no such exception for marriage to the sister of a former wife (or mistress). So, even if Henry’s first marriage was, in fact, invalid, Mary could be legitimate on the theory that her parents could have believed in good faith that the marriage was valid, but such a “good faith belief” about the second marriage wasn’t as credible. Practically, it is a great irony that, after so many efforts to have a son, the only child of Henry’s to be considered great is his daughter by Anne.

  5. La Belle Creole says:

    I personally have always viewed the Henry/Anne marriage as invalid from the get-go. It doesn’t bother me Heny had his staff formally invalidate the bogus marriage.

    However, it sticks in my craw that Anne was still held accountable for adultery/treason since she was never really married to this loser in the first place.

    1. elizabeth says:

      Yo tambien estoy mas o menos de acuerdo aunque si lo ves desde el punto de vista de un catolico. Su matrimonio fue valido a partir de que murio Catalina.

    2. Lady Debbie Cheney says:

      Not impressed with the anger of people and my research into my family has brought me to 4 cousins Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Katherine Howard, Spencers and Henry 8th, Being a relative to the Tudors I see it as a very different time. women were made to be used as a servant to all men. if one spoke up or out she could be beat or worse. for a women was a women then and not worth much if she couldn’t bare multiple children. I see Anne as taking a world win Romance with a king, He would be her lover then her husband and she would be a queen, most women would dream of such a place. Sin was different since Henry charged with the tides as religion had odd meaning to many. Mary would stay catholic and the rest of the women would eventually be part of Henry’s herem. I believed he truly fell in love with Jane. He then married catherine out of desperation for another son to succeed his son with Jane, as we all know how that came out. See Anne as a young naive child with a dream state of mind. promised to a married to a king who would just fund another to tend to her own 1st cousin as mine, no but promised a life of luxury as long as she had children is cruel too. As for the women they did not know that they would die for there love…

  6. Anne Barnhill says:

    I have never quite understood: if there was never a marriage, how could there be adultery? This is one of Henry’s strange devices to get everything he wanted–Anne dead and a new start with Jane. I don’t believe I will ever understand why he insisted upon her death–she would have been happy to go to a nunnery–oops, I forgot, Henry was destroying those!

    1. miladyblue says:

      More than likely, he wanted Anne out of the way, because he knew her well as a strong, intelligent lady, who would likely be a strong, intelligent rival, and likely a dangerous one as well. With Katharine dead, Anne could have taken up the cause for Elizabeth’s claim to the throne, and Henry knew that Anne would be a devious enemy if left unchecked. Not quite three year old Elizabeth would not have any strong champions left standing to press her claim to the throne, nor encourage her against her father or Mary.

  7. Anne Barnhill says:

    Good point, Milady Blue.
    Maybe Henry was just a little afraid of Anne himself–he knew how smart and clever she was. And there was no one left to defend Elizabeth’s claim or to avenge Anne. Ruthless!

  8. Charlotte says:

    Why did Henry annulled the marriage when Anne Boleyn anyway waiting for her death? It is so absurd for me because he had already what he want and got her out of the way!

    What was the purpose of annulment? Was he thinking of Elizabeth and wanted her out of way too? When she was just three years old and lack of any supporter? Also, she was no Mary, had no foreign alliance as she had, so was everything but a threat.

    May be Anne Boleyn was stronger than we know and had more supporter to make Henry take caution. He send some of her supporters to death with her as her brother and friends but he didn’t let it go like that and he also get an annulment. It is so strange and make me think if why he take this couse so seriously.

    If he really believe Jane will give him a longed son then Elizabeth will have no chance to get the throne. And if he was affraid of Jane’s failure what was he thinking about the succession?

    I think he aimed to secure Henry FitzRoy. Surely, he really think that if Anne will live after Henry’s death she will not let Henry FitzRoy to get the throne and it was not his will becouse Elizabeth was just a female heir. But still I am not sure when Anne Boleyn anyway waiting for her death, did he really believe Elizabeth alone strong enough to get against his will? on what account? When she has a mother whose queenship had been questioning from the beginning and already sentenced to death on accounts of adultery…

    Anyway he lost his heir FitzRoy short after Anne’s death and had a new heir and legitimate son but despite his full effort to get rid of Elizabeth and with God’s will she was the Queen regnant for 45 years and Anne Boleyn’ blood well spend.

  9. elizabeth says:

    But there has been creating controversy. Declare their marriage void, as if they had never been married but were never married she could not have committed adultery.

    1. LadySuffolk says:

      Personally, I think the issue of adultery was more so that it was an action done during the course of time where they BELIEVED themselves to be lawfully married. Thus adultery was committed with clear understanding that she was breaking her marriage vows that she believed were in tact. I don’t know if I believe that she really did commit adultery at all, I just imagine that was how it was seen and explained. I find it funny how kings though can have mistresses on the side and not be accused of the same thing.

  10. Baroness Von Reis says:

    Theres no dout he commited bigamy, Henry was still married to Catherine,Henry sent Catherine away from the court,I guess out of sight out of mind. She was still living when Henry and Anne married, he didinot care he was the King ,as Claire explaned this to me he was next to God and therefor he believed that God wanted this marriage to take place.There was no higher athrority then God and the King,so in Henrys mind set this was what God and the King wanted. As for incest the King had an affaire with Mary ,she was married aswell . Claire what happend to Marys son from the King? I have’nt heard to much on what happend to him or her for that matter?

  11. margaret says:

    why did it take henry all those year to suddenly wake up one day and think that he was commiting a sin by being married to catherine of aragon the to realise ;oh wait a minute im a king and i can just start up my own religion and lo and behold anyone who goes against me, and then i can marry anne and no one can go against me on that either .even if anne had had a son and heir that child would have been illegitimate so why the need to marry anne in the first place and they say henry was religious i dont think so he was a bigamist and anne was his mistress .

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