In autumn 1528, Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio, papal legate, was sent to England by Pope Clement VII to hear the case for the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, at a special legatine court with Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who’d been made the Pope’s viceregent.

Campeggio managed to stall things for a few months, but on 31st May 1529 proceedings finally began in a special legatine court at Blackfriars. On 16th June 1529, at Baynard’s Castle, Catherine of Aragon met with William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury; Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of Durham; Nicholas West, Bishop of Ely; John Clerk, Bishop of Bath and Wells; John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester; Henry Standish, Bishop of St Asaph; Jorge de Athequa, Bishop of Llandaff; her almoner, Robert Shorton, and John Talcarne. In their presence, she wrote a formal appeal to the Pope against the authority of the legatine court, requesting that the case be heard in Rome.

Two days later, Catherine and her husband, Henry VIII, were summoned to appear before the court. The king sent proxies, Richard Sampson, dean of the Chapel Royal, and Dr John Bell, but Catherine chose to appear at the court in person, accompanied by her ladies-in-waiting and the bishops who were to act as her counsel for the proceedings. Henry Ansanger Kelly explains that Catherine “read a protest, the essence of which was that her appearance there and anything that she should say were not to be taken as an indication of approval of the legates as competent judges in the case, nor to derogate from any allegations, protestations, provocations, appeals, complaints, supplications, recusations, and reclamations made to the pope”. She made the point that the judges were far from impartial, being closely associated to the king, and stated that the court proceedings should not be taking place while the case was still pending at Rome. She instructed that her protest be recorded and the judges stated that her protestation would be answered in proceedings on 21st June. Catherine then left the court, she’d be back on 21st June when she would give an impassioned speech on her knees, in front of her husband. You can click here to read more about that.

Nicholas Pocock has an account of the proceedings of the legatine court on 18th June 1529 and a transcript of Catherine’s appeal to Rome in his book Records of the Reformation which you can read, if you can read Latin, at, p. 216 to 222.

Also on this day in history, 18th June 1546, Anne Askew, Protestant martyr and poet, was arraigned for heresy at London’s Guildhall along with Nicholas Shaxton, Nicholas White and John Hadlam (Adlams or Adams). They were all found guilty and condemned to death. Click here to read more about her.

Notes and Sources

  • Hall, Edward (1809 edition) 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, J. Johnson, p. 757.
  • Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 4, 1524-1530, 5694.
  • Pocock, Nicholas (1870) Records of the reformation; the divorce 1527-1533. Mostly now for the first time printed from mss. in the British Museum, the Public Record Office, the Venetian Archives and other libraries, Oxford Clarendon Press, p. 216 to 222.
  • Davies, C., & Edwards, J. (2004-09-23). Katherine [Catalina, Catherine, Katherine of Aragon] (1485–1536), queen of England, first consort of Henry VIII. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • Kelly, Henry Ansgar (2004) The Matrimonial Trials of Henry VIII, Wipf and Stock Publishers, p. 79.

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20 thoughts on “18 June 1529 – Queen Catherine of Aragon at the Legatine Court”
  1. The King sent proxy’s but Katherine decided to appear in person, no doubt Henry was discussing it with Anne and said that his wife will put up a bit of a fuss but the judges would be on his side, Katherine protested that very fact and also made the point that the case for the anullment was being heard in Rome, thus stating that the Blackfriars court was little more than a farce, she was right there but Henry was determined to set the wheels in motion as he knew Katherine was stalling for time, these two once happily married personages were locked in a battle from which neither would back down, Katherine determined to save her marriage and Henry equally determined to finish it, she must have cut a regal figure in the sombre atmosphere of the court, in fact wether weeping in prayer or bolting the door behind her when Henrys council came to conduct her to another lonely prison, and refusing to hand over the Royal jewels to her husband’s mistress, she was always very regal, it had been bred in her and this was the first of many battles where she would refuse to bow to Henrys command.

  2. This is a moot point but I have often wondered if Katherine’s mother Isabella were still alive if Henry could have treated Katherine as poorly as he did?

    1. That’s a good point, both her powerful parents were dead though she had her nephew, the Emperor Charles, the marriage between Henry and Katherine were what her and Henrys parents agreed on years before, had they still been alive however I think they would have been enraged to discover how their daughter was being treated and Mary the heir to the English throne, disinherited and bastardised, I believe if Henry had gone ahead and still had his marriage annulled , Ferdinand would have waged war on his one time son in law.

      1. The reason I didn’t mention Ferdinand was because he seemed to ignore her pleas to him for assistance after the death of Arthur.

        1. Yes but he would have viewed Henrys reason for an anullment as an insult to Spain I think.

        2. Whether a very old Isabella and a very old Ferdinand would have attacked England in 1529 is very interesting and I agree they would have seen this attempt to annul and discard the marriage of a Princess of Spain as an insult and war would be a possible result. Katherine was forever being told by her Ambassador that Charles V was prepared to raise and army and rescue her and depose Henry. Given the state of the Empire at the time, if I was Henry Viii I probably would have said let them try it. This was not the unstable and almost broke England of seven years later, in 1529 it was a stable, economically sound, prosperous country with a large navy and a popular King and Queen. It was defensible. With a canon building industry active in the Midlands, Wales and the South, iron and bronze was being produced by the several tons and it would not take much more than a decent effort to strengthen the coast and load them and our ships with men and artillery. Spain may be united under one ruler but she was at war with the Italian states, the Turks and had recently made peace with France. The Germanic heart of the Holy Roman Empire was in uproar with the Princes battling to keep control of religious revolution and the reformation. In reality Charles V was in no more fit state to invade England than Isabella and Ferdinand might have been had they still been alive. Charles could only make threats but he was more likely to be fighting over Milan than his Aunt.

          The Pope was the one who was in a pickle with armed threats from the Empire because he was in the middle of the territory Charles claimed. The Papal States spread over much of modern Italy and the Emperor had invaded them and even sacked Rome and then held Clement as a hostage. He had remained in the Emperor’s territory until 1528 and then been allowed to escape but had remained away from Rome. The armies could turn on him at any time. He had to delay any decision he made until that threat was no more and this is why no decision was made for four years. Ferdinand was not a man to keep faith with his allies and he was as duplicitous as his son in law. Isabella would have been the more likely of them to force such a war but given that she would have been ageing now, it is very doubtful she would have the energy for such a war, which could end in defeat for Spain.

  3. Katherine of Aragon had no bother with the idea of female rule because her mother was a female ruler, although she had taken the crown by force, removing her half brother and taking her rightful place as the true born child. However, the Tudors were not as secure on the throne as they had everyone believe. They had always felt insecure as Yorkist plot after Yorkist plot arose with one or other of the lost Princes popping up, a Plantagenet cousin getting in their way, but Henry had reason to feel less secure than his father. He had no son and yes, it was a big deal to him and to most people at this time.

    Previously a King without a son had found a way to get a male heir via a marriage and his grandchildren. However, this was not usually a good idea because rivals always saw an opportunity to challenge which is what happened for fifty years in the fifteenth century. Henry would not see England fall back into civil war and he became obsessed with the fear that if he didn’t leave sons to rule after him this fate would be England’s fate. He had been married to Katherine for nineteen years and they had only one child, Princess Mary, now thirteen, and three or four boys had died and at least one other daughter had also died. Henry had found that his marriage was cursed because he had married his brother’s wife, when he read in Leviticus that if he did so he would be childless (having no sons in Henry’s mind was the same thing). He now wanted a decision on his marriage but Katherine would not accept this as she had been married and crowned and her first marriage had not been consummated so she was Henry’s legal wife and Queen and Mary the legal heir to the throne. Why should she step aside? She now made her protest in person because she judged those appointed to advise her as useless and not having her true wishes in mind. Besides, Katherine was not going to step aside so as Henry could marry his wh*re, Anne Boleyn, which is how she saw things.

    Henry had begun these procedures in 1526 when he secretly asked a commission to look at the legitimacy of his marriage. The commission felt it was not able to do so. He had sent word to Rome to ask to marry Anne Boleyn in 1527, whom he had now fallen in love with and for a dispensation because he had slept with her sister. Then various people had gone back and forth with different methods of obtaining an annulment and now it was public and Katherine said no. The Legatine Court had been delayed because Pope Clement was the captive of the Emperor Charles V, Katherine’s nephew and the Sweating Sickness in 1528 had prevented Cardinal Campeggio coming to England. Cardinal Thomas Wolsey could have tried this without him as he had Legatine powers in England, but the Pope insisted that his own representative be present and Act with his authority. Katherine knew her moment had come and her protest was made. She declared that the Court didn’t represent her interests and she could only get justice from the Curia in Rome and so asked to have the case heard there.

    On 21st June she would make a speech in the assembled, packed Court before her husband, that was her finest hour.

    1. I don’t believe Charles had the heart to wage war on England anyway, since all through the long years when Henry was trying to secure an anullment there was no attempt on his part, and Katherine although family was a distant aunt whom he had only seen once, was he ready to risk war on her behalf, there was family honour at stake here though, Katherine herself always deplored the force of arms against her adopted country saying she wanted no bloodshed, maybe she should have been less noble since we know how it turned out for her, a few days before she died she mentioned to Chapyus that maybe she should have taken another course, was she thinking with regret of the long years of loneliness that need not have been, was she thinking that she would have had her daughter beside her had she not stood up against her husband, and instead of being in a lonely building in the wilds of Kimbolton she would be in a sumptuous apartment in a palace fit for a woman of her status, she had grieved for Bishop Fisher and More and the Carthusian monks, did she feel that had she not been so rigid, their blood would not have been shed? Katherine herself did not know what would happen to her, she only knew what she believed in and she was determined to fight for it, we cannot criticise her for that, but knowing that within three years of marriage Henry was planning to forsake her rival, her noble stance to us today appears worthless, had Katherine been able to see into the future she may well have acted differently.

      1. Even Henry acknowledged that if Katherine rose against him she could raise a considerable force and she had the support and courage to do it. Katherine had a better claim to the throne than Henry and she was popular with the gentry, most of the nobility and the ordinary people. If Charles sent a force to England he relied on support at every level and that meant Katherine giving the word and a conspiracy in her favour to unseat Henry. If Friedman is correct such a conspiracy was live in 1534 but the nobility lost their nerve because Henry it seems was on to them and they couldn’t gain the common support they had hoped for. Katherine herself as you say, Christine, refused any offer of a rising in her favour as her people would suffer. Without Katherine everything went flat and the nobility remained loyal to the King. Charles would only invade in one circumstance, if Mary was in the Tower. She was the Catholic heir to the throne and her possible execution was not something he would risk, but then he didn’t have the heart when it was clear Katherine would not allow a revolution. In 1529 both Henry and Katherine had the full support of the people so such an invasion would not be possible as people would defend their homes as they probably would do in any event.

        The question of Katherine having regrets over her rigidity is also interesting because at the end of her life when she saw how far Henry had gone and how much harm he had done, to Fisher and More and the Friars, she thought it was her fault. However, she didn’t know any of this at the Court of Blackfriars and had every confidence that the case would quickly be decided in her favour in Rome. She was right to fight because she was the lawful anointed Queen of England and her daughter’s inheritance rights were in danger. She believed Henry would see sense but she was being deceived. This Court was a sham. Henry made a positive speech with regards his belief in his cause but also attached no blame to Katherine and said he would return to her above all others if she was his true wife. Did he mean it? Probably not as he now wanted to marry Anne and nothing was going to stop him, but he must abide by convention and had agreed to a public trial of his marriage. He thought Cardinal Wolsey would ensure everything went his way, but Campeggio acted on secret orders and Katherine’s Appeal to Rome was stage managed to be granted. The Court was also adjourned and never sat again.

        Katherine looked back over the period following this year which saw her remain as Queen and the King even return to her bed, to keep up appearances and her table with mixed feelings. She remained in place until 1531 and her daughter remained as heir. I don’t believe she regretted fighting at this time, but she was worried that fighting on after it was over, after Henry married Anne was useless and had caused suffering. Katherine was a bit of a martyr and I don’t think she thought of herself but she worried that Mary had been made to suffer because of her refusal to accept things as they were and she grieved over More and the others. However, it wasn’t her refusal which alone caused the problems after 1533, but her husband’s desire that none criticise his new wife and his children with Anne. It was Henry who chose to launch legislation that demanded oaths to support him as Head of the Church and to his new marriage, or face the death penalty for treason. It was the conscience of each individual person and those laws which were to blame for their deaths, not Katherine and it was both Henry and Anne who treated her daughter as a second class citizen, not Katherine. While it is very true that had Katherine retired she would have lived in luxury and Mary would have to accept her decision and her own banishment may not have happened. But, there was far more to all of this than the retirement and annulment of a Queen, there was the Supremacy of a King. I doubt even Katherine could have prevented that, not unless she agreed to go to a convent in 1529, for which she didn’t see the need.

        1. Agreed, Katherine was not responsible for Henry making himself Head of his church and his passing a law that made it treason to not to recognise him as such, at one time even Mary was forced to agree, which Chapyus advised her to do as I think he trembled for the consequences if she didn’t, alone without her mother she must have looked upon Chapyus as a faithful mentor and there was a trusted friendship between them, it was Anne who put the idea into Henrys head maybe, that said a King should not be answerable to the pope, all unknowing she unleashed a monster who believed he could do anything he wanted, it is interesting to consider what would have happened to England if Henry had not broke with Rome, certainly there would have been no reformation which meant no religious persecution, England would have remained Catholic, and Henry would not be known today as the King with six wives.

  4. Thank you to all who have responded to my musings. Very informative. Things pointed out that I had not considered

    1. Hi Michael, What’s a name for knowledgeable people who love to help others through sharing that knowledge ….. is it ‘MAVENS’? If it is, then I’ve just gotten so much help from ABF-Mavens. Like you, I have questions. Every time I read something, same thing, questions. Isn’t it amazing to find answers and always given so readily. I’m so happy to have found Claire and her resourceful site, aren’t you!

      1. I agree completely. None of my friends or family have any interest in this subject or history in general for that matter. I have learned so much from Claire and this site and all who post here.

        1. I completely agree. This site is very useful for learning and sharing and it is an outlet for my daft ideas and or knowledge and analysis and my own knowledge has grown as well. It is one of the best sites I have found and with so many sources and other knowledge is available for easy access. Claire has worked hard for a number of years and it is very evident that she knows her stuff. It is very much appreciated how well appointed her site is and those who post have contributed through valuable insight and conversation.

  5. It is a great site and I think we are all friends here, it’s like a big happy family, we learn new things most days if not from Claire from Banditqueen who really knows such a lot, we are united in our passion for Anne Boleyn, the luckless wife who lost her head, we grieve at her story but we know she was no victim, she was an extrodinarily brave woman who made her mark in English history, she was no shrinking violet, neither was she particularly nice and she toppled a much loved queen of her throne, from the minute she arrived at court as a young 19 year old she made an impression, and at her sad death she went out in a blaze of glory, she died as she had lived with courage and vitality reminiscent of her very nature, for such a colourful character she deserves to have a website dedicated especially for her and I think we are all very grateful to Claire for making it possible.

    1. Thanks, Michael, Christine and Globerose, very kind of all of you. Yes, both Katherine and Anne were intelligent and bold women and only a man with a large mind could be drawn to them as Henry was. Either of them were a good match but his desire and need for a son took over to the extent that he forgot their better qualities. It was to have tragic consequences for both ladies.

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