The Legatine Court scene from "The Tudors" series.On this day in history, 21st June 1529, Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon appeared in front of Cardinals Wolsey and Campeggio at the Legatine Court at Blackfriars.

Cardinal Wolsey’s biographer and gentleman usher, George Cavendish, describes how the King sat under a cloth of estate and Catherine “sat some distance beneath the king”. Also present were the Cardinals Wolsey and Campeggio as judges, Stephen Gardiner as “scribe”, the Archbishop of Canterbury (William Warham), Richard Sampson and Thomas Abel as counsellors for the King, and John Fisher (Bishop of Rochester) and Cuthbert Tunstall (Bishop of St Asaph) as counsellors for the Queen. Cavendish commented on what an extraordinary event this hearing was:

“Which was the strangest and newest sight and device that ever was read or heard in any history or chronicle in any region; that a king and a queen [should] be convented and constrained by process compellatory to appear in any court as common persons, within their own realm or dominion, to abide the judgment and decrees of their own subjects, having the royal diadem and prerogative thereof.”

And put it down to the King’s “carnal desire and voluptuous affection of foolish love.”

You can read more about what happened that day and the speech that Catherine made, which David Starkey calls “the speech of her life”, in my article 21 June 1529 – And to God I commit my cause!.

Also on this day in history…

  • 1494 – Birth of George Cavendish, Cardinal Wolsey’s Gentleman Usher. Cavendish wrote a biography of Wolsey, “The Life and Death of Cardinal Wolsey”, and a collection of tragic poems, “Metrical Visions”. His poetry and biography are widely used by Tudor historians as primary sources.
  • 1529 – Death of John Skelton, poet, clergyman and former tutor to Henry VIII when he was prince, at Westminster. He was buried in St Margaret’s, Westminster. His works included “Garlande of Laurell” and “The Boke of Phyllyp Sparowe”.
  • 1553 – Letters patent issued changing Edward VI’s heir from his half-sister, Mary, to Lady Jane Grey. Click here to read more about this.

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18 thoughts on “21 June 1529 – Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon at the Legatine Court”
  1. I agree with David Starky that Catherine made the speech of her life. I can picture her knelling before the king giving the appearance of a “poor woman and a stranger born out of your dominion” when in fact she was fighting for her right to remain queen which she believed to have been her destiny. She must have gained the love and respect of the people. I believe Catherine of Aragon to have been an intelligent woman who would have remained queen if she had a son who had lived. I sympathise with her but can’t help but wonder how an intelligent woman could have treated her daughter Mary so cruelly as she appears to have by abandoning her (I’m not for a moment excusing Henry for the part he played as well) I suppose you have to picture yourself in their shoes and the way they thought that royalty was the closest thing to God on earth.

    1. I think it was the other way around. Henry kept Mary and Katherine apart. He would not even allow her mother to care for her daughter when Mary was ill and Katherine begged to be allowed to see her after the divorce. Katherine tried to keep the family together. It was Henry who abandoned his wife and sent his daughter away, to live as Elizabeth’s servant. Mary was not allowed to see her mother, Katherine forbidden to see her daughter. The only person being cruel here was Henry.

      1. Katherine was not cruel but also she, not only Henry, put enormous pressure on Mary and thus caused her great harm.

        Katherine had of course every right to decide that she wanted rather die than accept that her marriage was invalid and her daughter illegitimate, but she demanded that also Mary did the same.

        Most mothers would today would put her child’s life first.

        1. I agree, actually. I think it would have spared Mary a lot of pain if Catherine had been more relenting. Because her decision did not only affect herself, but also her daughter, who got the short end of the stick. Not only did she remain legally illegitimate, she was also treated cruelly. Had she not been put under so much pressure by her mother’s behavior to remain relentless, her life would have been less grim and in the end, she would still be returned to the line of succession. Of course neither Catherine nor Mary could have known that, but by the time Catherine learned that Henry was not the man she once knew, she should have thought about her daughter’s welfare in more ways than just the succession to the crown.

  2. “..wonder how an intelligent woman could have treated her daughter Mary so cruelly as she appears to have by abandoning her..”

    First off she didn’t; she raised her child to deserve the honor of her own birth and along with it came responsibility and dignity. Not bad lessons for a Royal.. The women in her family were Kings, i.e. Isabella, not consorts and not gossip column fodder.

    Second off, intelligence and cruelty are not mutually exclusive. Elizabeth was smart and she was very cruel to the Grey sisters – look them up.

    1. I agree that an intelligent person can be also cruel.

      Yet, a ruler who killed his rivals or put them to prison, did not necessarily act so because he was cruel but because he wanted to minimize the risks that he lost his throne and life.

      1. But, Henry’s treatment of Mary increased risks, although the risk increased concerned the succession. After all, there was a “good faith exception” that would have protected Mary’s legitimacy even assuming that the marriage to Catherine of Aragon was invalid — and this would provide a certain, legitimate heir until Edward was born — while bastardizing Mary increased the risks of civil war. Since Edward was male and legitimate, he would take precedence over Mary even if she was legitimate too. Also, while it was risky to have a female heir, it was also risky to have a child heir … so bastardizing Mary in favor of any other female (Elizabeth or any daughter by Jane Seymour) risked replacing a “one strike loser” (unsuitable for rule due to gender only) with a “two strike loser” (unsuitable for rule due to both gender and age)

        1. Edwards’s position as an heir was sure as he was born in 1537 after Katherine’s death and Henry’s marriage with Jane Seymour was recognized by all.

          But even if Anne had delivered a son, his position would have been threatened by those who did not recognize Henry’s marriage with Anne as valid, although not so much as in case of Elizabeth.

          After Katherine died, the situation would probably have changed and the Emperor would have accepted that Mary’s position as second. But as is shown, Henry was never willing to admit he had been wrong.

          So the only real change to maintain Mary’s position in succession was Katherine’s choice to go the nunnery.

      2. Elizabeth went far beyond that in her cruelty to the Grey sisters and I do not believe the excuse that she was protecting herself is good enough from them is applicable. Mary Grey was zero threat.

  3. Katherine’s speach at the Legatine court was a master stroke and one of the greatest emotiional pleas to the heart of a husband and I cannot understand how Henry sat there and could have failed to be moved by her words. Henry claimed that he loved Catherine and found no fault in her, so why was he not moved? He was so under the thumb of Anne Boleyn at this time that he wanted nothing more than to marry her and was stopping at nothing to do so. Katherine was courageous in her demeanour and humble as she saw Henry as her only hope. As the head of justice it was to him as her husband and King that she appealled above the court that she had no faith in. As Henry failed her in this, she appealled to the next higher authority the Curia in Rome.

    1. No public speeches should be taken at their face value. They are spoken mainly to the public to whom one wants to make a good effect.

      Henry did not of course mean anything he said. Only a fool would have.

      As for Katherine, she was not humble at all, only pretended to be as she in fact defied her husband and king by blowing up all his arguments. Pleading to his conscience was a master stroke. However, that was hardly a good manner to move Henry, on the contrary, as it made him a laughing stock.

      That Katherine invoked to the Pope was a declaration of war.

      1. I think Katherine discovered that day Henry was not the same man that she had received so much trust and devotion from, he had begun to change more than she had ceared, she would have reached him at one time with her heartfelt appeal, they no longer really even communicated in the manner of husband and wife. Katherine knew that day she had lost him, she initiated the plan, appeal to Rome, the Curia can delay a decision, and as you say, she declared war. Henry was indeed a laughing stock but that was not Katherine intention. She genuinely believed that she could move Henry. The evidence of the open court, the private matters of the King and Queen aired in public must have been seriously embarrassing, humiliating and difficult to hear. The Legentine Court also had secret instructions to delay and adjourn indefinitely, not to decide the matter. Catherine’s decision not to recognise the authority of the English Court and her appeal to Rome gave them the perfect permission not to open the session again once it was closed at the end of July. An appeal to Rome as the ultimate authority in the legal trial of a marriage overrode even leave to hear the case in English church courts. Henry’s cause was lost from this moment as the Curia would debate the matter till the cows come home.

        1. It was not in Katherine’s interest, either, that the Pope delayed his decision.
          According to Inside the Tudor Court by Lauren Mackay which deals Chapuys, Katherine much resented it as it left her for years to a limbo, agonizing whether her marriage was deemed as valid or not.

          Mackay tells also that in private with Chapuys Katherine was very different than in public.

  4. I know that at some point in his early days as king, Henry had serious injuries as the result of a jousting match. One of these seemed to be a closed, frontal head injury. His personality changed after that. I don’t know what role that played in his relationship with Catherine, but it may have contributed to his later paranoia about Anne. Anybody out there know?

    1. Hello Carol, Henry had a few injuries, he escaped being killed or blinded by his brother in law and best friend the Duke of Suffolk in March 1524, were Henry forgot to lower his viset and the Dukes lance shattered inside his helmet. He was lucky but had severe headaches afterwards. In January 1536 Henry fell and his horse fell on him, he was out for two hours, he hurt his leg, it was later realized. It’s believed that Henry damaged his temperol lobes, his personality changed, affecting his relationship with Anne Boleyn. Afterwards the King was more given to temper and mood swings. We have no evidence that anything affected his relationship with Catherine other than his passion for Anne and a desire for a son.

  5. Katherine’s speech lives down the ages because it is from the heart and seems completely genuine. Henry, whatever the sincerity of his belief in his claims it was not a marriage, was insulting her to her very being and she handled it with a backbone to be envied. If cancer does have roots in stress, then her illness may indeed have started here when she buried all her emotion from public view.

  6. Please delete my comments from this tread. Any board that sanctions someone quoting Adolf Hitler saying America is a mongrel nation is not a board I want to be seen on,

    My crime was calling England “small” compared to France and Spain.

    I have made screen shots of the entire thread and will keep them as evidence of the continued blatant racism and obvious historical ignorance of the nice ladies of England.

    1. It’s not racist to state that England or another nation were not small players in the game of political reality. I agree that some people made anti American comments, Claire intervened to put that right. Nobody deleted your comments last year, if you don’t like the site and open debate, you are not forced to be here. Everyone has the right to their opinion, and you need some perspective.

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