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25 April 1536 – God will send unto us heirs male

Posted By on April 25, 2016

Stephen Gardiner, one of the ambassadors

Stephen Gardiner, one of the ambassadors

On this day in history, 25th April 1536, a day after the commissions of oyer and terminer had been set up by Thomas Audley, Lord Chancellor, King Henry VIII wrote letters to his ambassadors abroad: Richard Pate in Rome, and Stephen Gardiner and John Wallop in Paris. In these letters, he referred to Anne Boleyn as “our most dear and most entirely beloved wife the Queen” and wrote of his hope for a son:

“[…] for as much as there is great likelihood and appearance that God will send unto Us heirs male to succeed Us[…].”

As I said in my book, The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown, “If we did not know with hindsight that trouble was brewing then we would think that all was rosy with the royal couple, that Henry had high hopes for the future and had no intention of setting Anne aside.” However, historian John Schofield wonders whether “Henry’s choice of words suggest that he was anticipating a happy event that had yet to be publicly and formally announced” and whether “Henry was getting ahead of himself, his heart now fixed on his new dearly beloved”, Jane Seymour. Henry had, after all, reacted to Anne Boleyn’s recent miscarriage by saying “I see God will not give me male children”. Was this “great likelihood” of a son and heir due to the fact that Henry was going to replace the wife who had failed him in this matter with a new one? It’s impossible to say, but it is an interesting theory.

What do you think?

Also on this day in history, 25th April 1544, Queen Catherine Parr’s English translation of John Fisher’s Latin work Psalms or Prayers was published. Click here to read more.

Notes and Sources

  • Letters to the ambassadors, catalogued in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10: January-June 1536, 725 and 726; letter to Pate published in full in State papers, published under the authority of His Majesty’s Commission. King Henry the Eighth, Volume 7, p.683-688 – see https://archive.org/
  • Schofield, John (2008) The Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell: Henry VIII’s Most Faithful Servant, The History Press, p.120.
  • Ridgway, Claire (2012) The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown, MadeGlobal Publishing.

5 thoughts on “25 April 1536 – God will send unto us heirs male”

  1. Esther says:

    IMO, if you want to believe that the letter shows that Henry is committed to the marriage to Anne, then someone (Cromwell) set up the commissions of oyer and terminer without Henry’s knowledge. I can’t buy this: Cromwell knew that he had enemies; what would happen if one of them told Henry of the commissions? Henry, IMO, is putting the best face possible on Anne’s January miscarriage while he is involved in the plans to get rid of her.

  2. Thomas Miller says:

    Who cares what we “think “? History is a detail of deeds, motives, etc. Our thoughts do nothing but confuse objective history and elevate our own egos. Fiction is invading history, to the detriment of knowledge.

  3. BanditQueen says:

    Henry may merely being putting on his public face here, praying for a son, praying for blessing on his marriage; but he is also looking for a way out of his marriage and privately making this prayer for his new marriage with Jane when that comes about. It is so different to the orders of the day before setting up the investigations into his wife’s alleged treasons and adulteries that it seems inconceivable that Henry is actually wanting now to reconcile with Anne and have more children. No, I think the terms ” entirely beloved wife” here are a convention and his prayers for male children are looking to the future. But then, there is that bang on the head and the mood swings?

  4. Maryann Pitman says:

    This appears to be Henry setting the table for what is to come. He is publicly a loving husband, confident of his wife’s ability to provide an heir. At home he is preparing to rid himself of a wife who cannot provide that heir, so he can remarry. By this time he is 41, and time is running out if he wants his son to be an adult before his own death, and he has a new love he wishes to indulge. By this time, his relationship with Anne is a decade old, and has lost its sheen, she is not a royal princess, so there is no diplomatic risk or other obstacle to removing her. What we don’t know is whether he actually believed in her infidelity or not. It seems an extreme way to go, to publicly humiliate himself, if he did not believe it. It should have been possible to choose another way. Perhaps Cromwell felt this was the only way to force Henry to make the break. I am sure, in hindsight, Henry knew Anne was not guilty, but had no regrets about her death.

    1. Dawn says:

      Agreed. This sounds like he’s talking about his future wife, not Anne.

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