25 April 1536 – Henry VIII is in hope of a son

Posted By on April 25, 2018

On 24th April 1536, Thomas Audley, Lord Chancellor, had set up two commissions of oyer and terminer, commissions that would be used to try four of the men accused of sleeping with Queen Anne Boleyn and conspiring to kill the king with her. Yet, on 25th April 1536, King Henry VIII wrote letters to his ambassadors abroad referring to “our most dear and most entirely beloved wife the Queen” and writing 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[…].”


We can read this situation in several ways:

    1. The setting up of the commissions of oyer and terminer was nothing to do with Anne Boleyn’s fall, it’s just coincidence that they were later used for the men.
    2. Thomas Cromwell was plotting against the queen without the king’s knowledge and had Thomas Audley set up these commissions. Henry VIII was still committed to his marriage.
    3. Henry VIII knew that Anne would soon be gone and was thinking ahead to life with a new “beloved wife” who he had high hopes would bring him sons.
    4. Henry VIII thought that Anne Boleyn might be pregnant.

We will never know what exactly was going on at this point in 1536, but I’m inclined to go with point 3, particularly as Henry had said after Anne’s miscarriage in January 1536 “I see God will not give me male children”. I think he’d become convinced that his marriage with Anne was as contrary to God’s will as his first marriage. This is my personal view and you can read more about my view in my article Why I think Henry VIII was ultimately responsible for Anne Boleyn’s downfall. It’s an interesting topic to debate.

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.

9 thoughts on “25 April 1536 – Henry VIII is in hope of a son”

  1. Michael Wright says:

    Henry by this time was a tyrant and I’m sure to do anything you had to get a go-ahead from the King. Nobody in their right mind would so openly conspire to end the lives of the Queen and 4 top nobles. Something this big had to be instigated by the King himself. The letters he wrote to the ambassadors signify that he was absolutely sure of the outcome of proceedings against his wife.

    1. Kathleen McDonald says:

      I agree with your assessment of Henry VIII, Also Cromwell was involved.

      1. Michael Wright says:

        Yes he was. As Henry’s creature but I believe he was only doing his master’s bidding.

  2. Christine says:

    I’m inclined to go with number three also, Henry I think had decided in January when Anne had her final miscarriage that she had to go, his grief at the baby’s death which could have been a boy was evident and they both had a slanging match in her bedchamber, he declared bitterly he could see God would not allow him male children, it was just an outburst caused by shock dismay and very real grief, but it must have planted the seed of doubt in his mind that again, this marriage was cursed, it was just a sham him writing to the ambassadors, they would think no doubt that he was referring to Anne but secretly he was thinking of Jane his new love, Anne had only given him a daughter like Katherine, and like Katherine also she had suffered miscarriages, Anne was in her early thirties if we believe she was born c1500 – 1, well past the age which was considered ideal for a healthy pregnancy and birth, Henry was also only too aware of his own mortality, he was not in the best of health himself, he was putting on weight and suffered from his bad leg and must have had blinding headaches caused by his two head injuries, although he was not the grossly overweight man he eventually became, he knew he was not getting any younger and he wanted no child to succeed him or worse – a girl, he had to have a son, Henry knew that the Seymour’s were a large family, Jane had several brothers and sisters proof that fertility ran in the genes, so baffling though it appears to us and to the court and Europe at the time, outwardly he was supporting Anne but his superstitious mind ever prevalent in the sixteenth century was fostered by Annes inadequacy to bear him a living son, he had mentioned briefly he had been bewitched and although this was not taken seriously Henry himself must have come to believe it, she had had a strange hold over him and he had found himself a slave to her charms so much so that he had turned his realm upside down for her and a lot of people decent men like More his old friend had died because of her, he had risked civil war and had broken from Rome forever, he was thinking of putting Katherine away before Anne came on the scene but he thought he would wed a second bride (poss from France as we know Wolsley was negotiating this) but he did not foresee Anne and all the trouble she would cause how could he, all this for a woman who had a tongue like a shrew and had only given him a useless daughter, he began to see her, not through a lovers eyes like in the heady days of their courtship but as an irritating barren nag, she had ceased to enchant him and he was comparing her to the calm placid Jane Seymour, he believed he would find domestic bliss with her and God willing he would this third time lucky as they say, be blessed with a son, was Anne aware of what her once devoted husband was thinking quite possibly, she knew she had failed and she was nervous and edgy which resulted in her outbursts of temper, she was mourning the child who had been dead barely three months and knew her husband was dallying with Jane Seymour, none of these did nothing for her peace of mind, we can only sympathise with this woman who knew her days were numbered and it was only a matter of time, but when it did come the shock it gave her must have been cataclysmic.

    1. Michael Wright says:

      I’m sure Anne was aware that Henry was going to discard her probably through divorce but what a shock it must’ve been when she realized that he was going to have her killed by the state.

  3. Esther says:

    I also think that no. 3 is correct. Henry lied at Blackfriars by saying that he hoped his marriage to Katherine of Aragon would be found valid, so I can think of no reason why more credence is given to Henry’s reference to his “entirely beloved wife the Queen”

    1. Michael Wright says:

      I personally don’t believe Henry’s protestations. If he truly believed that his marriage to KoA was wrong because she had been the wife of his deceased brother why didn’t he see that marrying Anne would be wrong because he slept with her sister. He simply made up the rules as he went along. A personality like this is very dangerous when they are in a position of power as history has shown.

    2. Christine says:

      Yes Esther, Henry fooled no one though they dared not show it, everyone knew he didn’t want his first marriage declared valid as he lusted after Anne, still he probably put on a very good show and rambled on about how he respected her and everything, Anne herself must have laughed inwardly and it didn’t go according to plan anyway, the Blackfriars trial was a fiasco with Katherine first embarrassing Henry by making an impassioned plea to him, kneeling before him and Henry stared straight past her, she then got up and swept out of the hall declaring she wanted the case heard in Rome, ignoring the heralds calls to return, Henry wanted everything his own way, and this is what historians have noted on and indeed, his very own council and lawyers because he declared with one hand his first wife was his brothers widow therefore their union was forbidden by Leviticus, yet his intended bride to be’s sister had been a mistress of his, the sheer hypocrisy must have made them all mutter in disbelief because it was just sheer hypocrisy.

  4. Banditqueen says:

    “our entirely beloved wife, the Queen” yeap! This was a formal way of writing of the consort and totally meaningless . Henry of course is hoping for a son, but not with Anne. He is talking of his future wife, Jane Seymour. Wasn’t Jane withdrawn from court about now? Henry has one eye on the legal process and the other three on the world, making certain nothing happened before he was ready. I still think Henry was half considering an annulment ( he can’t divorce Anne, he wants to get married again and you can’t remarry if his wife is alive) but the enormity of the charges and his discussions and the conversation with Norris hardened him to resolving that Anne must die. It is one thing to order an investigation, another to see it through. In my opinion it was the latter that made Henry strengthen his resolve and confirm with Cromwell to get a confession and whatever evidence he could, leaving it up to him to make their case. He could then, in his mind, justify his wish to end his marriage and permanently get rid of Anne. Henry was being a master manipulator, here, with all is well in public and behind the scenes everything is being done to prepare the pot for the goose.

    Anne was an exceptionally intelligent woman and I suspect she was pretty perceptive as well. I suspect she knew something was going on, but couldn’t put her finger on what. I suspect that Anne had known something was up for some time. She was curious about his treatment of the Imperial Ambassador who did not dine with them as per protocol but whom she had encountered in the chapel and she must have been puzzled about why Henry wanted her to abuse the French Ambassador in the hearing of everyone. The Court is like a village market place, or a modern office, full of jangling tongues and gossip. Nothing was totally secret and just like the internet now, someone always found something out and the word went viral. I very much suspect spy a told lady b who told lady c who told great lady d who warned the Queen. Anne knew that people were meeting late at night in Council, that Henry was acting oddly and I believe she was very concerned. However, I don’t believe she could imagine in her wildest nightmares that he intended to arrest her, imprison her and try and execute her. She hardly believed it when it happened. She was afraid, though and met with her chaplain to make arrangements over Elizabeth. Rumours of an annulment may have been circulating, Anne had to think of her daughter first.

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