28 May 1533 – Henry VIII’s Marriage to Anne Boleyn is Proclaimed to be Valid

Posted By on May 28, 2013

Henry and Anne engravingOn 28th May 1533, five days after the special court at Dunstable Priory had declared Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon invalid, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer proclaimed the validity of Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn after a special enquiry at Lambeth Palace. The proclamation was just in time for Anne Boleyn’s coronation pageantry, which began the next day.

Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn had married on 25th January 1533, so before the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, but Henry had believed for a few years that his marriage to Catherine had never been valid because she was his brother’s widow. Convocation and the Dunstable court agreed with him, ruling that the Pope had no authority to issue a dispensation for a marriage which was contrary to God’s law.

You may be interested in reading my article Did Henry VIII commit bigamy when he married Anne Boleyn?.

19 thoughts on “28 May 1533 – Henry VIII’s Marriage to Anne Boleyn is Proclaimed to be Valid”

  1. M'lady says:

    Hi Claire, just wondering what evidence Bishop Cranmer would have had to decide whether the marriage was valid or not? Or was it just expected of him to say so?

    1. Claire says:

      He proclaimed it after a special enquiry at Lambeth had decided it, based on the fact that Convocation and the special court at Dunstable Priory had ruled that Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon was invalid. The annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine meant that the enquiry at Lambeth could then rule Henry’s subsequent marriage to Anne as valid.

      1. Lynn Donovan says:

        I think we are looking on based on what evidence? Most will say Katherine was henry’s brother’s widow. But in reality this had no bearing since the Pope had granted a dispensation. Anne’s marriage was found valid more on the necessity to make sure the child that Anne was carrying was seen as legitimate. This will always be a contraversy as to which marriage was valid. I think it would be interesting to see the actual Lambeth documents

        1. Claire says:

          I’m not sure what you mean by “I think we are looking on based on what evidence?”
          The Lambeth hearing would, I assume, simply have okayed Henry’s marriage to Anne as valid because Henry’s previous marriage to Catherine had been declared null and void, so Henry had never been married.

          Re convocation and the Dunstable Priory hearing, they would have looked on Henry’s argument regarding the Pope’s dispensation being contrary to God’s law. Henry felt that the Pope had no right to give a dispensation when the marriage was contrary to Leviticus, although Deuternonomy gave a very different law. Henry’s case for an annulment would have been strong, I feel, if Catherine had not been Charles V’s aunt. Interestingly, the dispensation covered a consummated marriage, yet Catherine was adamant later that the marriage had not been consummated.

        2. Lynn Donovan says:

          It is such a gray area, I see both sides of argument. I just think both women were victims to Henry’s machenations. I think if it was not for that both women would have admired each other.

        3. Leah Hanson says:

          I think the “evidence” people are asking about is a misconceptin with how the court systems worked in Henry8s time… it wouldnt be like a current court of law where physical evidence would be presented… I think it was a lot of debate.. followed by the proclamation already ordered….
          Leah Hanson

  2. Globerose says:

    Re your article Claire, British Library ‘Introduction of Magna Carter’ reads – Magna Carter limited the king’s authority by establishing the crucial principle that the law was a power in it’s own right to which the king was subject. So Henry does seem to have invaded his law a bit. But, of course, Henry had the ability to legislate through parliament and make his will law and to do it retrospectively.

  3. Esther says:

    Hello Claire: FWIW, JJ Scarisbrick’s biography of Henry VIII shows that Henry’s canonical arguments, based on Leviticus were actually very weak. Even without Charles’s influence, … the Church had been recognizing for centuries a “Deuteronomy exception” (which says that a man must marry the brother’s widow when the marriage to the brother is childless … as was Catherine’s marriage to Arthur, even if consummated). The Pope could have annulled the marriage if Henry had relied on another weakness in the original dispensation (the original dispensation addressed only affinity … which was irrelevant if the marriate to Arthur was not consummated … and not the impediment of public honesty … which existed even if the marriage to Arthur was not consummated), but according to another book (Peter Gwyn’s “The King’s Cardinal” about Wolsey), this could result in another dispensation curing the original weakness. IMO, absent the influence of Charles — and Henry’s own words that he hoped the marriage to Catherine was valid — the Pope would have annulled the marriage due to the weakness in the original dispensation (i.e., the impediment of pulbic honesty) which would avoid both the comparatively minor issue of calling Catherine a liar over the consummation.and the major issue of the Pope’s power to dispense. Also, while there is a “Deuteronomy exception” to the ban on marrying a brother’s widow, there is absolutely no exception of any kind allowing a marriage to a wife’s (or, mistress’s) sister … so the case for invalidating the marriage to Anne Boleyn based on Henry’s relaitonship with Mary was actually much stronger than the case for invalidating Henry’s marriage to Catherine.

    1. Claire says:

      I agree, I think Henry’s reliance on Leviticus was weak, but I believe the Pope would have granted him an annulment if it hadn’t been for the political situation. The Pope was in a very tricky situation, particularly as Catherine had appealed to him.

      1. Tudor rose says:

        The pope had been and was stuck in-between it all!

    2. Sonetka says:

      Scarisbrick is wonderful — I wish somebody could work a few of his observations into a novel except that you’d have to be beyond brilliant at dialogue to make it all comprehensible on the first pass.

      Incidentally, does that particular picture of Anne and Henry remind anyone else of Humpty Dumpty? Henry, I mean. Anne looks fine, but Henry’s head is just … wrong.

  4. Tudor rose says:

    Had he of waited just three more years it would not have mattered as Catherine would have been dead by this time but could he of waited an extra three after all he had been waiting seven but had he of met her first before Catherine even better still.

  5. Dawn 1st says:

    9 days ago we were all remembering Anne’s execution day, and now here we are back to happier times of her marriage being declared valid, her coronation day approaching and a ‘baby on board’. It’s a wonderful merry-go-round of fascinating historical events, one I never want to get off 🙂

  6. Joe says:

    I agree with “Dawn 1st”. I love Anne Boleyn and her story. I have followed it since high school years ago. She was an inspiration to me, as well as many others. Her execution was unfair and in my opinion very cruel of Henry and her uncle the Duke of Norfolk. Anne has inspired my life in many ways and her death was tragic, especially since she wasn’t given a proper burial at the time, but still- her final resting place is still unacceptable. She was a Queen of England, regardless of her or her family’s “original” status. Henry was just so consumed with a male heir, which he received, but it was short lived. A male heir doesn’t make a country safe. Anne’s daughter was one of the greatest British Monarchs. Now I’ve worn myself out lol. It’s a sad and tragic story.

  7. BanditQueen says:

    The Holy Father, based on the deliberations of the Curia, had already decalred the marriage to Catherine valid, so in the eyes of God, Scripture and the One Holy Catholic Church the marriage to Anne Boleyn by Henry VIII had no validity in law. Convocation and Archbishop Cranmer were not going to say NO to Henry and more or less are going to do as they are told in declaring the marriage between Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII valid and Henry’s marriage to Catherine null and void. They are making their own law, although in the eyes of the rest of the world and most people in England they had no authority, no lawful authority that is to do so. The Queen, Katherine of Aragon had appealled her case to Rome and at that appeal the only authority that could lawfully make a decision on her marriage to Henry VIII was the Curia. The Holy Father on the findings of the Curia then makes the declaration of the validty of the marriage and issues the final degree.

    The people of England must have been most confused about all of this and it must have been very difficult for them to decide who or what to support. They are going to be asked to swear to the validity of the marriage of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, based on a decision made a few days after another decision that declares the opposite. It is a test of loyalty and of faith. And what a decison it is?

    Do you put your immortal soul at risk and say yes to the marriage of your King and new Queen or do you put your life at risk and agree that the marriage to Katherine is the valid one? Not a very easy thing to have to decide!

    We can sit back at a computer and debate this with hindsight and the input of scholars and so on, and even if it matters to us which is correct, it does not matter in the long run as none of us being asked to risk anything. I could write here that I do not agree with Prince Charles and Camilla if she becomes Queen or that I do not really care, and I would be in no danger at all. But had we had this debate in 1533 or 1534 after the Treasons Act, then we would all have to go into hiding for fear of being arrested and placed in the Tower. That was the severity of being on the wrong side in this debate. A very frightening thought.

    And then the main players themselves had to live with the consequences of this decision. Mary had to decide to declare her own parents as living in sin and herself as illegitimate or she had to stick to her guns and refuse to recognise Anne as Queen. She does the latter and has several run ins with Anne as a consequence, befoere being forced by her father to give in before being allowed back to court, at the risk of soul and life, after Anne’s death. And Catherine has a choice of denying her child and her lawful place as Queen; declaring Mary not to be true born, and will not do so as she believes that she is Henry’s true wife and remains so until her death in January 1536. She prayed that Henry would have a care for his own immortal soul and hopes that he will see sense. It must have broken her heart that he did not.

    Then there is Anne. She of course now sees herself as the only true Queen and her daughter as the legitimate daughter and heir and does all she can to have Mary and others accept that. Finally, there are those leading courtiers who cannot accpet Anne as Queen, cannot accept the KIng as Head of the Church of England, and cannot take the new oaths. Sir Thomas More and Blessed John Fisher pay the ultimate price for what they believe to be the truth. All for the interpretation of what is lawful and what is not. But that is how important it is: only a decision based on life and death will do. Anything less is a compromise.

    I believe that the marriage of Henry and Katherine was lawful and valid and could not be undone without the consent of both parties and the judgement by the Curia in Rome. But I am no martyre. I am not sure that I would not have taken the oath that validated the marriage of Henry and Anne, while believing otherwise in private.

  8. Dayne says:

    What is Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s position on the marriage/ divorce?

    how does he feel about Anne/ Catherine?

    Seems like he is more in the scheme for political benefits and to further England’s reformation but its hard to say

  9. Shannon says:

    Do not forget that the Pope granted dispensations AND annulments all the time to kings. He especially granted annulments to kings whose wives were past their prime and where a male heir was absent to preserve royal lines. ALL THE TIME… It was in Henry’s case that the pope was being coerced by the queens nephew, the HRE to decline Henry’s request, a request he likely would have granted under different circumstances.

  10. Jill Dippman says:

    Hi Claire,
    I discovered your website recently and I enjoy it so much. Can you tell me anything about the illustration of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in this post? Do you know if it is a contemporary painting?



    1. Claire says:

      It’s a 19th century vintage engraving so not contemporary I’m afraid. Welcome to The AB Files and I’m so glad you’re enjoying your time here.

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