Henry VIIIOn 28th May 1533, five days after he declared the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer proclaimed the validity of Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn following a secret enquiry at Lambeth Palace.

Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn had already been married four months, long before the annulment, but Henry believed 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. A special secret enquiry into the King’s second marriage was held at Lambeth Palace and the marriage had been deemed valid.

Henry VIII was not unusual using a dispensation to allow a marriage and then arguing for an annulment on the grounds that the dispensation was contrary to God’s law. In his recent series TV series “Sex and the Church”, Diarmaid MacCulloch examined the Church’s involvement in marriage. He talked about the case of Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland, and his wife Maude in the 11th century. At the time, Church law was that no-one could marry within seven degrees of consanguinity. This made it difficult for the new Norman settlers in England because it meant that everyone they knew was out of bounds. Robert and Maude were Normans and were distant cousins affected by this law, so they got a dispensation for their marriage. The marriage turned sour within two years due to Robert rebelling against the king and being branded a traitor. Maude wanted out of the marriage and so appealed to the Pope for a dispensation, alleging that as they were cousins that their marriage was against Church law and so should be annulled. She was granted an annulment and then went on to apply for another dispensation to marry another of her cousins, Nigel d’Aubigny. Maude was unable to provide Nigel with an heir so he promptly argued for an annulment so that he could remarry. It all sounds rather mad to us today – how can a Pope issue a dispensation to allow a marriage and then grant an annulment on the basis that the dispensation wasn’t valid?

So, Henry’s request for an annulment actually wasn’t that unusual and the Pope would have granted it if Catherine had not opposed it as she did, and if she hadn’t been the Emperor’s aunt. It’s why Cardinal Campeggio, the papal legate, tried to convince Catherine to enter a convent in 1529. I often wonder what would have happened if Catherine had agreed to the annulment in 1527/8, it’s a big “what if”!

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20 thoughts on “28 May 1533 – Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn is valid”
  1. Good Morning! Because I have a strong interest in the life of Anne Boleyn, her childhood and ya, then the periods of religious instruction from the English Church and French religious ideas from Fr. royalty: Did any of her preparation during childhood and as a young adult cause her to have any reluctance or dreams that might warned her to withdraw from the attentions and future marriage to Henry VIII?
    Though I am aware of her love interest after returning from France, and some discomfort with this proposal from the English King was hinted at in some non fiction books and articles? When she was pressured to seek the King’s attention from the Boleyn family and Thomas Cranmer have you found any sources for her-acceptance of these demands? Any preconception of Anne” possible desires to reject the advance? (The King’s ultimate power of authority). atk

    1. There is no proof that Anne was pressured to seek the King’s attention by her own family. Still less by Thomas Cranmer who was at that time a scholar at the university without any ambition whatsoever.

      As young Anne probably dreamed of a good marriage, i.e. a marriage upward for that would was only way to a woman to have a status for her and, before all, for her children. In this she was exceptional active for she did not leave the matter to her father who negotiated with Butler family but had a serious love affair with Henry Percy who as an heir to the earl was a better “catch”.

      As for Henry, Anne showed a firm reluctance to become his mistress, warned probably by her sister’s fate.

      But after Henry offered marriage Anne had no chance to refuse.

  2. As I said earlier, Henry’s request for annulment was not unusual, but his single-minded pursuit certainly was.

    The French King, Louis, married Henry’s sister Mary in order to beget a son. Yet, in case it failed, he also married his daughter off to her royal cousin. In other words, he knew that getting a son was by no means certain, so he had a B plan. Henry had not.

    Henry probably believed in his own interpretation Leviticus, but had he looked around, he would have noticed that that there were many nobles that had no son or even a daughter although they had not married their brother’s widow.

    Even generally, he would have noticed that either getting children or losing children early had no connection with the virtue or sinfulness of the parents.

    Henry could simply not accept that even a king cannot always get what he wants, nor could he abandon the decision he had once made. So he finally took the course that was extremely dangerous.

    So long he lived, he could make sure that Anne and her eventual child was safe, but what would happen if he suddenly died? Even after Parliament had accepted the Succession Act, what mattered was whether the nobles were willing to support Boleyns or Mary.

  3. Would it have been possible for Catherine to affirm, by oath if necessary, that she had not lied, was not responsible for the death of her babies, but would like to retire from public duties and queenship to spend time in contemplative reflection?

  4. What if Katherine had agreeed to the annulment?

    Well, only two things seems sure: Henry’s marriage with Anne would have been acknowledged by all in England and abroad, and Mary would remained legitimate and an heir until and unless a son were born an.d she could have been married off.

    All else is speculation. Anne was younger, so she had more fertile years ahead her. Yet, the child’s sex did not depend on her but on Henry, so she could have born a daughter after a daughter. Or, if Katherine and Anne’s miscarriages were caused by Henry’s sickness, then all could depend on a single child’s sex.

    But, if Anne had had only a daughter or daughters, would she have been content that Mary was an heir and more importantly, could she have done something to alter the situation?

  5. Katherine, born of two great sovereigns whose kingdom far surpassed that backwater called England, would never have agreed based on an insulting lie. Henry was using a misreading of old Jewish texts that not even the Jews in Jerusalem agreed was correct. It was insulting to Katherine and her daughter on every level.

    I think had she given in Henry he would have believed even sooner that he was above the Pope and become pope of England while just mouthing platitudes. Would he have had the cash to build a navy and fortify the coasts if he didn’t rob the church blind and kill its Priests? Who knows? I do think it would be interesting to wonder about a North America that stayed Spanish and Dutch, though.

    1. The text in Leviticus can be interpreted in more than one way, depending on the actual circumstances, which is why there are rabbis whose job it was to interpret the Hebrew text. This is because the text in Deuteronomy specifically commanded the brother or other male relative to marry the widow of the other if the couple were childless, to take under his protection. The first male child to be born belonged to the dead brother by proxy. The Talmud gives a long and complex examination of the two texts and all circumstances which apply. Both arguments were used to justify the debates during the divorce from Katherine.

      England was not a backwater and Spain in 1502 and 1509 was not a great nation. In fact it was barely a nation at all. Isabella had united Castile to Aragon, through marriage and the end of the reconquest, the first land grabs in the Indies had been made, but Spain was far from the superpower of Charles V and Philip ll. Isabella was a great sovereign, Katherine was her mother’s daughter, she was a force to be reckoned with, both were fierce and proud, botb commanded respect and both were ferocious in their beliefs. The agreements to marry with England were not based on a lie, what are you on about now?

      England was as much respected by royal families abroad as other countries. In fact prior to her marriage to Ferdinand of Aragorn, Isabella was very much thinking about a link with England, as she was betrothed to the young Richard, Duke of Gloucester. The two families were related and proposals for marriage not in short supply. Isabella also proposed a match with Richard iii and her eldest daughter after his widowhood. The new Tudor Dynasty was an attractive enough prospect, both countries needed strong alliances as both countries were emerging from internal strife. Henry Tudor may have had to make certain political decisions that satisfied Spain of his security on the throne, but by the time of the marriage between Prince Arthur and Katherine he was secure and England’s own international recognition assured. England was not a backwater, she would not have made the alliances she did if she had of been.

      1. Ha ha well said Bandit Queen, the problem with Judith is she’s a colonial! By the way Judith that is a joke.

      2. Since medieval times England has had several foreign Queen Consorts to, from Eleanor of Castile, Eleanor from Provence and Isabella from France, all these ladies were scions of the royal houses of France and Spain, so if England was a backwater like Judith says why should these countries choose to unite themselves with her? Bearing in mind that America wasn’t even on the world map then till the Europeans began to colonise her I find her remarks rather strange, England’s navy expanded and eventually we grew into a large Empire that has never been surpassed, from our tiny island we ruled three quarters of the globe, not bad for a ‘backwater’ country!

        1. Well said, ladies, we also have had a growing navy for centuries. Many kings store themed the navy, although Henry Viii is called the father of the navy as he built ship after ship after ship from the first year of his reign. However, notable contributions to the navy and our defensive structures came from Edward iii, Henry Vll and Richard lll. Henry Viii was able to increase our navy because he inherited the richest crown in Christendom. Although Henry Tudor did build up what was needed, he fined his troublesome nobles and he gentlemen and grew rich. The treasury was full to overflowing when our Henry came to the throne. Henry spent his father’s money on both pleasure and palaces, but also he built numerous docks and naval schools, backyards and naval collages, ships, furnaces from coast to coast to smelt Canon, and mostly before he raided the monasteries. After the reformation he ensured the fortresses, castles, New built specifically designed gun forts, etc, covered every piece of coastal land and water. Henry had to do this. He had made enemies with most of Europe. The marriage to Anne Boleyn being declared valid in an English court would test our ability to stand alone to the limit. Her alliances with important European partners going back centuries, for both strategic and financial mutual benefit to both partners, were now seriously in jeopardy. No so called backwater could have survived; not only did England survive, she became stronger than France or Spain.

  6. Hi JudithRex, it is because of the lie, the insult, that I personally would not have wished to spend or waste any more of my time with such a husband. Would any woman? I guess , it may be, what Hanelle alludes to above, that Mary may have been threatened by Anne and would not abandon her, which is of itself a rather interesting thought. Speculation, of course.

  7. It wasn’t just the Pope who said that Katherine’s marriage to Henry was valid; Martin Luther and William Tyndale — both of whom attacked papal authority — stated that the marriage was valid. Also, Katherine was asked to enter a convent in 1527 or 1528. At this stage, Henry was still a strong backer of papal authority whose ruthlessness was limited to executing a distant cousin (Duke of Buckingham) and his father’s ministers (Empson & Dudley). At that time, she had no reason to believe that fighting for her rights would result in a split with the church, the execution of his friends (such as More and Fisher), and persecution of both her and Mary.

  8. Hi Esther, I see your point. But what if she had agreed to the Cardinal’s suggestion in 1529? Because presumably the Cardinal would not have suggested that without the Pope’s blessing. Catherine was on the receiving end of mixed messages’ the Pope publicly saying one thing and privately advising another? Or, later on, perhaps, when she realised that Henry would not back down and appeared to threaten not just the lives of Fisher and More but also her life and Mary’s, would she not just quietly retire? Anyway, the fact is, she didn’t. And there it is.

    1. I made a mistake in saying 1527 or 1528 instead of 1528 or 1529 — nothing as of that date gave rise to any reason to believe that Henry would kill people or persecute his own child if he didn’t get the annulment. IMO, by the time Catherine was forced to recognize how far Henry would go (which wouldn’t be until 1532 or 1533 at the earliest), she couldn’t back down. By the time she realized he was killing people he had once been close to (which was 1535, with Fisher and More) she may have been taking comfort in the prospect of martyrdom — especially if she realized that she also didn’t have much longer to live.


      1. Hearing what you say and it was a long seven year ‘dispute’ that Catherine endured and there is always a mix of influences in every bag AND even, perhaps, from the moment of Elizabeth’s birth, her ‘dispute’ with Henry morphed somewhat into a battle between two queens and their daughters. (At that moment Catherine having the upper hand because of her better connections?)

      2. You are right in it that Katherine did not know how far Henry would go. He did not know it himself.

        On the other hand, Wolsey warned Compeggio that Henry could leave the Catholic Church if he did not get the dissolution. Katherine must have warned of this possibility also.

        So it is rather so that Katherine could not believe the dangers but instead, being still in love with Henry and imaging he was still the man she had married, believed that he would return to him as he always had. Certainly Chapyus believed so very late.

        Of course, Henry also could not believe that Katherine would resist him to the end as he knew her as an obedient wife.

        Somehow this marriage battle reminds me of the negotiations between a great power and a small nation. The former makes demands and cannot understand that the latter that is so much weaker does not yield. The latter thinks that the demands are unjustified and refuses and cannot understand that the option is war as the latter is not said aloud.

        I do not think that is enough to the leaders of a small nation that they did not *know*
        that the result would be a war. It is their job to calculate risks. On the other hand, if the war saved the nation from a worse fate, then their choice not to yield was right.

        In Katherine’s case, the result was a catastrophe for her, her daughter and the Catholic Church in England. However, to her it was a question about such things as saving Henry’s soul from eternal damnation, so perhaps it is wrong to criticize her according to today’s standards.

        1. Oh I like this Catherine that you are painting, Hannele. She had been the young Henry’s young wife, when he had been that other Henry who was generous and fun-loving. So perhaps, even though she knew Henry well, and in spite of some ominous signs to the contrary, she couldn’t accept that she couldn’t save him, save her church, and Mary. Her real motives we may never know, but I for one give her the benefit of the doubt.

  9. I think Anne came to the King’s attention after her sister, Mary, was able to conceive with him, two extremely healthy children, Lady Katherine and Sir Henry Carey. He couldn’t proclaim them as his, since his mistress, Lady Mary Carey nee Boleyn was all ready married and the children were legally her husband’s children. I would venture to guess that it probably wasn’t so much the birth of Lady Catherine Cary, since the King all ready had a somewhat healthy daughter with his wife; but it was birth of Sir Henry Carey, the King’s son, a very healthy boy, which caused the King to obsess over the fact that he was capable of fathering a healthy son. Yes, there was Richmond, but was he was illegitimate and was he really all that healthy, as was Henry Carey? And if Mary Carey, nee Boleyn, could provide the King with a healthy male heir, wouldn’t it make sense for him to think that Lady Carey’s sister, Anne, would also be able to provide him with a healthy son. It seems to me the King pursued the wrong sister, if only Catherine of Aragon had died sooner, perhaps, Henry VIII would have married Mary Boleyn, and rather then his son being known as Lord Henry Carey, his healthy son would have been Prince Henry Tudor future King Henry IX of England. But as Catherine of Aragon would most likely agree, it was all God’s will.

  10. Henry Viii believed he was single. Yes, but he also believed what was convenient. His conviction that he wasn’t properly married to Katherine of Aragon was sincere, but so was Katherine’s contention that as her marriage to Arthur wasn’t consummated, her marriage to Henry was valid. The Church could declare the marriage good as both had married in good faith. I suspect that in reality Henry always doubted he had done the right thing with Anne, because he had this marriage examined in secret.. In less than three years, he wouldn’t be legally married to Anne, either, and he also had the poor lady executed. As I said, he believed what was convenient and he had changed over the years. He would dramatically change again in 1536 and after that he became totally unpredictable.

  11. most likely…. anne would’ve given him a son who’d be king. she would’ve had a lot less stress in her life because she wouldn’t have many powerful opponents.

    since mary wouldn’t have opposed them, they along w/the boleyn faction (ie her brother george and uncle norfolk) wouldn’t have pressured anne shelton, anne’s aunt, to mistreat her either.

    catherine and mary would’ve led much happier lives. catherine could live like a queen as a head of a nunnery.

    mary probably would’ve been married and possibly even fertile when she was younger. she probably would’ve been considered “legal”.

    i doubt she would’ve married a prince or duke though. henry was cheap. yeah, her aunt mary tudor did marry the french king, but henry had much more money in 1514 than when mary came of age.

    in contrast, henry i’s illegimente children= Sybilla, Queen of Scots,
    Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester
    Matilda FitzRoy, Countess of Perche
    Reginald de Dunstanville, 1st Earl of Cornwall and a bunch of others.

    mary tudor was so miserable and she was 1 or 2 acknowledge children besides edward who was the heir presumptive. she wanted to be a mother and a wife badly.

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