30 November 1529 – Catherine of Aragon Confronts Henry VIII

Katherine of AragonOn this day in history, St Andrews Day (30th November) 1529, Queen Catherine of Aragon confronted her husband, Henry VIII, about his treatment of her.

Eustace Chapuys gave a full report of the meeting between Catherine and Henry in a letter to Charles V, writing that Catherine said “that she had long been suffering the pains of Purgatory on earth, and that she was very badly treated by his refusing to dine with and visit her in her apartments.” The King replied that she had no right to complain, “for she was mistress in her own household, where she could do what she pleased” and explained that he had not dined with her because he had been busy with “affairs of government”.

He then went on to address her complaint about not visiting her apartments, saying that “she ought to know that he was not her legitimate husband, as innumerable doctors and canonists, all men of honour and probity, and even his own almoner, Doctor Lee, who had once known her in Spain, were ready to maintain” and that “should not the Pope, in conformity with the above opinions so expressed, declare their marriage null and void, then in that case he (the King) would denounce the Pope as a heretic, and marry whom he pleased.”

According to Chapuys:-

“The Queen replied that he himself, without the help of doctors, knew perfectly well that the principal cause alleged for the divorce did not really exist, “cart yl l’avoit trouvé pucelle,” as he himself had owned upon more than one occasion. “As to your almoner’s opinion in this matter,” she continued, “I care not a straw; he is not my judge in the present case; it is for the Pope, not for him, to decide. Respecting those of other doctors, whether Parisian or from other universities, you know very well that the principal and best lawyers in England have written in my favour. Indeed, if you give me permission to procure counsel’s opinion in this matter I do not hesitate to say that for each doctor or lawyer who might decide in your favour and against me, I shall find 1,000 to declare that the marriage is good and indissoluble.” “

What a speech!

After further words on the matter, the King then “left the room suddenly” and Chapuys describes him as “very disconcerted and downcast”. Unfortunately, worse was to come as the King was then reproached by Anne Boleyn, who said:-

“Did I not tell you that whenever you disputed with the Queen she was sure to have the upper hand? I see that some fine morning you will succumb to her reasoning, and that you will cast me off. I have been waiting long, and might in the meanwhile have contracted some advantageous marriage, out of which I might have had issue, which is the greatest consolation in this world; but alas! farewell to my time and youth spent to no purpose at all.”

Oh dear, Henry was really getting it in the neck on that day! Well, according to Chapuys anyway!

Also on this day in history…

1554 – Cardinal Pole absolves Parliament and England is restored to Rome. See 30th November 1554 – The Return to Rome

1554 – Birth of Philip Sidney, the poet, courtier and soldier, at Penshurst Place in Kent. See Birth of Philip Sidney 1554

P.S. Happy St Andrew’s Day to those in Scotland or with Scottish origins!

Notes and Sources

  • Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 4 Part 1: Henry VIII, 1529-1530, pp. 337-363, note 224, Letter from Eustace Chapuys to the Emperor, 6 December 1529

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