Clement_VII._Sebastiano_del_Piombo._c.1531.On this day in history, 5th January 1531, Pope Clement VII wrote to Henry VIII forbidding him to remarry, and threatening him with excommunication if he took matters into his own hands and disobeyed Rome:

“At the request of the Queen, forbids Henry to remarry until the decision of the case, and declares that if he does all issue will be illegitimate. Forbids any one in England, of ecclesiastical or secular dignity, universities, parliaments, courts of law, &c., to make any decision in an affair the judgment of which is reserved for the Holy See. The whole under pain of excommunication. As Henry would not receive a former citation, this is to be affixed to the church gates of Bruges, Tournay, and other towns in the Low Countries, which will be sufficient promulgation. Rome, 5 Jan. 1531.” (LP v.27)

Henry VIII sought an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry his new love, Anne Boleyn. He applied for a dispensation to marry again back in August 1527, never dreaming that it would take nearly six years to get the marriage annulled. A seemingly simple request for a dispensation turned into “The King’s Great Matter”, and resulted in the fall of Cardinal Wolsey, England breaking with Rome, Henry declaring himself to be “sole protector and supreme head of the English church and clergy”, and the executions of men like Thomas More, John Fisher and the Carthusian monks, who would not swear the oath of supremacy.

Henry VIII finally married Anne Boleyn in a secret ceremony on 25th January 1533, and their marriage was declared valid on 28th May 1533, just days before Anne’s coronation on the 1st June. See my article A Timeline of Anne Boleyn’s Relationship with Henry VIII – From 1528-1533 for more information on Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII’s relationship.

(Taken from “On This Day in Tudor History” by Claire Ridgway)

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3 thoughts on “5 January 1531 – The Pope Forbids Henry VIII to Remarry”
  1. Should think that he would have to wait. He asked for the dovorce in the first place and yes it was taking a long time, but the Pope has to listen to petitions from both parties. As Catherine had appealled that case now had to move to Rome and Henry knew that. If he committed bigamy then of course the children of the second marriage would not be legitimate. It is not legal now to have more than one wife at a time, and if one partner brings a complaint to the courts, a bigamist can go to jail. There were some sorts of processes that allow in some cases children to be declared legitimate under canon law of such marriages but they were exceptional. That Henry and Catherine had lived together for some time without realizing that their marriage may not be canonical also allows protection for Mary as a legitimate child even if the parents marriage is annulled. The so called divorce may have taken a lot longer than it could have, but the political situation and the importance of Queen Catherine in Europe as the aunt of the Holy Roman Empire made the situation difficult for the Holy See. There are commentators who believe it could have been settled long before this; but I believe that Clement was just too indesisive. I also think his putting it off all the time was costly for Catherine. There must have been definate movements in 1531, the year Henry separated from Catherine towards achieving a second marriage for the Pope to act. Henry, running out of patience as he was, would either have to wait and do as he was told, as a dutiful son of the Church, or take matters into his own hands. Unfortunately he chose the latter.

  2. One of the problems was that the Holy Roman Emperor was Katherine’s nephew, and the fact that he had an army camped outside of Rome itself during this period (I wont mention exact dates as I have no reference books to hand) obviously with this threat by their own appointed secular ruler the pope was too afraid to oppose him and grant a divorce/annullment. Indeed many rulers in the past were permitted by popes to put aside wives that did not produce male heirs even if they had produced daughters, Eleanor of Aquitaine was divorced by her first husband for this very reason. So why was Henry really a different case? I must ask the “What If” here, if Charles V had not effectively been holding the pope hostage what would have been the outcome?

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