OK, so it wasn’t Gandalf that said this, it was actually the pope – sorry!

Yes, on this day in history, 5th January 1531, Pope Clement VII wrote to Henry VIII telling him that he could not remarry while the case for the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was still on-going. If Henry disobeyed then he would be excommunicated.

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11 thoughts on “5 January 1531 – You shall not remarry!”
  1. Of course he couldn’t marry anyone until after his annulment was granted, silly man, no matter what he believed. Katherine had asserted her right to appeal to Rome, a legal door Henry opened the moment he asked or told Wolsey to go ahead and bring his counter part in Cardinal Campeggio from Rome and consented to a public trial at Blackfriars. Wolsey had every authority to grant the annulment as he was a Nuncio in England but the Queen had challenged Henry and so it had to be decided. Rome didn’t need to send it’s own Cardinals but She did because they were not going to grant anything. Campeggio was briefed to delay or ask Katherine to go into a convent. As she didn’t, she was going to fight and so he was to put up a show, get Katherine to appeal, which she did, then raise the court at the end and never sit again. Rome would prevent anything further. Rome would take as long as was needed. Henry had little choice as she had that right and only a change in the law could stop that from being repeated.

    Henry was desperate and determination set in to be married to Anne Boleyn and the clergy now became his way in as did the so called Reformation Parliament and Convocation as he used the death of Wolsey to force them into submission. It was give up allegiance to the Pope or face the same charges as the late Cardinal. Henry was learning his own strength and the lion roared loudly. Henry now began the mechanism to break from Rome if they didn’t give him what he wanted. However, he was still limited and wrote to his man in Rome and he also put it out that he would proceed to marry without permission if he got the chance.

    Remember, Henry was now seeing things with new eyes, those of the woman he loved, Anne Boleyn and at some point this year came into procession of a certain book by William Tyndale, called The Obedience of A Christian Man. This would make him even more determined to break from Rome and put into the mechanism in England to get his annulment in an English Court, by an English Bishop and an English Parliament to confirm it. Henry no longer accepted a need to theological arguments for his marriage which he believed to be null and he saw himself as free to remarry without anything further. Katherine and her appeal stood in his way, but it was dawning on Rome that Henry would not wait. He would in fact interfere with the process. Hence the stern warning not to act unless he heard from Rome. Henry was still religious, still Catholic and still feared Excommunication as he should. It meant to be cut off totally from the Christian community at home and internationally. He could legally be deprived of his throne, but not killed, his soul was in danger of eternal punishment, a very real threat, his realm could be invaded, his people could be deprived of burial, baptism, the sacrament, he could not be aided by anyone or spoken to. It was not a pleasant thought and Henry at this point feared it more than death. Rome knew this warning would delay his interference, even if his break was to follow later.

    Henry was still not the angry and unpredictable man he became. In 1531 he still showed restraint and it would still take a long process to get even the English legislation in place to recognise his marriage to Anne which would not take place for a further two years and only then because she was pregnant. Henry had by then taken greater steps to make his break from Rome and had in place a new man to help with his Annulment, Thomas Cranmer and Thomas Cromwell. He had moved Katherine out of the palace, although she was still free in January 1533, he had installed Anne in her place and he had tentatively sounded out international support from Francis I in a meeting in France. Convocation was prepared to go further on his title of Supreme Head and Parliament that year would begin the legislation process to confirm that and his new marriage with the Treason Act, Act of Succession and Act of Supremacy in 1534. Now, however, this was still far away and Katherine still in residence. Henry had to wait and that was all there was to it. He had agreed to Rome hearing the case. Rome had every right to make him wait. In the eyes of tge world, Church and Rome (all more or less the same thing) Katherine and Henry were lawfully married, unless the Curia judged otherwise and no decision had been reached. Unfortunately for Henry, his belief that his marriage was not valid didn’t make it so. His only real hope of a quick solution was to get Katherine to agree to leave everything to him. That wasn’t going to happen. The Pope had her nephew on his doorstep, Charles V and Katherine had herself written strongly to refuse to budge. Rome would not make a decision until 1534, when it was too late. Although the Curia declared Katherine and Henry legitimate in their marriage, by then Henry had married Anne Boleyn, been already told to get back to Katherine, been threatened with Excommunication, which he had changed his mind about, had a new heiress, had been made Supreme Head and hus marriage was validated at Dunstable in April 1533. Henry no longer cared.

  2. Henry V111 was not the first King to be excommunicated, several hundred years before King Philip 1st of France was also excommunicated, again over a woman, so it was no new thing, Henry V111 and Anne Boleyn were by now getting increasingly frustrated with Katherines attempts to thwart their future together and one can imagine their conversations together when they were alone, for now they had to be patient but as we know Henry did eventually marry Anne without the annulment, they probably new it would never be granted and Anne could see herself waiting another couple of years and her body clock was ticking, she was no fresh young girl of sixteen, and we can just imagine how much Anne nagged Henry, here’s a point, if the pope years before could grant a dispensation so Henry could marry his brothers widow, surely with the very legitimate issue that Henry now presented with his successor, the bit in the bible where it says ‘if a man uncovers his brothers nakedness he will be childless’, he should be granted that anullment without any hindrance, but then the problem was Katherine who happened to be the popes aunt, and who had appealed directly to Rome which caused the Blackfriars trial to collapse, and he had no wish to upset her, one can feel sympathy with the pope who was caught both ways, the fact that Henry defied him by promptly marrying Anne did raise very serious issues with their daughter Elizabeth who throughout her life was never acknowledged as being born legitimate by her enemies, and throughout their union Anne was forever known as the black eyed wh*re and Henry a bigamist by their detractors.

  3. If Henry had taken Thomas Wolsey’s advice from the beginning and based his petition to the pope on the succession rather than being so adamant that it must be theologically based on a passage that is contradicted elsewhere in the Bible he may have gotten what he wanted much sooner. The Kings complaint about Katherine’s obstinacy is a joke. Look at his obstinacy on this that he was so absolutely sure that he was right that it took seven years for anything to happen. He put himself in this position. I know he had his reasons for doing what he did but kind of a bonehead move on his part. The vanity of Kings.

    1. The trouble was that was the mindset of the kings in olden days Michael, they believed they ruled the throne by divine right as they represented God on earth, every thought and wish they had, was down to god therefore they were in the right not anyone else, the pharoahs of ancient Egypt believed they were the descendants of their gods and thus everything they did had their gods approval, thus it was with Henry, though we know he used his timely conscience as an excuse I genuinely believe he thought his marriage was cursed due to Katherine being his brothers widow, he was a deeply pious and superstitious man and the death of his sons throughout the years and daughters to must have made up his mind on this matter.

  4. Very interesting conversation in the comments section, but I have to say the best thing about this post is that pic! I laughed so hard, Claire, you genius!

  5. The comparison to the Egyptian pharaohs was not exactly apt. European monarchs believed that they represented God on Earth. The Pharaohs believed they were Gods with no one Higher above them. I’m just amused by the whole aspect of the way monarchs used to act. They were fine with the rules and would enforce the rules until they got in their way and then they would just ignore or change them. I also agree that Henry truly believed that his marriage to Catherine was cursed for the reason that you stated. I was just thinking how much easier it would have been for him if he taken some advice. I understand why he didn’t however his that was against his conscience and I do respect him for that.

  6. Quite right, Henry and all Kings were perceived as being divine in a sense, even when subjects challenged them as the minister got the blame, not the ruler. In 1381_the fourteen years old Richard ii faced the very nasty Peasants Revolt, during which there was a lot of bloodshed by the rebels. The King twice came out to meet them and they were reverent to him, while taking his ministers heads. The poll tax was blamed on those in charge, partly because Richard was not, partly because they had introduced it. It was Richard, however, not his ministers who took revenge. Richard ii may have been fourteen, but he was certain of his divine right and is the first King to be called Your Majesty, not Your Grace or Sire. He made his nobles kneel all of the time they spoke to him and upset them because he introduced good manners (a good thing for me). There had always been some give and take with nobles but as time went on Kings asserted more power. Henry had not yet entered his powerful phase, but he was about to learn how and took every advantage. James I is the first King to write about Divine Right but it was there in the background. We don’t have the same concept because our rulers don’t rule, they reign with an elected Parliament, but this is only a recent process. Of course we have seen a King of England and one of France killed by their own people, but even then it was after a long legal process and people had reservations. In the past only a King claimed the right to kill another King. Alexander the Great even had the killers of Darius iii hunted down and executed as they had no right to kill their ruler. We don’t know if Alexander would have executed a captured Darius, although he said he wanted to kill him, because we can’t predict how he may act. However, Alexander was ruthless, but he had left local rulers in place before, although nobody was as powerful and had extensively large territory as the Persian Empire, which Alexander now controlled. Darius iii was still a good administrative ruler, even if he had been defeated, so he could have been useful, although it is more likely Alexander would have killed him in private, because he was a threat also. Alexander is also a good and bad example of a man who thought he was divine. He wanted his rough and ready Greeks to worship him as the Persian Kings were, the difference being, they weren’t. The Persian formal prostration at Pesepholis was only ceremonial during gift giving, it was not required as a general homage. Alexander, who could not read Persian or Cuniform or anything else, misunderstood this gesture and wanted to be worshipped, for his company to prostrate themselves every time they came into his presence. This had disastrous consequences as with his drunken murder of his friend with a spear after a row. The entire idea of godhood made many an ancient ruler into a nut job, Caligula comes to mind, but the later Medieval and Tudor Kings who came to adapt the ideas of being appointed by God at times were not falling far from the same tree. The Act of Supremacy gave Henry viii power he could only have dreamt before because it gave him power over Church and State and individual conscience, something which transformed him almost into a god like creature. The bang on the head reinforced his belief and both turned him more and more crazy paranoid and tyrannical.

    It was definitely Henry’s own fault he had trouble with Rome during his struggle for an annulment, partly because he couldn’t prevent his wife from her Appeal, but partly because he made his own plea and case to Rome in the first place. He was told not to pursue a theological argument at some point but refused to change until he was desperate and Cromwell came along with his legal loopholes. Katherine and Henry were perfect for each other and both as stubborn as mules. Of course getting an annulment was going to be easy.

    1. Unfortunately it seems Katherine’s pleas were just as ineffective is Henry’s petition to the pope. This Pope just didn’t seem to want to do anything. Granted that Francis had sacked Rome but I just don’t think the pope wanted to get involved. Too much paperwork and he was hoping that Katherine and Henry would come to some agreement.

  7. Aye, Charles’s Lutheran mercenaries sacked Rome in 1527, (not Francis who was Charles prisoner and was only released because he married his sister, Eleanor, and came to an uneasy peace) which meant that Clement was his virtual hostage but I am not certain he wanted to do nothing, but certainly could do nothing. The Pope escaped but the Emperor was not far away with his armies. As Charles was Katherine’s nephew this put more pressure on the parties. I agree, with such an impossible situation, Clement vii, never a decisive Pope or popular one, wanted Henry and Katherine to come to an agreement. He obviously hoped his offer of holy orders would be acceptable to such a pious lady as Katherine. Unfortunately, her calling was to be a wife, mother and Queen which was also sacred and she was not going to accept this offer. He now had two stubborn parties, both claiming to be right, not backing down and he really did not know or want to do anything. He took far too long and the Rota or Curia as it is also known as, the Court of Appeal in Rome took it’s time to rule on the marriage. When they did present the Pope with their findings and decision, in May 1534, they were too late, much too late, for Henry was remarried. Although the decision was in Katherine’s favour, Henry had moved on and was definitely not going back to his former wife and Anne Boleyn was pregnant with a second child. There was nothing Katherine could do. It was all too late.

  8. By the way, as today was the 6th, the Epiphany, talking about marrying again, didn’t Henry marry Anne of Cleves on 6th January 1540, putting his neck into a noose as he put it? The most reluctant bridegroom in history.

  9. Katherine’s letters to the Pope are heartbreaking. She felt so alone and abandoned by the one man on the planet who was supposed to be able to help her.

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