8 November 1528 – Henry VIII’s troubled conscience

Nov8,2014 #annulment #great matter

Henry VIIIOn 8th November 1528, at Bridewell Palace, King Henry VIII made a public oration to “the nobility, judges and councillors and divers other persons” to explain his troubled conscience regarding the lawfulness of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

In this speech, the King explained that due to his worry that Mary was not his lawful daughter and that Catherine was not his lawful wife, he had sent for a legate “to know the truth and to settle my conscience.” He went on to say “if it be adiudged by the law of God that she is my lawfull wife, there was neuer thyng more pleasaunt nor more acceptable to me in my lifebothe for the discharge & cleryng of my conscience & also for the good qualities and condicions the which I know to be in her” and “if I were to mary againe if the mariage might be good I would surely chose her aboue all other women”.

By this time, of course, Henry VIII was courting Anne Boleyn and seeking an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, so I don’t know what Anne thought of Henry’s words. These words would also have been little comfort to Catherine of Aragon.

Click here to see a chronology, or timeline, of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII’s relationship from 1528 to 1533.

Notes and Sources

  • Acts and Monuments, John Foxe – you can read this section online at www.johnfoxe.org

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20 thoughts on “8 November 1528 – Henry VIII’s troubled conscience”
    1. Catherine was badly treated by Henry VII and later on by his son Henry VIII. She absolutely did not deserve their maltreatment, but a King’s power was absolute and subjects were at the mercy of their desires.

  1. Poor Catherine I feel for her so much. There marriage was legal (even tho I don’t believe she was a virgin) papal dispensation had covered all regarding her marriage to Arthur and then Henry but no matter what she did she was doomed Henry was determined to have Anne no matter the cost and to see someone you love show that amount of love for another must have been heartbreaking and to have it played out so openly so humiliating !

  2. @Joanne, I do not believe Cathrine was a virgin either, but that doesn’t matter like you said, the Papal dispensation covered that problem. Henry never found a wife that loved him as much as Cathrine did.

    1. I believe that Catherine was a virgin because at the Blackfriars court she swore before God that when Henry first had her she was a maid without the touch of man and she said to Henry whether this be true r no I put it to your Concience Henry would have known if she was a virgin r not he wanted Anne at all cost Catherine wouldn’t lie because she was a godly woman

  3. I have always felt so sorry for Catherine of Aragon as she really didn’t deserve to be so badly treated the way she was. I believe she died of a broken heart as she truly loved Henry, but he decided that he was going to have Anne no matter what. It was even worth wrecking his relationship with Mary…

  4. The royal marriages were not about love but about heirs and alliances. In both cases, Henry’s marriage with Katherine had not brought what it should have, so it did not matter how she personally was.

    It did not matter either, if Katherine was a virgin or not if Papal dispensation was valid or not or even if Pope had a right to grant it or not. The royal and noble marriages were not for life but they were often dissolved, if the need of the mightier party demanded it.

    Katherine refused to admit these facts but continued to fight. But what were she fighting for? If Henry was forced to return to her, what kind of marriage it would be? In fact, they had not been married only in name for years.

    It seems that Katherine, whatever she said, was interested less in her marriage than in her status and that of her daughter. However, because her fight Mary lost her position as Princess and her place in succession.

    It is possible that Katherine also acted from hurt pride as her successor was not a Princess but a commoner.

    That said, by wanting to marry for love Henry set aside his duties as King whose marriage was not a private business. Even more, his quest for the male heir divided his realm dangerously. Finally he left a minor as king which according to history was also dangerous.

  5. Henry really was the worst hypocrite of all! He used his conscience as an excuse just to serve his purpose, when he was fed up with Anne he brought it up again and said he was never legally married to her as he’d had carnal relations with her sister, how then could she have committed adultery? As with Katherine before he was eager to marry her and the fact that she’d been married to Arthur and could well have slept with him didn’t bother him then, but it was convenient to bring it up when he was lusting after Anne, that said he was desperate to get a male heir which was always the driving force behind his actions, I do believe that had he and Katherine had plenty of sons then he wouldn’t have tried to get rid of Katherine, even tho he was besotted with Anne, I doubt he would have risked his kingdom if he had sons already.

  6. I agree that Henry was a hypocritical douche. I even doubt the honesty of his claimed concern about the succession. First, he had no legitimate heir for over a year (from the bastardization of Elizabeth to the birth of Edward) and did not name any successor during this time, even though Parliament allowed him to do it by will — if he was so concerned about the succession, why didn’t he name any of the other males who are now suspected of being his illegitimate children, after Richmond died, or, why didn’t he reinstate Mary? Second, he could have preserved Mary’s legitimacy while he was seeking an annulment … this and getting Mary married off would offer two chances to protect the succession — if Henry didn’t have a son, but Mary did, he could leave the throne to his grandson, just as Henry VII became king, even though his mother (who actually held the claim) was alive at the time. IMO, Henry only bastardized Mary to punish her (and Catherine) for not bowing to his will

  7. Whenever this issue comes up I just always wonder why he never considered secretly having Catherine murdered.It would have saved him a great deal of trouble.Perhaps, though that would have weighed too heavily on his conscious(if he had one that is)and gotten him in even more hot water with the Pope and Catherine’s spanish relations.

  8. It would have been easy to have slipped Katherine some poison but he wasn’t quite the monster of legend, I think he did feel guilty in his own way about her after all they’d had twenty two yrs together, that’s a lot of history and she’d valiantly held the country for him over Flodden and he was in France, add to that the children they mourned together so I don’t think he would ever have sanctioned murdering her, it was like Anne some Kings may have just raped her but Henry couldn’t bring himself to do that, he was a complex man, a tyrant in his later years yes but he was also deeply sentimental and I think he did have a conscience where Katherine was concerned

    1. If he was so sentimental than Anne not to mention Katherine Howard should have been treated the same.He could have given them both more benefit of the doubt.After all he did have lost children with Anne and he did break from Rome for her and rip the entire country apart for her religion wise.I think his main concern was sons.He absolutely needed them for the Tudor line to continue.

      1. Course he did, the Tudor Dynasty was new he owed it to his father to continue the line, all Kings needed sons, to understand Henry we need to understand his urgent desire for a male heir, and he needed several as many men died of sickness, eg the plague, in battle, in jousting which was highly dangerous, the more the better, which is why he went through so many wives to achieve that aim, but sadly it wasn’t to be.

  9. To Esther:

    Elizabeth did not name her successor, either, fearing that a heir would try to take her throne and also wanting to keep power over them. Henry probably had the latter reason.

    To choose a bastard who was until then not acknowledged as a heir was not really an option.

    As for Mary, Henry probably felt that it would have been dangerous to strengthen her position as a competitor of a heir he hoped to get.

    That said, it seems that to Henry, to have a male heir was perhaps mainly a proof of his manhood (“Am I a man like others?”).

  10. Henry never considered having Catherine of Aragon murdered because she was the daughter of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. He knew very well that it could lead to dire consequences. And when it became clear that the Emperor would not go further to help Catherine, he didn’t need to. Why trouble his conscience by having her murdered when he very knew that she was not of good health? It wasn’t about his sentiment for her or their marriage, it was about him, and him only, as always.

  11. Selina

    I do agree that Henry was all about Henry and that he probably would have suffered some consequence if Catherine had been murdered.But I don’t see him having much of a conscience on the matter sentimental or otherwise.He might have gotten away with it if his ministers could have come up with a plausible story.He simply wanted out of that marriage and it just seems to me he was willing to go very far to get what he wanted.I just wonder what really prevented him from doing it?It could have taken years(as it did)for her to die.Was it really as he said after she did die “Thank God we are free from all suspicion of war!” or some other reason only known to him?I think he became a spoiled,resentful child with the Pope insisting he have his way and he was going to prove to the whole world he was right in the matter.He couldn’t stop himself.

  12. Although Henry really did have genuine concerns about his marriage it is unlikely that he wanted to remain with Katherine in 1528, even if their marriage was declared legal as he still needed a male heir and he was in love with Anne Boleyn. He would have chosen Katherine as his ideal wife but he needed a son and sadly she couldn’t give him a male heir. He believed his cause to be right and Katherine believed her own cause was just because she was called by God to be Queen and did not consummate her marriage with Prince Arthur. Plenty of witnesses supported her version as well as the boasting of her clumsy young bridegroom. Two other investigations give us evidence that Katherine was a virgin when she married Henry and it was because he knew this to be true that he was so troubled during the early years of the annulment procedure. Henry needed a male heir and he would have remained married to Katherine if their sons had lived. He had moved on by now and intended to marry Anne Boleyn, but he cannot say this to the court so he expressed things in terms of his conscience and tries to honour Katherine. It may be hypocritical by our standards but to Henry it was the way things really were.

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