A feast day and Anne Boleyn’s wedding day!

25th January is the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul, an important day in Tudor times, but it was also an important day for Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, for it was their official wedding day.

Now, I believe that they were actually already married, having been married secretly on 14th November 1532, on their return from Calais, but their wedding on 25th January 1533 was an official one at court, at Whitehall Palace, although it was still kept secret for some time.

Find out more about this in my video from last year:

Or, if you prefer reading articles then you can read my article 25 January 1533 – A St Paul’s Day wedding for Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII.

In today’s “on this day in Tudor history” talk, I explain the background to St Paul’s Day and how it was celebrated in Tudor times…

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14 thoughts on “A feast day and Anne Boleyn’s wedding day!”
  1. Henry could convince himself water flowed uphill if the belief got him what he wanted. He was a very strange person.

  2. If he was on secure ground in saying he was free to marry, why all the secrecy and the nonsense about having the Pope’s permission but not showing it to anyone? Please! A six-year-old child could think up a better lie! “The dog ate my homework!”

  3. When reading about Henry and Anne’s first wedding on November 14, 1532 I am always struck by what appears to be a bald face lie by the King to his chaplain regarding the proper documentation. Henry seemed to think he was above the law including those of the church even at this early date. Was this attitude peculiar to Henry VIII or did sovereigns on average see themselves in this light?

    1. Kings WERE the law, in fact, if not in theory. Some were more tactful about it than others. If they slung their weight about too much they wouldn’t be king for long, as King John was reminded at Runnymede. However Henry raised the bald-faced lie to new heights, even for kings.

  4. Poor Rowland Lee! Here he was doing his job, asking the King for the license or the dispensation, in this case from the Pope to show he was free to marry and in his case he wasn’t the bride’s next of kin or that Clement had given him an annulment. Every official wedding had to show the right paperwork, although the way around it was to get married without benefit of clergy, making a promise I do, so do I, lets get on with it, followed by getting on with it. You didn’t even need a witness, although two were encouraged. All you needed was to be free, willing and able and then having sexual intercourse. The Church recognised these marriages as long as both parties consented and were free to marry, although the Church Courts spent most of their time sorting out the problems these weddings inevitably caused.

    If it was the son and daughter of the nobility or gentry getting married, then the normal practice was for the parents to find a suitable family and negotiate a possible match between their families. The boy and girl were then introduced and a marriage arranged. The contract was then signed and a betrothal and wedding took place at the Church door, the blessing and nuptials took place and the entire village or estate had a knees up. Paperwork exchanged hands as well, the contract of what the bride got and her husband brought to the wedding and their inheritance rights in widowhood. Marriage licences didn’t exist but it was normal to have permission showing freedoms to marry and that you were not too closely related or that permission had been granted if you were. It wasn’t sensible to pop down the local grove and exchange vows, especially if your parents had someone else in mind for them. This was were the Courts came in, sorting out the legality of a runaway wedding, if both parties said they had promised marriage and had consummated it, the marriage stood. If one partner denied the wedding or intercourse, then it may or may not go in their favour. Testimony was taken, witnesses called, the parents called and the Church had to decide the truth of the matter. It was a complex matter at times and the rich parents were often put out of joint as numerous cases went in favour of the young lovers, so you can imagine that pressure was put on them to lie about their relationship.

    So Henry was being very bare faced here towards the sacredness of matrimony, the priest has asked him for his dispensation and license and Henry said it was somewhere else. Henry knows that the Pope hasn’t given him his annulment from Katherine of Aragon and with no Archbishop of Canterbury as yet, he can’t get one at home either. Dorothy you are right, it’s just like the dog ate my homework. The priest probably knew the truth but who was going to ask the King for his paperwork? The King was the law, especially this one. His legislation had not gone through Parliament yet to confirm he was now Head of the Church in England, but his nobles and clergyman had given him the power. Here of course Henry had gained more power so he really was the law now. Father Lee was just doing the right thing, Henry could not marry without his paperwork, so he lied. Do you call it off and end up in the Tower, calling His Majesty a liar or do you take his word and carry on? Lee carried on regardless.

    Anne was most likely pregnant here because there was no reason for secrecy once his annulment was through or Thomas Cranmer whom he would appoint as Archbishop of Canterbury heard the case and decided in his favour. Anne and Henry had waited almost seven years to marry, what was a few more months? Edward Hall believed they had married in November but this was more likely a commitment ceremony and he was the only source for this. In any case this was an official marriage, with at least three witnesses and a priest, although Rowland Lee was meant to have unorthodox views, the couple had Anne’s parents there and there was a small celebration afterwards. Anne and Henry had already consummated their relationship in France so the exchange of vows was all that was needed to make it legal. Henry, however, had been married for over 24 years to his first wife and was married to her still. That’s what made this ceremony different, one partner wasn’t free to marry and knew it. Henry, however, believed he was free, that his marriage to his brother’s wife was unlawful and he didn’t waiver in that. To him this was his first marriage and therefore he didn’t need permission and he was perfectly free to do as he pleased. To all of Catholic Europe, Katherine and Rome, to the majority of his subjects, this was bigamy and until his first marriage was broken by either Rome or Canterbury, that was the truth.

  5. Henry really had put the priest in a very difficult situation, but he could not call the King of England a liar and had no choice but to perform the ceremony, I too believe the king and Anne had gone through a small marriage ceremony before because she would not have surrendered herself to him otherwise, we have to remember throughout their entire relationship she had called the shots, she had travelled to France and been accepted by the King of France as Henry’s next consort, therefore she knew Henry intended to marry her and make her queen, the earlier ceremony was in English law all that was needed to bind a couple together, it later caused a furore with Henry over his fifth queen and her former lover Francis Dereham, this official wedding was inevitable and although men of law could argue it was not valid, and indeed if we are fair to Katherine we have to acknowledge the fact that it was not, as there had been no dispensation, Anne Boleyn was to go down in history as Henry V111’s second queen consort, even though legally Henry had committed bigamy, it was Jane Seymour who was really his second queen, by the time he married his third queen, both ex wives were dead which was how Henry wanted it, no shadow wife in the background to cause problems, he knew by the time he had cast his fancy on Jane Seymour, there could be no confusing legal wrangling over his next bride to be’s married status.

    1. In Henry’s mind it was Jane Seymour who was his first wife as his marriage to Katherine was eventually annulled. I just love how he could compartmentalize everything to suit his needs and conscience.

      1. Henry had a very rare talent for making the truth what he believed to be convenient. David Starkey who has studied him more closely than anyone stated once, what was true was what was convenient for Henry. He was even worse after his near fatal brush with death, possibly he had a similar ” revelation ” in 1524. He had a clear path as well as a duty to protect the crown of England. The Dynasty was young, he had rivals, none of whom actually wanted the crown but could sit on it if his Dynasty failed. Henry had no sons, his contemporaries all had sons to spare, yet after 24 years of marriage Henry had one daughter, his manhood and his reputation were on the line. Other Kings had been granted an annulment without too much bother, their wives having very little to say about it, yet after seven years, he, the Defender of the Faith, who had defended the Catholic Church against Luther and his heresies with his own Book, was denied that same courtesy and Clement was nowhere near a decision. Now the woman he loved was pregnant, possibly with a much-needed promised son, Henry felt he was on the verge of destiny and here was a low practically unknown priest asking him to prove he was free to marry. I actually don’t blame him talking his way out of a sticky patch. I agree, though, Henry had a remarkable talent for putting everything into compartments to make the what was true at the moment he needed it to be, to explain his circumstances and reverse them. Then everyone had to agree with him.

        He was convinced Katherine was the woman for him, his one true love and losing his children God’s_will, in keeping with most people at the time.
        He was then convinced that his marriage was cursed by a misreading of Leviticus to be sure he was without sons for that reason.
        He was convinced Anne Boleyn because she promised him she would with a verse in her prayer book under the Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would bear the Christ Child, the Redeemer.
        He was convinced after three years of marriage that Anne had bewitched him into marriage when she miscarried her son at the end of January 1536. He soon afterwards looked into another annulment.
        He was convinced by flimsy evidence that his wife had cheated on him and betrayed him with half his Court in May 1536, although five were accused and executed and he was instigator or conspirator, depending on whom one reads, he was the one who signed the warrants in the end.
        He was convinced his marriage to Anne was not in jeapardy by a pre contract with Henry Percy to which he swore on the Blessed Sacrament and before two Archbishops in 1532_it wasn’t so. Four years later in May 1536 Henry ordered Cromwell to do the opposite and get Percy to say he was contracted to marry Anne, maybe not formally but certainly between them. Henry Percy, now Earl of Northumberland caught in a loveless marriage he could have escaped from, refused to play ball.
        Henry had used his relationship with Mary Boleyn to get a dispensation to marry Anne Boleyn her sister, which was forbidden, although we don’t know if one was granted given the opposition from Pope Clement, but now, after Anne was condemned, in order to declare Elizabeth illegitimate, he now used the same relationship to have his marriage to Anne made null and void.
        Then Jane Seymour was his only legitimate wife and much beloved wife because she was fortunate to give him Prince Edward, so now he was blessed by God, although he must have wondered what he was doing wrong when Jane died. This was how men and women thought in the sixteenth century and if you try to rationalise it from our point of view you will go around the bend.

        Henry had been a man of his word before his marriage to Anne and his beliefs were sincere, but now he would do anything to have her, including lying to a man of God, itself a grave sin. Henry could have ordered Father Lee to marry them, without lying but he most probably would have refused as was his right and duty to do. That might have put him in prison. The clergy had submitted their authority and obedience to the King, rather than the Pope. It wasn’t treason but a spell in the clink would be very possible. So Henry chose a blatant lie because he no longer cared, Father Rowland certainly could not challenge a powerful King as Henry had made himself, calling him a liar, what if he was wrong? The correct cause of action would be to say he needed to see the paperwork and ask for a delay while it was brought from elsewhere. I would have loved to see Henry get out of that one but he was a persuasive man, it was believed his honour was above reproach and he relied on that. A more robust priest probably would have done so, but obviously Rowland wasn’t going to and wisely accepted Henry’s word. Henry believed he was free and nobody was going to question him. Anne Boleyn was also a formidable character, I don’t think questioning her husband to be would have sat well with her either. It was her fault that Henry was Head of the Church in the first place. Unfortunately, the Supremacy, once law would backfire on her and her family as well, giving Henry Viii more power than any monarch before or after him. It enabled him to get rid of the opposition and was partly responsible for him executing her. It turned his mind.
        The annulment should not have affected Princess Mary under canon law, because Henry and Katherine were married by permission of the Church and neither knew their marriage might be invalid. They had married in good faith so by providing for the time period and grace “let the Church provide” either a more perfect dispensation would make the marriage good or the principle of good faith would protect any offspring as legitimate, even if an annulment was granted. However, the marriage with Katherine of Aragon wasn’t annulled by the Church, it was annulled on Henry’s orders by a kangaroo “Church” Court set up by Cranmer at Dunstable, and by Parliament. Henry also had his daughter declared illegitimate by Parliament. So good faith was by passed. Another convenient truth which was really a lie. Katherine was declared Henry’s true wife soon afterwards by the Curia in Rome, to whom the case had been submitted.
        Next Elizabeth was his heir until her brother was born and then she too was illegitimate by Convocation and Parliament.
        Next only boys were legitimate, girls not. Edward was his single heir.
        Next Anne of Cleves was his legitimate wife as the original documents on her marriage to the Duke of Lorraine proved it was broken off years earlier.
        Then Henry was incapable, the marriage was a ticking time bomb and politically dangerous, so it wasn’t consummated and then that was null and void.
        He made his daughters his heirs after Edward again in 1544 thanks to his last wife, but managed to get a clause in that allowed them or anyone to succeed him, even though they remained legally illegitimate. Now only Henry Viii could come up with that one. In the past illegitimate heirs had been barred from the crown and inheritance rights unless made legitimate by the Church and Parliament. The Beaufort line was originally illegitimate, being illegitimate children of John of Gaunt but afterwards he married their mother, Katherine le Rote and the Pope legitimized them. Next Parliament allowed them to inherit. Because it was not convenient to have his half brothers and sisters as rivals, Henry iv had them set aside from the “royal dignity” that is the crown. They were legitimate, they could inherit, but not the crown. So technically the Tudors were banned from the crown because Henry Tudor had a Beaufort for a mother. His claim was won on the field of battle by virtue of the death of Richard iii.
        Another Tudor convenient truth was his marriage to Elizabeth of York, the heiress to the throne as the daughter of Edward iv. However, together with her siblings, Elizabeth was legally illegitimate. Henry had to undo this in order to restore her royal dignity and marry her. The Titular Regis was actually not repealed in the true sense as only the first 14 lines were read out and the entire bill should have been read. Oh well, nobody is going to argue, especially as all but one copy were destroyed. So you can see were Henry Vii got it from.
        His best lie of all was making himself Head of the Church instead of the Pope. This was enforced by an oath and a new treason act made it punishable by death to refuse. Nobody would have signed otherwise unless they saw things his way as with reformers who were a minority.

        1. I’m not so sure Henry really believed the charges against Anne. I have a suspicion he knew they were false but was willing to accept them if it would get rid of her. That may be why the investigation into Catherine Howard’s misconduct was so much more thorough and above board.

          As to the Beaufort’s not being allowed to inherit the crown, although it’s been awhile since I read Nathan Amin’s book The House of Beaufort it serms he said that Henry IV had planned on barring that line and may even have put pen to paper but that the document never went through the legal proceedings to enact it so the Beaufort line was never legally barred. If this is wrong please clarify.

        2. I can’t actually remember, Michael, if the documents were ratified or not, just recalling what Nathan Amin said in his talk a few months ago in his talk to the Tudor Society, although I think you may be right, it might be dubious. Of course everything has a legal process, then and now and if the documents didn’t go through all of those procedures, then the status of the Beauforts would not change. It’s like Edward vi changed his will in favour of the Greys but the Judges were divided. He issued Letters Patent and the next step was for Parliament to ratify the Devise. However, Parliament didn’t meet until September 1553 and Edward died in July. So his Devise wasn’t ratified, so not fully legal. Not that it mattered as she was proclaimed by a Council Coup in any case and Jane was publicly proclaimed Queen to a silent reception. Mary took the high road with popular support and her lawful bloodline and family name and within ten days she was in and Jane was out. The lawful line of succession was restored. I think Nathan may have stated the exclusion was dubious. In any case it didn’t matter, because Henry Tudor won his crown through right of conquest, although he could only really have won support because of his promise to marry Elizabeth of York, a promise which came about through the conspiracy of Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville and the Duke of Buckingham during the Summer and Autumn of 1483. It’s a conspiracy really well worth a read and you can almost hear the pink panther music in your head with all the coming and going. Only two mothers could have thought it up. I will check the House of Beaufort.

        3. Oh hang on I do partly recall now. Henry took the legal documents and the Letters Patent and inserted the words “except the legal dignity” which is legal speak for the crown, but didn’t go through the Court of Chauncey, which dealt with inheritance and disputes and ratified such documents. That potentially makes them useless. The Medieval World was run by lawyers and Courts not just the Church and everything was proved in a legal process. That process of course was in Latin, the change coming by the end of the fifteenth century. It was a far more complex world legally than ours today.

          I do believe Henry was uncertain of the charges against Anne Boleyn and probably doubtful of most of them, but I am not convinced of all of them. I believe Cromwell was the instigator and Henry gave him the go ahead to investigate. Once off the leash, however, Cromwell built a case out of nothing but rumours and innuendo. His case is actually quite weak, which is why as many people as possible are dragged into it, anyone who could potentially spend time around Anne without too much trouble. Everyone involved had practically daily access to Henry and Anne, he wasn’t entirely making stuff up, it was believable if enough charges were added. Then he got a break. The legal apparatus was put in place but no charges were yet brought. However, Anne unfortunately gave Cromwell and Henry the first evidence against her. A traditional act of courtly love went wrong when Anne told Sir Henry Norris he looked for dead men’s shoes, that is if anything happened to the King he would seek to marry her. Oops! Norris saw how dangerous this was and protested that if he had thought such a thing, his head should be struck off. Anne laughed that she could arrange that. Under the treason act they had come dangerously close to imagining the Kings death. I don’t believe that’s what either of them did but anyone listening might do. Anne made things worse and sent him to tell her almoner she was a good woman. This was compounded by the confession of Mark Smeaton and the argument of Elizabeth Browne and her brother, who reported that to Cromwell. By now Henry certainly believed something because he confronted his wife in anger and although we don’t know exactly what they were screaming about, the Norris affair would be a good guess.

          However, Henry was in a better mood the next day, so maybe Anne had persuaded him to listen to her. May Day was the day of a tournament at Court and Henry and Anne attended. Anne was nervous but Henry seemed relaxed. George Boleyn and Henry Norris were running. Forget about dropping handkerchiefs and sweaty bodies, that’s the highly ridiculous Spanish Chronicle, unreliable. Norris found his horse was acting up and the King lent him his. All appeared well until half way through an urgent message arrived for the King who suddenly left the tournament. Anne and the others were perplexed. Henry went back to the palace, ordering Norris to go with him. A very detailed conversation took place, recorded for prosperity, in which Henry accused Norris of sleeping with his wife, three times. Norris was outraged, protested and said he would defend the Queens honour with his body in single combat. Had this been a couple of hundred years earlier, he could have done this under the laws of the Court of Chivalry. Unfortunately, the King didn’t believe him and he was arrested. Some debate exists as to whether or not Henry believed the charges at this point or as time passed. By May 3/4 everyone involved was in the Tower, Mark Smeaton, Henry Norris, George Boleyn, Francis Weston, arrested because of Anne’s babbling, so under traumatic stress was she, William Brereton and Thomas Wyatt, although no charges were brought against Wyatt. Anne was arrested on May 2nd at the Council Chamber, being summoned while at a tennis match. Henry now showed grave disregard for Anne and the others and he showed odd behaviour, preparing to marry Jane Seymour and being away on hunting from Court. He also paid attention to ever details of all potential executions. His attention to detail was almost morbid. He ordered the French swordsman from Calais, although that could just be a precaution as it took him time to arrive, but it also shows Henry may well have wanted his wife out of the way regardless. There is no way to know if Henry believed the charges or not but all indicators point to him not caring. If he did believe them, it was certainly by the fourth day because by then the case had come together, if not then his actions point to him believing them at first and then having doubts. I actually think he was torn but then he didn’t care and hated Anne enough to want to get rid of her. However, it was a conspiracy which instigated the entire affair and everything took on a sinister life of its own. As for Cromwell, yes, he made most of it up, he had good reason to, but he certainly didn’t proceed without Henry’s blessing.

  6. Thank you BQ. That was exactly the kind of clarification I was looking for. Glad you were able to hear his talk.

  7. O.K 1396 John of Gaunt has his kids by his last wife, Katherine, declared legitimate as if born in matrimony with inheritance rights by the Pope as stated in the Latarina Regesta or Papal Register. Common law stated illegitimate children remained illegitimate even after the marriage of their parents, but the Church said the opposite. In 1397 King Richard ii read out the Charter from the Parliamentary Rolls and confirmed that by his order and Parliament the Beauforts were fully legitimate as if born in matrimony with full inheritance of Earldom, Dukedom and every titles around and they were accepted as full members of the royal family. The crown wasn’t specifically mentioned so one could I guess argue either way. The infamous words were added in 1407 as Henry iv approached 40 and his health declined having settled the succession and Acts of Parliament regarding his four legitimate sons. The Act was read and the words inserted to read that the Beauforts were confirmed as legitimate and could inherit anything, except the crown. Nathan is correct in his assessment that the alteration may not have been lawful because it was added to an Act of Parliament. As he stated in Chapter Nine, the change would only be legal if the said law was repealed and a new law made, a new Act passed by Parliament, one cannot simply alter an existing law with the stroke of a pen. It might be the King’s will, but it wasn’t law. Not that anyone on the other side was going to notice of course. However, it was something which would be hotly debated and be used against the Beaufort family, who still prospered with land and titles and official posts and became powerful. They still only followed their four royal half brothers, their children and any cousins in the succession. Margaret Beaufort’s son, Henry Tudor, still only had a threadbare claim, legitimate or not, after his cousins, half brothers, mother and the present royal family. Believe it or not members of the royal houses of Spain and Portugal had a better claim. He just happened to end up in the right place, his mother in the right place and be lucky that the House of York imploded and killed itself off. At one point the chances of him actually succeeding were extremely slim, with four sons of York, three with children, a brood of healthy children to the reigning King Edward iv, several other male cousins and even grandchildren standing in his way. It’s little wonder that when this brood had dwindled to one son of York, two male Princes vanished, made illegitimate and possibly killed, plus one male and female barred from the crown and a group of others, distant, that Henry thought himself a son of prophecy. The candidates dwindled even further and he had an opportunity to invade. When he actually won, he was definitely a son of prophecy. No wonder Margaret thought of him as destined for the crown.

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