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A Tale of Two Weddings – 14th November 1501 and 1532

Posted By on November 14, 2011

Henry VIII and Anne BoleynAccording to the chronicler Edward Hall, it was on this day in history, St Erkenwald’s Day 1532, that Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn secretly married:-

“The kyng, after his returne [from Calais] maried priuily[privily] the lady Anne Bulleyn on sainet Erkenwaldes daie, whiche mariage was kept so secrete, that very fewe knewe it, til she was greate with child, at Easter after.”1

As Hall says, the couple had just landed at Dover after a successful trip to Calais to meet Francis I, the French King, a trip on which Anne had played the part of Queen Consort to Henry. Hall is not the only person to give this date as their wedding date, Nicholas Sander, a Catholic recusant writing in Elizabeth I’s reign, also gave it as their wedding date in his book “The Rise of the English Schism”:-
“The king, now impatient of further delay, though everything had not yet been duly prepared, determined to marry Anne Boleyn secretly on the 14th of the following November. He must marry her, for in no other way could he accomplish his will; and the marriage must be secret, because he and Catherine had not been separated by any judicial decision.”2

Protestants latched onto this date as Henry and Anne’s wedding date, rather than the ceremony which we knew took place on the 25th January 1533, because it meant that Elizabeth I, was conceived in wedlock. Historian Eric Ives points out that the St Erkenwald’s date “does coincide with the approximate start of cohabitation” and “significantly, too, Nicholas Sander dates the marriage as 14 November although he had every reason to slander Elizabeth’s legitimacy”3. Ives goes on to say that the 14th November could well have been the date that Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn “made some sort of formal commitment”, although the proper wedding ceremony in January makes it unlikely that it was a formal marriage. Whatever the truth of the matter, something happened in Calais or on the couple’s return to make the couple confident enough to consummate their marriage and risk conception. I believe that the couple went through some kind of betrothal ceremony which then became binding on consummation.

14th November 1501

On this day in history, 14th November 1501, Catherine of Aragon married Arthur, Prince of Wales at St Paul’s Cathedral. Giles Tremlett4, author of “Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen”, writes of how a huge wooden stage, measuring twelve feet by 350 feet, had been erected in the cathedral. It stood on four foot struts and its railings were decorated with “say”, a fine wool or silk twill cloth. The stone walls of the cathedral were covered with tapestries and there was a red carpeted raised circular dais. It must have looked amazing.

Catherine, dressed in a white satin wedding dress was escorted from the Bishop’s Palace to the cathedral door by the ten year old Prince Henry, who would later become her second husband, and Lady Cecily of York carried her train. Catherine’s dress was Spanish in style with a farthingale and “many pleats” and her face was covered with a white silk veil decorated with a border of gold, pearls and gemstones. Her bridegroom, Prince Arthur, was also dressed in white satin.

Tremlett describes how the beginning of the wedding ceremony “was about politics and money”, with the marriage agreements being read out and Catherine’s dowry being announced. The bride was also given letters patent detailing her endowment and surety. After that, it was time for the religious part of the ceremony: the vows and mass. Catherine was then escorted out of the cathedral, to the sound of trumpets, by the young Henry while Arthur got himself ready to welcome her at the door of her chamber.

While the people of London enjoyed a pageant with a fountain running with wine, Catherine and Arthur enjoyed a sumptuous wedding banquet. Tremlett writes of how this was only the start of the celebrations and that the partying went on for a fortnight, consisting of jousts, masques and banquets.

After the feasting, it was, of course, time for the wedding night, the consummation of their marriage. The question of whether this marriage was ever actually consummated is still debated today. When Henry VIII was trying to annul his marriage to Catherine in the late 1520 and early 1530s, Catherine vowed that she had never slept with Arthur and this is backed up by evidence heard in Zaragoza, Spain, in 1531. There, Juan de Gamarra, who had been a boy in Catherine’s service at the time of her wedding, told of how the Prince had got up early the morning after and that when he, Gamarra, had entered Catherine’s rooms her ladies were concerned for Catherine and disappointed with the Prince. Gamarra stated:-

“Francisca de Cáceres, who was in charge of dressing and undressing the queen and whom she liked and confided in a lot, was looking sad and telling the other ladies that nothing had passed between Prince Arthur and his wife, which surprised everyone and made them laugh at him.”5

English witnesses, however, tell of Arthur demanding ale the next morning “for I have been this night in the midst of Spain!”
We just don’t know for sure what happened that night and during their short marriage.

So, a happy day for both Anne Boleyn and Catherine of Aragon today. Little did they know that their happiness would be short-lived. Ironically, before her wedding, Catherine of Aragon made an offering at the shrine of St Erkenwald, a tomb associated with miracles.

Notes and Sources

  1. Hall’s Chronicle, Edward Hall, p794 – parentheses are my own.
  2. Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism, Nicholas Sander, p92-93
  3. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Eric Ives, p170
  4. Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen, Giles Tremlett,Chapter 10 “Wedding”
  5. Ibid.

26 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Weddings – 14th November 1501 and 1532”

  1. Toni says:

    What a very interesting article. I just love that we quite frequently don’t know for sure what happened in Tudor history . It gives us some room to use our imaginations. I’ve always wondered if Catherine and Arthur consumated their marriage. I personally think not…….but then I am kind of partial to Anne Boleyn!

  2. Jessica Fletcher says:

    Wow how interesting that both Catherine and Anne got married on the same day!!! I was wondering I’m not sure if I may of missed it. Do u think that Henry & Anne picked this day for a reason? For Anne take this day. Do you think that Anne knew that Catherine was married to Henry’s brother that day? If u got a time I love to hear ur opinion on this date. Also Catherine wedding dress sounds so gorgeous!! I could only imagine how beautiful she looked that day! Also the big question did Catherine & Arthur sleep together?. Thank you, Jessica Fletcher : )

    1. Claire says:

      Hi Jessica,
      I don’t think they picked the date for any special reason other than it was the day that they arrived back in England and were confident of Francis I’s support of their union. I’m not sure whether Anne would have known that Catherine had married Arthur on that date as she was only born that year so would have no memory of it.
      I don’t actually think that Catherine and Arthur consummated their marriage, I believe Catherine was telling the truth.

  3. Anne Barnhill says:

    wow, I didn’t know these wedding took place on the same day–seems Anne and Catherine had more than Henry in common. We’ll never know about the consummation–I keep teetering one way, then the next. Thanks for another great article!

    1. Claire says:

      I teeter too. I don’t think Catherine was lying but she was capable of it – Tremeltt points out that she told her father in May 1510 that she had only just miscarried when she had in fact lost the baby in January 1510 – and perhaps she felt that it was worth lying to save her marriage and Henry’s soul. We’ll just never know.

  4. Jane says:

    I am constantly amazed at the things I find out from this column! I have been reading about the Tudors, and Henry VIII and his wives in particular, since I was in grade 5-41 years ago. I frequently learn things, even though I own more books on the subjects that I can count, that I have never read anywhere else.

    1. Claire says:

      I’m so glad that you learn things from this site, I too learn new things every day in my research.

  5. Michelle says:

    I picked up Tremlett’s book this weekend at the library. I’m only a few chapters in, but this post makes me very excited to continue on with it. Thank you for always brightening my day with Tudor history. I feel like I learn something new all the time!

    1. Claire says:

      I did enjoy the Tremlett book and it’s different because he has made use of Spanish sources too. I’m glad I brighten up your day and thank you for brightening mine up with your comment 🙂

  6. amalioven says:

    El miriñaque fue el causante de todos los sinsabores de Catalina y su dama Francisca de Cáceres

    1. Claire says:

      ¿Qué quieres decir?

  7. Eliza says:

    It’s quite a coincidence, I agree!
    Personally, I have the feeling that Catherine and Arthur did consummate their marriage. There would be signs the morning after the wedding night, right? When Marie Antoinette hadn’t consummated her marriage to the -then- dauphin, all court knew about it! These things couldn’t stay secret.
    IMO Catherine could lie to protect Mary and her legitimacy. As Claire said, she was perfectly capable of lying when she was cornered. But that’s only my opinion, we really can’t be sure!

  8. WilesWales says:

    Thank you, too, Claire. You should have been an historical detective, Tudor professor, and an author. So interesting that both brides were married on the same day to the heir of the throne of England, and his brother, later to be married to the Lady Anne. I’ve heard it reported that Arthur had been drinking when he announced his “Spain” comment on the morning after the wedding where Catherine was not present. I am almost certain as well that Catherine did not lie in Court when her marriage to Henry was tried later and she appealed to Rome. Henry could not answer her when she asked him publicly about her virginity that day. A man, even then, new about what being with a virgin for the first time meant. I doubt if Catherine would have done that if she stood there and knew she was lying.

    On the the Lady Anne bit, I am almost certain that Elizabeth was conceived before marriage. There are many possible reasons for this.

    But, even still I tweeter at the thought that I may be wrong as now I have to think of the miscarriage dates given…..Claire, you keep the mind going. I am definitely for Anne,, but I am now going to add Trimlett’s book to my reading list as well. What a wonder you are! Thank you, WilesWales

    1. Helen1106 says:

      I do not believe that Katherine of Aragon lied about her first marriage being consumated and that is why when she asked Henry to say that she was not a virgin when she came to his bed, he could not answer her. I also believe that Anne Boleyn and Henry the 8th were married in a little room in 1 of his palaces in January and not on November 14th as some are claiming. Anne Boleyn was a jealous and petty woman and yet on several ocassions her attempts to belittle and humiliate Katherine of Aragon were stopped by Henry the 8th himself.

      1. Claire says:

        I don’t believe that Catherine lied either as there were witnesses at the hearing in Zaragoza that backed her up. I do, however, believe that Anne and Henry did have some type of ceremony on the 14th November as they started cohabiting straight after that date. I think they got betrothed and that was enough for them to risk pregnancy. They did go through a full marriage ceremony on the 25th January 1533.

  9. Baroness Von Reis says:

    At some point in time Henry and Catherine had a marriage as she had Mary and also had dead sons.Catherine loved Henry and that was I belive the downfall of there marriage,do you think Anne ever thought Henry would repeat almost the same sinero with her? Lets remember Anne had Elizabeth and a dead son which sealed her fate,I often wonder if Anne would have had a son for Henry would history have taken a different path for the doomed Queen?

  10. Cindy says:

    Hi Claire,
    I LOVE reading these details. The design of the wedding finery at St Paul’s Cathedral sound fabulous. I thought I read somewhere that the “staging” was actually a raised aisle. They really went all out in those days. (Isn’t that where Charles and Diana were married?) Makes the addition of those huge trees to the inside of Westminster Abbey for William and Kate’s wedding seem blah… To see that grand space all done up as described must have been amazing. It certainly is fun to imagine. Is there a painting it, or of Catherine in this wedding gown?? it sounds beautiful. (Fabulous, opulent. 1500s bridal coture!)
    This poor Queen Catherine had two magnificnet sounding weddings, 1 a coronation, and seemingly a life with momentary HEIGHTS of ecstatic joy, and then almost endless tragic sadness. After reading much about her, I wonder if other than her weddings and the time when their first son was born, if she ever had more than a month of solid continuous happines in her rollercoaster life? After the losses of so many babies and Henry’s other women, did she even have FIVE DAYS in a row that were truly happy?
    In scattered readings, I also read that during pregnancy she followed a very strange, extremely strict, almost starvation diet?… Good lord I’m sure this must have contributed to all those sad lossses… Have you ever read this??
    Thanks for this wonderful site.
    Cindy

    1. Nancy says:

      Charles and Diana were married in St. Paul’s Cathedral, but Old St. Paul’s, where Arthur and Catherine were married, burned down in the Great Fire of London in 1666, although it had getting more and more decrepit before that. The present St. Paul’s Cathedral was built by Sir Christopher Wren and it is known as his masterpiece, although he rebuilt many City churches that were destroyed in the great fire.

      1. Claire says:

        It is a shame that the old St Paul’s burned down but Christopher Wren’s St Paul’s is beautiful too. I watched Antiques Roadshow on Sunday night and it was a special Remembrance Day edition and there was a bit on it about the men whose jobs it was to be fire watchers at the cathedral during the second world war so that it would be safe during the blitzes. There was an amazing photo of the dome of St Paul’s amidts the smoke of London after a bombing raid and it became a kind of icon or symbol of the strength of the people of London at that awful time. I’m so glad that the second St Paul’s has survived.

  11. Amanda-Leigh says:

    It’s kind of interesting to think that the date for Henry and Anne was chosen because Arthur married Catherine then…. I mean, Henry’s whole argument was that Arthur and Catherine consummated their relationship, and as such were man and wife, which means it was a sin, etc. etc. etc… so choosing that day in particular kind of drives home the point that Catherine and Arthur were really truly married, and Henry therefore could freely marry Anne……… at least in my head that sounds interesting.

  12. Esther Sorkin says:

    Thanks for the article. According to historian David Starkey, two possible explanations for Arthur’s death were tuberculosis or testicular cancer. Does anyone know if either of those conditons could have prevented Arthur from fully consummating his marriage to Catherine? (I have often thought that Arthur might have tried to consummate the marriage, but did not achieve full penetration. Catherine probably would have felt his attempts were sufficient at the time, because it wouldn’t be until after she consummated her marriage with a healthy vigorous man like Henry, that Catherine may have realized that Arthur’s attempts were not enough. )

    1. Claire says:

      I’m not sure Esther but according to Giles Tremlett Catherine’s doctor’s nephew told the hearing at Zaragoza that his uncle was shocked by Arthur’s physical condition: “He said his limbs were so weak that he had never seen a man whose legs and other bits of his body were so thin.”

  13. WilesWales says:

    I agree with Claire also about the Anne and Henry January ceremony because, if I’m not mistaken, Elizabeth was born in September of 1533. I also agree with both Helen and Claire as to Catherine not lying about being a virgin when she married Henry VIII. This is liittle off the rest of the messages after that, but I wanted to make sure that I am right about Elizabeth and the birth month, but I do love Anne, and will defend herinnocence to my dying day!!!! I think Anne was very clever, and intelligent, and new exactly what she was doing at the time of the marriage. I also agree with Claire that some kind of cerermony must have happened on that date in 1532. Thank you very much, WilesWales

  14. IVANA says:

    Hi everyone! Iam ivana fron Argentina! i am really interested in tudors history as all of you. I enjoy all these amazing articles everyday as they make me feel even more interested in this intrigating dynasty. Unfortunally, here there arent too many books about english history, I managed to get some but it cost me a fortune since they are sent from the eeuu.

    thanks for all these articless!!!!!!! love tudors!

  15. Julz says:

    I love the spooky coincidence of the two weddings taking place on the same date years apart.

  16. Mary Ann Cade says:

    The irony of the wedding dates reminds me of the irony of the death of Henry VIII on January 28, 1547. This also happened to be his father’s date of birth (January 28, 1457) and had Henry VII lived, he would have been 90 years old. I never caught this irony till I was looking at my Anne Boleyn Files calendar last year and the dates jumped out at me.

    I believe that Catherine was telling the truth about non-consummation of her marriage to Arthur because she would not have sworn that she was still a maid to Almighty God or to the Pope if they had truly been man and wife. In her eyes, it would have damned her immortal soul. This was why she refused to grant Henry’s request for the annulment and always believed she was Henry’s true wife.

    In retrospect, it is interesting to speculate how different things might have been and how many lives might have been spared if she had taken the veil and entered a convent as she was asked to do around 1529. It might have prevented the Act of Succession and the Act of Supremacy which would have spared many lives. She would have more than likely got to see her daughter and Mary would not have suffered as she did. If she had taken this course, I believe that Thomas More would have been spared. It might have also made life easier for Anne Boleyn once she became Queen. Even I she and Henry had fallen out, I doubt he would have had her arrested and executed which would have spared her and the five men wrongly accused with her.

    It is my understanding from some of the books I have read about Henry VIII is that in the event a child is born to parents who believe they had been in a valid marriage when that child was conceived, was still considered legitimate in the eyes of the Church.

    I also believe that Henry and Anne might have entered into a marriage agreement/contract of sorts on the November date which was solemnized in January. I believe that betrothals in many instances were considered as binding as an actual marriage. This would explain why there are two dates a couple of months apart attributed for their wedding.

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