Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon and Anne BoleynI’ve been inspired to write this post today by two long, and at times rather heated, debates on The Anne Boleyn Files forum regarding Henry VIII being a bigamist and also Anne Boleyn being a homewrecker.

Nikki from Texas got the ball rolling on the bigamy topic by pointing out that Henry VIII married a pregnant Anne Boleyn and THEN, a few months later, his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was annulled. Very true, let’s look at the facts:-

  • 11th June 1509 – Henry VIII marries Catherine of Aragon.
  • 14th November 1532 (St Erkenwald’s Day) or the 25th January 1533 (or both!) – Henry VIII marries Anne Boleyn.
  • November 1532 – Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn consummate their relationship, either while still in France or on their return home from seeking Francis I’s blessing.
  • February 1533 – Anne Boleyn speaks of craving apples, she is pregnant.
  • March 1533 – Henry VIII’s court preachers proclaim the “virtues and secret merits” of Anne Boleyn while proclaiming that his marriage to Catherine is invalid.
  • 26th March 1533 – Convocation is asked to pronounce on the validity of a papal dispensation allowing a man to marry his brother’s widow.
  • 30th March 1533 – Thomas Cranmer is consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • End of March 1533 – Anne Boleyn’s royal household is formed.

  • 1st April 1533 – Cranmer takes the chair in the upper house of Convocation and within a few days “large majorities” are in favour of two propositions: 1) That Prince Arthur had “carnally known” Catherine of Aragon and 2) That the Pope had no power to issue a dispensation allowing Catherine to marry Henry VIII and rule in Henry VIII’s favour.
  • Wednesday 9th April 1533, Holy Week – Catherine is told of her new title, Dowager Princess of Wales, and informed that Henry VIII is married to Anne Boleyn.
  • Good Friday, 11th April 1533 – Henry VIII informs the court that Anne Boleyn is now Queen.
  • Easter Saturday, 12th April 1533 – Anne attends Mass as Queen.
  • 10th May 1533 – Archbishop Cranmer opens a special court at Dunstable for the annulment proceedings.
  • 23rd May 1533 – Cranmer’s court rules that the marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon was against the will of God and declares the marriage null and void.
  • 28th May 1533 – Cranmer declares the marriage between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn valid.
  • 29th May 1533 – The coronation pageantry begins.
  • 1st June 1533 – Anne Boleyn is crowned Queen at Westminster Abbey.

Definition of Bigamy

bigamy – big·a·my/ˈbigəmē/
Noun: The act of marrying while already married to another person.

Did Henry VIII Commit Bigamy?


If we just look at the facts above with our 21st century eyes and ideals then it is easy for us to declare Henry VIII a bigamist, after all, he married his second wife, Anne Boleyn, a few months before his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon was annulled. It is clear that he went through with the act of marrying Anne Boleyn when he was already married to Catherine. He was a bigamist.


We now have to look at the situation through Henry VIII’s eyes. Here was a man who had been troubled for a few years about the fact that his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was contrary to Biblical Law, in that it contravened Biblical Law:-

“And if a man shall take his brother’s wife, it [is] an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.” Leviticus 20:21

While Henry and Catherine had not been childless, they had not been blessed with a living son and heir, so Henry truly believed that there was something about the marriage that God was not happy with. He got it in his head that the miscarriages/stillbirths were due to sin, due to the fact that Catherine had married him after already having been married to his brother. As for the papal dispensation, well, Henry believed that  Pope Julius II had made a grave error trying to dispense a law of this nature and that Pope Clement VII must set it right.

While it is easy for us to look at Henry’s justification for the annulment of his first marriage as a great excuse to get out of it and move on, it is clear that he was actually troubled by this and came to believe that the marriage was wrong in God’s eyes and should never have taken place. David Starkey writes of how, during the 7 years of Henry’s quest for an annulment, the basic premise of Henry’s case did not change and he stuck to his argument, he was convinced.

In Henry VIII’s eyes, his marriage to Catherine was invalid, so he was not married. Although it was important for him to get the marriage officially annulled, so that any offspring would be legitimate in everyone’s eyes, he had no qualms about marrying Anne Boleyn before the official annulment, to him it was valid whenever it took place. The fact that Anne became pregnant so quickly made him sure that God was blessing their union.


Phew! What a minefield!

It is easy to be black and white about things like this but, at the end of the day, we have to see things through the eyes of those concerned. Obviously, Catherine always believed that she was Henry’s true wife and never accepted the annulment, but Henry VIII felt that he was God’s appointed sovereign and therefore what he said went. He believed his first marriage was invalid, he believed that God did not recognise it as a true marriage and he felt vindicated by the rulings of Convocation and Cranmer’s court. Of course, he then goes on to annul his marriage to Anne Boleyn in 1536, but that’s another story…

What do you think?

Was Henry VIII a bigamist? Was the Leviticus argument just a big excuse?

Let me know your thoughts.


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76 thoughts on “Did Henry VIII Commit Bigamy When He Married Anne Boleyn?”
  1. Well, I have to respond to this loaded question! It took Henry many years to come to the place where he believed his own convictions outweighed those of the Pope–he had to read a lot, especially the book Anne gave him about the rights of kings and their duties–the title escapes me at the moment. It was not a cut and dried case for Henry. At first, he wanted the annulment from the Pope because he was a good Catholic. Only after waiting years and being turned down (lots of kings had had their marriages annulled over the years–no reason for Henry’s case to be any different, except the Pope was captured by Henry’s wife’s nephew-I think that’s right?) By the time Henry married Anne, he must have been confident that he was an eligible bachelor because otherwise, he would be risking the legitimacy of the child she carried. He would not have done that. For them to consumate their relationship after all that time, he must have truly felt himself a free man–it was only a matter of time before the details could be taken care of. I guess the answer depends on the point of view of the person asked. Catherine certainly did not think Henry was a free man–she believed him her true husband until she died. Her supporters probably felt the same way. Anne’s supporters probably agreed with the King. As for me, I think Henry got his annulment after the fact and was, briefly and legally, a bigamist. Did he care? I don’t think so.

    1. I think that Henry twisted things to make them suit him. When he married Katherine, a Papal dispensation sufficed then when he wanted to get rid of her, it wasn’t good enough. I understand that he had no male heir and considered the reason was because he had sinned against God by marrying his brothers wife. My question is though that what made him really believe that the Pope’s had no just authority in granting a dispensation? Weren’t Pope’s at that time believed to be greater than Kings and also appointed by God ? I don’t think that I understand Henry’s reasoning. I could believe that he really thought that he was being punished by God but then that doesn’t explain his marriage to Anne and his break with the catholic church. Wouldn’t he think that God would really punish when he split with the church? Also, he used the same excuse to null his marriage to Anne that he used with Catherine. It was basically the same argument. Yes, I think he was a bigamist and yes I think King Henry VIII the ultimate spoiled brat did anything to get his way.

      1. The Pope is not placed above King or anyone for that matter, if you ready the Bible we are to govern ourselves, as for the dispensation from the Pope is a piece of paper saying go ahead do whatever blows your sirt up.

        Henry finally began to see the Pope for what they really are charlatans, if they can be swayed so easily for intense, Pope Clement wouldn’t allow Henry to divorce Catherine why because Charles the Holy Roman Emperor was telling him absolutely not.

        He finally broke with the Catholic Church which PRAISE God he did, because he realized they were only going to follow mans will and not God’s.

        As for his excuse to rid himself of Anne he was grasping for straws. And if you have read anything about both Archbishop Cramner and Sir William(keeper of the Tower, and always went out of his way to make sure Anne was as comfortable is possible when bing led to your death.) they both stood witness to her confession on the Queens request she said there were tims when she didn’t give the King the respect he was due, she was jealous of his liaisons’.

        But in the end he rid himself of a Great Queen in Anne and probably many son’s, all because he wanted that harlot Jane Seymore.

        1. Hi Grand Duchess, I think you misunderstood what I was trying to express in my previous post. My argument was not a theological one but a question of what people believed in that time. I remember reading somewhere that the Pope in that time was believed to be appointed by God and deemed to be in higher authority than Kings. I am certainly not debating the theological aspect of this merely what people believed at the time. However Ms. Barnhill was kind enough to point out that by Henry’s reign this was not so much the case. I think he might have been trying to keep Charles V. at bay by asking for an annulment from the pope. Also by the same token I think that Henry had his suspicions that Charles would persuade the Pope to favor Katherine since he was Holy roman Emperor at the time. Maybe he really did believe that he had sinned against God but as someone else on this board pointed out- didn’t he commit graver sins than that?
          After all he did to clear the way for Anne to become his wife and Queen he discarded her. I believe it shows the start of a pattern of disrespect for his wives. Wives were something he could just throw away when he had enough of them or when they weren’t keeping up their end of the deal as in producing heirs.

        2. You’re missing the point – the Papacy was the governing body that granted the dispensation for the marriage in the first place, so only the Papacy could reverse it. Henry had no inclination to break with the Catholic Church, he simply did it out of desperation so he could obtain his divorce.
          Having said that, what Henry was asking for was certainly not unreasonable. The Tudor claim to the throne was tenuous, and a son did give Henry much surer footing than a daughter. A female ruler would at some point marry, either a foreign prince or an English subject – both posed serious problems, which Henry understood. Christian kings had been granted annulments a number of times; recall Louis VII of France divorced Eleanor of Aquitaine because she couldn’t give him a son – they had 2 healthy daughters- way back in 1152. Eleanor went on to marry Henry II of England, and gave him 5 sons, but no matter. Louis was granted an anullment with little fuss, and Eleanor had more sense than to stay with a man who no longer wanted her (unlike KoA) Henry was simply denied his divorce because KoA’s nephew was holding the Pope hostage. Otherwise, Henry would have been given his divorce, we wouldn’t be on this forum. Henry did not do what he did to marry Anne Boleyn; he did what he did so he could remarry and have legitimate sons; it just so happened he already had his next wife picked out.

        3. Excellent Post The Grand Duchess !

          Considering he broke with the Catholic Church (rightfully so)
          I have to wonder if he ever thought about becoming a

        4. Excellent post Epiphany!! I totally agree. If COA had
          any self respect she would have gladly given Henry
          his annulment. All that mattered to her was being
          Queen. Also after all the trouble she gave him
          he wasn’t about to go through it again and found
          It easier to execute Anne on trumped up charges.

    2. “I think Henry got his annulment after the fact and was, briefly and legally, a bigamist. Did he care? I don’t think so.”

      This sentence from your comment, Anne, perfectly sums up my thoughts on the matter. Henry was a bigamist for a brief time, and even he knew it. Oh certainly, he would have thrown a temper tantrum and denied it with every fiber of his being if anyone had had the nerve to say so out loud, since he knew it would affect the legitimacy of his and Anne’s child. But really, I think he knew full well that he was; he simply didn’t care. By that time, I think the only religion Henry truly followed was the religion of Whatever Henry Wants, Henry Gets.

        1. Epiphany, you mention the case of Eleanor of Aquitaine, but then again you fail to mention other cases of women denying their husbands annulments (which they lost, but it shows KOA’s position wasn’t unreasonable and she certainly had SENSE!). I fail to see how you can compare a woman who went on to marry another KING in the 12th century to a woman in the 16th fighting for her rights and those of her daughter’s, who more than likely wasn’t going to become another Queen consort. Oh, and Eleanor of Aquitaine was the heiress to Aquitaine which makes her position much different from Katherine’s.

          Henry is just another example of a lying husband who twists and turns and is trying to find a way out of his marriage so he can have a male heir.

          Was Henry VIII a bigamist? There are certain issues to be considered about his first marriage, that I am looking into, but for right now, to me yes he was.

      1. We can’t take a personal or twenty first century take on the authority of the Catholic Church in the sixteenth as neither is relevant. The important thing is how Henry and the average Catholic Christian saw things and that authority at the time. Whereas there were Protestants in Northern Europe and people of various new reformed beliefs who would have loved the power of the Holy See curtailed in England and agreed with the Kings break from Rome (not the Catholic Church as he remained a Catholic but without the Pope) the fact remains that the vast majority of people remained faithful Catholics and saw it as the true faith. Henry only broke from Rome because he found it convenient to do so as his annulment wasn’t forthcoming after years of waiting. For everyone in the Christian World beyond the Orthodox Faith held that the Pope was the Representative of Christ on Earth and His authority on all spiritual and some temporal matters. It doesn’t matter how we might or might not interpret the Bible, only how the people of that world did. Other than those now following the new reformed beliefs who rejected papal authority, which represented a loud and sizable minority, but a minority just the same, most of Western Europe and other parts of the known world accepted this belief. ( Yes, Islam was also a growing presence but I am talking about Christian communities only.) What mattered is that when parties in a dispute over marriage like this could not find a settlement and the Church authority at home was no help, either party could appeal to the Curia or Rota as it is also called in Rome and the theologians and lawyers fought it out based on evidence to come to a decision. They gave a ruling and the Pope confirmed it in his Bull containing his decision. This was what Katherine of Aragon did and Henry just had to wait, although he tried to hurry things up a number of times. Henry too recognised that authority, but now he had changed his mind. It had taken too long and Anne was pregnant so he no longer wanted the Pope, took over his title in England and forced his subjects to swear an oath to him denying the Pope. He now used that new title to give Archbishop Cranmer the authority to listen to evidence and settle his marriage for him.

  2. Deuteronomy chapter 25, verses 5 and 6 state that: “If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her. And it shall be, [that] the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother [which is] dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.” (KJV) Since Catherine and Arthur did not have children, the rule of Deuteronmy would seem to apply. (I wonder what might have happened if this rule had been obeyed and the “New Year’s Prince” was named “Arthur”, not “Henry”.)

    At the very least, there would be debate over which rule applied. Henry didn’t seem to agree with Luther’s idea that all should be able to interpret the Bible for themselves (and Henry was too emotionally involved to make a good judge of his own case) …. so someone else should make that call. Since it looks like Henry married Anne before anyone other than Henry decided that Deuteronomy was inapplicable, I would have to say that he committed bigamy.

  3. I agree with you that He came to believe that his marriage to CoA was wrong in God’s eyes and should never have taken place. Also, I agree that Anne’s pregnancy made him sure God was blessing their union as he believed that the miscarriages/stillbirths were due to sin and after the miscarriages He annualed his marrige to AB too.

    So, I don’t think it was bigamy, it wasn’t a divorce either. In Henry’s mind there was no marriage and he was free OR may be He assured everyone that he believed in this way

    It is very good article I think, thank you Claire!

  4. Was Bigamy his biggest sin??? I guess the ultimate answer to the question depends on how you see the situation. My opinion, technically….yes. But again, that is the answer judging history with present day knowledge.

    1. Stupidity, selfishness, and egomania were Henry’s biggest sins. That doesn’t make his bigamous behavior any less disgusting.

  5. Henry VIII was a bigamist by the law and by God’s rules. The biblical law in Leviticus did not apply to him as he was not a Jewish person, these laws only applied to Jews, God’s chosen people. Strange how people miss that thought. The law about a brother raising up seed to his dead brother was only for a Jew, not a gentile. Henry was a gentile. In God’s eyes, Catherine was Henry’s true wife until she died and then that death would set him free to remarry. No laws of man will ever set aside God’s law. In God’s eyes when we make the vow when we marry, that is until death do us part and then only are we free to remarry. No divorce is ever in God’s vocalulary. So yes, he was a bigamist. Men always twist the Bible concepts to make their ways right but usually they are doing wrong and God says He does not change but man does change.

    1. I recall reading somewhere that Martin Luther thought Henry’s marriage to Catherine was good and valid; this makes sense, since the only Biblical provision clearly applicable to Henry is that G-d doesn’t like divorce. According to historian David Starkey, a lot of the debate was explaining why Leviticus applied to Henry, but Deuteronomy did not.

  6. Oh, I love all these different ideas and takes on the subject–thanks, Claire, for another thought-provoking article! I think in earlier days, the Pope was taken as almost God Himself but by Henry’s time, the ideas of the Renaissance were firmly in place and Henry was interested in these–especially once Anne started giving him ‘banned” books to read. These, plus Cranmer and Cromwell’s approach to the Great Matter, helped Henry to see a different way–plus, of course, Martin Luther’s critcisms of the Church, which earlier Henry had repudiated. Though Henry was King, at this point, I don’t believe he was a tyrant. These ideas about kingship and religion changed Henry–once he realized he COULD do certain things–like annul his marriage, his power began to strengthen and he slowly evolved (maybe no so slowly) into the tyrant of history. I think at first, it was his love for Anne that movtivated him, combined with his desire for a son. But I think the desire for a son trumped his love for Anne–given his later actions.

    1. Hello Anne.
      Yes, I think you are spot on. Henry, at first, did not understand the power he had, the brakes, so to speak, were being applied by Wolsey but, through Anne’s influence, Henry came to realise that he could do whatever he wanted. Once Wolsey had fallen from grace and Anne had like minded allies such as Cromwell and Cranmer in positions of influence then any dissention to prick henry’s conscience had vanished.
      Not only could he do whatever he wanted to do, Henry was being encouraged in the correctness of these actions, which is, of course, what he wanted to hear.
      Making Henry realise his total power ended badly of course for Anne and Cromwell when others were able to influence his decision making which, in the main, consisted of anything that went wrong being the fault of somebody other than Henry.
      Great to read all the different viewpoints and debates on this subject, thank you Claire.

  7. I think the uppermost thought in Henry’s mind was not the validity of his marriage but that his family’s claim to the throne of England was tenuous at best. I think this was drilled into Arthur’s and Henry’s head (after Arthur had died) by his father at every opportunity until the day he died. In order to cement the Tudor claim to the throne was that there HAD to be a living male heir (and a spare-if possible.) Catherine had been unable to give him a living male heir, was entering menopause (so unable to bear anymore children) and had to be put away to make room for a younger (more fertile) woman. As was stated earlier, popes gave dispensations to put wives away before and I think Henry, knowing Catherine’s was a good Catholic woman, may have felt that a declaration of the invalidity of their marriage from the Pope would be more tolerable than just trying to put her away. But you know wjhat they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? Obviously it set off a chain of events that no one forsaw. I think Henry underestimated the characters of both Catherine and Anne. Catherine believing that she was “called” to be Queen of England and no person(s) on Earth was going to change that. And Anne, in part, not wanting to be a cast-off mistress.

  8. By the eyes of the Catholic Church then yes, Henry knew in his heart that his marriage to Catharine was never legal so for my part I believe she was the person longest to hold the title Royal Mistress, even if she was given the title Queen of England.
    So he Married The Marquess of Pembroke Anne Boleyn.

    1. Henry VIII experienced a fresh “crisis of conscience” barely three years after his sham marriage to Anne Boleyn. That marriage was nullified by the same authority who found his marriage to Katherine of Aragon invalid. Henry gave the final stamp of approval to every person who ever called Anne a “wh*re” or his “concubine.”

      1. Yes, he decided to kill a great woman, because she found him kissing that harlot, and she lost control and with the poor health care back then they couldn’t save her son. So he chops of her(Anne’s) head and marry’s the harlot that made her lose her son to begin with the wh*re Jane Seymore.

        1. And yet, in the world according to Henry, Jane is his “true wife.” Not Catherine of Aragon. Not Anne Boleyn.

        2. jane seymore was not a wh*re she by all accounts was in the same position that anne boleyn was in previously ie being chased by a man whom could control everything around them and control their families as well so no point in blaming jane and calling her wh*re ,henry didnt see to think so ,hes buried beside her as was his wish she was the one he loved truly.

  9. “Good Friday, 11th April 1533 – Henry VIII informs the court that Anne Boleyn is now Queen.”
    What an somber day for Henry to pick to announce to he court that Anne was Queen !

  10. Henry’s annullment request was always dubious. For one, his conscience had nothing to do with it. Even his desire to marry Anne was not his primary motivation. His primary motivation for divorcing Katherine was to enable him to have a legitimate son whose succession to the throne would not be challenged. Yes, popes had given many divorces to many kings and nobles, but Henry’s request was different in that he was asking the pope to dissolve the marriage based on the same argument he used to obtain a dispensation to marry her. And his argument was flimsy anyway. He cites Leviticus, which says that a man should not take his brothers “wife”. Yet Deuteronomy states that a man should marry his brother’s widow if they had no son. These two things do not contradict one another. Leviticus is talking about having sexual relations with your living brother’s wife. Deutoronomy is talking about marrying your brother’s widow. In Leviticus, your brother is alive. In Deuteronomy, your brother is dead. Leviticus does not apply at all in Henry’s case, but Deutoronomy does and was the basis for the dispensation. Given that Henry’s sexual relationship with Katherine did not occur until after Arthur was dead, his request for a divorce based on Leviticus is unfounded – and thus, not granted. To any extent that Leviticus could apply (and it can’t), the dispensation based on Deuteronomy far outweighs it. The fact that Henry selectively ignored Deutoronomy (and he was learned enough to be well-aware of it) and instead tried focusing solely on Leviticus proves that his motivation for divorce was not because of a crisis of conscience, but rather his desperate desire to produce a legitimate male heir.

    1. I think he didn’t really care one way or another what was biblical he wanted what he wanted and he got it.

      And as I said before Catharine was not his wife, the Pope had no right to give thema bull saying they could marry Anne was his first realy Queen. But when she lost his son when she caught him whoring around with Jane Seymore, he decided that’s it, I’ll take Jane and get a son from her. Ho and his son alright but lost Jane, I believe this was punishment for killing Anne…

      1. So can we said that the death of Anne Boleyn and the ilegitimacy of Elizabeth was a punishment because of what Henry and Anne did to Catherine and Mary?
        And yes Henry was a bigamist and an adulterous as he was married to Catherine and she was alive when he got involved wth Anne

      2. What about Anne’s marriage to Henry that required a dispensation? If Henry and KOA’s marriage wasn’t invalid, then Anne’s marriage to Henry sure wasn’t!

        And once again, here is the double standard that Anne gets a pass and Jane is criticized.

        And DeAnn, you are right, those were “rumors”, doesn’t mean a thing come 1527, when the annulment proceedings actually happen. Entering a nunnery, doesn’t dissolve a marriage, and if KOA doesn’t want to become a nun, she shouldn’t have to become one.

    2. I think Henry sought the annulment based on scripture because Catherine wouldn’t go the traditional divorce route. Once she wouldn’t go gently into the good night, then he had to take a different tack. If she had entered a nunnery, I don’t think the relationship with Arthur would have been an issue. As early as 1514, there were rumors on the Continent about Henry being unhappy with Catherine.

      And honestly at this time in the 1520s, it wasn’t “desperate” desire to get a legitimate heir. It was good kingmanship.

  11. It always amazes me how wound up people get about this subject. Often I think it is because we base our opinions on own religious beliefs and life experiences. But really it doesn’t matter what we believe. What matters is what Henry believed. He was an absolute monarch who believed he was in his position because of his divine right. One thing he was very good at was making laws and decrees according to how HE viewed the scriptures to be interpreted because he had something no one else had….he was appointed by God. He saw the Roman Catholics as usurpers so he took Rome out of the equation. God didn’t strike him dead….life carried on. He didn’t recognize his first marriage. Or for that matter his second, fourth and fifth. They were all annulled according to his God appointed view of the scriptures and the laws he or his royal predecessors put in place. So no, he wasn’t a bigamist.

    1. I disagree. If Henry’s opinion is all that matters, then why should he bother marrying anyone? Marriage is not only a religious and social acknowledgment of a union, it is a legally binding contract between the bride and the groom. Either a person, king or commoner, is willing to honor a contract, or he is not.

  12. In the 16th century the Pope was often called upon to dispense with the laws of the church and as G-d’s representative on earth, he had the power to do so. With the dispensation, Henry and Katherines’ marriage became legal and binding IN THE EYES OF THE CHURCH. However, under the laws of England, it might be a different matter. What did the laws of England say at the time? Does anyone know? Most often, the Church’s decisions were the basis of secular law so under English law, Henry most probaby was legally married to Katherine. That the annulment came after his marriage to Anne, most certainly made him a bigiamist up to the moment of Katherine’s death. If he had then remarried Anne, she would be his legal wife. I do not believe Anne was a homewrecker; Henry had made up his mind to get rid of Katherine before Anne came into the picture. When he turned his mind to having Anne, whether she wanted him or not became mute; he was King and he would have what he wanted. That she managed to hold him off for many years is amazing; he must have truly loved her at the time and only when she did not quickly provide him a son did his feelings change. Of course Anne encourged Henry in his pursuit of her; he was King and she knew he was capable of ruining her entire family, if not executing them all for any filmsy excuse. In many ways, Anne had no choice but to make the best of it; that she cared for him still amazes me but I do believe she also loved him. At the time of Katherine’s death, Henry was released by the laws of Church and man to do as he pleased. When he decided to rid himself of Anne, he had to accept any alleged affairs she may have had as truth because he had no other reason to divorce her except the same arguement he used with Katherine or admit he was a bigiamist. He had put himself in a difficult position and only through Anne’s death could he dig himself out of a deep hole. Henry was a man sho did not respect his wives or any woman; one can only wonder what happened to make him feel women so unworthy; yet at the same time, he made sure his daughters received outstanding educations. Other than education, he had very little respect and tolerance for women.Basically, Henry was a jerk who pitched tantrums, and got his way whenever he wanted and for what ever he wanted, and his poor wives were his victims.

  13. I know that if I were alive when Henry was king, if he said he was not legally married I would not quarrel with him. He did have a way of getting what he wanted.

  14. I’m afraid he was a bigamist… But it just makes Henry & Anne’s beautiful love story even more exciting!!

  15. There never was a king so skilled at having his cake and eating it! Henry had a convenient conscience.
    I think he sincerely believed that his first marriage was invalid and therefore cursed and that the conviction had been building in him for years. Once he had made up his mind neither pope,nor prelate nor God himself, had he descended to earth, could have changed his mind. As he aged, Henry was more and more sure that he was right about everything. Oddly enough, his conscience always ran in tandem with whatever it was he wanted at the time.
    I’m sure he went to his grave honestly believing that he was a man more sinned against than sinning, a man unfortunate in the wives and the statesmen who had betrayed him, misled him and let him down.
    I don’t think he thought he was a bigamist….although until his first marriage was officially anulled he must have been. In the eyes of many good Catholics, he remained so.
    But as Lisaannejane says, who was going to argue with him? It’s notable that those who did disagree tended to do so from the safety of another country!

  16. The funniest thing is that Luther himself acknowledged a bigamous marriage (or “Doppelehe”) in Landgraf Philip of Hessen! He could stand up before the Emperor (and I admire him for that) but couldn’t do anything about the real rulers, the local princes! So, he always obeyed them. It’s the same with the Popes, they only became infallible ex cathedra in1870, so they weren’t in Henry VIII’s time, although they excommunicated as they liked… I don’t think there were that many royal annulments then or earlier, though, so Henry is still very special.

  17. what i always found amusing was that Henry applied for a papal dispensation to marry anne due to his relationship with her sister, mary while trying to get the pope to agree that the original dispensation allowing him to marry katherine was invalid.

    1. Honestly, I think this is a case of modern historians interpreting facts with the hindsight of history. For years, I thought like you that Henry was being a huge hypocrite i.e. Catherine and Arthur’s relationship but conveniently overlooking his own relationship with Mary Boleyn.

      However, I’ve come to realize that I’ve never actually seen the document. All historians say it mentions Mary but I’ve never seen the actual document. Can anyone direct me to the document and where it actually mentions Mary Boleyn? Because I think it’s an assumption modern folks made and an incorrect one.

      Instead, I believe the dispensation refers to consanuity (spelling) in the first degree and that’s all. There is an obvious answer that would have been known to all those involved and wouldn’t have made Henry a total hypocrite.

      Henry and Anne Boleyn had an aunt in common.

      Henry’s mother, Elizabeth of York, was the oldest daughter of Edward IV. The middle daughter was Anne, who married Thomas Howard in 1495. That’s not commonly known by modern day folks because Anne died childless and has been pretty much forgotten by history. Her husband remarried and of course became the third Duke of Norfolk, uncle to both Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.

      I argue that Anne Boleyn was named for this royal aunt, Anne of York and that Anne of York was her godmother. That certainly seems like something that the ambitious Thomas Boleyn would have done. Anne of York carried the chrisom at both Arthur and Margaret Tudor’s christenings. She was chief mourner at Elizabeth Woodville’s funeral. Henry VII gave her away at her wedding to Thomas Howard. She was a beloved member of the family. And she was also a Howard by marriage. When Anne Boleyn was born, Thomas and Anne Howard did have a living son (he died in 1508).

      If my assumption is correct and Anne of York was Anne Boleyn’s godmother then by the Catholic Church Henry and Anne Boleyn were related in the first degree. A godmother was seen as a “mother” by the church. So Anne of York was Anne Boleyn’s “mother” in the eyes of the church while also being Henry VIII’s biological aunt.

      If I am wrong and the document actually mentions Mary Boleyn then my apologies. But if mentions just consaniuity (spelling) in the first degree then I think Henry could have sought the pope’s dispensation because of his dead aunt and Anne’s dead aunt and not have been a total hypocrite. Obviously Mary Boleyn could have been included and covered but he need not make that public. Seeking a dispensation because of the dead Anne of York is something he could have easily don’t without being the total laughing stock of Europe.

      1. you may be correct, the books i’ve read reference Mary & Anne as the relationship he’s trying to get the dispensation for. Either way he still is trying to get the Pope to issue a dispensation so he can marry Anne because somehow they are related. I realize this was early in the divorce saga and he was still trying to get the Pope to agree to everything, it still strikes me as that he wants to have both ways: Katherine was Arthur’s widow so he’s related to her and the marriage is invalid; Anne either via Mary or Anne of York is related to him but the marriage should be okay?

  18. La Belle Creole.

    I believe he believes his harlot jis true wife because she was the only one who gave him a son no matter how young he died.

    I firmly stand Queen Anne Boleyn was his only true wife.
    After all she did bare Elizabeth I the best Monach to rule up until that point and for many generations after.

      1. So Shelly, a woman’s worth is determined by whom she gives birth to? Elizabeth being a monarch has nothing to do with whether or not, Anne’s marriage to Henry is valid. Elizabeth being a good ruler, does not make Anne Boleyn a great person! If you want to say such a thing, it needs to be based off of Anne’s personality and her accomplishments.

        And Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, Catherine Parr? What about them? How are they not his wives? Especially after Anne’s death?

  19. Lots of responses, haven’t read them all so not sure if my point has already been raised.

    Annulment is not divorce – it requires that the marriage is voidable.

    The key question is whether the marriage was void from the beginning. Annulment can operate from the date of annulment – therefore H8 was a bigamist. Or it can operate retroactively – so depending on the nature of the annulment and its operative date, H8 was free to marry Boleyn.

    Another point is that a marriage can be a nullity ie. it never had effect. If that were the case, H8 was definitely free to marry, but I don’t think that applies here.

    As to H8’s conscience – he did obtain a dispensation on the ground of affinity before marrying Katherine, so descriptions of his tortured state of mind seem like special pleading. My impression is that he was happily married to Katherine for a long time.

  20. Henry VIII’s troubled conscience isn’t justification for his attempted manipulation of the Holy Church and his subsequent successful manipulation of the Anglican Church to procure his desired verdicts.

    Note my use of the plural term. Henry was a one-trick-pony when it came to his marriages.

    Henry’s desperation for live male issue colored his actions and everyone was aware of it. Whether Henry felt his sentiments and actions were “right” is unimportant in evaluating his bigamous state.

    If Henry truly believed God frowned upon his marriage to Katherine of Aragon and that the marriage was void due to Katherine’s previous marriage and carnal knowledge of Henry’s brother, Arthur, he should also have excluded Anne Boleyn as a bride due to comparable affinity (Henry’s carnal knowledge of Anne’s sister, Mary Boleyn.) NOTE: this would become the basis of his later anullment of the Henry/Anne marriage.

    If we examine Henry’s claims and weigh those claims against his actions, his dishonesty and hypocrisy become evident. Henry dredged up a lukewarm case and when his wife and family, the Holy Church, and his own subjects had the abject nerve not to humor his silliness, he rejected that church, bought himself a courtroom verdict, and forced his subjects to pretend they agreed with him under pain of severe consequences.

  21. I think that what King Henry did was like committing bigamy in a way, bigamous as he had still been married to Katherine of Aragon whilst he pursued and was pursuing Anne and he married Anne whilst still being married to Katherine but at the same time it was not as he was trying to get an annulment at the time but it took him years to seek and to get so there was nothing that he could really do without a divorce and annulment as the pope would not grant this to him as at the time the pope was and had been the most outright and powerful man in the whole of Europe before the King and it was only when he broke from Rome that this all changed, things started to change without doing so everything would have still been the same and Henry would have to have waited until Katherine died before he could marry Anne, or re-marry again. It took Henry so many years to contemplate and as a result did what he thought was neccercary at the time for it to be and make it happen. Then with things changed in certain ways the King could do whatever he wanted and pleased and he was not only now the most powerful man in the Kingdom but in and also of the whole of Europe and this as a result must have put a new light on everything and as a result made the King more headstrong, powerful which equaled in him thinking that he was even more superior and could do what he wanted than he did before and not to mention with the likes of Anne and the Bullens/Boleyn’s by his side as well. Henry just went with the flow of things and what was happening around him, plus his love and his the passion that he had for Anne all must of took its toll well until her downfall that is.

    The divorce proceedings took many years and took place at Bridewell, all of those years must have took there toll on both Henry and Anne alike but at the same time he turned his back on Rome which must have been seen by the Roman Catholics as betrayal and a sin as we all know but they blamed Anne for it all I suppose because they would not have dared to blame or go against him as they would have been to scared and suffered the consequences of doing such if they tried. I really and truly believe that he did believe in Leviticus and what it said to him. I can believe that very much as I think as well as believe that he had the tendency to believe everything that he was told by people religious or otherwise and he followed it, he went whatever way the wind was blowing as he seemed to not really have a mind of his own, very reliant on others to do his thinking for him, everything for him near enough. That is not to say that he did not do anything of his own accord and free of thinking but still he was told, advised by those near him and closest to him at the time even if the words were poisonous and treacherous and could have harmed in a way but still that was the way of thinking and doing things at the time but still King Henry VIII holds and has the biggest record for that without a doubt.

    I think that because he had waited so long he could not wait much longer so he just went ahead and did as he wanted and pleased anyway. The King’s courtship and marriage to Katherine was indeed in fact his longest surviving relationship that he had ever had and then Anne following in second place as after wards the length of his courtships and marriages seemed to last not as long and were even less as the time went on, the only difference is that his marriage to Katherine of Aragon had lasted longer than his courtship to her but with Anne Boleyn it had been the other way around, the courtship lasting longer than their marriage. The same with the other remainder, remaining last of his four wives like Katherine of Aragon the marriage outlasted the courtship but Anne again the opposite, she held the position of mistress en tere for far longer and a lot longer than any other woman associated with Henry, mistress wife or otherwise.

  22. I am loathe to defend Henry VIII as I believe he was a tyrant. However, I must take some issue to the idea that Henry had no respect for women as evidenced by his behavior with his wives. I think Henry did have a great deal of respect for Katherine for years. He left her in charge as Regent and he treated her with respect during the years prior to his need to rid himself of a what he considered to be a “barren” woman. Additionally, you also forget to mention his devotion to his sister Mary. He forgave her for her transgression in marrying Charles Brandon without his permission. He seemed to genuinely have warm, brotherly feelings and respect for this younger sister. Also, even though I believe that he was wrong in ridding himself of Anne of Cleves, her willingness to give the King what he wanted without fighting him resulted in his fine treatment of her from that point on. Was he a spoiled, selfish king? Most definitely. However, I’m not sure that I would denounce his overall treatment of women in general. I realize this is a little far afield from whether or not he was a bigamist, but the statement of his disrespect for women struck me and I felt I had to respond.

    1. Yes, of course he did have respect for people including the opposite sex to a degree which showed in how he treated what was called and what was his favourite sister Mary “Rose” Tudor but I suppose it was done in accordance to who he wanted to show respect to and who he did not and what position they held and how they were related to him, do not forget that Mary “Rose” Tudor was his sister and he also had a ship named after her too as well, the Mary Rose so this just shows how much he felt about her, Margaret he did not get on so well with, he did not hate her but I know they had a falling out during his latter years as King and it just goes to show because he wanted if his heirs did not produce heirs he wanted the throne to go directly to his sister Mary and her heirs before reaching Margaret and her heirs last. He seemed to dislike the scots very much and it just goes to show as he and England went to war with them twice, the battle of Flooden field and last but not least the battle of Soloway Moss and this was probably just one of the reasons that the King and Margaret were not on very good terms with each other, first he or should I say Katherine of Aragon as she was left in charge of England at the time raised and led an army against King James IV and the scots overthrowing and killing Maragarets husband and last but not least Hnery raising a war with Maragaret’s son King James V which must have upset as well as angered Margaret very much.

  23. Very interesting. I guess he did commit bigamy when he married Anne Boleyn. But in his eyes, of course, his marriage to Catherine was never valid, so there was no other marriage. Henry VIII’s thought-process is quite confusing, especially when we consider that he still had Anne convicted of treason and adultery even though he had their marriage declared invalid. Mmm….

    I don’t believe there is any conclusive evidence that Anne was pregnant before marrying Henry. Not to put this woman too high, but I don’t believe she was a “wh*re.” And by those standards, a woman who engaged in sexual relations with a man (and a married man at that!) was indeed considered a wh*re. I think Anne would have been more careful than that. However, if she was indeed pregnant (and again no one quite knows the exact date when they married) then it was most likely due to the fact that they saw Henry’s divorce as imminent and Anne did not want to lose his love.

    To confuse myself even more, however, if Henry DID commit bigamy then he and Anne’s marriage was not technically valid, making Elizabeth a bastard and again, giving Henry no reason to have Anne executed. However, Henry did not believe himself truly married to Catherine, so in his eyes there was no first marriage, therefore, there was no bigamy. Interesting, eh? It’s quite the “he said”, “she said” scenario, is it not?

    Marrying of one’s deceased sibling’s spouse is forbidden by the Bible, so was Henry correct? Who knows? I, being a religious person, myself, would love to know God’s opinion on this matter. I’m sure He would agree that Henry is a jerk either way, but I wonder which marriage, He himself would consider “valid”, if either, or both!

    Anyway, wonderful post and it does get one thinking. I happen to like Anne and Catherine and believe that they were both wronged. I don’t necessarily agree with Anne’s behavior with Henry whilst he was married to Catherine, however, I quite like the woman, and as stated before, do not consider her a “wh*re.” I sympathize with both women as their husband was a little *bleep* and they both had a lot of misery and pressure in their lives. They were both unable to give Henry a son and they were both casted off for other women.

    Thank you so much for this article. My brain is now in a tizzy! But in a good way, of course! 🙂


  24. I think a lot of the problems was how Henry was raised he was not raised to be a king but was given everything he wanted. Henry wanted to marry Catherine insead of his brother and did so once his brother was out of the picture. He was a spoil prince.

  25. I will not go into the legal arguments or the church arguments around this as they have been debated in detail before this. But, if Katherine was a virgin when she came to the marriage bed of King Henry VIII and she swore that she was, then the Holy Father, the ultimate authority in canon law at this time, issuing a dispensation stated that the marriage to Author was not consummated and so Henry and she could marry. The Pope would have been aware of the Biblical Texts in both Books of Moses: Deuteronomy and Leviticus, and the Curia would have advised him before he made his decision. Two dispensations were in fact made: one saying it was consummated, one that it was not, but the Holy Father had the right and power to decide in these matters. Henry was to use the fact that he and Katherine had no male heir as a convenience to discover the text in Leviticus and thus find a way out of his marriage.

    Henry may have truly believed that God had not blessed his marriage to Katherine and that he was denied a son as the royal couple had sinned, but the passage of time had indeed made the marriage genuine and in good faith. That is why Princess Mary should not have been declared a bastard! Henry and Katherine did not know they had sinned until after several years and the child was conceived in good faith. A marriage could be declared null and void but the child could also remain legitimate. But Henry really did not want to divorce Katherine, he felt that he had to as he had no male heir. His conscience was truly troubled, but it was made even more so when he met Anne Boleyn.

    Whatever the arguments about Henry and his reasons for the divorce, the fact is that he was still legally married to Queen Katherine of Aragon when he married Anne Boleyn. The marriage to Katherine had not been declared invalid by the Curia in Rome, who could only decide on such a matter, nor had Archbishop Cranmer been appointed to look into the matter. Henry and Anne’s wedding plans were brought forward as she was up the duff. Henry could no longer wait for the decision from Rome. Although Henry and Katherine were officially separated they were still married and even though Henry believed his marriage to be null and void it had to be done correctly, officially. The only legal power in January 1533 was the Curia in Rome. Although the Pope could appoint a Legate in England to act on his behalf, the case had been appealled to Rome and that prevented a decision in England.

    When Anne and Henry were married in January 1533, they committed bigamy, the marriage to Katherine still being in force. When the English courts declared the marriage null and void and the marriage to Anne valid, it was a heretical court that did so. It had no real powers in the face of the rest of the Catholic World and the marriage of Anne and Henry was never widely recognised. The marriage was declared legal by the English Court Commission set up by Thomas Cranmer in April 1533 so it was after the actual wedding. The marriage of Henry and Katherine was also declared legal by the Curia in the next few weeks and thus reversed the decision in theory. Katherine accepted Rome’s decision and Henry his own courts decisions. Which one is correct depended on your point of view but today it is widely accepted that the marriage to Katherine was legal and that Henry remained married to her in some sense until she died in January 1536. This is what Katherine accepted.

    So, even by the standards of the time it was neither straightforward or conclusive as to which view was correct. Today, we would take a look at the dates and say yes it was bigamy, but at the time it was not that clear cut. Henry believed his marriage to Katherine to have been unlawful as the Pope had made an error when he gave the dispensation allowing the wedding. It had taken Henry a number of years to get around to realizing this but he was sincere in that belief. He believed his case was based on Scripture and let us not forget that Henry had studied the Bible very closely and was something of an expert on it. He may well have just chosen those texts that he wanted for his case, but he used it as a persuasive argument and stood firm in that belief. He knew he had to have the marriage dissolved formally but he never changed his mind on its validity once he started on his long road to divorce.

    It is also interesting to note that bigamy is not disallowed in scripture. It was meant to be that a woman and man would have one partner, but some did have a lot more, and there is nothing that clearly indicated a prohibition. Henry even asked the Pope to allow him to take a second wife while still having Katherine as his Queen. It was not taken seriously of course, but he may have had a point. As long as the wives are treated equally and with respect and accept each other and they consent to the marriage: there are reasons to allow bigamous and more marriages. Henry may have had this in mind when he attempted to marry Anne Boleyn before his divorce was completed.

    1. It’s not quite that simple. Henry genuinely believed that the fact that he had not had a living son by Catherine of Aragon showed that God was not pleased with him and that the marriage was contrary to God’s laws. He was convinced of this before Anne came along and, as David Starkey points out, he never wavered from that belief in seven years. He therefore saw the marriage as invalid, it just didn’t exist, therefore he could marry someone else.

  26. This is a minefield! I’m trying so hard to look at this with 16th century eyes and not 21st century ones! I guess at this point, because Henry was so convinced that his marriage to Catherine was against the will of God, it did not matter to him whether it was legally annulled or not before he married Anne. I do wonder what the priest who married him to Anne thought – did he feel guilty or did he believe that no formal annulment was needed for the marriage to take place? We’ll never know but I do wonder! I also wonder what finally made Henry take the plunge and marry Anne without the formal annulment after all those years. It’s all so interesting. If only Henry had kept a detailed diary so we knew all the answers! Thanks Claire!

    1. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we unearthed some diaries! I’d love all my questions answered but there will always be gaps and mysteries, very frustrating.

      1. Can you imagine if Henry8 had to fill out court documents like regular people today????? !!!!!!!!

  27. Claire,
    I love the thought and debate provoking topics …. what is interesting to me as I read the comments, is how clearly divided people are now as then by their religious beliefs….
    all blame Henry8 for being evil… but then state their reasons why each womam was at fault.. Katherine, Anne and Jane… at that time, unless noted by specific legislation, a woman could not own property or had any legal standing on her own… I think each woman used her brain and her feminine power as best she coud while dealing with a man in a mans world… I dont think any of them were “wh*res” by the definition…. I think they were all playing the best hand they could from the hand fate (or Henry8) dealt them… Catherine waited years hoping for Henry8 to save her and possibly feared returning to that halflife of shamed, unwelcome, pushed aside woman… Anne based her whole life on Henry8 aft er being denied her 1st love.. Jane gambled her life and lost… even if she didnt have a choice in the timing of Henry8’s pursuit… to be honest Katherine had the best time of Henry8’s life IMO… he was young,loving, and reined incomared to later…
    I love the idea of Henry8 trying to hide the dalliance with Mary Boleyn by the degree of consanguinity with what might possible Anne Boleyns godmother!

  28. He absolutely was! The fact his “annulment” was obtain after he married Anne. He knew it too for that matter. If he was justified he would not have married her in secret. He flaunted her to the court why hide your marriage? Many other monarchs at the time married others but out in the open. So by his own actions he knew he was wrong!

  29. The person calling Jane Seymour a ‘wh*re’ and a ‘harlot’ rather upsets me. I knpw ahe is npt very well liked on these sites, but Jane happensto be my favorite Queen. The evidence that we do have of her never points to her being a wh*re, harlot or both. Rather neither. Have you ever considered that she might have just been the next in line after Anne to catch the King’s lusty eye?

    1. I agree with you. People are calling Jane a harlot for doing the same thing Anne did.I all his wives played the hand they were dealt to the best of their ability. As King, Henry done and got what he wanted. They didn’t have a lot of say, being women, and in that time. I think it is really sad how all of them were done.

  30. Well as you pointed out, Henry VIII had the marriage to Queen Katherine declare as “invalid” therefore it meant, that by comparison to modern standards, was not legally binding and therefore as it never happened. That view also would have meant that now his eldest child and daughter Mary, was illegitimate as their marriage wasn’t valid at her time of birth. By that logic it was perfectly OK for him to marry Anne Bolin even before that “ruiling” was handed down, as the “invalid” meant he had been single the entire time. Then he may have secretly married her before the announcement was made publically before the announcement ending the marriage to Queen Katherine, it would be the same as in modern court systems- you can stand up in front of a priest in a church and say all of the vows you want to, but unless you register your marriage through the proper legal channels ( such as getting the marriage license, having it signed by the witnesses and then returned and filed with the court), you could live together for years, but actually not be married at all by law. That would make it legal to be in the divorce proceedings but not yet legally free to marry again, but you could still have the service and then just not file your paperwork with the court until after your divorce became final. That same rule could have applied here too, that they married while his marriage was still being debated as valid or not, but did not declare so publically until the decision was already rendered in the validity of the first marriage- even if it was not publically announced or not. ALSO most importantly Henry was the King, members of the nobility were not allowed to get married without his permission, and most imporantly his family members could not be married without consent as well, and if anyone in Henry’s court did secretly get married, he had the power himself, even before the break with Rome, to end their marriages as invalid, and therefore pocessed the power to make the same judgement on his own marriage’s legal standing. Many parts come into play here, and it all comes down to the fact that Henry was the King, and therefore anything that happened within his realm was at his own will, and the asking permission from the Pope was simply a formality that after being declined, was bypassed for the more simple fact that as king he could do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. The courts then, as they still are today, belong to the crown- and while today they may not have to give directly into the will of the monach when they make a ruling, back under the Tudors, they answered directly to the will and the authority of the one person who allowed them exist, and that was their King, so his word was law

  31. Yes he was, Mary I. First act once ascending to the throne as Queen of England was to legitimize her parents marriage thus ruling any other marriage during her mothers lifetime this his marriage to Anne was Invalid due to him being legally married.

    1. Does that make Elizabeth I a bastard and therefore was not legally an heir to the throne? But there again Henry VII was not legally an heir to the throne as his mother believed.

  32. Henry decided to marry Anne, because his marriage to Katherine was invalid, due to prohibited degrees of affinity. HOWEVER, he annulled his marriage to Anne just before her execution, based on the same grounds ( he’d previously had had sexual relations with their sister Mary ) , so a) even if Anne had been unfaithful (she wasn’t ) she was not guilty of treason by commuting adultary , as Henery decreed they weren’t actually married , so in effect he murdered Anne regardless of anything, and b) given why he annulled his marriage to her, the same grounds on which he believed his marriage to Katherine to be invalid, then he and Anne were not married . Henry wanted it all ways. He knew Anne was innocent BUT didn’t want yet another discarded wife knocking about. PLUS the population at large would’ve ridiculed him . They did anyway, they knew why he made occasion to execute Anne, and whilst they didn’t like her, in the end, they were actually for her.

  33. I just wanted to add to my previous comment. Wanted to say, that in relation to the Aragon and Boleyn marriages, the laws at the time, regarding marriage , divorce etc , were made by the Church, therefore, it is the rule of law in place at that time THAT we look at in deciding if the marriage of Anne was indeed legal. No one can know for sure if Katherine married Henry as a virgin, hence the papal dispensation to marry Henry, BUT Henry did have carnal knowledge of Anne’s sister Mary, thus placing her within the forbidden degrees of affinity as set down in “law” by the church. So, guven that such a marriage was deemed ilegal, then , no, technically, Anne wasn’t married to Henry.

  34. I would like to point out something here. The Leviticus injunction prohibits a man from taking his brother’s WIFE —- not his WIDOW, and the Bible dose speak differently of a wife and a widow.
    In the New Testament, John the Baptist reproves Herod Antipas for taking his brother’s wife (Philip was still alive).

    Now, further in the Old Testament, a man is actually recommended to have children by his brother’s widow IF HIS BROTHER DIED WITHOUT ISSUE —- which would have applied to Henry’s brother, Arthur. Furthermore, Henry and Katherine were not childless. (Leviticus does say “childless”). Frankly, I think Henry was twisting Scripture to suit himself.

    I intend to check my Bible information again, the principal checkout being that Philip was still alive when Herod married Herodias.

    I seems to me that Henry’s marriage to Katherine was perfectly valid — consumated or not.

    If I am wrong, please correct me.

    (Oddly enough Herod the Great, father of Antipas, married TEN wives amid a litany of divorces and executions and came to much the same painful sticky end that Henry came to!)

  35. In Deuteronomy ch.25,v5-7 a man is actually obliged to marry his brother’s widow if his brother died without a child and the first born child is reckoned to his brother. There is nothing to say whether the marriage was ever consummated or not.

    Now, as Henry’s justification for separating from Catherine of Aragon was the Bible’s Old Testament I draw attention to Deuteronomy ch. 25:v 5, which I have never seen being referred to in any literature on the subject. To the best of my knowledge this argument was never presented to Henry.

    Leviticus ch.20: v21 quoted above forbids a man to take his brother’s WIFE (i.e. his brother is still living).

    I would love to get an answer on this one if anyone knows.

    1. Thank you for your comment on this, Jehanne. See https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/25-january-1533-a-st-pauls-day-wedding/ for a mention of Deuteronomy (and Esther mentions it in a comment above). Here is a section from my other article:

      “Although the Book of Deuteronomy seemed to contradict this – “If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her.” (Deuteronomy 25: 5) – canon law gave the laws of Leviticus precedence over those of Deuteronomy and Henry VIII saw his lack of a living male heir as proof that the marriage was wrong. As I have said in a previous article, while it is easy for us today to look at Henry’s justification for the annulment of his first marriage as a great excuse to get out of it and move on with Anne Boleyn, it is clear that he was genuinely troubled by the issue and had come to believe that the marriage was wrong in God’s eyes and that it should never have taken place. David Starkey writes of how, during the seven years of Henry’s quest for an annulment, the basic premise of Henry’s case did not change and he stuck to his argument, he was convinced.”

      And here is more on the subject from my answer to Esther underneath that other article:

      “It was Henry’s canon law advisers and council that advised him that Leviticus had precedence over Deuteronomy, with Deuteronomy being referred to as “the second law”. There were canon law scholars that didn’t agree with this view, though, and there was quite a pamphlet/treatise war. Some saw Deuteronomy as superceding Leviticus because it was later, others argued the opposite, and others pointed out that the two were not meant to be contradictory but that the laws could be followed harmoniously and that Deuteronomy was giving an exception to the Leviticus law, i.e. that the brother could marry the widow if his brother had died without issue. Although Robert Wakefield, the well-known Hebrew scholar, argued that “there was no justification in the Hebrew text for the Greek title of Deuteronomy (“Second Law”)”, he also said that this meant that it “could not be claimed that the law of levirate in Deuteronomy superseded the laws of Leviticus.” (from The Matrimonial Trials of Henry VIII, Henry Ansgar Kelly, p. 35.) There were also arguments as to what Leviticus meant with regards to whether the first marriage had been consummated or not.
      Regarding sources, there are various letters in Letters and Papers (Volume IV) about the issue and treatises about it. Here are a couple of mentions:
      February 1530 there’s a letter from Franciscus Georgius (Friar Francis George) to an unknown recipient saying:
      “I want your opinion about an important case enclosed, and desire you to obtain subscriptions or writings about it from doctors of law and theology, for which you may promise rewards, which I will provide for, either by the merchants with whom you lived here at Venice, or by any one else whom you wish. I send what I have written. Another copy of it has been subscribed by eight theologians, and I shall be very glad if any one with you will do the same. It is a controversy about inheritance between friends of mine. Would not wish to give money to those who think the Pope can dispense, but to those who think the opposite, and agree with our writings, viz., that the Levitical law remains in force, and that Deuteronomy was conditional, and is not kept either by Christians or Hebrews, as they themselves have determined in the Talmud.” LP iv. 6207
      Richard Pace to Henry VIII, July 1527:
      “Sent a letter to the King yesterday, and a book written by the counsel of Master Wakfeld. Answers the objection of some of the King’s counsel, that Leviticus is annulled by Deuteronomy. Wakfeld desires to know whether the King is willing to hear the truth in this great matter. He offers to “show unto your Highness such things as no man within your realm can attain unto or show the like, and as well for you as against you.” LP iv. 3233
      Patrick Williams, in his biography of Catherine of Aragon, states that “Leviticus and Deuteronomy therefore offered diametrically opposed teachings and it was to the former that Henry looked with anxiety and for two reasons – theologically because canon law accepted that Leviticus had precedence over Deuteronomy […], i.e. that was what Henry was being told by theologians and scholars. Amy Licence in her book “The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII” writes that “Henry’s council advised him that Leviticus took precedence over Deuteronomy in canon law.”
      Interestingly, Wakefield informed the king that the Leviticus text said that the punishment of such a union would be no sons, rather than chidren, so Henry felt that the lack of a living son showed clearly that the Leviticus law was correct and that his marriage was not right.”

      I hope that helps.

  36. Clair,
    Thank you so much for your trouble and very detailed answer to my inquiry.
    It has helped me so much to understand the matter. I will be occupied with your references.

    Best wishes, Jehanne.

  37. How can Henry V111 be considered to be a bigamist when his marriage to Anne was annulled by the Church??

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