Henry Percy – sweetheart of Anne Boleyn

Jun29,2020 #Henry Percy

On this day in Tudor history, 29th June 1537, just over a year after the execution of his former sweetheart, Queen Anne Boleyn, Henry Algernon Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland, died at around the age of thirty-five.

Percy had been ill for some time, and had actually collapsed after he sat in judgement on Anne Boleyn and her brother, George, in May 1536. But who was Henry Percy and what happened between him and Anne?

I’ve done this video about Percy as part of my “on this day in Tudor history” series…

Also on this day in Tudor history, 29th June 1509, just four days after she had enjoyed the coronation celebrations of her grandson King Henry VIII and his queen consort, Catherine of Aragon, sixty-six-year-old Lady Margaret Beaufort died. Margaret Beaufort was the matriarch of the Tudor dynasty and was an amazing woman, in many ways, yet she is surrounded by myth and it seems fashionable to see her as a religious zealot. But who was this influential Tudor lady? What did she do? Find out in last year’s video:

And if you have spare time today and want to be thoroughly amused, then I’d highly recommend reading the comments underneath my “Did Anne Boleyn survive and is there a new King of England?” video on YouTube at https://youtu.be/RiTn2E6Iqo8. Some of them are so very crazy. Warning: don’t drink tea or coffee while reading them! I cannpt be held responsible for any damage done to electronic devices due to the snorting of liquids.

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10 thoughts on “Henry Percy – sweetheart of Anne Boleyn”
  1. I wonder how much hearing the terrible accusations against his former love interest and added to that her being condemned to death contributed to his very early death? It had to be overwhelmingly and stomach churningly shocking for him.

  2. The tiny bit I know about Henry Percy is that he was warned off pursuing Anne Boleyn because she was not good enough to marry a duke, and that he had to marry the Earl of Shrewsbury’s daughter, Mary Talbot. The marriage was not a success and produced no offspring. I understand that he could not bear the sight of her, but that might be myth. The children of the aristocracy and gentry married where they were told to. Like Michael I have often wondered if having to take part in the trial of Anne Boleyn damaged Henry Percy’s health, Is there much information about him?

  3. To make it worse I’m sure he knew her well enough to know it was a set-up. Henry and Cromwell left such a wake of destruction in their path. Thank you Claire.

  4. It is very sad what happened to these two ill starred lovers, they went onto marry other people but they probably never forgot each other, as they were both so young when they met they could have been each other’s first loves, certainly Anne is not connected to anyone else as far as her feelings are concerned, she was meant to marry her Irish cousin but she had never met him, and in France we know of no one who held her interest, so we can assume that she was in love with the young Earl of Northumberland and must have been very excited about being his countess, that would have been a good match for her as she was merely a knights daughter but sadly their dreams came to nothing, historians have speculated that it was Henry V111 who seeing Anne and wanting her for himself, told Wolsey to put an end to their romance, but marriages between the aristocracy were matters of state affairs and Percys father had already arranged his betrothal with the Earl of Shrewsbury’s daughter, they could not just pick and choose their intended and Anne was meant for James Butler, so possibly it was mere convention not feelings the king had for Anne, that made him say that the arranged marriages must go ahead, their love was doomed and Percy went on to marry Mary Talbot and Anne was sent home to Hever, her pride wounded by the stinging words the cardinal had said about her, however as we know she never married her cousin and if she had, then English history would have been very different, Anne trod a very different and glittering path than her lost love but she, like Percy never found true happiness, Percy hated his wife and she probably hated him, they quarrelled incessantly and she even left him on one occasion, hardly surprising there were no children, Anne married the king and made her mark in history as one of his decapitated wives, they were both destined to die young and the shock of the events leading up to the trial and the execution itself probably did have an effect on Percys health, thirty five is very young in our age to die and he must have held a condition that was not treatable by Tudor standards, these two ill fated lovers destined never to be together in this world, maybe at last have found peace with each other in the next.

    1. I’ve probably said this before, that in a perfect world we would have no idea who Anne Boleyn was because she would have had a happy life, lived to a ripe old age and died a natural death and would have faded into history. Try as as he might Henry attempted to erase her from existence but ironically he is the reason we still talk about her almost 500yrs later. Oh sweet irony!

  5. I don’t know whether to start with Margaret or Northumberland, so as its ladies first, I will go with Margaret.

    Margaret probably was very devout, she would be a very odd person not to be in the Middle Ages, especially as her life saw so many changes and losses during what we know call the Wars of the Roses. She lost her husband, was five months pregnant with his child, and although married to him by arrangement and at a very young age, there is evidence during her short marriage that she honoured Edmund and didn’t think of him unkindly. Her prayer requests for him and mentions of him show she was not too discontented as his wife, despite her tender age and premature pregnancy. Margaret was to hold on to Henry as her only child, after her widowhood and petition often for his rights, not to the crown, because he was not likely to get the crown during the 1450s, let alone the 1460s, but to his estates in Wales and Richmond.

    Margaret was somehow involved in the negotiations for her second husband, needed for protection and the future because of her vulnerable status as a very young widow in the middle of a potential war zone. She married Henry Stafford, the brother of Humphrey, Duke of Buckingham. Margaret and her husband were often on the wrong side, despite hosting Edward iv and originally conforming to York rule, despite Lancaster being her natural allegiance. Margaret was also opportunistic. When Edward IV fled she supported her relative,_the restored King Henry vi, but she also drew Stafford into supporting the wrong side again in 1470 and he was injured at Barnet and died afterwards. Edward Iv was fully restored after Tewkesbury in May 1471 and Margaret had to face the temporary loss of her fourteen year old son, Henry and his Uncle, Jasper Tudor, who was very close to her, when they fled the country for exile in France. However, they were blown towards Brittany instead and spent 14 years there instead.

    Popular historians like to say that Margaret plotted the return of Henry as King for 14_years until his victory at Bosworth. This isn’t true. For one thing in 1471_there was no way Henry would ever become King and nobody cared enough to support his potential but very light claim. Edward had four children including a healthy son and would have several more, including a second son, Richard and a third, George, although the latter died in infancy. However, what Margaret did see in the future was the return of Henry to take up his lands and title. His title had been given, however, to George, Duke of Clarence. Margaret went on to marry a member of the York nobility, Thomas Stanley. He was partly in favour and partly out, but he and Margaret were received at Court. In 1478 Clarence was executed and the door opened eventually for the return of Henry Tudor. Margaret by 1482_had negotiated an agreement with Edward for Henry to return soon. She wasn’t religiously plotting his kingship as it was not possible in 1482 or early 1483. In fact it only began to be possible after the death of Edward iv. This was partly because he left an heir of only 12 and the controversial months that followed under Richard, Duke of Gloucester, opened the door for support for Henry as an alternative. Both Thomas Stanley and Lady Margaret attended the coronation of Richard iii after the controversial decision to set aside Edward V, who was shown to be illegitimate and Richard was offered the crown instead. Immediately Richard was out of the capital on progress Margaret, possibly because of early rumours that the deposed Edward V had been killed, not because she had killed him as many believe, or possibly because she saw an opportunity anyway, contacted Elizabeth Woodville and in one of the most bizarre conspiracies of history, the two mothers agreed to marry their children. Thomas Stanley remained outwardly loyal and with the rumours in the capital, probably started by the third party in this bizarre group, the Duke of Buckingham, running wild, Margaret and EW hatched a series of odd plots. One was to agree that Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward iv and EW would marry Henry Tudor who would then press his claim in England. This was meant to be backed by a rising in Wales and the West Country, led by Buckingham, another potential killer of the Princes, if they were killed. However, its clear that during the Summer of 1483 most people still believed they were alive as two or three separate attempts to rescue them from the Tower are recorded, as are several sightings. By October something had obviously changed and Buckingham rebelled and Henry sailed for England. The so called Buckingham Rebellion failed quickly, Henry lost most of his ships and was persuaded not to land which was just as well as Richard was waiting for him. Buckingham was betrayed by one of his retainers in whose house he was staying in Wem and taken to Winchester and executed. Margaret was kept under house arrest and Stanley was put in charge of her. She was charged with treason and a Bill brought against her in January 1484,_Richard’s only Parliament. She was found guilty and Attainted but Richard refused the Act and she was spared. She was put under the authority of her husband, Lord Stanley and her property and wine transferred to him. EW remained in Sanctuary until later in the year.

    It was only later in 1484 that Henry’s claim became viable because Richard lost his own ten year old heir and Margaret somehow got money to her son. He also drew a small band of supporters around him after these failed rebels fled, despite pardons to join him. His promise to marry Elizabeth of York is what kept much of that support in December 1484. The majority of the gentry remained with Richard and a number would die at his side at Bosworth. Margaret must have been desperate to see Henry again but she had apparently blown everything until the following year when Henry was able to gain support from France and raised an army of mercenaries and prisoners and those nobles who were there. Henry was supported financially by Margaret and although Henry arrived in Wales, it was only with persuasion that he was able to raise a number of Welsh pikemen and others were raised by local gentry. Wales didn’t turn out for Henry Tudor and in fact his numbers were a third of those with Richard. Bosworth didn’t just turn on one incident, a number of factors decided the outcome and for most of the two hours it was fairly even or Richard was on top. The outcome of Bosworth was partly decided on the way a Medieval army was mustered. England had no standing army. The King ordered the nobles to come, the nobles came and brought their own men with them. However, the wars had led to large numbers of private armies growing up and the Stanleys had 7000 of their own men. Even on the evening of the battle they were uncommitted to Henry and Thomas was definitely not committed. There are too many legends about Bosworth to cut through and very few actual accounts of the Battle. A popular myth is that Henry met with William Stanley at an Abbey the night before and it was William for his own reasons who was prepared to side with Henry. Thomas was caught in a dilemma. He was married to Margaret, his mother, yet, officially loyal to Richard. The story of his excuse for not being on the Battlefield because he had the sweat is nonsense, as is the story about his son, only one hostile source mentioned it. However, Thomas Stanley held his position. Northumberland was at the opposite side of the Battlefield near Sutton Cheney and why he didn’t engage is debatable but the long, deep ditch identified by archaeology may give us an answer which clears his name as it was impossible for his cavalry to engage. His murder in the North by supporters of the House of York certainly believed otherwise. Although the later Tudor sources assumed his none commitment, it doesn’t mean we can assume the same without knowing more. Stanley was the key figure here, as was his brother. Norfolk was fighting against the main force of Henry Tudor, under the experienced command of the Earl of Oxford, who had escaped from Edward iv years before, which was a tough series of sorties which ended in Norfolk being killed and his son captured. Norfolk’s death may have given Oxford the edge as men often didn’t fight on after their commander was killed. Meanwhile, Richard saw Henry who had ridden back to his Welsh bands after failing to get Stanley to engage. Richard took the imitative in a move which should have ended the battle and killed his rival. He charged with support of between 250 and 1000 men and mostly knights, rallied his troops and attacked. He took out Sir William Brandon, Henry’s standard bearer, he unseated Sir John Cheney who was over six foot and came within feet of Henry. His Welsh pikes pushing Richard and his men back fought on and surrounded him. The details of what happened next are hazy, but in a final rally to attack, Richard charged again and lost his horse in the mud, but in the meantime William Stanley had circled around behind him with 3000 Stanley red coats and at full gallop clattered into the rear of Richard’s men who were now caught between two armies. Richard and some of his men were now fighting on foot, he realised he was betrayed and shouted as much. In the struggle which followed Richard and most of his knights were cut down, Richard by a Welshman. We now know the true extent of his injuries and blows received after his death. Once his death became known anyone left was either killed or fled. The exact number of those killed at Bosworth is unknown. Bones have popped up over the centuries and several pits are at the Church of Saint James about one mile from the Battlefield. Several prominent leaders were recovered and buried at their family vaults, but reports say that the dead littered the road back towards Bosworth and Stoke Goulding and all along Fen Lane back to Sutton Cheney. Bones in these areas, although unconfirmed, have been reported over time.

    Richard was taken to the Greyfriars Priory in Leicester and laid to rest with a simple ceremony and there he was found in 2012. Henry was crowned near the Battlefield at Stoke Goulding on what is now Crown Hill, but he wasn’t yet King. Margaret no doubt when she heard her son had won a miraculous victory would have been overjoyed and given thanks to God for his delivery. Margaret was later present at his coronation and is said to have wept. Her role in his reign is another source of contention. However, contrary to the works of Philippa Gregory she wasn’t an ambitious crow who hated her daughter in law and made everyone miserable. Her relationship with Elizabeth was actually warm and beneficial to both women. Her Ordinances show she was concerned for the safety of Elizabeth and other women during the ordeal of childbirth. She was concerned about her grandchildren and persuaded her son to wait a bit when Margaret, her namesake was married to James of Scotland. She was as Claire said a patron of many colleges at our top Universities and she was also genuinely devout. She was it seems quite close to her younger grandson, Prince Henry. It may be down to Margaret B that we now have the personal Book of Hours of King Richard iii because some people think it was given to Margaret after it was recovered from Bosworth. Margaret was a tough and strong woman and her son did rely on her, she was ambitious, she did conspire against Richard for her son, but she was a mother, denied her son for half of his life, if not more. I believe she mourned when he died but was proud to see him hand over the crown to his son in peace. Happy her grandson was on the throne, Margaret probably wanted to retire. Unfortunately, a few days after his coronation with a young lady she also would have known well by now, Princess Katherine of Aragon, Margaret died. She is buried in Westminster Abbey in the Lady Chapel built by her son.

    1. I must admit do have a sneaking admiration for Lady Margaret Beaufort she endured a most horrendous labour all at the tender age of thirteen, which possibly nearly killed her and her baby, miraculously they both survived but it was an experience that traumatised her hardly surprising and she decided that from then on, every other queen would have the utmost comfort whilst in labour, I too love the details of the birthing chamber, there was to be tapestries depicting gentle scenes so as not to startle the expectant mother and child when it was born, gold and silver plate and goblets a sign of the queens high status was on display and soft cushions on benches and chairs, heavy drapes shut out the sunlight and the windows were closed as it was believed the air could harm the mother, in summer it must have been unbearable and I would not be surprised if sometimes a small window was opened slightly to let some fresh air in, thirteen is so very young to carry a child and she would have conceived at the tender age of twelve, a very selfish act on the part of her husband who wanted to ensure he had an heir whilst he went away to battle, he died yet left his seed in his young child bride and he never knew that he was the forefather of England’s most colourful royal dynasty, Margaret herself, descended from bastard stock yet she could claim John of Gaunt the great Duke of Lancaster in her lineage must have been proud of her ancestry, yet she could never have dreamed that her baby growing inside her would one day unite the warring houses of Lancaster and York and become king of England, there are many myths about Margaret as Claire says, and she probably was a bit of a meddler I love the bit where she and Elizabeth Woodville hatched the plot to wed their children together, I think it was inevitable that her husband Stanley would switch sides at Bosworth in favour of her son he was family after all, nonetheless that did seal England’s destiny and won the crown for Henry Tudor, as for Margaret being very devout, well it was the late medieval age many people were, she probably was no more devout than many, they prayed several times during the day, they observed the religious dates on the calendar, it was an age of great piety, in fact those long dead people would probably be shocked at how blasé people are today about worship, I find it interesting she founded Christ’s College in Cambridge as that was something I was not aware of, she comes across as a very strong determined and confident woman and yet she knew great hardship and grief in her life when she had to endure a most difficult labour and possibly pregnancy to, and when her beloved only child Henry V11 died, she then must have devoted her time to her grandchildren, I personally cannot see any resemblance to young Prince Arthur in Margaret’s portrait, to me looks like his younger brother Henry and yet I can see the likeness between Henry V11 and his mother, they have the same narrow faces with strong cheekbones, a most remarkable woman who survived against the odds in a most dangerous age, there have been cases today where children as young as Margaret have given birth, but they had expert medical care, unlike poor Margaret who must have been so frightened, the fact she survived is remarkable given the lack of medical knowledge at the time. RIP Lady Margaret Beaufort.

      1. Hi, Christine, yes the myths really are complete nonsense. I am sure she was fairly ambitious but the idea that she worked her whole life to promote Henry as King is highly unlikely and inaccurate. The notion of him becoming King was not a reality until 1483 and even then Richard and Anne Neville had a healthy legitimate heir. Henry didn’t have the support in 1483. He had gathered a bit of a support base by 1485 and he had foreign support then as well, brought with his mother’s wealth. Before then it wasn’t feasible or possible, so I really believe she didn’t even begin to promote his claim until 1483. Her main concern before then was to get him home from exile where he and Jasper had gone when he was fourteen. There is also a traditional story that when Henry Vi, the half brother of Henry’s father, Edmund, was restored to the throne by Warwick in 1470 that she took young Henry, then about thirteen to Court. King Henry called him forward and anointed him as his heir. Margaret of course in the story has had a vision and the legend grew from there. I am not certain from memory if he did go to Court, but the rest of the story is apocryphal. The confused King didn’t know what was going on, let alone why he had been removed from the security of the Tower. It’s highly unlikely he would have known who young Henry Tudor was. However, within months the Tudors were in exile and the restored King was dead in the Tower. It wasn’t for another twelve years that the House of Tudor had another chance to restore the House of Lancaster to the throne.

        I believe Margaret showed good common sense over her next choice of husband and her service at the Court of Edward vi and Queen Elizabeth Woodville. Sir Richard Bray, her steward was charged with recommendations for her new husband and Thomas Lord Stanley was the best choice. He was older than Margaret as all of her husbands were, he was a man who knew about manoeuvring around the changing fortunes of the wars and the Stanley fortunes depended on treachery, one on one side, one doing nothing and changing sides. He also had reconciled with Edward and was rising in favour, had his own large land portfolio and was powerful. He also had several adult sons so Margaret didn’t need to worry about that. A Yorkist husband was the best choice and it was also patience needed and loyal service because it would take years before they could even raise the subject of Henry’s return. Edward iv had exterminated the legitimate immediate family of Henry vi and his wife Margaret of Anjou was his prisoner. He had even sent men to attempt to get to Henry in exile returned as his prisoner, probably to kill him. However, by the end of the 1480s much had changed and Edward had two healthy sons and a house full of healthy daughters, his brothers had children, and even with the execution of George, Duke of Clarence in 1478, the House of York was strong in heirs. The mere idea of Henry Tudor marching over and sitting on the throne was laughable. Margaret, however, did begin to work on his return home, which was agreed by 1483. Edward could see some value having Henry Tudor as a loyal vassal and ally and was content under certain conditions to have him return and take up his lands. His own death changed all of that.

        I think it’s at this point the mixture of myth and history begin to blare our understanding of the real Margaret Beaufort. Oh, no doubt she now saw her hopes for her son could go further, as far as the throne and cooked up what was actually a ridiculous disjointed plot to put him on the throne. The two women plotting behind the scenes, Elizabeth Woodville being approached by Margaret for an almost impossible marriage between Elizabeth of York and Henry Tudor, it must have looked like two women up to no good as usual to the outside world. The go between was their mutual doctor who could go anywhere. The entire thing was so daft in fact that it was ingenious. It was also very dangerous. It couldn’t be guaranteed that their sex would protect the women from treason charges and that’s what their plans were, high treason. EW was still in Sanctuary but a traitor could be forcefully removed from Sanctuary as had happened at Tewkesbury. Her high status might save her life, but that wasn’t guaranteed. Margaret was from a family of traitors as far as the House of York was concerned, but Richard might not have been able to afford to upset Stanley. Lord Stanley was the model of loyalty while this was all going on and was with the King in York. So what if it all went wrong? Well, of course it did go wrong, badly wrong and Henry Tudor ended back in exile. For some reason EW wasn’t removed from Sanctuary, in fact Richard just left her there. Margaret was another matter and as I said before she was charged with treason. The Act of Parliament condemned her to death but Richard chose not to execute her and that was a mistake. Nor did his measures of control prevent her contacting Henry and Richard made an attempt to physically apprehend him, which went wrong. Again, I love the fact that the two women, with Elizabeth out of Sanctuary in 1484 but under house arrest, continued to plot. Margaret saw her opportunity had come and did everything to exploit the chinks in the armour of the House of York. The four sons of York were suddenly down to one, the heir to the crown had died, the children of Clarence were barred at present, the others, the young King Edward V and his brother were illegitimate and now had vanished, presumed dead, leaving an assortment of mostly female claimants and the family of Elizabeth, Duchess of Suffolk, all male, as Henry’s rivals. Richard was on the throne, if he won then he would remain unchallenged and married to a daughter of Portugal or Spain. His wife died in March 1485 and vicious rumours began around that and a possible fascination by his niece, Elizabeth of York and her uncle, which was nonsense. Margaret now had her best chance and Henry a small but growing power base. It was a risk but it was time to press his flimsy claim and challenge Richard in battle. We all know what happened so I won’t repeat myself. I believe Margaret was proud of her son as King, but I don’t see her as some deranged power hungry matriarch here as she is portrayed in popular fictions. If you want to learn about Margaret don’t touch the White Queen, White Princess or Spanish Princess with a barge pole. She gets gradually more and more ambitious, jealous, evil, controlling and the word Malevolent or even Maleficent Mistress of Evil comes to mind. She is practically out of control with plots just as EW is out of control with witchcraft. The entire series makes her into one conniving evil ambitious mother in law from hell. The real Margaret was quite different.

        Did she protect and have ambitions for her son? Yes, and she continued to push those during his reign. Her relationship with her daughter in law was warm and she helped Elizabeth. She was haughty that much is true and wanted her position acknowledged by everyone but she didn’t take the Queens rooms. On the contrary, it was Margaret who may have pushed Henry to arrange his wife’s much delayed coronation after the birth of her first son and the unrest had settled down. Margaret it seems was close to her son during these last years but she also withdrew from Court and led a more religious life. She still had ambitions to ensure her grandchildren made good alliances but that was for the security of England and the new Tudor regime. Henry’s claim after all lay in his victory at Bosworth and his marriage to Elizabeth of York. His reign was far from secure, he had to see of at least three, if not more Pretenders and York plots, an assassination attempt in York and more than one rebellion and invasion attempt. It was important to ensure her daughter in law provided her son with an army of healthy sons and daughters and that alliances were made. Henry was actually a shrewd ruler. He made good alliances with Scotland and Spain. Elizabeth of York was a supportive wife and a good consort and mother, a popular Queen. I don’t believe it was a love match between herself and Henry Vii, but it was a very successful marriage which was affectionate and grew into a loving relationship. The comfort the couple gave each other after hearing the news that Arthur had died is evidence of that and the fact it survived the test of Perkin Warbeck or Richard of England is evidence of strength and loyalty between husband and wife. Margaret was there to assist if needed. I don’t see her as interfering, but helping a less experienced young woman through the perils of childbirth and early marriage with a practical stranger. I must get around to reading the Ordinances. The fact Margaret Beaufort took such care over every detail to me says she was a thoughtful if maybe a little obsessive woman who cared about the safety of her daughter by law and grandchildren during perilous times during their lives: childbirth, health and infancy.

  6. Henry Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland was probably one of the few men of integrity in Tudor England. I really feel the pressure of his last few years, seeing Anne executed, a woman he had once loved very much, the verdict he had no choice but to give at her trial, almost being bullied into lying about their relationship by Cromwell but sticking to the truth and his unhappy marriage all took a great toll on his health.

    He had been obliged to marry Mary Talbot, the daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury and as he was in the service of Cardinal Wolsey, almost like an apprenticeship, any dressing down he got from him he was bound to obey. His father could easily have disowned him if he married a knights daughter that he was not promised to by his parents. Anne was also meant for another, even though the Butler marriage fell through. These young people couldn’t get married without their parents blessing, they could be thrown out or have no money. Love might make one light headed but you cannot live on fresh air. Anne was far too intelligent to go against her parents and she reluctantly accepted the ending of her love affair with Percy. I don’t believe the story that she held this against the Cardinal in order to destroy him years later. Anne had other immediate reasons in 1529 to want Henry to dismiss the Cardinal: he had failed to secure an annulment from Katherine of Aragon and Anne’s hopes of being Queen appeared to be fading. The story of her long term hatred of Wolsey is written with hindsight and there isn’t any independent evidence to support it. It makes a good yarn and Cavendish span one. Anne had in fact at times shown respect and kindness towards Wolsey. Why would she be his enemy for years? After all he was the only person it seemed who could get her and Henry what they wanted and in 1522 Anne wasn’t even going out with the King and she didn’t really have any idea he would find her too attractive to live without four years later. Yes, she probably threw a hissy fit, she probably screamed and stamped her feet and blamed him for a time in her anger and hysteria, but that was in the heat of the moment. Anne got over her disappointment and settled into life at Court, moved on and there isn’t anything to show she was bitter towards Cardinal Wolsey for the next seven years.

    Henry and Mary Talbot did their duty but the marriage obviously had problems and just before things were about to come together with Anne and King Henry in 1532 Mary declared she wanted out of her marriage because it was invalid due to Harry having had a sexual relationship with Anne and she claimed he was in fact contracted to Anne in marriage. Harry had to appear before the Council, two Archbishops and the King and swear that he had not been contracted to Anne and he did so on the Blessed Sacrament….the Real Presence of Jesus in the Communion. Mary sued for the marriage to end but it wasn’t granted. Percy had the perfect opportunity to get out of this unhappy marriage and he didn’t take it because he would have had to lie.

    Three years later the same subject came up again. This time it was King Henry who wanted to annul his marriage to Anne Boleyn. She had already been found guilty of treason, adultery and incest and was about to die, but Henry wanted more. Execution may end Anne’s life but it didn’t declare his marriage to her as being null and void. Henry Viii didn’t want to be a widower; no, no, no, no…he wanted Anne gone and a fresh start with Jane Seymour. Henry wanted it to be as if he and Anne were never legally married because that would make their daughter, Elizabeth illegitimate, the same as Mary was lawfully illegitimate. However, the law currently protected his marriage to Anne through oath and the Act of Succession. Henry needed grounds, fast. So he decided that the Earl of Northumberland as Percy now was would provide the evidence. Cromwell sent agents to ask him now to say he was contracted to Anne and their union had been consummated. Harry P would not play ball. He wrote an angry letter saying what had happened three years later and declaring exactly what he thought of it now. He refused to do it, so Cromwell would have to look elsewhere. Henry then had Cramner and others take a look and decided his relationship with Mary Boleyn would do the trick. Henry had once asked the Pope to give him permission to marry Anne despite his relationship with her sister. Neither are named but we know this is to whom his request referred. So now his relationship with Mary was used to declare his marriage to Anne null and void. Cranmer visited Anne and we believe it was to do with her permission, which put the poor woman “in hope of life”, although we can’t be certain. However, the day of Anne’s execution her marriage was declared unlawful by Cranmer and Convocation. Two reasons are cited, both her relationship with Percy and that of Mary and Henry in the sources because the documents are ambiguous. Parliament was now free to declare his daughter illegitimate and change the Act of Succession in favour of Jane Seymour and her children and he even considered making Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond his heir, the boy being his only illegitimate son.

    It must have indeed been very difficult to condemn a woman he had loved to death, the first woman he loved for Percy but it was impossible not to. Even his abstention, which was a possibility would not have saved Anne. There was nothing he could do and his heart broke. I don’t know what his illness was but as with her parents, I believe the stress of that decision and Anne’s death in such a brutal manner, led him to a premature death.

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