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St Erkenwald’s Day – The 1532 Marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and the 1501 Marriage of Arthur, Prince of Wales, and Catherine of Aragon

Posted By on November 14, 2013

Anne Boleyn and Henry VIIIHenry VIII and Anne Boleyn returned from their trip to Calais on St Erkenwald’s Day (14th November) 1532, landing at Dover, on the Kent coast, at 5am.1 The couple then took their time travelling to London. Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial ambassador, wrote that the King spent a few days in Dover and the surrounding area “for the purpose of having harbours constructed in the said town, or at least of creating a spacious plea for asking money from his subjects for the said works”, and that he did not arrive at Eltham Palace until 24th November.2 However, chronicler Edward Hall gives another reason for the couple’s slow progress: they got married!

Hall records:

“The kyng after his returne, maried priuily the lady Anne Bulleyn, on sainct Erkenwaldes daie, whiche mariage was kept so secrete, that very fewe knewe it, til she was greate with child, at Easter after.”3

So, perhaps the couple were simply enjoying being man and wife before returning to court, and reality, in London.

Hall is the only contemporary source to record this secret wedding, but I, for one, put some store in his record. After years of waiting to consummate their marriage, the couple suddenly began co-habiting after this visit to France and Anne became pregnant with Elizabeth before the couple’s secret marriage ceremony on 25th January 1533. I feel that this suggests that the couple made some kind of formal commitment to each other. What do you think?

14 November 1501 – Marriage of Arthur, Prince of Wales, and Catherine of Aragon

Arthur Tudor and Catherine of AragonOn 14th November 1501, Catherine of Aragon married Arthur, Prince of Wales at St Paul’s Cathedral. Giles Tremlett,3 author of Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen, writes of how a huge wooden stage, measuring twelve feet by 350 feet, had been erected in the cathedral. It stood on four foot struts and its railings were decorated with “say”, a fine wool or silk twill cloth. The stone walls of the cathedral were covered with tapestries and there was a red carpeted raised circular dais. It must have looked amazing.

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

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

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

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

“Francisca de Cáceres, who was in charge of dressing and undressing the queen and whom she liked and confided in a lot, was looking sad and telling the other ladies that nothing had passed between Prince Arthur and his wife, which surprised everyone and made them laugh at him.”4

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

Also on this day in history…

  • 1541 – An inventory was taken “of the goods and chattels, lands and fees of Thos. Culpeper, the younger”, the alleged lover of Queen Catherine Howard. The list included two caps of velvet given to him by the King, swords, daggers, clothing, furniture, revenues from his lands (including “the manors of Zanworth, Haselton, Nawnton and Enford, with the parsonage, Glouc. and Wilts, Fordam and Argentynes, Essex, the late monastery of Comwell, Kent”), offices he held (“Clerk of the Armoury, keeper of the house and parks of Penshurst and North Lye, master of the game and steward of the lordships of Southfryth and Northfrith, lieutenant, &c., of Tonbryge castle, keeper of Posterne and Cage parks, steward, &c., of Ashdowne forest”), horses and harness, and hangings. You can read the full inventory at www.british-history.ac.uk, it’s note 1343. (LP xvi, 1343)
    An inventory of Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford’s possessions had already been taken:
    “List of plate (7 items), apparel (11 items, one “a little steel casket with a purse and forty pounds in it”), and jewels (8 items, viz., “a broach with an ag[ate], a cross of diamo[nds] with three pearls pendant, a flower of rubies, a flower with a ruby and a great emerald with a pearl pen[dent], a tablet of gold with black, green, and white enamelled, a pair of bracelets of red cornelyns, a pair of beads of gold and stones, a broach of gold with an antique head and a white face.”” (LP xvi. 1340)

Notes and Sources

  • Hall’s Chronicle, Edward Hall, p794
  • Calendar of State Papers, Spain, 1531-1533, p556-557
  • Hall’s Chronicle, p794
  • Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen, Giles Tremlett (2010), p86
  • Ibid., p89
  • LP xvi. 1340, 1343

9 thoughts on “St Erkenwald’s Day – The 1532 Marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and the 1501 Marriage of Arthur, Prince of Wales, and Catherine of Aragon”

  1. Sarah says:

    I definitely think this marriage date is most likely correct. Anne had been holding off for seven years. She wasn’t going to suddenly cave in sexually without some formal commitment under God and before witnesses.

  2. mrsfiennes says:

    I still think there is good evidence that Arthur and Cathrine never consummated their marriage.This is just another piece of the puzzle to me.I think Cathrine would tell the truth to her ladies who were likely trusted confidants.While Arthur’s comment seems something like what he was expected to say.His illnesses,absences from the marriage bed,their inability to communicate and his upbringing and inexperience all equal imo no consummation.

  3. Esther says:

    I also agree that Henry and Anne may have married on Nov. 14 … they may have thought that it would emphasize the legitimacy of their own union to use the anniversary date of the event that made Henry’s marriage to Catherine illegitimate (allegedly).

    However, I also agree that Catherine’s marriage to Arthur probably wasn’t fully consummated (although he may have tried … hence, his next-day comments). First, although I am no medical expert, I would think that many of the suggested causes of Arthur’s death (consumption; testicular cancer) would interfere with his performance. Second, Henry didn’t deny Catherine’s virgin status when she “put it to his conscience” at Blackfriars. Third, according to Scarisbrick, Catherine had no motive to lie. Her marriage to Arthur created two canonical impediments to marrying Henry: affinity (sometimes referred to as consanguinuity) and “public honesty”. The dispensation only addressed affinity. If consummated, the “public honesty” was “necessarily included” in with affinity, but if not, there was no dispensation for an impediment … so the marriage to Henry was invalid.

  4. -M- says:

    I don’t believe there would be any reason for them to wait to be married. It is my opinion that Anne had finally gotten the recognition that validated the King’s claims to make her Queen, and she knew the sooner she was pregnant, the sooner there was no going back.

    The secrecy would not have bothered the parties involved a single bit, they proved that during “The Great Matter”

    -M-

  5. BanditQueen says:

    I don’t think it matters if Henry married Anne in November or January, he was still married to Katherine either way and their marriage was not valid. No formal breach with Rome had taken place, Henry was not yet excommunicated; his title as Head of the Church of England had not yet been passed legally and so technically he needed a dispensation to marry Anne as well. He needed the blessing of the Catholic Church and this he did not get. He also needed the question of his first marriage to be settled one way or another and the Curia had not decided yet. I think that if he married Anne in January that he only brought the wedding forward as she was up the spout. Anne and Henry may have been speeding things up so as they could get the English bishops to meet and agree that the marriage to Katherine was valid or not, and free them to marry; but they did not have the leave of the Church or Parliament to do so.

    A marriage before they got back to court in Dover would present everyone with a done deal and the bishops would have had no choice but to agree with the divorce. But again the Curia had not yet decided and this was the only real authority on such matters at this time. Katherine had taken the case to Rome and Henry should have waited. The Curia gave its judgement later that year 1533 in favour of Katherine. So again Henry was still married to Katherine and his marriage to her was valid. Even before his own English bishops had made a decision as they did under Thomas Cranmer in April 1533 to declare his marriage to Anne valid and his marriage to Katherine invalid, Henry had jumped the gun or in this case, over the broom, and married Anne without waiting, illegally and while still married to another woman. It does not make any difference if they married in November 1532 or January 1533: Henry was not free to marry at either date: so it still makes Elizabeth illegitimate.

  6. Dawn 1st says:

    Well whether Elizabeth was illegitimate or not, and that depends on individual opinion, she wouldn’t have been the first bastard to sit on the throne. She proved to be a very good and capable monarch, flaws and all.
    I always find it a great shame that Elizabeth had to ‘drag’ behind her all her life that question mark over her legitimacy, it must have been a heavy load to bear, not a good legacy to be left. Henry still causing problems… even from the grave.

  7. margaret says:

    henry was still legally married to Katherine so no marriage between himself and anne Boleyn was legal at this stage or as I believe ever was.This was a bigamous marriage no more no less no matter which way its presented ,or dressed up henry was living with his mistress anne Boleyn and less than a year later his illegitimate daughter was born.

  8. All your correspondants who state that whatever date Henry’s marriage to Anne took place it is irrelevant because he was still married to Queen Katerine I believe are correct. A ceremony does not validate something which is of itself invalid.
    As far as the consummation of Prince Arthur’s marriage to Katherine is concerned I rather suspect he was so drunk following the festivites and that alone made him incapable. The fact that he was asking for ale the next morning suggests he still had a hangover. He would not be the only groom to have failed on his marriage night because of the excesses earlier in the day.
    Katherine’s ladies in waiting at the time the marriage would have no reason to say consummation did not take place if in fact it had, it only became an issue twenty five years later.

    1. mrsfiennes says:

      I think that a woman who probably happened to be a very important person in Katherine”s household at the time and a boy in her service are good witnesses to what might have been said and done in that area.If Katherine was not happy at the time for some reason it is possible that it would have been commented on.

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