The Concubine, the Organist and the Portuguese Infanta

Posted By on May 15, 2010

Charles V

On this day in history, the 15th May 1536, before Anne Boleyn had even been tried and found guilty, Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, wrote to his ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, regarding what he had heard about Queen Anne Boleyn, the allegations against her and the King’s plans to remove her and remarry. What is interesting about this letter is that it shows quite clearly the assumption that Anne would die and that Henry would need a new Queen – Charles obviously had not yet heard about Jane Seymour!

Here is the part of the letter pertaining to Anne Boleyn, I have boldened the interesting bits:-

“Hannaert has written to Granvelle on the 9th that he had just heard that the king of England’s concubine had been surprised in bed with the King’s organist. If this be so, as it is very probable that God has permitted it after her damnable life, we think the King will be more inclined to treat, especially as regards our cousin; but you must use great dexterity lest the King intend a marriage in France, and that he should rather choose one of his own subjects, either the one with whom he is in love or some other. We trust that if there be anything in it you will let us know with diligence. We send letters of credence for you for the dukes of Richmond, Norfolk, and Suffolk, and also for Cromwell, such as you will see by the copies. Pontremulo, 15 May 1536.

P.S.—Since the above was written your man George has arrived, who confirms the news touching the King’s concubine, and, as we suppose that the King will put her and her accomplices to death and take another wife, as he is of amorous complexion and always desires to have a male child, and as on the side of France they will not fail to offer him a match, you will suggest, when you can, to him or Cromwell, a marriage with the Infanta of Portugal, daughter of our sister the queen of France, who has 400,000 ducats dowry by testament. Another marriage might be arranged for the Infant Don Loys of Portugal, our brother-in-law, with the princess of England. You must point out to them that these matches would be very expedient, both to remove past scruples and to promote strict amity between us, him, and Portugal, and would be very advantageous to England in case the King should have a male child by this marriage, as he may reasonably hope from the youth and bringing up of the Infanta. If you see the King not inclined to these marriages you might propose one between the King and our niece, the duchess dowager of Milan, a beautiful young lady, well brought up and with a good dowry; treating at the same time of the other marriage between Don Loys and our cousin. But we should greatly prefer the former match with the Infanta, for the good of both, and in order to be able to dispose of our niece of Milan otherwise. Bersel, 15 May 1536.”1

I find it rather chilling that Charles V just accepted the situation and even thought it was good news, in that he could secure a good marriage alliance for his niece and stop Henry VIII allying himself with France. As far as Anne was concerned, Charles seemed to think that she deserved it for her “damnable life”. I know that he was Catherine of Aragon’s nephew but even so, such cold, harsh talk gives me goosebumps!

Notes and Sources

  1. L&P x. 888, Letter from Charles V to Chapuys, 15th May 1536
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