The King’s Great Matter: 1529


Ok, part three! You can catch upon 1527 here and 1528 here. Let’s get back into it:


On March 6, Pope Clement VII finally receives the letter Katherine wrote to him in December 1528.

A few weeks later, Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey send four more men – William Knight, Francis Bryan, Peter Vannes and William Benet – to Rome.


On April 3, two English ambassadors are allowed to inspect the original dispensation issued by Pope Julius II granting Henry and Katherine’s marriage in Valladolid. They are given the option of having an attested copy sent to England, which is rejected. Instead, the document is read aloud to them.

A few days later, Charles leaves his pregnant wife, Isabella of Protugal, in Spain as his regent and travels to Italy with leading Spanish nobleman on what he deems a peaceful journey. While en-route he writes to Katherine that he has urged Clement to judge the case in Rome and that he won’t stop protecting her.

Towards the end of the month, Charles’s Ambassador in Rome echoes Katherine’s request that Clement should revoke the case from England and try it himself.


On May 31, the legatine court officially opens at Blackfriars.


On June 16, the first public session of the legatine court takes place. Katherine appears before the cardinals and argues that her judges were disqualified from judging her case due to Henry’s influence over them. After that, she delivers her demand for replacements in writing and leaves.

Five days later, the cardinal-legates opened formal proceedings. Both Henry and Katherine are there for the ceremony. The next day, Katherine’s legal team led by Bishop Fisher of Rochester appeared before the legates and stated that they couldn’t let Henry descend into mortal sin by putting away his lawful wife. They again reinforced that Cardinals Wolsey and Campeggio were unfit to judge.

From Barcelona Charles write again to Katherine pledging his support. Shortly after this he learns that his forces defeated the French at the Battle of Landriano and he is well-positioned to take control of Italy.

On June 28, Henry and Katherine again appear before the court. Henry makes a statement that he could no longer live in sin, while Wolsey says publicly that despite Henry’s favor of him he would hear Katherine’s case fairly. Katherine responds that she still rejects the legality of the court and demands that her case be heard in Rome. Finally, she walks over to Henry and throws herself on her knees saying that she has lived as his wife for 20 years and did not deserve to be repudiated. As captured by George Cavendish:

“She took pains to go about unto the King, kneeling down at his feet in the sight of all the court and assembly, to whom she said in effect, in broken English, as follows:

‘Sir,’ she said, ‘I beseech you for all the love there there has been between us, and for the love of God, let me have justice and right, take of me some pity and compassion, for I am a poor woman and a stranger born out of your dominions, I have here no assured friend, and much less indifferent counsel: I appeal to you as the head of justice within this realm. Alas! Sir, wherein have I offended you, or what occasion of displeasure [have I given you]? Have I acted against your will and pleasure, so that you should intend (as I perceive) to put me from  you?

‘I take God and all the world to witness that I have been to you a true humble and obedient wife, ever conformable to your will and pleasure, that never said or did anything to the contrary thereof, being always well pleased and contented with all things wherein you had any delight or dalliance, where it were in little or much, I never grudged in word or countenance, or showed a glimpse or spark of discontentment. I loved all those whom you loved only for your sake, whether I had cause or not and whether they were my friends or my enemies.

‘There twenty years I have been your lawful and more, and by me you have had diverse children, although it has pleased God to call them out of this world, which has been no fault in me.

‘When you had at the first, I take God to be my judge I was a true maid without touch of man; and whether it be true or not, I put it to your conscience if there be any just cause by the law that you can allege against me, either of dishonesty or any other impediment, to banish me and send me away from you, I will happily go to my great shame and dishonour; but if there be none, then here I mist humbly beg you to let me remain in my former estate and receive justice at your hands.’

“And with that she rose up, making a low curtsey to the King and department from thence.”

Needless to say, Katherine wins the day. Court is suspended and Henry orders an urgent meeting of his Privy Councillors.

The next day Wolsey tries a different tactic – he visits the Queen and throws himself on his knees, begging her to give way to Henry. He is followed up by a group of English bishops. She refuses them all.

At the same time, Clement is in a panic over in Rome, for Charles is unstoppable. On June 29, the same day Wolsey visits Katherine, Clement and Charles negotiate the Treaty of Barcelona in which they agree to restore Medici power in Florence and create a Medici dukedom in that would be sealed by the marriage of Alessandro de’Medici with Charles’s bastard daughter, Margaret.


Katherine’s appeal re: the legitimacy of the court reaches Rome in early July. On the 13th, Clement agrees to suspend the court.

On the 31st, in compliance with the Vatican, Campeggio prorogues the court for the summer on the grounds that Rome doesn’t conduct business during those months. He says court will be reconvened in October. Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, who is Henry’s best friend and married to his sister, Mary Tudor, is overheard saying:

“I see now the truth of what I have heard many people say; never at any time did a Papal legate do anything to the profit of England: they have always been and will hereafter be a calamity and a sore to this country.”


On August 5, what becomes known as the “Ladies’ Peace” is signed at Cambrai. It earns its moniker because it is negotiated by Margaret of Austria (aunt of Charles and former sister-in-law of Katherine), Louise of Savoy (Francis I’s mother) and Marguerite of Navarre (Francis I’s sister). The treaty ratifies the terms of the Treaty of Madrid, but Charles agrees to renounce his claims to Burgundy and Francis agrees to renounce his claims to Milan, Genoa and Naples. Finally, Francis would follow through on marrying Charles’s sister, Eleanor of Austria.

France and the Holy Roman Empire have now forged a peace to the exclusion of England.

Finally, a new Spanish Ambassador appointed by Charles arrives in London – Eustace Chapuys.


Cardinal Campeggio leaves England for Rome. He is accompanied to Grafton by Wolsey so that he can say goodbye to Henry. There are no rooms available for Wolsey, though Henry astonishes court by greeting him with warmth, raising him from his knees and speaking privately with him.

Two days later, he dispatches Suffolk and Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk (Anne Boleyn’s maternal uncle) to inform Wolsey he needed to leave court and give up the Great Seal (i.e. the chancellorship). Wolsey retires to his residence of Esher, but even in his disgrace, he and Henry exchange gifts and the King tells him to trust him.

When Campeggio reaches Dover, his trunks are broken into by men looking for the decretal bull he brought him with him from Rome in 1528. It wasn’t there because Campeggio had already burned it.

Katherine sends her physician to Chapuys to get him up to speed on her case, while Henry receives him at Grafton and the two debate the recent decision to revoke the case to Rome, including the question of whether it would lead to Henry and Katherine being summoned abroad. He agrees that Chapuys can meet Katherine.

When Chapuys meets Katherine she speaks in a low whisper and asks him to thank Campeggio and Charles for her. Chapuys wrote to Charles after the meeting:

“The Queen has sent me word expressly to warn Your Imperial Majesty against any attempts, past or future, made by the King or his ambassadors to persuade Your Majesty that the divorce case had been merely instituted for the discharge of his conscience. That is not the fact: the idea of the separation originated entirely in his own iniquity and malice. […]

“As far as I can hear and judge, this King’s obstinacy and his passion for the Lady are such that there is no chance of recalling him by mildness or fair words to a sense of his duty. Things having come to such a pitch, there can be no security or repose [for Katherine] unless the case be tried and decided [in Rome], and the sooner the better, for many reasons and political considerations, whereof Your Majesty is the best judge.”

Thus marked the first time Chapuys ever reported back on Anne Boleyn.


On October 8, Henry arrives in London and holds a series of top-level meetings with his trusted ministers, including Suffolk and Norfolk. The next day Wolsey is indicted for illegally executing the office of papal legate. Nine days after that, he is dismissed from Council and removed as Bishop of Winchester.

On October 25, Sir Thomas More accepts the Great Seal and assumes the office of Lord Chancellor. Within days, Henry urges him to consider the matter of his marriage, but promises he will accept More’s decision if he doesn’t agree with him. On the same day, Clement arrives in Bologna in anticipation of Charles’s arrival.

Throughout this, Chapuys notes in letters to Charles that Norfolk reigns supreme and Henry travels closely with Anne, while Henry has little support from his bishops.


Parliament opens in London on November 3 – it will become known as the “Reformation Parliament.” The following day Charles arrives in Bologna for a dual coronation as King of Lombardy and Holy Roman Emperor, and on November 5, he makes a formal entry into the city.


On December 8, in Wolsey’s residence of York Place, Henry makes Anne’s father, Thomas Boleyn, the Earl of Wiltshire (England) and the Earl of Ormond (Ireland). Anne is given precedence during the ceremony over Henry’s sister, the Dowager Queen of France, and the Duchess of Norfolk.

On December 31, Chapuys writes to Charles that Anne has not been spotted at court recently and is showing more favor of Katherine of late.

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