The King’s Great Matter: 1530


Welcome to part four as we zoom into the years of Henry VIII’s protracted divorce from Katherine of Aragon. You can catch up on 1527, 1528 and 1529 from the last few days, but today we’re going to dive right into 1530.


Charles V and Pope Clement VII remain together in Bologna awaiting Charles’s dual coronation as Holy Roman Emperor and King of Lombardy. They agree that the two of sons of King Francis I of France should be returned to him following Charles’s coronation.

On January 20, Henry raises Anne’s father, the Earl of Wiltshire, to the rank of Lord Privy Seal. He is to lead a diplomatic mission on behalf of the King to Bologna to congratulate Charles and negotiate a peaceful settlement in the matter of the King’s marriage. Wiltshire departs from England the following day. Small problem – everyone is well-aware that it was his daughter with whom Henry meant to replace Charles’s aunt, including Charles.

Among Wiltshire’s retinue is a man named Thomas Cranmer. Cranmer was brought to Henry’s attention in the second half of 1529 following a conversation he had with Stephen Gardiner and Edward Foxe, in which he argued that they should sidestep a legal case and instead take a general poll of scholars throughout Europe. Henry is taken with the argument, however it’s unknown what the opinion of his Lord Chancellor, Thomas More, is.


On February 11, Cardinal Wolsey, in a bid to re-win Henry’s favor, agrees to formally pass along the title of York Place to the King. The following day, he is pardoned and restored to the archbishopric of York. In the background, one of Wolsey’s closest supporters, Thomas Cromwell, has been lobbying and bribing Henry’s circle, including members of the Boleyn family, with Wolsey’s money.

En-route to Bologna, Wiltshire and his party arrive in France for a pre-arranged meeting with Francis. The English have been negotiating with the Sorbonne over their analysis of Henry’s marriage, however they’ve been warned that so long as Charles has custody of Francis’s sons, their hands are tied. Wiltshire arrives at Moulins three days earlier than planned and is met by French diplomat, Guillaume du Bellay, seigneur de Langey. Francis arrives one day later than planned, however though the two do meet, Wiltshire is now several days behind schedule and unable to reach Bologna in time to see Charles crowned.

On February 22, Clement crowns Charles King of Lombardy following mass in the church of San Petronio. Two days later, in the same church, Clement places the imperial crown of the HRE on Charles’s head. Not coincidentally, it is Charles’s 30th birthday and the five-year anniversary of the Battle of Pavia.


On March 7, Clement authorizes a bull commanding Henry not to remarry until he is ready to pronounce a verdict on the validity of his marriage to Katherine. In the meantime, he will order Henry to treat Katherine as his true and lawful wife and queen. This is significant, for not only does it lessen Henry’s freedom, but it raises the stakes – if Henry defies his orders, then he will be excommunicated and Englishmen are freed from loyalty to him in the eyes of the Church.

Wiltshire finally arrives in Bologna on March 14, however the timing isn’t particularly helpful in light of the previous week’s news from the Vatican. Charles is deeply insulted by Wiltshire’s presence and openly rude to him. More ominously, he says that if Clement finds in Katherine’s favor then he was prepared to make war on England to ensure the verdict was enforced. Wiltshire writes to Henry that Clement is entirely swayed by Charles.

On the 21st, Clement informs Katherine that he is forbidding all churchmen from opining on the matter of her marriage until he has ruled on fear of excommunication. That same day,  Charles finally leaves Bologna, making his way to Germany to meet his younger brother, Ferdinand.

Before Wiltshire leaves, Katherine’s representative serves him with a summons for Henry to appear in Rome for the marriage trial. When Wiltshire complains to Clement, a six-month moratorium is placed on the ask.

Before Clement issues the bulls he authorized earlier in the month, he orders four senior churchmen to review them to ensure they are legally and canonically sound. Among those churchmen is Cardinal Campeggio. It is unclear what the men end up telling Clement, but the bulls are never issued. In the meantime, he appoints a new representative to England, Antonio de Pulleo, Baron del Borgho.


Wolsey, still out of Henry’s favor, seemingly believes himself to be biding his time until the King forgives him. While most of his offices have been stripped of him, he is still the Archbishop of York and he decides to travel there for the first time in April. Throughout this, he continues to meet with European ambassadors – though Wolsey doesn’t know it, Henry is well-aware of his actions and closely monitoring him through the spring and summer.

Henry meets with the French ambassador and, displeased with what Wiltshire has reported from Bologna, expresses his anger at Charles. He vocalizes that a resolution to his marital issue may need to come from within England due to Clement’s dependence on Charles.

As news of Wiltshire’s failed diplomatic effort spreads through court, Anne’s uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, is triumphant. He is displeased by his brother-in-law’s elevation, however he fails to see that that Boleyns and Cranmer have been proven correct  in Henry’s eyes – Katherine’s removal cannot and will not come from Rome, thus other means must be taken.

Wiltshire and Cranmer split up, with the former canvassing French universities and the latter taking on the Italian.


Henry orders several bishops and scholars to Westminster to debate heresy, while simultaneously ordering the peers of the realm to convene in London.

On the 27th, he orders that Anne be supplied with new saddles, harnesses and an ornate pillion. It will allow her to be seen publicly riding behind Henry in the coming months, underlining that they see their own marriage as settled in the near future and Henry sees little point in pretending he doesn’t have a second wife already lined up.


By early June, the work of Wiltshire and Cranmer has paid off and the universities of Padua, Pavia, Ferrara, Bologna, Orleans, Angers and Bourges find in Henry’s favor.

Simultaneously, Henry’s case opens in Rome. Representing him are Cranmer, William Benet and Edward Carne. Carne is specifically tasked with ensuring that Henry isn’t asked to appear in person. Clement adjourns the case since Henry’s men aren’t accredited proctors.

On the 12th, England’s lords, scholars and churchmen arrive in Westminster to find a drafted letter to Clement awaiting their signature. The letter urges the Pope to find in Henry’s favor. Debate breaks out among the men, many of whom demand edits to the language – this carries on for weeks.

In one of pettier moments of the domestic standoff, Anne threw a public fit when she learns that three years after declaring their marriage over, Henry still sends linen to Katherine for her to make him shirts. The scene is reported by Chapuys back to the Emperor and results in a professional seamstress joining Henry’s employ.

Despite all of this, Henry and Katherine are seen in public on a number of occasions appearing happy together and mutually respectful. The couple even spend five days together at Richmond with their daughter, Princess Mary, during which time Chapuys visits them.


On July 1, Francis’s sons – the dauphin and the Duke of Orleans – cross back into France. They are accompanied by Charles’s sister, Eleanor of Austria. The following day, the Sorbonne completes their analysis on the validity of Henry’s marriage and finds in the King’s favor. News reaches London nine days later and is openly celebrated by Henry and Anne. The Spanish Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, reports to Charles that, “She has been urging on the King and telling him that Your Majesty had it not in your power to do him any harm.”

In the midst of this, Francis and Eleanor are married.

An amended version of the letter from the English peers and clergymen to Clement is dispatched to Rome. Upon receiving it, the Pope is unimpressed, saying that the threats contained within the letter are unworthy of the seals attached to it.


Wiltshire arrives back in England early in August. Court is mostly disbanded for summer progresses and Henry is preoccupied with hunting. Soon after Wiltshire joins him, Henry dispatches two messages to Rome and then summons members of the Council to meet him at Hampton Court Palace.

Henry and Anne are in attendance for the meeting on the 11th, however Katherine is pointedly left behind at Windsor. Chapuys, too, is excluded, though the French Ambassador is invited. The day after the meeting convenes, on the 17th, another messenger is dispatched to Rome. These letters have subsequently been lost, but the best guess is that they lay out the case for what becomes the tenant of the English Reformation – there is no need to seek foreign law from within England.

This idea, though not wholly alien in 1530, is solidified by the university canvassing conducted by Wiltshire, Cranmer and others. Equally as important is the assurance from Wiltshire and those abroad that France is prepared to ally itself with England should it need it in the face of retribution from the HRE.

Unfortunately, members of the Sorbonne were in fact divided in their findings and a rebellion nearly breaks out. Back in England, not all of Henry’s leading councilors and churchmen are on board. William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury, pointedly refuses to defy the Vatican.


Baron Del Borgho arrives in London and meets with Henry. He proposes that the marriage case be tried by two judges appointed by Henry and Katherine. Henry suggests that both nominate two judges each, to which Del Borgho counters that Clement should nominate a fifth. Henry, cognizant of the influence Charles has on Clement, offers that Francis – an impartial party – might be a better fit.

Shortly after this, Henry issues a proclamation forbidding any attempt to publish a bull in the country from the last year that undermines England’s authority. On the 25th, Del Borgho travels to Hampton Court Palace to protest this move and is met by the Duke of Suffolk, Norfolk and Wiltshire, who express their disdain for papal authority.

In private, however, Norfolk tells Del Borgho that he will personally see to it that the aggressive threats laid out by Henry aren’t fulfilled. Suffolk, married to Henry’s sister (who is herself Katherine’s friend), is similarly uneasy by this turn of events.

To rebut the Italian and French universities, Charles orders the Spanish universities to likewise consider the case. The University of Salamanca issues a judgment in support of Katherine.


Henry orders 15 clerics indicted under the Statute of Praemunire, including John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and John Clerk, two of Katherine’s lawyers.

A proposal to have Henry’s marriage case settled in England fails during a meeting at Hampton Court Palace thanks to continued dissent among the King’s ministers.

Henry holes himself up at Hampton Court for the remainder of the autumn to research ways in which he can make his case. Books are transported from monastic libraries and York Place.


On November 4, Wolsey is arrested on a charge of high treason. He is told that the same chambers occupied by Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, who was executed from the same charge in 1521, are being prepared for him. Ironically, this message is delivered to him by Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, a man with whom Anne Boleyn had a relationship in the 1520s and which Wolsey broke up.

Chapuys reports that during a meeting he has with Henry, Anne positions herself at a window in Henry’s chamber so that she can overhear them in the adjacent gallery. The Ambassador notes that as the conversation grew angrier – particularly on Chapuy’s part – Henry physically guided him to the center of the room so that Anne couldn’t overhear.

Relations between Henry and Anne are reportedly volatile, if passionate. During an argument, she threatens to leave the King on the grounds that he is squandering her youth – in other words, her childbearing years.

Wolsey, en-route to London, dies within Leicester Abbey on the 29th.


At the beginning of the month, Henry and Katherine are finally on the same side – they’re both livid with Clement, who will not issue the bulls he authorized back in March. Both write him angry letters, with Henry insulting Charles’s influence over him and Katherine demanding that he do his job. Within Katherine’s note was the insistence that she knew she could win Henry back if he was forced to live with her once more, underlining that she truly believed Anne was the only obstacle to her marital happiness.

On Christmas Eve, Katherine complains to Henry that his spending the holiday with Anne is morally repugnant and a bad example. Henry responds that he means to marry Anne and that they aren’t living in sin. Later in the month, Anne says publicly that she wishes, “all the Spaniards were at the bottom of the sea.” When she scolded by another lady, she responds that she doesn’t care about Katherine or her Spanish family, and that she would rather Katherine be hanged than have to call her queen or mistress again.

Amidst this, the University of San Bartolome issues a defense in Katherine’s favor.

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