The King’s Great Matter: 1532

Charles V

If you’re catching up, this is the sixth part of a closer look at the divorce of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon. If you haven’t already, you can read up on 1527, 1528, 1529, 1530 and 1531. In the meantime, let’s turn to 1532.


In honor of New Years, Katherine sends Henry a gold cup. He is livid by her continuing to act as his wife, whereas he meanwhile had chosen not to send gifts to Katherine or their daughter, Princess Mary, for the first time. He returns Katherine’s gift to her. Instead, he exchanges lavish gifts with Anne Boleyn.

Meanwhile, Henry writes to Edward Carne, then in Rome, to tell Pope Clement VII that if in fact Katherine and his brother, Prince Arthur, never consummated their marriage then there was no impediment of affinity and the original dispensation for his marriage to Katherine was unnecessary altogether. Thus on those grounds the marriage was unlawful…which is a stretch to say the least. Further, he argues that because Arthur and Katherine lived together, his marriage to her should have been invalidated on the grounds of public honesty, which had been Cardinal Wolsey’s recommended approach way back in 1527.

In Rome, the party of cardinals examining the case are reaching two conclusions to present to Clement for consideration. The first is that it is impossible to judge whether Arthur and Katherine consummated their marriage, and that Katherine’s insistence that she is a virgin when she married Henry is thus irrelevant. The second is that Henry married Katherine of his own free will, had treated her as his wife for nearly 20 years and had children with her, therefore the marriage was valid and indissoluble.

On January 12, the same cardinals rule that Carne be excluded from proceedings, thus necessitating Henry’s presence in Rome.

Parliament opens in England on January 15, however the royal marriage is not immediately raised. Thomas Cranmer, however, is sent as the English Ambassador to the court of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor.

Ten days later, Clement rules that Henry must separate from Anne and take Katherine back. If he doesn’t, then he will be excommunicated. But in typical fashion, he pauses to issue it on the grounds that one of Henry’s men, Dr. Bonner, left Rome the week before to see Henry and he needed to hear what he returned with.


Finally, in the second week of February, discussion in Parliament turns to Henry’s marriage thanks to the Duke of Norfolk holding an informal meeting and raising the issue. The first man who answers says that his physical being and material wealth are in Henry’s jurisdiction, but his soul is not. Once the ice is broken, the majority of men respond in kind.

On the 24th, after months (and arguably, years) of not doing enough to stand up to Henry, William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury registers a protest against all acts of Parliament that limit papal authority in England.


Thanks to quite a bit of lobbying and Henry’s councilor, Thomas Cromwell, whipping the votes, the House of Commons draws up a “Supplication against the Ordinaries,” listing complaints against the clergy. On March 18, Henry passes it along to his churchmen and orders it be acknowledged that all ecclesiastical legislation requires royal assent. Shortly after that, he cuts off the stream of income from English bishoprics to Rome and it is established the crown can validate the consecration of its own bishops.


At some point before April 14, Katherine sees the papal bull from Clement finding in her favor. On that day, she writes to her Castilian lawyer in Rome, Cristobel Ortiz, who had worked directly with Clement on the bull, that the wording isn’t strong enough. Ortiz agrees and writes to Charles that Henry is unlikely to listen to the document’s contents as is.

In England, Cromwell is appointed Master of the King’s Jewels.


On the 5th, French Ambassador Gilles de La Pommeraye leaves England to discuss with King Francis I an agreement of mutual support between the two countries should Charles attempt to attack either.

Henry is presented with the papal bull threatening excommunication on May 13 by Clement’s representative in England, Baron Del Burgho. Henry is livid and even the Spanish Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, is scornful when he sees the document, noting that it’s too little too late.

Two days later, the clergy accept Henry’s (Parliament’s) demands via “The Submission of the Clergy.” The day after that, Thomas More, the Lord Chancellor, resigns. His official reason is that the volume of work is too much, but it is well-known that he disagrees with Henry’s actions and can’t stomach what is happening to the English church. Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, too, makes his objection known.


On June 10, de La Pommeraye returns to England to share Francis’s agreement with the alliance. From there, court saw negotiations by day to hammer out the terms of a treaty and entertainment by night in celebration of what was proving an easy process. The treaty is finally signed on June 23.

Henry, thrilled by something going his way, decides that he and Francis should meet in person, akin to their famous meeting at the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520.


On July 4, Henry and Anne set out for the annual summer progresses. The idea is to visit the most traditional areas of the country and introduce them to the woman who is to be their queen. It doesn’t quite work – Chapuys reports later in the month that Henry is forced to change course when the calls from the people for Katherine became too overwhelming. That, and people are actively booing and hissing at Anne.

And while this anecdote may well be true, the real cause of Henry’s change of direction is that his meeting with Francis is tentatively scheduled for late September and he wants to prepare. Throughout, de La Pommeraye travels with Henry and Anne and is shown special attention by both, alone and together. The couple is well-aware how important an alliance with France is.

Over in Rome, furious with Clement, Ortiz says to the Pope’s face that if he doesn’t act to excommunicate Henry for defying him then he will personally tell God on Judgment Day that the Pope fell short of his duty. Clement sends him away and notes among his own that he can’t act until Henry sends a representative and nothing could be done during the summer anyway.

Cranmer, meanwhile, is following Charles’s nomadic court and his travels take him through the German cities in which the Reformation was born. He meets one of its leaders, Andreas Osiander, and during the month of July marries his niece, Margarete.


De La Pommeraye writes home that the best show of faith Francis can provide would be to invite Anne alongside Henry to meet in Calais, and then bring his sister, Marguerite of Angouleme, to join them. The Ambassador doesn’t reveal his source, but it’s entirely possible it is Anne herself. She would have known Marguerite well from her time at French court. Alongside this is a request that Francis not bring his wife, Eleanor of Austria, given that she is Charles’s sister and Katherine’s niece.

The last bit isn’t difficult. Though ostensibly marriage to Charles’s sister should put Francis in a difficult position, he in fact still resents being forced to marry her. He openly carries on with his mistresses in front of her, shuns her bed and the two never have children. Marguerite, meanwhile, tells Norfolk quite candidly that Francis can’t stand her.

Anne decides that she wants Katherine’s jewels in preparation for becoming queen, and certainly in time for her meeting with Francis and Marguerite. Norfolk is deputized to pry them from the Queen, but she refuses and says she will never give them up unless Henry orders it directly. When this is relayed to Henry he is annoyed, but nevertheless sends the required the message and gets Anne her jewels.

On the 22nd, Archbishop Warham dies. A new archbishop will need to be secured as the English clergy is imploding.


In preparation for the French meeting, Anne is made Marquess of Pembroke at Windsor. The title is significant to the Tudor family, for it once belonged to Henry’s great-uncle, Jasper Tudor. The ceremony, for which Anne is covered in jewels, is attended by the highest-ranking peers and ladies of the realm, including Norfolk, the Duke of Suffolk, the Dowager Queen of France (Henry’s sister) and Lady Mary Howard, who is soon to marry Henry’s bastard son, the Duke of Richmond. Immediately afterwards, the treaty with France is ratified. Everything, from the fanfare of the day to the money Anne will draw from the title, is organized by Cromwell.


On October 1, Cranmer receives a letter from Henry informing him that he has been appointed Archbishop of Canterbury to replace Warham. He is currently in Italy, but within the letter is summons to return to England as soon as he can.

On the 11th, Henry and Anne set sail for France with an entourage of thousands, including Richmond and Mary Howard. By now, it’s been made clear that Marguerite won’t accompany Francis, but on October 20, Henry and Francis meet outside Calais and together they travel to Boulogne. Here Henry meets the dauphin and the Duke of Angouleme – notably, the Duke of Orleans, once intended for Princess Mary, is absent. Henry, meanwhile, presents Richmond, who will stay in France for a stint alongside Norfolk’s eldest son (and Mary Howard’s brother), the Earl of Surrey.

Francis and Henry then return to Calais where Anne can join in the festivities and a masque is held to celebrate. Francis bids the English adieu on the 29th, but though they are meant to set sail on the 31st, they don’t.


Henry and Anne stay in Calais for 12 more days. It is during this time that the couple are believed to have consummated their relationship.

On November 15, Clement writes a brief to Henry and tells him that he retains affection for him in spite of his poor behavior over the last two years. He also reminds him that the court was commuted to Rome at Henry’s own request and that he sent a gentler reminder of all of this 10 months prior. He gives the King one month and a day to set aside Anne and take Katherine back or he will excommunicate him. Even more, if Henry marries Anne then he says he will declare their union invalid in the eyes of the Church and their children bastards.

A few days later, Cranmer leaves Italy for England.

Once they land in England, Henry and Anne take 10 days to rejoin court. If they hadn’t slept together in Calais, then they almost certainly do so once they return home. And this is because, roughly five years after promising that he would, Henry finally marries Anne. Their ceremony is secret, but their slow trek through Calais and then Kent appears to have been a private honeymoon of sorts.


After returning to court, Henry and Anne visit the Tower of London and inspect ongoing renovations. There is chatter that Henry means to move Katherine there (in the residence, not prison), but in fact their interest has to do with Anne – it is custom that kings and queens spend a day or two prior to their coronations within the Tower and Anne’s coming glory was almost certainly top of mind.

They are alarmed, however, that Cranmer is still not in England, for they need him to make their union official, particularly since they are now sleeping together. They turn to Cromwell, who dispatches someone abroad to fetch the absent Cranmer, but he too has trouble tracking him down. Eventually he is able to report back that he has found him and expects them to be back in England by Christmas.

On December 20, Charles and Clement meet in Bologna to celebrate Christmas and New Years together. The two reach an agreement in which Clement will summon a General Council of the Church to finally address the issue of the widespread and ongoing Reformation in Europe and a mutual defense of one another against heretics. Within this is language that promises Charles will back up Clement’s excommunication of Henry with military force.

Last, but certainly not least, Anne conceives a child.

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