January 25th 1533 is reputed to be the day that Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn. The wedding was held in secret – hardly surprising since Henry had not had a formal notification from the Pope that his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon had been annulled! A notification that Henry would never get, although the Pope had earlier suggested that Henry marry Anne without having his first marriage annulled. The wedding was necessary since it is clear that Anne was already pregnant with the future queen, Elizabeth I.
Anne was an extremely intelligent and beautiful young woman, she was also ambitious. She certainly set her sights higher than marriage to an Irishman in order to resolve a family dispute over the Earldom of Ormand. But her attempt to marry Henry Percy, the son of the Earl of Northumberland was quashed, not because Henry VIII already had his eyes on her, but because Henry Percy was already betrothed and Anne was simply not of the right ‘class’ to marry into such an illustrious family.
Nonetheless, it is my firm conviction that Anne did not initially set out to marry Henry. She had spent some time in the French court and had seen how much the French King’s mistresses had gained from their position. Her sister, Mary, had been Henry’s mistress and had been married off to a country gentleman. Not for Anne! Certainly once the offer of marriage was made, she accepted.
It is well known that Anne refused to become Henry’s mistress for many years. What changed her mind? On 1 September 1532, Anne was created Marquess of Pembroke in her own right. The terms of the grant were unprecedented. The title was to pass down to the ‘heirs of her body’ – and not as was usual to ‘the heirs of her body lawfully begotten’.
By January 1533, Anne was pregnant and Henry was not going to allow his son (as he was sure the child would be) to be born out of wed-lock – whether that marriage was ‘lawful’ or not.