On this Day – 25th January 1533

Anne Boleyn (Holbein)

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.

6 thoughts on “On this Day – 25th January 1533”

  1. Interesting, Boadicea. It is widely believed that Henry Percy and Anne did have some relationship, but Wolsey’s influence was brought to bear along with that of the Percy family to persuade Henry P that it was not a suitable match.

    Having failed in that venture and having caught the eye of the King, she certainly held out for some seven years or so until the price was right. The fact that her sister had been Henry’s mistress and her fate was quite an object lesson. Yes, I agree, very skilfully played. Pity about the ending though 😉

  2. I didn’t know that the Pope had suggested that Henry marry Anne without waiting for the annulment. Seems a very cavalier attitude for the Pontiff to adopt. Was he perhaps hoping to avoid England becoming Protestant, do you think?

  3. DM

    There’s no doubt that Anne and Henry Percy had a relationship, and that Wolsey acted on behalf of the Northumberland family and Henry VIII. Anne’s father had some claim to the Earldom of Ormond, and one way of settling such disputes was for a daughter to marry into the family. Mary Boleyn had already been suggested – but events moved otherwise! At the time of the Percy affair a marriage between Anne and the incumbent Earl was still being negotiated. Henry VIII’s role, at that time, was more to do with settling a dispute between two subjects than wanting Anne for himself. How the world changed!

    Had Anne had a son she would have been safe. But given that all she produced was a girl, her fate was sealed. Her fall from grace had far more to do with the shifting factions within the Court than almost any thing else. That is why so many men had to die with her, her brother included.

  4. Sheonah

    The Pope was in a very difficult position. Under almost any other circumstances Henry VIII would have had his annulment – but Clement was virtually the prisoner of Catherine’s nephew, Charles V. And Charles was not a man to allow his aunt to be put aside.

    Who knows what the Pontiff thought? He was obviously trying to give Henry what he wanted. I’m not sure that he thought Henry would turn to Protestantism – as indeed he did not. Henry had written a refutation of the Lutheran doctrine ( Defence of Seven Sacraments) in 1521 which was only a few years earlier. Personally I reckon the Pope was just scrabbling for ideas to get himself out of the impossible situation he was in.

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