This week marks an anniversary in the history of King Henry VIII. On the 7th March 1530 King Henry VIII declared himself head of the Church of England and not the Pope. This signalled the beginning of the end of the Catholic Church being the religion of England.
So how did this all start? Quite simply, Henry VIII was besotted with Anne Bolyen and she wouldn’t become his mistress, only his wife. The only problem was he was already married to Queen Katherine of Aragon. So obviously Henry decided to divorce Katherine and marry Anne, simple. Except the Pope Clement VII decided he would not allow the divorce no matter how hard Henry tried. Henry used many arguments but the main 2 were that Katherine was his widowed sister in law and that they were related. Both were true, but he’d ignored them in the past.
On the 14 November 1501 Infanta Katherine of Aragon married Arthur, Prince of Wales at St Pauls Cathedral in London. The marriage was short lived as Arthur died in Ludlow on the 2nd April 1502. Katherine remained a widow until after the death of her father in law King Henry VII in April 1509. Days after his accession to the throne Henry VIII made it known of his intention to marry the dowager Princess of Wales and pair married on the 11 June 1509 at the Church of the Observant Friars near Greenwich Palace.
Henry initially began to think that his marriage to Katherine was wrong in the eyes of God as earlier as 1525. Henry stated that the bible forbade the marrying of your brother’s widow as this was incest so the marriage was not legal. Something he would later ignore. He also argued that he and Katherine were related so was illegal on the ground of consanguinity as both of them were descended from King Edward III of England’s son John of Guant.
Katherine was descended from John’s second wife Constance of Castille and Henry was descended for John’s third wife Katherine Swynford (although John and Katherine weren’t married when the Beaufort line was born, they were later legitimised by King Richard II). This made Katherine and Henry 4th cousins once removed. So by the same token Katherine and Arthurs marriage was illegal on the same grounds. The law of the Catholic Church though was 4 degrees which was the kinship bond of the couples. Unfortunately for Henry the Pope didn’t agree and refused to annul the marriage on either ground. This could possibly be because Katherine’s nephew was the Holy Roman Emperor and he had a great amount of power over the Pope.
After this failed Henry took matters into his own hands and declared England would separate from the Catholic Church and thus he could divorce Katherine in May 1533 and marry Anne Bolyen (in January 1533, cart before horse).
There were believed to be other reasons for the Henry to suddenly want a divorce from Katherine. The main one being Henry’s want of a son. Katherine had given birth to 3 sons. Henry Duke of Cornwall was born in January 1511, but he died in February of the same year. In 1513 and 1514 Katherine delivered stillborn sons. So maybe Henry thought a new wife would deliver him a healthy son, after all he had 1 acknowledged illegitimate son in Henry Fitzroy and possibly another son in Henry Carey they son of Mary Bolyen (although there is little evidence for this as Henry never acknowledged him).
It could also have been Katherine’s staunch religious views that lead to the divorce. Katherine was a strong believer of the Catholic faith whereas Henry was moving towards Protestantism.
In reality the split was probably a strong combination of Henry wanting a complete authority over the religious views of his country, a son and a divorce so he could marry Anne Bolyen. But he had used the argument about marrying his brother widow being classes as incest. He had had a relationship with Mary Bolyen and this could mean that a relationship with Anne was incest!
But did any of this change history? Well yes in that the Church of England as we know it today was born and the influence of Rome and the Pope removed. Anne Bolyen didn’t produce the male heir Henry so desperately wanted (she miscarried 2 sons) and she lost her head. Henry did get his longed for son Edward from his third wife Jane Seymour but it cost her her life and the Tudor dynasty Henry fought so hard for died out with his children.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!