Famous Rulers in History English King Henry VIII Part 2

About the famous English King Henry VIII, history and biography, personal life with Queen Catherine and Anne Boleyn, marriage and divorce.

Famous and Infamous Rulers in History


On Jan. 1, 1511, Catherine bore him a son. In the celebrating, bonfire-lit city of London, free wine flowed. At an elaborate pageant in West-minster, an excited mob tore the gold H's and K's from Henry's clothes. Then, seven weeks later, the infant prince died. His father mourned him with an expensive funeral; 794 lb. of wax were burned in the candles on the hearse alone. In the following years. Catherine suffered numerous miscarriages and stillbirths; the only child who lived to maturity was a daughter, Mary.

Rumors of Henry's interest in other women started circulating within two years after his marriage to Catherine. One mistress was Mary Boleyn (Anne's sister); another was Bessie Blount, who bore him an illegitimate son.

When Henry fell in love with Anne Boleyn, Catherine was almost 40, worn out by pregnancy, looking older than her years. Yet had not Henry badly wanted a legitimate heir to the throne and had not Boleyn cleverly (or not so cleverly when one considers her bad end) held out for marriage and a queenship, he might have remained married to Catherine and avoided the scandal that came from the divorce (called "the king's great matter") that went on for six years.

Anne was no great beauty. An Italian described her: "Mistress Anne is not one of the handsomest women in the world; she is of middling stature, swarthy complexion, long neck, wide mouth, bosom not much raised and in fact has nothing but the English King's appetite, and her eyes, which are black and beautiful." It was said by some that she had three breasts. On her left hand, Anne had a sixth finger, which she hid in her dress folds; to many of those who did not approve of her, it was a mark of the devil. An outrageous flirt, brought up in a French court, she had more than one man in love with her; in fact, the king and the poet Thomas Wyatt, her cousin, vied for her affections.

A royal divorce granted by the pope was not unprecedented, and Henry's request for one was not unusual. The matter was complicated by the fact that Pope Clement VII was the prisoner of Charles V, who happened to be Catherine's nephew. Moved by secret messages from her, Charles influenced Clement's decision to agree to a dispensation for remarriage only if Henry's current marriage could be proved invalid. In a long, nitpicking dialogue, both sides quoted scripture: Henry claimed his marriage to Catherine had been invalid because two texts from Leviticus forbade marriage between a man and his brother's wife (but the marriage to Arthur was never consummated, Catherine said), and those who were against the divorce quoted Deuteronomy.

In 1528 a legatine court was set up at Blackfriars, with Archbishop Thomas Wolsey (Henry's minister) and Lorenzo Campeggio in charge. When it was immediately adjourned without making a decision, all knew there was no chance Rome would grant the divorce. It was from his failure to help Henry get rid of Catherine that Wolsey lost his position as minister.

Matters became urgent when Anne discovered she was pregnant. It was imperative that the child be legitimate. Archbishop Cranmer, who had replaced Wolsey, declared Henry's marriage to Catherine invalid, in the first real defiance of papal authority, and Henry and Anne were married secretly in January, 1533. Later, at Anne's public coronation, she wore around her neck a string of pearls "bigger than chickpeas," but the crowd, unimpressed and unfriendly, did not doff their hats, so her fool said, "I think you have all scurvy heads and do not uncover."

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