His father, who had become king in 1485, was determined that the Tudor family should rule England and Wales for a long time. To do this he needed to protect himself from those who had the power to overthrow him. His first step was to marry Elizabeth, the eldest child of Edward IV. (1)
Henry had an older brother, Arthur. It has been claimed that Henry VII first suggested that Catherine of Aragon might be a good wife for his son when the princess was only two. Catherine was the daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon (1452–1516) and Isabella of Castile (1451–1504). She was therefore the daughter of not one but two reigning monarchs. She was named after Isabella's grandmother Catalina of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt.
In 1487 King Ferdinand agreed to send ambassadors to England to discuss political and economic relations and to negotiate the marriage of Catherine and Arthur. Henry VII was worried that England might be invaded by stronger European countries. In 1488 Henry signed a treaty with Ferdinand. By this treaty Henry agreed that his eldest son, Arthur, should marry Catherine. (2)
This was a good deal for Henry VII. At this time, England and Wales had a combined population of only two and a half million, compared to the seven and a half million of Castile and Aragon, and the fifteen million of France. Ferdinand's motivation was that Spanish merchants wishing to reach the Netherlands, needed the protection of English ports if France was barred to them. The English also still controlled the port of Calais in northern France. (3)
However, the marriage was not guaranteed. As David Loades points out: "The marriage of a ruler was the highest level of the matrimonial game, and carried the biggest stakes, but it was not the only level. Both sons and daughters were pieces to be moved in the diplomatic game, which usually began while they were still in their cradles. A daughter, particularly, might undergo half a dozen betrothals in the interests of shifting policies before her destiny eventually caught up with her." (4)
Catherine arrived in England on 2nd October 1501. As a high-born Castilian bride, Catherine remained veiled to both her husband and her father-in-law until after the marriage ceremony. Henry would have been concerned by her size. She was described as "extremely short, even tiny". Henry could not complain as Arthur, now aged fifteen, was very small and undeveloped and was "half a head shorter" than Catherine. He was also described as having an "unhealthy" skin colour. (5)
Arthur and Catherine married on 14th November 1501, at St Paul's Cathedral in London. Henry, led their wedding procession through London. (6) With his long legs and broad shoulders he had already far outstripped Arthur, five years his senior. Spanish trumpeters had been brought in to provide the music. Arrangements at the banquet which followed the wedding meant that Catherine sat on the right hand of the Henry VII but Prince Arthur sat at a separate children's table with Prince Henry and his sisters, Margaret and Mary. (7)
That night, when Arthur lifted Catherine's veil he discovered a girl with "a fair complexion, rich reddish-gold hair that fell below hip-level, and blue-eyes". (8) Her naturally pink cheeks and white skin were features that were much admired during the Tudor period. Contemporary sources claim that "she was also on the plump side - but then a pleasant roundness in youth was considered to be desirable at this period, a pointer to future fertility". (9)
The couple spent the first month of their marriage at Tickenhill Manor. Arthur wrote to Catherine's parents telling them how happy he was and assuring them he would be "a true and loving husband all of his days". They then moved to Ludlow Castle. Arthur was in poor health and according to William Thomas, Groom of his Privy Chamber, he had been over-exerting himself. He later recalled he "conducted him clad in his night gown unto the Princess's bedchamber door often and sundry times." (10)
Alison Weir has argued that Arthur was suffering from consumption: "There was concern about the Prince's delicate health. He seems to have been consumptive, and had grown weaker since the wedding. The King believed, as did most other people, that Arthur had been over-exerting himself in the marriage bed." (11) Almost thirty years later Catherine deposed, under the seal of the confessional, that they had shared a bed for no more than seven nights, and that she had remained "as intact and incorrupt as when she emerged from her mother's womb". (12)
Antonia Fraser, the author of The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) has argued that she believes the marriage was unconsummated. "In an age when marriages were frequently contracted for reasons of state between children or those hovering between childhood and adolescence, more care rather than less was taken over the timing of consummation. Once the marriage was officially completed, some years might pass before the appropriate moment was judged to have arrived. Anxious reports might pass between ambassadors on physical development; royal parents might take advice on their offsprings' readiness for the ordeal. The comments - sometimes remind one of those breeders discussing the mating of thoroughbred stock, and the comparison is indeed not so far off. The siring of progeny was the essential next step in these royal marriages, so endlessly negotiated." Fraser goes on to argue that the Tudors believed that bearing children too young might damage their chances of having further children. For example, Henry VII's mother, Margaret Beaufort, was only thirteen when she had him and never had any other children in the course of four marriages. (13)
On 27th March 1502, Arthur fell seriously ill. Based on the description of symptoms by his servants, he appeared to have been suffering from a bronchial or pulmonary condition, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis or some virulent form of influenza. David Starkey has suggested he might have been suffering from testicular cancer. (14) Antonia Fraser, believes that as Catherine was also ill at the same time, the both might have had sweating sickness. (15) Arthur died on Saturday, 2nd April, 1502.
Henry VII was keen to maintain his alliance with Ferdinand of Aragon and recently widowed, offered to marry Catherine of Aragon himself. As he was 46 years-old and in poor health, this idea was rejected and on 23rd June 1503, he signed a new treaty betrothing Catherine to Henry, his only surviving son, then aged twelve. The treaty also contained an agreement that, as the parties were related, the signatories bound themselves to obtain the necessary dispensation from Rome. At that time, Christians believed it was wrong for a man to marry his brother's wife. It was also agreed that the marriage would take place as soon as Henry completed his fifteenth year. In the meantime Henry allowed Catherine £100 a month, and appointed one of his own surveyors to oversee the management of it. (16)
Ferdinand wrote on 23rd August 1503: "It is well known in England that the Princess is still a virgin. But as the English are much disposed to cavill, it has seemed to be more prudent to provide for the case as though the marriage had been consummated... the dispensation of the Pope must be in perfect keeping with the said clause to the marriage treaty... The right of Succession (of any child born to Catherine and Henry) depends on the undoubted legitimacy of the treaty." (17)
Catherine was allocated Durham House in London. She was frequently ill, probably with tertian malaria. Her knowledge of English was still imperfect in 1505, which upset both Ferdinand of Aragon and Henry VII, who reduced her allowance. Catherine moved to Richmond Palace but complained to her father about her poverty and her inability to pay her servants, and her demeaning dependence on Henry's charity. She told her father she had managed to buy only two dresses since she came to England from Spain six years earlier.
Catherine was kept apart from Prince Henry, complaining in 1507 that she had not seen him for four months, although they were both living in the same palace. (18) It has been argued that it was Henry VII who was keeping his son away from Catherine: "Observers were indeed struck by how Prince Henry existed entirely under the thumb of his father, living in virtual seclusion; the King, either out of fear for his son's safety or from a testy habit of domination, arranged every detail of his life". (19)
King Ferdinand feared that Catherine would not be allowed to marry Henry, who was growing into a handsome prince. Rodrigo Gonzalez de Puebla told Ferdinand: "There is no finer youth in the world than the Prince of Wales". He told him of his startling looks, including his strong athletic limbs "of a gigantic size" was already beginning to arouse the admiration of the Royal Court. (20)
Henry VII died on 22nd April, 1509. Six weeks later, on 11th June, 1509, Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon. It has been argued that since the age of ten "Henry had looked up to and admired his pretty sister-in-law; and, as he had grown to manhood, and had seen how well Katherine had coped with the adversity and humiliations she had suffered, his admiration had deepened, not to passion - it would never be that - but to love in its most chivalrous form, blended with deep respect." (21) He was just about to be eighteen (on 28th June) and she was twenty-three. The ceremony was small and private. Describing the wedding night which followed, liked to boast that he had found his wife a "maiden" (virgin). Although years later he would attempt to pass off these boasts as "jests", there seems little doubt that he had made them. (22)
According to letters to her father, Catherine was very happy during the first few months of marriage. She enjoyed wandering in leisurely stages from "palace to palace and park to park". Catherine explained how Henry "diverts himself with jousts, birding, hunting and other innocent and honest pastimes, also in visiting different parts of his kingdom". (23) It was claimed that they were a well-matched couple. Their intellectual tastes and educational background were similar and they both rode well and hunted with enthusiasm. (24)
Henry was an excellent sportsman: "He (Henry) was tall, he had the body of an athlete and his face was so finely proportioned that it could have been feminine... He was in such good condition that he could stay in the saddle long enough to exhaust half a dozen horses, one after the other; he could hurl a heavy spear great distances and he could draw the longbow more impressively, it was said, than any other man in England." (25)
Soon after taking power, Henry VIII ordered the arrest of Edmund Dudley and Richard Empson. These two men were his father's two main financial advisers. They had been responsible for collecting taxes. Jasper Ridley has claimed that they were universally hated throughout England. "They were accused of acting illegally when they extorted large sums of money from wealthy landowners... and of not only obtaining this money for the King, but of enriching themselves in the process." (26) Both men were eventually executed and it has been claimed that Henry ordered their deaths in order to gain popularity.
In November, 1509, Henry informed Ferdinand of Aragon that his daughter was pregnant: "Your daughter, her Serene Highness the Queen, our dearest consort, has conceived in her womb a living child and is right heavy therewith." (27) On 31st January, 1510, Catherine miscarried a daughter. Her confessor, Fray Diego reported that the miscarriage was kept a secret "that no one knew about it... except the King... two Spanish women, a physician and I". According to Diego the "swelling continued and increased enormously". This was probably the result of infection, but her physician persuaded himself that "the Queen remained pregnant of another child". However, this was untrue. (28)
Queen Catherine was soon pregnant again and a son was born on 1st January, 1511. The child was christened Henry, and his proud father took him to Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham to give thanks for the greatest gift that a king could receive. A mighty tournament was staged, not only to celebrate the birth of an heir, but also "to demonstrate that loving accord between Henry and Catherine which promised a bountiful harvest for the future". (29) Just seven weeks later the latest Henry Tudor died in his nursery at Richmond Palace. Henry and Catherine were devastated. The customary wisdom of the time suggested that infant mortality was punishment for sin.
Henry VIII recovered more quickly than Catherine from the shock of losing a son. He was only 21-years-old and was considered the most attractive young man in Europe. Sebastian Giustinian, a Venetian diplomat, commented that Henry "is the handsomest potentate I have ever set eyes on" and had "a round face so beautiful that it would become a pretty woman". In a later dispatch he wrote: "Nature could not have done more for him. He is very fair, his whole frame admirably proportioned." (30)
It is claimed that Henry resembled his grandfather Edward IV, being measured at a height of 6 feet 2 inches, with a waist of 32 inches. "He could dominate any gathering and was extrovert, affable, and charming. Full of energy and proud of his athleticism, Henry cast himself above all in a military role and had a passion for weapons and fortifications. A fine horseman and an excellent archer, he was an enthusiast for those two substitutes for war: hunting and the tournament." (31)
Thomas Wolsey worked for Richard Foxe, bishop of Winchester. Foxe was very impressed with Wolsey and recommended him to Henry VIII. As a result he became the king's almoner in November 1509. George Cavendish claims that Wolsey soon gained the appreciation of the young monarch as he was the "most earnest and readiest in all the council to advance the king's only will and pleasure. Peter Ackroyd points out that Wolsey was a generation younger than the old bishops of the council. "Here was a man whom the young king could take into his confidence, and upon whom he could rely. Wolsey rose at four in the morning, and could work for twelve hours at a stretch without intermission... When he had finished his labours he heard Mass and then ate a light supper before retiring." (32)
Under Henry VII, England had avoided continental war. His son, by contrast, longed for war against France. This policy was very unpopular with members of the Royal Council, including Thomas More, who "thought it wisdom to sit still and let them alone" and advised peace against the hazard and cost of war. Wolsey supported Henry and suggested that he joined the Holy League with Pope Julius II and his father-in-law, Ferdinand of Spain, so that they might with papal approval attack France. The alliance was agreed on 13th November 1511 and war was declared the following month. (33)
The plan was for English soldiers to arrive in south-west France. A fleet of eighteen warships were prepared to take 15,000 men to Europe. These men would link up with the Spanish army trying to take Navarre from the French and capture the valuable province of Guyenne. The troops arrived on 7th June 1512, but Ferdinand had no intention of keeping his side of the bargain and the two armies did not join up together. As Roger Lockyer pointed out: "He (Ferdinand) planned to use the English troops merely as a screen behind which his own men could complete the conquest of Navarre, and he had no interest in helping Henry fulfil his grandiose ambitions." (34)
The men were forced to camp in open fields in extremely hot weather while waiting to be called into battle. No tents, or provisions, had been prepared for them. Dysentery caused many casualties and there was talk of mutiny. Henry reluctantly ordered his troops to return to England in October 1512 without accomplishing anything against the enemy. The daughter of Emperor Maximilian said "Englishmen have so long abstained from war they lack experience from disuse." (35)
The following year England sent another large army to France with Henry VIII himself in command. Wolsey was in charge of the preparations and was effectively quartermaster-general of the army. He organized the fleet, and made provisions for 25,000 men to sail to France under the banner of the king. On 30th June, 1513, Henry crossed the channel with a bodyguard of 300 men and a retinue of 115 priests and singers of the chapel. Henry first victory came on 16th August when he defeated a French force near Thérouanne. (36)
Henry remained in the rear with his bodyguards. "His great and ornate bed was transported along the route eastward, and was set up each night within a pavilion made from cloth of gold. The king had eleven tents, connected one with another; one for his cook, and one for his kitchen. He was escorted, wherever he walked or rode, by fourteen young boys in coats of gold. The bells on his horse were made of gold. The most elaborate of the royal tents was decorated with golden ducats and golden florins. He was intent on displaying his magnificence as well as his valour." (37)
Charles Brandon, High Marshal of the army, led a successful assault on Tournai. When handed the keys of the city, Henry passed them to Brandon, who led his troops in to occupy it. Soon afterwards Henry granted him the outlying castle of Mortain. He was also granted the title of the Duke of Suffolk. (38) Despite the fiasco of the first expedition Henry had demonstrated that his kingdom was once again a power to be reckoned with.
However, the cost of the war was enormous. It is estimated that most of the wealth he inherited from his father had been used to finance the two expeditions to France. Wolsey persuaded Parliament to grant a tax upon every adult male, but this proved of course unpopular and difficult to collect. It now became clear that England could not afford to wage war on equal terms with the larger powers of Europe. The French king had three times as many subjects, and also triple the resources. The Spanish king possessed six times as many subjects, and five times the revenue. "Henry's ambition and appetite for glory outstripped his strength." (39)
In August 1514, King Louis XII of France agreed to peace terms. This included his willingness to marry Henry's sister Mary Tudor. Henry hoped that Mary would have a son and therefore create the possibility of uniting the two kingdoms. Mary was eighteen and Louis was fifty-two. Antonia Fraser has pointed out: "Queens were not expected to be great beauties... it was more often a subject of surprised comment if they were... Mary was lovely, fair-haired, oval faced." (40) A French observer described her as "a nymph from heaven" and "one of the most beautiful young women in the world". (41) One diplomat reported that it was shocking that "so fair a lady" should marry "so feeble, old and pocky a man". (42) It is not recorded what Mary thought of the proposed marriage but her biographer claims she was "apparently a dutiful and obedient sister, prepared to serve the political purposes of a brother for whom she had a genuine affection and respect". (43)
Princess Mary left England for France on 2nd October, 1514. She was accompanied by a retinue of nearly 100 English ladies-in-waiting. After a stormy crossing, during which one ship was wrecked, an extremely seasick princess was literally carried ashore near Boulogne the following day. The couple were married on 9th October. Mary Boleyn and Anne Boleyn were among the six young girls permitted to remain at the French court by the king after he dismissed all Mary's other English attendants the day after the wedding. According to Alison Plowden, the "excitement and physical strain of the wedding and its attendant festivities proved altogether too much for the frail elderly Louis XIII" who died on 1st January, 1515. (44) It was reported in France that he was "danced to death" by his "energetic young" wife. (45)
Henry richly rewarded Thomas Wolsey for his part in the victory over France. On 15th September 1514, he was appointed as Archbishop of Canterbury. Henry also made him his Lord Chancellor. Wolsey now had all the powers of a modern prime minister, with the controls of a regular Parliament. The following year Pope Leo X made him a cardinal at the King's request. This promotion resulted in the creation of many enemies. Polydore Vergil represented him as "singing, laughing, dancing and playing with the young courtiers". George Cavendish claims that Wolsey's success was based on his recognition that Henry disliked routine work, and describes him as "putting the King in comfort that he shall not need to spare any time of his pleasure for any business that should necessary happen in the Council as long as he being there". (46)
In April 1517 a bill was posted upon one of the doors of St Paul's, complaining that "the foreigners" were given too much favour by the king and council. A few days later a preacher in London called upon Englishmen to defend their livings against "aliens" (foreign merchants in England). On 30th April an estimated 2,000 Londoners sacked the houses of the French and Flemish merchants. They also threatened the residents of the Italian quarter. Wolsey reacted by calling in the armed retainers of the nobility. More than 400 prisoners were taken, tried and found guilty of treason. Thirteen of them suffered the penalty of being hanged, drawn and quartered.
The rest of the captured rioters, with halters around their necks, were brought to Westminster Hall in the presence of Henry VIII. He sat on his throne, from where he condemned them all to death. Wolsey then fell on his knees and begged the king to show compassion while the prisoners themselves called out "Mercy, Mercy!" Eventually the king relented and granted them pardon. At which point they cast off their halters and "jumped for joy". (47) In this way Wolsey promoted himself as being on the side of the people.
Wolsey decided, with the king, to reinforce the procedures of the law by means of a body known as the Star Chamber (the roof of the chamber was studded with stars). In the Star Chamber the Lord Chancellor could question and punish, in particular, the nobility. He punished lords for maintaining too many retainers, and knights for the bad treatment of tenants. He investigated cases of perjury and forgery. Wolsey also regulated prices and food supplies, on the assumption that scarcity might provoke riots. He made it clear that one of the main objectives of the Star Chamber was to punish public disorder.
Wolsey made many enemies by the firmness with which he enforced the law, particularly against the magnates. He also punished unpopular sheriffs. Justices of the Peace were forced to attend where they would be criticised for their performances. "Wolsey liked to pose as the champion of the poor and helpless against their social superiors, which in many ways he was. But in the Star Chamber... he was also concerned to settle private scores, and his victims were quick to complain." (48)
Thomas Wolsey status as papal legate gave him additional power to reform the English Church. He began in the spring of 1519 by sending "visitors" to various monasteries in order to record the conditions and habits of the monks. The reports suggested that various levels of disorder and abuse were taking place. Wolsey punished the principal offenders and sent out strict regulations and statutes to guide future conduct.
Wolsey was of course breaking his own guidelines. When he was a young priest he became the father of two illegitimate children. This "did much to fuel the accusations of lechery and fornication so widely levelled at him". He acknowledged and provided for the children, the son, Thomas Wynter, was appointed archdeacon of Suffolk and his daughter, Dorothy, became a nun at Shaftesbury. (49)
Henry continued to try to produce a male heir. Catherine miscarried in the autumn of 1513, and in December 1514 another boy was born, but born dead. (50) In the summer of 1515 he discovered that Catherine was pregnant again. On 18th February 1516 she gave birth to a daughter, Mary. (51) Henry and Catherine gave Mary "unusually close attention during her early years because she was the only survivor of Catherine's many pregnancies and because the pretty and precocious child obviously delighted both parents". (52)
While Mary was not the desired male heir, she was still a valuable asset in the dynastic marriage and diplomatic power game. Mary's godfather, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and Henry used the two-year-old to seal the new alliance with France embodied in the Treaty of London (1518). This was followed by the Treaty of Bruges (1521) which provided for the future marriage of Mary and Charles, a man sixteen years her senior. In 1522 Charles visited England and this afforded him some opportunity to observe his six-year-old cousin. At one court occasion Mary danced for him. (53)
When Charles subsequently announced he would marry Isabella, the daughter of the king of Portugal, the English and French responded with a proposed universal peace reinforced by Mary's marriage to either François I or his second son, Henri, duc d'Orléans. Mary's biographer, Ann Weikel, has pointed out: "Many problems arose during subsequent negotiations in 1527, not the least of them Henry's refusal to allow Mary to leave the realm because she was only eleven. To impress the French envoys Mary again demonstrated her skills in language, music, and dancing, but her small stature made them hesitate about the viability of an immediate marriage." During these negotiations one report said they found her "admirable by reason of her great and uncommon mental endowments; but so thin, sparse, and small as to render it impossible for her to be married for the next three years". (54)
Catherine made sure Mary received a good education. This took the form of supervision and appointment of teachers such as Richard Fetherston rather than direct teaching. They did however study Latin together and when she was sent to Wales to live Catherine wrote to her: "As for your writing in Latin, I am glad that you shall change from me to Master Fetherston, for that shall do you much good to learn by him to write alright." Catherine also asked her to send her the work she had produced in Latin after Fetherston had corrected it. (55)
Queen Catherine invited the celebrated Spanish humanist Juan Luis Vives to come to England and commissioned him to write a treatise on the general education of women, and an outline of studies for Mary. Her biographer, Ann Weikel, has pointed out: "Vives delivered a mixed message, for while he advocated the education of women, an advanced idea at that time, he still saw women as the inferior sex. The list of acceptable reading included scripture, the church fathers, but only a few pagan classics, and no medieval romances, because he believed women could be led astray all too easily..... Vives recommended that Mary read the dialogues of Plato, works that endow women with the same virtues as men and develop a notion of women as guardians or governors.... Thus while Mary received an exceptional humanist education for a woman of her era, marriage negotiations and court appearances reinforced the conventional belief that her true destiny was to be a royal wife and mother, not a ruler in her own right." (56)
Henry VIII had several mistresses. The most important was Bessie Blount, a maid of honour to Catherine of Aragon. Bessie was described at this time by John Barlow, the Dean of Worcester, as being "renowned for her skill in music and dancing, she was a frequent player in court masques." (57)
On 15th June 1519, she gave birth to a son, Henry FitzRoy. Although illegitimate, as the king's only male son at the time of his birth he was a valuable asset. He was given the Anglo-Norman surname "Fitzroy" meaning "son of the king" which had been used by several kings of England for their illegitimate children. As Kelly Hart has argued that he wanted it to be known he was the father of the child: "A healthy boy was a sign of the king's virility; it was clear now that the lack of a strong son could be blamed on his wife." (58)
After the child's birth, the affair ended. Henry now became involved with Mary Boleyn. The historian, Antonia Fraser, has argued: "The affair repeated the pattern established by Bessie Blount: here once again was a vivacious young girl, an energetic dancer and masker, taking the fancy of a man with an older, more serious-minded wife, no longer interested in such things." (59)
On 4th February 1520 Mary married William Carey, a gentleman of the privy chamber. Henry attended the wedding and over the next few years gave Carey several royal grants of land and money. (60) David Loades has pointed out: "Whether this was a marriage of convenience, arranged by the King to conceal an existing affair, or whether she only became his mistress after her marriage, is not clear." (61) In 1523 he named a new ship Mary Boleyn. This is believed that Henry did this to acknowledge Mary as his mistress. (62) Mary's father, Thomas Boleyn, was also rewarded by being elevated to the peerage as Viscount Rochford in 1525. (63) One historian has suggested that these "transactions might seem to turn Mary into the merest prostitute, with her husband and father as her pimps". (64)
Mary gave birth to two children, Catherine (1524) and Henry (1526). Some have argued that Henry was the father of both children. Antonia Fraser, the author of The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992), has argued against this: "Despite later rumours to the contrary, none of Mary's children were fathered by King Henry: her daughter Catherine Carey and her son Henry Carey, created Lord Hunsdon by his first cousin Queen Elizabeth, were born in 1524 and 1526 respectively when the affair was over. We may be sure that Henry Carey would have been acclaimed with the same joy as Henry Fitzroy, if he had been the King's son." (65)
In 1526 Anne Boleyn become a maid of honour to Catherine. She was a good musician and a talented singer. She was also extremely intelligent and her time in the French court provided her with a great deal of interesting conversation. Anne was according to contemporary sources not a conventional beauty. One member of Henry's court wrote that Anne was "not one of the handsomest women in the world" she had a "swarthy complexion, long neck, wide mouth, bosom not much raised, and in fact had nothing but the king's great appetite, and her eyes, which are black and beautiful and take great effect"
Boleyn's biographer, Eric William Ives, has claimed: "Her complexion was sallow and she was noted only for her magnificent dark hair, her expressive eyes, and her elegant neck.... The reason why she was such a sensation was not looks but personality and education. Having been brought up in the two leading courts in Europe she had a continental polish which was unique in the provincial court of Henry VIII. She could sing, play instruments, and dance and she led female fashion." One member of court claimed that "no one would ever have taken her to be English by her manners, but a native-born Frenchwoman". (66)
Henry VIII seemed to find her very entertaining and was often seen dancing with her. Hilary Mantel has pointed out: "We don't know exactly when he fell for Anne Boleyn. Her sister Mary had already been his mistress. Perhaps Henry simply didn't have much imagination. The court's erotic life seems knotted, intertwined, almost incestuous; the same faces, the same limbs and organs in different combinations. The king did not have many affairs, or many that we know about. He recognised only one illegitimate child. He valued discretion, deniability. His mistresses, whoever they were, faded back into private life. But the pattern broke with Anne Boleyn." (67)
For several years Henry had been planning to divorce Catherine of Aragon. Now he knew who he wanted to marry - Anne. At the age of thirty-six he fell deeply in love with a woman some sixteen years his junior. (68) Henry wrote Anne a series of passionate love letters. In 1526 he told her: "Seeing I cannot be present in person with you, I send you the nearest thing to that possible, that is, my picture set in bracelets ... wishing myself in their place, when it shall please you." Soon afterwards he wrote during a hunting exhibition: "I send you this letter begging you to give me an account of the state you are in... I send you by this bearer a buck killed late last night by my hand, hoping, when you eat it, you will think of the hunter." (69)
Philippa Jones has suggested in Elizabeth: Virgin Queen? (2010) that refusing to become his mistress was part of Anne's strategy to become Henry's wife: "Anne frequently commented in her letters to the King that although her heart and soul were his to enjoy, her body would never be. By refusing to become Henry's mistress, Anne caught and retained his interest. Henry might find casual sexual gratification with others, but it was Anne that he truly wanted." (70) Historians have suggested that Anne was trying to persuade Henry to marry her: "Henry found her not easily tamed, for it is clear that she had the strength of will to withhold her favours until she was sure of being made his queen... All the same it must remain somewhat surprising that sexual passion should have turned a conservative, easy-going, politically cautious ruler into a revolutionary, head-strong, almost reckless tyrant. Nothing else, however, will account for the facts." (71)
Anne's biographer, Eric William Ives, has argued: "At first, however, Henry had no thought of marriage. He saw Anne as someone to replace her sister, Mary (wife of one of the privy chamber staff, William Carey), who had just ceased to be the royal mistress. Certainly the physical side of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon was already over and, with no male heir, Henry decided by the spring of 1527 that he had never validly been married and that his first marriage must be annulled.... However, Anne continued to refuse his advances, and the king realized that by marrying her he could kill two birds with one stone, possess Anne and gain a new wife." (72)
Catherine was in a difficult position. Now aged 43, she found it difficult to compete with Anne. "Now her once slender figure was thickened with repeated child-bearing, and her lovely hair had darkened to a muddy brown, but visiting ambassadors still remarked on the excellence of her complexion. A dumpy little woman with a soft, sweet voice which had never lost its trace of foreign accent, and the imperturbable dignity which comes from generations of pride of caste, she faced the enemy armoured by an utter inward conviction of right and truth, and her own unbreakable will." (73)
Henry VIII later suggested that it was a meeting with the Bishop of Tarbes, one of the French envoys, in 1527, that made him reconsider his marriage to Catherine. During the course of negotiations for the betrothal of Mary and Henri, duc d'Orléans, the bishop had enquired whether in fact Mary would make a good bride: "Had not Henry married his brother's widow? Was that marriage valid? Was Mary legitimate? The envoys questions struck a resounding chord with the King.... The lack of a male heir, the successive failed pregnancies that had left the forty-two-year-old Queen seeming dowdy and dumpy, and the allure of the twenty-something Anne Boleyn, all contributed to Henry's mounting disillusionment with his Spanish wife." (74)
Catherine of Aragon became concerned when Henry's son, Henry FitzRoy, was brought to court in 1527. (75) According to Peter Ackroyd: "Henry no longer frequented her bed." He had clearly given up hope that she would produce a son and heir. Henry also began consulting the Bible about his marriage. He had read the text in Leviticus that prohibited any man from marrying the widow of a dead brother. Henry now became convinced that God had denied him a royal heir as a punishment for marrying Arthur's widow. (76)
Rumours soon began circulating about Henry's plan to divorce Catherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn. It was reported by Cardinal Jean du Bellay in May 1529 that Catherine had the support of the majority of women living in England at the time. "If the matter were to be decided by women, he (Henry VIII) would lose the battle, for they did not fail to encourage the queen (Catherine of Aragon) at her entrance and departure by their cries, telling her to care for nothing, and other such words." (77)
Lodovico Falier reported to King Charles V, that an attempt had been made to kill Anne Boleyn: "It is said that more than seven weeks ago a mob of from seven to eight thousand women of London went out of the town to seize Boleyn's daughter, the sweetheart of the king of England, who was supping at a villa on a river, the king not being with her; and having received notice of this, she escaped by crossing the river in a boat. The women had intended to kill her; and amongst the mob were many men, disguised as women. Nor has any great demonstration been made about this, because it was a thing done by women." (78)
The following year there was "a great riot and unlawful assembly of women" at Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. Sir Thomas Audley, a senior figure in Henry VIII's household was asked to investigate. He later reported that the women had apparently rioted to show their opposition to Anne Boleyn. Audley suggested that their protests were downplayed, because it was thought that the riot "could not have been held without the connivance of their husbands." (79)
George Cavendish, who was a member of Cardinal Wolsey's household later wrote that "the world began to be full of wonderful rumours not heard of before in this realm". This mainly concerned "the long hid and secret love between the king and Mistress Anne Boleyn" and this "began to break out into every man's ears". (80) The chronicler, Edward Hall, confirmed this and commented that there was growing hostility towards a "gentlewoman in the court called Anne Boleyn". (81)
It has been argued that Catherine of Aragon was an extremely popular queen. "The main reason for it lay in her personal qualities, her unfailing graciousness and dignity and her kindness... The English had taken her to her hearts; they rejoiced on her marriage, grieved with her in her sorrows, and... were ready to champion her cause in the face of the King's displeasure." (82)
Queen Catherine also had strong support from senior figures in the government. This group included Sir Thomas More, Bishop John Fisher and Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall. Her leading advocate in the House of Commons was Sir George Throckmorton. This group was united against heresy and were determined to defend both Catherine and the Catholic Church. Throckmorton later confessed to engaging in parliamentary opposition at the behest of More and Fisher. (83)
In May 1527, Henry VIII ordered Cardinal Thomas Wolsey to arrange his marriage to Catherine to be annulled. As papal legate, Wolsey could not make this decision and had to discuss the matter with Pope Clement VII. However, at that time, the troops of King Charles V of Spain had sacked Rome and the pope had become a virtual prisoner in the Castle of the Holy Angel in the city. (84)
The following month Henry told Catherine that he believed they had been "living in mortal sin all the years they had been together" and asked her if she would agree to annul the marriage. Alison Weir, the author of The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2007) believes that if she agreed to this measure Henry would have treated her well. "Yet time and again she had opposed him, seemingly blind to the very real dilemma he was in with regard to the succession, and when thwarted Henry could, and frequently did, became cruel." (85)
Alison Plowden argues that for Catherine it was impossible to accept the deal being put forward: "Henry's partisans have accused his first wife of spiritual arrogance, of bigotry and bloody-mindedness, and undoubtedly she was one of those uncomfortable people who would literally rather die than compromise over a moral issue. There's also no doubt that she was an uncommonly proud and stubborn woman. But to have yielded would have meant admitting to the world that she had lived all her married life in incestuous adultery, that she had been no more than 'the King's harlot', the Princess her daughter worth no more than any man's casually begotten bastard; and it would have meant seeing another woman occupying her place. The meekest of wives might well have jibbed at such self-sacrifice; for one of Catherine's background and temperament it was unthinkable." (86)
Henry sent a message to the Pope Clement VII arguing that his marriage to Catherine of Aragon had been invalid as she had previously been married to his brother Arthur. Henry relied on Cardinal Thomas Wolsey to sort the situation out. Wolsey visited Pope Clement, who had fled to Orvieto to escape from King Charles V. Clement pleaded ignorance of canon law. One of Wolsey's ambassadors told him that the "whole of canon law was locked in the bosom of his Holiness". Pope Clement replied, "It may be so, but, alas, God has forgotten to give me the key to open it." (87)
On 13th April 1528, Pope Clement appointed Cardinal Wolsey and Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggi to examine all the facts and pass a verdict without possibility of appeal. (88) Wolsey wrote to Campeggi and pleaded with him to visit London to sort the matter out: "I hope all things shall be done according to the will of God, the desire of the king, the quiet of the kingdom, and to our honour." (89)
Campeggi eventually arrived in England on 8th October 1528. He informed Wolsey that he had been ordered by Pope Clement not to do anything that would encourage King Charles V of Spain to attack Rome. He therefore ordered Campeggi to do all in his power to reconcile Henry and Catherine. If this was not possible, he was to use delaying tactics. (90)
Campeggi visited Catherine of Aragon. She claimed that she had shared a bed on only seven occasions, and at no time had Prince Arthur "known" her. (91) She was therefore the legitimate wife of Henry VIII because at the time of their marriage she was "intact and uncorrupted". Campeggi suggested that she took a vow of "perpetual chastity" and enter a convent and submit to a divorce. She rejected this idea and said she intended to "live and die in the estate of matrimony, into which God had called her, and that she would always be of that opinion and never change it". Campeggi reported that "although she might be torn limb by limb" nothing would "compel her to alter this opinion." (92) However, she was "an obedient daughter of the Church" and she "would submit to the Pope's judgement in the matter and abide by his decision, whichever way it might go". (93)
According to a letter he sent to Pope Clement VII, Campeggi claims that Wolsey was "not in favour of the affair" but "dare not admit this openly, nor can he help to prevent it; on the contrary he has to hide his feelings and pretend to be eagerly pursuing when the king desires." Wolsey admitted to Campeggi "I have to satisfy the king, whatever the consequences. (94)
On 25th January, 1529, Jean du Bellay told King François I that "Cardinal Wolsey... is in grave difficulty, for the affair has gone so far that, if it do not take effect, the King his master will blame him for it, and terminally". Du Bellay also suggested that Anne Boleyn was plotting against Wolsey who was in dispute with Sir Thomas Cheney. He pointed out that Cheney "had given offence" to Wolsey "within the last few days, and, for that reason, had been expelled from the Court." However, "the young lady (Boleyn) has put Cheney in again." (95)
As David Starkey has pointed out: "Hitherto, whatever Anne may have thought about Wolsey in private, her public dealings with him had been correct, even warm. Now she had broken with him with deliberate, public ostentation. It can only have been because she had decided that his initiatives in Rome were doomed to failure... For the King, formally at least, was giving his full backing to his minister. Who would be proved right: the mistress or the minister? And where would that leave Henry?" (96)
Lorenzo Campeggi's biographer, T. F. Mayer, claims that Henry VIII tried to bribe him by promising him the bishopric of Durham, but he could not find a way of persuading Catherine to change her mind. (97) After several months of careful diplomatic negotiation a trial opened at Blackfriars on 18th June 1529 to prove the illegality of the marriage. It was presided over by Campeggi and Wolsey. Henry VIII ordered Catherine to choose the lawyers who would act as her counsel. He said she could pick from the best in the realm. She choose Archbishop William Warham and John Fisher, the Bishop of Rochester.
Catherine of Aragon made a spirited defence of her position. George Cavendish was an eyewitness in the court. He quotes her saying: "Sir, I beseech you, for all the loves that hath been betrayed us, and for the love of God, let me have justice and right. Take of me some pity and compassion, for I am a poor woman and a stranger born out of your dominion. I have here no assured friend, and much less indifferent counsel. I flee to you as the head of justice within this realm. Alas, Sir, where have I offended you? Or what occasion have you of displeasure, that you intend to put me from you? I take God and all the world to witness that I have been to you a true, humble and obedient wife, ever conformable to your will and pleasure. I have been pleased and contented with all things wherein you had delight and dalliance. I never grudged a word or countenance, or showed a spark of discontent. I loved all those whom you loved only for your sake, whether I had cause or no, and whether they were my friends or enemies. This twenty years and more I have been your true wife, and by me you have had many children, though it hath pleased God to call them out of this world, which hath been no fault in me." (98)
The trial was adjourned by Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggi on 30th July to allow Catherine's petition to reach Rome. This caused serious problems for Wolsey: "This instantly and considerably weakened Wolsey's position, giving the hostile coterie of courtiers who flocked around Anne the leverage they needed to topple him. Nevertheless he fought hard to retain office, and the king's evident reluctance to lose his services enabled him to cling to power until the autumn. It was not until 18th October that Wolsey resigned the great seal, and even then Henry protected him against complete ruin." (99) With the encouragement of Anne Boleyn, Henry became convinced that Wolsey's loyalties lay with the Pope, not England, and in October 1529 he was dismissed from office. (100)
While the negotiations concerning her divorce were going on, Queen Catherine was exiled from the Court and was refused permission to see or communicate with her daughter. In April 1533 she was told that she had to renounce her title of Queen and would in future be regarded simply as Arthur's widow, with the rank of Princess Dowager. Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk informed her: "She need not trouble any more about the King, for he had taken another wife." Catherine wrote to King Charles V of Spain warning of the great dangers facing the Catholic faith. She told him that "what passes here every day is so ugly and against God and touches the honour of the King my lord so nearly, that I cannot bear to write it." (101)
Anne Boleyn had strong opinions about religion that were in direct contrast to those of Catherine. She tried to persuade Henry to give permission for bibles to be published in English. Anne also introduced Henry to the books of Protestant writers such as William Tyndale. She pointed out that in Obedience of a Christian Man, Tyndale had argued that kings had authority over the church. Anne also became close to Thomas Cromwell, who supported the ideas of Tyndale.
Antonia Fraser, the author of The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) has argued that it is impossible to accurately date the time they became lovers: "The truth can never be known for sure. One can only say with certainty that Henry VIII made love to Anne - fully - some time before the end of 1532. All the rest is speculation. As to the act itself, was it a success after so many years? Once again we have no means of knowing... As has been suggested, matters had probably been going in that direction for some years, with Anne the sole focus of the King's lust, by whatever means she satisfied it." (102)
Henry discovered that Anne Boleyn was pregnant. As it was important that the child should not be classed as illegitimate, arrangements were made for Henry and Anne to get married. King Charles V of Spain threatened to invade England if the marriage took place, but Henry ignored his threats and the marriage went ahead on 25th January, 1533. It was very important to Henry that his wife should give birth to a male child. Without a son to take over from him when he died, Henry feared that the Tudor family would lose control of England.
Elizabeth was born on 7th September, 1533. Henry expected a son and selected the names of Edward and Henry. While Henry was furious about having another daughter, the supporters of his first wife, Catherine of Aragon were delighted and claimed that it proved God was punishing Henry for his illegal marriage to Anne. (103) Retha M. Warnicke, the author of The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn (1989) has pointed out: "As the king's only legitimate child, Elizabeth was, until the birth of a prince, his heir and was to be treated with all the respect that a female of her rank deserved. Regardless of her child's sex, the queen's safe delivery could still be used to argue that God had blessed the marriage. Everything that was proper was done to herald the infant's arrival." (104)
Although Anne Boleyn visited her daughter, for most of the time she was cared for by a large staff. Lady Margaret Bryan was Lady Mistress, the governess with day-to-day control of the nursery. Lady Margaret had also cared for Princess Mary, Elizabeth's elder half-sister. Elizabeth's earliest portraits suggest that she resembled her father in the shape of her face and her auburn hair, but had inherited her mother's coal-black eyes. (105)
The 17-year old Mary was declared illegitimate, lost her rank and status as a princess and was exiled from Court. She was placed with Sir John Shelton and his wife, Lady Anne. It has been claimed that "Mary was bullied unmercifully by the Sheltons, humiliated, and was constantly afraid that she would be imprisoned or executed." (106) Alison Plowden has concluded that the treatment Mary received "turned a gentle, affectionate child into a bigoted, neurotic and bitterly unhappy woman." (107)
In March 1534 Pope Clement VII eventually made his decision. He announced that Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn was invalid. Henry reacted by declaring that the Pope no longer had authority in England. In November 1534, Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy. This gave Henry the title of the "Supreme head of the Church of England". A Treason Act was also passed that made it an offence to attempt by any means, including writing and speaking, to accuse the King and his heirs of heresy or tyranny. All subjects were ordered to take an oath accepting this. (108)
Sir Thomas More and John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, refused to take the oath and were imprisoned in the Tower of London. More was summoned before Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and Thomas Cromwell at Lambeth Palace. More was happy to swear that the children of Anne Boleyn could succeed to the throne, but he could not declare on oath that all the previous Acts of Parliament had been valid. He could not deny the authority of the pope "without the jeoparding of my soul to perpetual damnation." (109)
Elizabeth Barton was arrested and executed for prophesying the King's death within a month if he married Anne Boleyn. (110) Henry's daughter, Mary I, also refused to take the oath as it would mean renouncing her mother, Catherine of Aragon. On hearing this news, Anne Boleyn apparently said that the "cursed bastard" should be given "a good banging". Mary was only confined to her room and it was her servants who were sent to prison.
On 15th June, 1534, it was reported to Thomas Cromwell that the Observant Friars of Richmond refused to take the oath. Two days later two carts full of friars were hanged, drawn and quartered for denying the royal supremacy. A few days later a group of Carthusian monks were executed for the same offence. "They were chained upright to stakes and left to die, without food or water, wallowing in their own filth - a slow, ghastly death that left Londoners appalled". (111) Cromwell told More that the example he was setting was resulting in other men being executed. More responded: "I do nobody harm. I say none harm, I think none harm, but wish everybody good. And if this be not enough to keep a man alive, in good faith I long not to live." (112)
In April 1535 the priors of the Carthusian houses, in Charterhouse Priory in London, Axholme Priory in North Lincolnshire and Beauvale Priory in Nottinghamshire, refused to acknowledge the King to be the Head of the Church of England. They were hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn on 4th May. (113)
In May 1535, Pope Paul III created Bishop John Fisher a Cardinal. This infuriated Henry VIII and he ordered him to be executed on 22nd June at the age of seventy-six. A shocked public blamed Queen Anne for his death, and it was partly for this reason that news of the stillbirth of her child was suppressed as people might have seen this as a sign of God's will. Anne herself suffered pangs of conscience on the day of Fisher's execution and attended a mass for the "repose of his soul". (114)
Henry VIII decided it was time that Thomas More was tried for treason. The trial was held in Westminster Hall. More denied that he had ever said that the King was not Head of the Church, but claimed that he had always refused to answer the question, and that silence could never constitute an act of high treason. The prosecution cited the statement that he had made to Thomas Cromwell on 3rd June, where he argued that the Act of Supremacy was like a two-edged sword in requiring a man either to swear against his conscience or to suffer death for high treason. (115)
The verdict was never in doubt and Thomas More was convicted of treason. Lord Chancellor Thomas Audley"passed sentence of death - the full sentence required by law, that More was to be hanged, cut down while still living, castrated, his entrails cut out and burned before his eyes, and then beheaded. As he was being taken back to the Tower, Margaret Roper and his son John broke through the cordon of guards to embrace him. After he had bidden them farewell, as he moved away, Margaret ran back, again broke through the cordon, and embraced him again." (116)
Henry VIII commuted the sentence to death by the headsman's axe. On the night before his execution, Thomas More sent Margaret Roper his hairshirt, so that no one should see it on the scaffold and so that she could treasure that link that was a secret between the two of them. He wrote to her saying: "I long to go to God... I never liked your manner toward me better than when you kissed me last; for I love when daughterly love, and dear charity, hath no leisure to look to worldly courtesy. Farewell, my dear child, and pray for me, and I shall for you and all your friends, that we may merrily meet in Heaven." (117)
On 6th July, 1535, Thomas More was taken to Tower Hill. More told his executioner: "You will give me this day a greater benefit than ever any mortal man can be able to give me. Pluck up thy spirits, man, and be not afraid to do thine office. My neck is very short; take heed, therefore, thou strike not awry for saving of thine honesty." (118)
More's family were given the headless corpse and it was buried at the church of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London. Thomas More's head was boiled, as usual, to preserve it and to add terror to its appearance before exhibiting it. It was put on the pole on London Bridge which Fisher's head had occupied for the past fortnight. After a few days, Margaret Roper, his daughter, bribed a constable of the watch to take it down and give it to her. She hid the head in some place where no one found it. (119)
Rumours began to circulate that Catherine of Aragon and her daughter, Mary would be executed. The English ambassador in Spain reported that "people expected to hear every day of the execution of Queen Catherine, and that the Princess Mary was expected soon to follow." (120) However, by December 1535, Catherine was dangerously ill and any plans for her execution was postponed. She was suffering from severe pains in the chest and her physician doubted that she would recover.
Catherine of Aragon died at Kimbolton Castle on 7th January, 1536. She was just over fifty years old. Her doctor claimed that she had been suffering from "slow poisoning". Antonia Fraser dismisses the idea: "The deaths of prominent persons whose removal was thought to be rather too convenient for their enemies were generally accompanied by such suspicions. The charge is ludicrous... God was likely to carry off Catherine soon enough without extra help. There is also the question of the character of Henry VIII. He regarded poison with moral repugnance: it was alien to him. The axe and rope, wielded in public, not secret poison were the weapons of his authority against those who defied the royal will, preceded if possible by the culprits profound repentance at having crossed or betrayed him." (121)
Catherine was was buried at Peterborough Abbey on 29th January 1536. Ambassador Eustace Chapuys reported to King Charles V: "The King dressed entirely in yellow from head to foot, with the single exception of a white feather in his cap. His bastard daughter Elizabeth was triumphantly taken to church to the sounds of trumpets and with great display. Then, after dinner, the King went to the Hall where the Ladies were dancing, and there made great demonstrations of joy, and at last went to his own apartments, took the little bastard in his arms, and began to show her first to one, then to another, and did the same on the following days." (122)
As Vicar-General, the King's deputy as Supreme Head of the Church, Thomas Cromwell attempted to persuade Church leaders to give their full support to Henry. He sent a letter to all the bishops ordering them to preach in support of the supremacy, and to ensure that the clergy in their dioceses did so as well. A week later he sent further letters to Justices of Peace ordering them to report any instances of his instructions being disobeyed. In the following month he turned his attention to the monasteries. In September 1535 he suspended the authority of every bishop in the country so that the six canon lawyers he had appointed as his agents could complete their surveys of the monasteries. (123)
Cromwell provided his agents with eighty-six questions. This included: "Whether the divine service was kept up, day and night, in the right hours?"; "Whether they (monks) kept company with women, within or without the monastery?"; "Whether they had any boys lying by them?; "Whether any of the brethren were incorrigible?" "Whether you do wear your religious habit continually, and never leave it off but when you go to bed?" (124)
The survey revealed that the total annual income of all the monasteries was about £165,500. The eleven thousand monks and nuns in this institutions also controlled about a quarter of all the cultivated land in England. The six lawyers provided detailed reports on the monasteries. According to David Starkey: "Their subsequent reports concentrated on two areas: the sexual failings of the monks, on which subject the visitors managed to combine intense disapproval with lip-smacking detail, and the false miracles and relics, of which they gave equally gloating accounts." (125)
Cromwell was shocked when the reports came back. It was claimed that William Thirsk, the abbot of Fountains Abbey was guilty of "theft and sacrilege, stealing and selling the valuables of the abbey and wasting the wood, cattle, etc of the estates". He was also claimed that he kept "six whores". The canons of Leicester Abbey were accused of homosexuality. The prior of Crutched Friars was found in bed with a woman at eleven o'clock on a Friday morning. The abbot of West Langdon Abbey was described as the "drunkenest knave living." (126)
Nuns were also criticised in these reports. The agent who visited the Lampley Nunnery claimed that "Mariana Wryte had given birth three times, and Johanna Snaden, six". At the religious house in Lichfield "two of the nuns were with child". Elizabeth Shelly, the Benedictine Abbess of St Mary's Abbey and Christabel Cowper, Benedictine Prioress of Marrick Priory, both received good reports but forty-three nunneries, more than one third of the whole, were threatened with being closed. (127)
Thomas Cromwell's first reaction to the reports was to remove the person in charge of the monastery. For example, when the prior of Winchester Cathedral Priory resigned, the visitor, Thomas Parry, suggested he should be replaced by William Basing, a monk of the house of the "better sort", as his replacement. Cromwell was aware that Basing was a reformer who "favoured the truth" and acted upon his advice.
William Thirsk, the abbot of Fountains Abbey was replaced by Marmaduke Bradley who was a "right apt man" for the post. However, Cromwell had difficulty finding enough monks committed to reform, to take over the running of the monasteries. As David Loades has pointed out: "Cromwell's policy towards religious houses underwent a subtle shift of emphasis. From trying to make sure that abbots and priors of a reforming disposition were appointed, he now began to seek for those who would make no difficulty about surrendering their responsibilities. Admittedly these were often the same men, because the task of converting obstinately conservative monks and friars not only proved uncongenial but usually impossible, and those religious of a reforming turn of mind were often the first to seek escape from the imprisonment of their orders." (128)
A Parliament was called in February 1536 to discuss these reports. Initially Henry VIII wanted the closure of monasteries to be done on an individual basis. However, Thomas Cromwell managed to persuade him that it would be better done by Act of Parliament. This would help to unite the country behind the king against the Church. The legislation stated: "the manifest sin, vicious carnal and abominable living is daily used and committed amongst the little and small abbeys, priories and other religious houses of monks canons and nuns where the congregation of such religious persons is under the number of 12 persons." (129)
When the issue was discussed in the House of Lords, the Lutherians, led by Hugh Latimer, recently appointed as the Bishop of Worcester, supported the measure to close the smaller monasteries. Latimer later recalled that when "when their enormities were first read in the parliament house, they were so great and abominable that there was nothing but down with them". (130) The Act for the Dissolution of Monasteries was passed and received royal assent on 14th April. This stated that all religious houses with an annual income of less than £200 were to be "suppressed". (131)
Three out of ten religious houses were closed by the 1536 Act. All precious metals, all altar furnishings and other high-value items such as bells and roofing lead, became the property of the Crown. Royal commissioners arranged for monks and nuns were relocated to religious houses that remained open. They also sold household goods and farm stock and installed new occupiers as Crown tenants. It has been claimed "that the prime interest of the government in the Dissolution was, from start to finish, in the money that could be raised." (132)
Monastery land was seized and sold off cheaply to nobles and merchants. They in turn sold some of the lands to smaller farmers. This process meant that a large number of people had good reason to support the monasteries being closed. Thomas Fuller, the author of The Church History of Britain: Volume IV (1845) has argued that dissolution of the monasteries was of great personal benefit to Thomas Cromwell, Lord Chancellor Thomas Audley, Solicitor-General Richard Rich and Richard Southwell. (133)
Unfortunately for Anne Boleyn she fell out with one of her main supporters, Thomas Cromwell. As Eric William Ives has pointed out: " The fundamental reason for this was disagreement over the assets of the monasteries: Anne's support for the redeployment of monastic resources directly contradicted Cromwell's intention to put the proceeds of the dissolution into the king's coffers. The bill dissolving the smaller monasteries had passed both houses of parliament in mid-March, but before the royal assent was given Anne launched her chaplains on a dramatic preaching campaign to modify royal policy.... Cromwell was pilloried before the whole council as an evil and greedy royal adviser from the Old Testament, and specifically identified as the queen's enemy. Nor could the minister shrug off this declaration of war, even though, in spite of Anne's efforts, the dissolution act became law." (134)
Henry VIII continued to try to produce a male heir. Anne Boleyn had two miscarriages and was pregnant again when she discovered Jane Seymour sitting on her husband's lap. Anne "burst into furious denunciation; the rage brought on a premature labour and was delivered of a dead boy." (135) What is more, the baby was badly deformed. (136) This was a serious matter because in Tudor times Christians believed that a deformed child was God's way of punishing parents for committing serious sins. Henry VIII feared that people might think that the Pope Clement VII was right when he claimed that God was angry because Henry had divorced Catherine and married Anne.
Henry now approached Thomas Cromwell about how he could get out of his marriage with Anne. He suggested that one solution to this problem was to claim that he was not the father of this deformed child. On the king's instruction Cromwell was ordered to find out the name of the man who was the true father of the dead child. Philippa Jones has pointed out: "Cromwell was careful that the charge should stipulate that Anne Boleyn had only been unfaithful to the King after the Princess Elizabeth's birth in 1533. Henry wanted Elizabeth to be acknowledged as his daughter, but at the same time he wanted her removed from any future claim to the succession." (137)
In April 1536, a Flemish musician in Anne's service named Mark Smeaton was arrested. He initially denied being the Queen's lover but later confessed, perhaps tortured or promised freedom. Another courtier, Henry Norris, was arrested on 1st May. Sir Francis Weston was arrested two days later on the same charge, as was William Brereton, a Groom of the King's Privy Chamber. Anne's brother, George Boleyn was also arrested and charged with incest. (138)
Anne Boleyn was arrested and was taken to the Tower of London on 2nd May, 1536. Four of the accused men were tried in Westminster ten days later. Smeaton pleaded guilty but Weston, Brereton, and Norris maintained their innocence Three days later, Anne and George Boleyn were tried separately in the Tower of London. She was accused of enticing five men to have illicit relations with her. Adultery committed by a queen was considered to be an act of high treason because it had implications for the succession to the throne. All were found guilty and condemned to death. The men were executed on 17th May.
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer declared Anne's marriage to Henry null and void on 17th May 1536, and according to the imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, the grounds for the annulment included the king's previous relationship with Mary Boleyn. However, this information has never been confirmed. (139)
Anne went to the scaffold at Tower Green on 19th May, 1536. The Lieutenant of the Tower reported her as alternately weeping and laughing. The Lieutenant assured her she would feel no pain, and she accepted his assurance. "I have a little neck," she said, and putting her hand round it, she shrieked with laughter. The "hangman of Calais" had been brought from France at a cost of £24 since he was a expert with a sword. This was a favour to the victim since a sword was usually more efficient than "an axe that could sometimes mean a hideously long-drawn-out affair." (140)
Anne Boyleyn's last words were: "Good Christian people... according to the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it... I pray God save the King, and send him long to reign over you... for to me he was always a good, a gentle, and sovereign Lord." (141)
When her mother was executed Elizabeth was only three years old. Patrick Collinson has argued: "Elizabeth can have had few memories of her mother... There is no profit in speculating about the psychological damage which Anne's terrible end might have had on her daughter, although many of Elizabeth's biographers have found significance in the fact that she never in adult life invoked or otherwise referred to her mother." (142)
Antonia Fraser, the author of The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) has pointed out: "Jane Seymour was exactly the kind of female praised by the contemporary handbooks to correct conduct; just as Anne Boleyn had been the sort they warned against. There was certainly no threatening sexuality about her. Nor is it necessary to believe that her virtue was in some way hypocritically assumed, in order to intrigue the King. On the contrary, Jane Seymour was simply fulfilling the expectations for a female of her time and class; it was Anne Boleyn who was - or rather who had been - the fascinating outsider." (143)
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer issued a dispensation from prohibitions of affinity for Jane Seymour to marry Henry the day of Anne's execution, because they were fifth cousins. The couple were betrothed the following day, and a private marriage took place on 30th May 1536. Coming as it did after the death of Catherine of Aragon and the execution of Anne Boleyn, there could be no doubt of the lawfulness of Henry's marriage to Jane. The new queen was introduced at court in June. "No coronation followed the wedding, and plans for an autumn coronation were laid aside because of an outbreak of plague at Westminster; Jane's pregnancy undoubtedly eliminated any possibility of a later coronation." (144)
Historians have claimed that Jane Seymour treated Henry's first daughter, Mary, with respect. "One of Jane's first requests of the King was that Mary be allowed to attend her, which Henry was pleased to allow. Mary was chosen to sit at the table opposite the King and Queen and to hand Jane her napkin at meals when she washed her hands. For one who had been banished to sit with the servants at Hatfield, this was an obvious sign of her restoration to the King's good graces. Jane was often seen walking hand-in-hand with Mary, making sure that they passed through the door together, a public acknowledgement that Mary was back in favour." (145) In August, 1536 Ambassador Eustace Chapuys reported to King Charles V that "the treatment of the princess Mary is every day improving. She never did enjoy such liberty as she does now." (146)
Jane Seymour gave birth to a boy on 12th October 1537 after a difficult labour that lasted two days and three nights. The child was named Edward, after his great-grandfather and because it was the eve of the Feast of St Edward. It was said that the King wept as he took the baby son in his arms. At the age of forty-six, he had achieved his dream. "God had spoken and blessed this marriage with an heir male, nearly thirty years after he had first embarked on matrimony." (147)
Edward was christened when he was three days old, and both his sisters played a part in this important occasion. In the great procession which took the baby from the mother's bed-chamber to the chapel, Elizabeth carried the chrisom, the cloth in which the child was received after his immersion in the font. As she was only four years old, she herself was carried by the Queen's brother, Edward Seymour, the Earl of Hertford. Jane was well enough to receive guests after the christening. Edward was proclaimed prince of Wales, duke of Cornwall, and earl of Carnarvon.
On 17th October 1537 Jane Seymour became very ill. Most historians have assumed that she developed puerperal fever, something for which there was no effective treatment, though at the time the queen's attendants were blamed for allowing her to eat unsuitable food and to take cold. An alternative medical opinion suggests that Jane died because of retention of parts of the placenta in her uterus. That condition could have led to a haemorrhage several days after delivery of the child. What is certain is that septicaemia developed, and she became delirious. Jane died just before midnight on 24th October, aged twenty-eight. (148)
In July 1536 Eustace Chapuys reported that legions of monks, nuns and the servants employed in the suppressed religious houses, were roaming the countryside, homeless and penniless, begging for relief. He had been told that there were as many as 20,000 of them seeking help. (149) Most historians believe that this figure is too high but there is no doubt that closing down the monasteries increased the number of people wandering around the country looking for work. These people were classed as "vagabonds".
Parliament passed several acts against vagabonds. Persons who were too old or ill to work could apply to a local JP for a licence to beg; but any vagabond who begged without a licence was to be severely punished. If any able-bodied man or woman, who did not own land or carry on a recognised profession or was a trader in merchandise, was found outside his native parish and could not account for his presence there, the local JP was to send him to the nearest market town, where he was to be tied naked to the end of a cart and beaten with a whip. (150)
Unemployment was a serious problem during this period. When large landowners changed from arable to sheep farming, unemployment increased rapidly. The closing down of the monasteries in the 1530s created even more unemployment. As the monasteries had also helped provide food for the poor, this added to the problem. More and more people left their villages to look for work. (151)
In 1536 Parliament passed a new act to deal with vagabonds. For a second offence a vagabond was not only whipped but also had to have a part of his ear cut off. For the third offence, he was to be hanged. People found guilty of murder, rape, sodomy, arson, robbery, theft, forgery and coining were also hanged. People found guilty of treason were hanged, castrated, disembowelled, beheaded and quartered. The punishment for poisoners was to be boiled alive. According to the historian, Raphael Holinshed, who wrote twenty-five years after Henry's death, 72,000 thieves and vagabonds were hanged during his reign. (152)
Jasper Ridley has commented: "Many letters have survived from judges and government officials which give the number of malefactors executed after a recent assize or quarter sessions - some of them for high treason or murder, but the great majority for theft. The figures usually vary from six or eight to twelve or fourteen. If an average of ten persons were hanged at every session, this means that forty a year would be hanged in every county, which means 1,600 a year in the forty counties of England, even if we disregard Wales, where different circumstances prevailed. This would amount to about 60,000 during the thirty-eight years of Henry's reign. It is over 2 per cent of the 2,800,000 inhabitants of England, which equals the proportion of the 6,000,000 Jews exterminated by Hitler, who constituted 2 per cent of the population of occupied Europe, though it falls short of the 10,000,000 Russians who are said to have been put to death under Stalin's regime - more than 5 per cent of the population of the USSR." (153)
Henry VIII's illegitimate son, Henry FitzRoy, was granted the title the Duke of Richmond. When he was fourteen, he married Mary Howard. Their marriage was never consummated. It has been suggested by Antonia Fraser that " no doubt it was thought that the act would prove too taxing" for a young man in poor health. (154)
Henry VIII continued to use his son for diplomatic mission and hosted various feasts in honour of important foreign visitors. Henry was also present at the execution of the Observant Friars of Richmond when two carts full of friars were hanged, drawn and quartered for denying the royal supremacy. (155)
Henry FitzRoy enjoyed a good relationship with his father. According to his biographer, Beverley A Murphy: "The terms of the 1536 Succession Act renewed interest in the possibility of Richmond's succeeding his father. In many respects he was an ideal candidate. Widely reported to be as intelligent, articulate, and as athletic as his father, the danger of a minority was fast receding. His relationship with Henry VIII was consistently good. Numerous gifts and letters were indications of a genuine affection between them." (156)
Henry FitzRoy died suddenly on 22nd July 1536. Some historians have argued that he had been in poor health for sometime and died of tuberculosis. (157) Others disagree with this interpretation and Philippa Jones has suggested "the secrecy and speed of his burial might be due to the fact that he died, or was suspected of having died of pneumonic plague". She adds that the "main symptoms of this are fever, headache, weakness and rapidly developing pneumonia with shortness of breath, chest pain and coughing, all symptoms that Richmond showed before his death". (158)
Kelly Hart claims that Henry was inconsolable on his death and ordered the quick and private funeral because he wanted his "dead son's corpse taken far away from him". (159) Beverley A Murphy admits that it seems the intention was to attract as little notice as possible to the death. The wooden coffin was hidden in straw and taken in secret to be quietly laid to rest some distance from the capital and he was buried at Thetford Priory. (160)
The author of The Other Tudors: Henry VIII's Mistresses and Bastards (2010) puts forward another possibility. Did Henry VIII discover that Henry FitzRoy was involved in a conspiracy against him. "It would not be the first time an heir decided not to wait for his inheritance, and the affair could have been triggered by Jane Seymour's pregnancy. A living, lawful male child would have put Richmond firmly out of contention for the throne." (161)
On 28th September 1536, the King's commissioners for the suppression of monasteries arrived to take possession of Hexham Abbey and eject the monks. They found the abbey gates locked and barricaded. "A monk appeared on the roof of the abbey, dressed in armour; he said that there were twenty brothers in the abbey armed with guns and cannon, who would all die before the commissioners should take it." The commissioners retired to Corbridge, and informed Thomas Cromwell of what had happened. (162)
The following month disturbances took place at the market town of Louth in Lincolnshire. The rebels captured local officials and demanded the arrest of leading Church figures they considered to be heretics. This included Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and Bishop Hugh Latimer. They wrote a letter to Henry VIII claiming that they had taken this action because they were suffering from "extreme poverty". (163) Soon the whole of Lincolnshire was up in arms, but "the gentry promptly asserted their control over the movement, which might otherwise have got dangerously out of hand". (164)
Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk, was sent to Lincolnshire to deal with the rebels. In a age before a standing army, loyal forces were not easy to raise. (165) "Appointed the king's lieutenant to suppress the Lincolnshire rebels, he advanced fast from Suffolk to Stamford, gathering troops as he went; but by the time he was ready to fight, the rebels had disbanded. On 16th October he entered Lincoln and began to pacify the rest of the county, investigate the origins of the rising, and prevent the southward spread of the pilgrimage." (166)
A lawyer, Robert Aske, was travelling to London on 4th October when he was captured by a group of rebels involved in the uprising. (167) Aske agreed to use his talents as a lawyer to help the rebels. He wrote letters for them explaining their complaints. These letters insisted that their quarrel was not with the King or the nobility, but with the government of the realm, especially Thomas Cromwell. The historian, Geoffrey Moorhouse, has pointed out: "Robert Aske never wavered in his belief that a just and well-ordered society was based upon a due recognition of rank and privilege, starting with that of their anointed prince, Henry VIII." (168)
Aske now returned home and began to persuade people from Yorkshire to support the rebellion. People joined what became known as the Pilgrimage of Grace for a variety of different reasons. Derek Wilson, the author of A Tudor Tapestry: Men, Women & Society in Reformation England (1972) has argued: "It would be incorrect to view the rebellion in Yorkshire, the so-called Pilgrimage of Grace, as purely and simply an upsurge of militant piety on behalf of the old religion. Unpopular taxes, local and regional grievances, poor harvests as well as the attack on the monasteries and the Reformation legislation all contributed to the creation of a tense atmosphere in many parts of the country". (169)
Within a few days, 40,000 men had risen in the East Riding and were marching on York. (170) Aske called on his men to take an oath to join "our Pilgrimage of Grace" for "the commonwealth... the maintenance of God's Faith and Church militant, preservation of the King's person and issue, and purifying of the nobility of all villein's blood and evil counsellors, to the restitution of Christ's Church and suppression of heretics' opinions". (171) Aske published a declaration obliging "every man to be true to the king's issue, and the noble blood, and preserve the Church of God from spoiling". (172)
On 6th October, Thomas Darcy wrote to Henry VIII giving details of the uprising in his area. He told the King he did not have enough soldiers to resist the rebels and he would have to retire to Pontefract Castle. "Henry wrote to Darcy that he was surprised that he could do nothing more effective against the rebels, but assured him that he had no doubts as to his loyalty. Privately, Henry told his counsellors that he suspected that Darcy was a traitor." (173) Darcy realized he was outnumbered and thought it better to pacify the rebels rather than take them on in battle. Another reason for his defeatist views, according to Geoffrey Moorhouse, was his poor health: "He was now sixty-nine years old, suffering from a rupture he had incurred in one of Henry's French adventures and from a chronic bowel disorder, which may be why his humour has been described as grim." (174)
A. L. Morton has suggested that all the evidence indicates: "The Pilgrimage of Grace... was a reactionary, Catholic movement of the North, led by the still half-feudal nobility of that area and aimed against the Reformation and the dissolution of the monasteries. But if the leaders were nobles the mass character of the rising indicated a deep discontent and the rank and file were drawn in large measure from the dispossessed and from the threatened peasantry." (175)
On 11th October 1536, Robert Aske and his army arrived at Jervaulx Abbey. The abbot, Adam Sedbar, later recalled that the rebels wanted him to take the oath supporting the Pilgrimage of Grace. According to his biographer, Claire Cross: "With his own father and a boy, Sedbar fled to Witton Fell and remained there for four days. In his absence the rebels tried to persuade the convent to elect a new abbot, and in this extremity the monks prevailed upon him to return." (176)
At first Sedbar refused to take the oath but after being threatened with execution he agreed to join the rebellion. Geoffrey Moorhouse doubts this story and suggests that "Sedbar was in a much less supine mood than he admitted, confident enough of the popularity of this burgeoning cause". (177) Sedbar agreed that Aske's army could take control of the abbey's horses. He also travelled with them to Darlington where he spoke in favour of the rising.
Robert Aske and his rebels entered York on 16th October. It is estimated that Aske now led an army that numbered 20,000. (178) Aske made a speech where he pointed out "we have taken (this pilgrimage) for the preservation of Christ's church, of this realm of England, the King our sovereign lord, the nobility and commons of the same... the monasteries... in the north parts (they) gave great alms to poor men and laudably served God... and by occasion of the said suppression the divine in divine service of Almighty God is much diminished." (179)
Robert Aske arrived at Pontefract Castle on 20th October. After a short siege, Darcy, running short of supplies, surrendered the castle. Richard Hoyle has pointed out: "Darcy's actions are in fact perfectly plausible when taken at face value and especially when the Pilgrimage of Grace is seen as a widespread popular movement in opposition to expected and feared religious innovations. When disturbances broke out in Yorkshire, he sent the king a long and accurate assessment of the situation and sought reinforcements, money, supplies of munitions, and the authority to mobilize. On two further occasions he wrote at length describing a deteriorating situation. On all three occasions his information and advice were ignored... It was Aske's contention that Darcy could not have resisted a siege, but would have been killed if the commons had stormed the castle." (180)
Edward Lee, Archbishop of York, was sheltering in the castle. He had a reputation as a conservative and in the autumn of 1535 had written to Thomas Cromwell, complaining about the new radical preachers who were active in the region. He followed this up six months later with the suggestion that nobody should be allowed to preach unless they had been granted permission from Henry VIII. Lee had also complained about the plan to close Hexham Abbey. (181) Aske and his followers assumed that the archbishop sympathized with their aims for the restoration of the church's liberties and when he took the pilgrims' oath he was allowed to go free. (182)
After discussions with Aske, Thomas Darcy decided to join the Pilgrimage of Grace. He swore the oath presented to him by Aske. It included the following: "Ye shall not enter into this our Pilgrimage of Grace for the Commonwealth, but only for the love that ye do bear unto Almighty God, his faith, and to Holy Church militant and the maintenance thereof, to the preservation of the King's person and his issue, to the purifying of the nobility, and to expulse all villein blood and evil councillors against the commonwealth from his Grace and his Privy Council of the same. And ye shall not enter into our said Pilgrimage for no particular profit to your self, nor to do any displeasure to any private person, but by counsel of the commonwealth, nor slay nor murder for no envy, but in your hearts put away all fear and dread, and take afore you the Cross of Christ, and in your hearts His faith, the Restitution of the Church, the suppression of these Heretics and their opinions, by all the holy contents of this book." (183)
The oath made it clear that the rebels were loyal to Henry VIII and blamed the closing of the monasteries on the king's officials such as Vicar-General Thomas Cromwell, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, Bishop Hugh Latimer, Bishop Nicholas Ridley, Bishop Nicholas Shaxton, Lord Chancellor Thomas Audley and Solicitor-General Richard Rich. To followers of the Pilgrimage of Grace, these men were heretics and deserved to be burnt at the stake.
Robert Aske offered the leadership of the Pilgrimage of Grace to Thomas Darcy. He refused but agreed to provide soldiers for the cause. To show his commitment to the new allegiance, one of his first acts was to send the oath that he signed into Lancashire. He also arranged for flags to be made that included the religious insignia of the Five Wounds of Christ (it depicted a bleeding heart above a chalice, both being surrounded at the corners by the pierced hands and feet).
Sir Robert Constable, a veteran of the Flodden Field, was another significant member of the rebellion. It has been claimed by Christine M. Newman that he may have joined the Pilgrimage of Grace because of the influence of Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland. "Percy affinities undoubtedly played a part in the rebellion and this, to some extent, may have accounted for Constable's stance. Other factors, such as his increasing dissatisfaction with the aims of royal government, may also have played a part." (184)
Geoffrey Moorhouse believes that Constable's poor health (he had "perpetual gout") was a factor in his decision to join Robert Aske. Moorehouse argues that Constable and Thomas Darcy had made a strange decision: "In switching sides Constable, like Darcy, was putting himself under the command of a man half his age, from somewhere beneath him in the social scale and with no military experience whatsoever, whereas these two old sweats had spent long years of their lives fighting at home and abroad." (185)
By the end of October the rising had spread to Lancashire, Durham, Westmorland, Northumberland and Cumberland. The rebels arrived at Sawley Abbey, near Clitheroe, which had recently been closed down and the land leased to Sir Arthur Darcy. The man was evicted and the monks were invited to return. When he heard the news Henry instructed Henry Stanley, 4th Earl of Derby, to seize possession of the abbey, and hang the Abbot and the monks without trial. "They were to be hanged in their monks' habits, the Abbot and some of the chief monks on long pieces of timber protruding from the steeple, and the rest at suitable places in the surrounding villages. Derby explained to Henry that he did not have enough troops to carry out these orders in the face of the opposition of the whole countryside." (186)
Henry VIII summoned Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, out of retirement. Norfolk, although he was 63, was the country's best soldier. Norfolk was also the leading Roman Catholic and a strong opponent of Thomas Cromwell and it was hoped that he was a man who the rebels would trust. Norfolk was able to raise a large army but he had doubts about their reliability and suggested to the King that he should negotiate with Aske. (187)
Thomas Darcy, Robert Constable and Francis Bigod took part in negotiations with Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. He tried to persuade them and the other Yorkshire nobles and gentlemen to regain the King's favour by handing over Robert Aske. However, they refused and Norfolk returned to London and suggested to Henry that the best strategy was to offer a pardon to all the northern rebels. When the rebel army had dispersed the King could arrange for its leaders to be punished. Henry eventually took this advice and on 7th December, 1536, he granted a pardon to everyone north of Doncaster who had taken part in the rebellion. Henry also invited Aske to London to discuss the grievances of the people of Yorkshire. (188)
Robert Aske spent the Christmas holiday with Henry at Greenwich Palace. When they first met Henry told Aske: "Be you welcome, my good Aske; it is my wish that here, before my council, you ask what you desire and I will grant it." Aske replied: "Sir, your majesty allows yourself to be governed by a tyrant named Cromwell. Everyone knows that if it had not been for him the 7,000 poor priests I have in my company would not be ruined wanderers as they are now." Henry gave the impression that he agreed with Aske about Thomas Cromwell and asked him to prepare a history of the previous few months. To show his support he gave him a jacket of crimson silk. (189)
Following the agreement to disband the rebel army in December 1536, Francis Bigod began to fear that Henry VIII would seek revenge on its leaders. Bigod accused Robert Aske and Thomas Darcy of betraying the Pilgrimage of Grace. On 15th January 1537, Bigod launched another revolt. He assembled his small army with a plan to attack Hull. Aske agreed to return to Yorkshire and assemble his men to defeat Bigod. He then joined up with Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, and his army made up of 4,000 men. Bigod was easily defeated and after being captured on 10th February, 1537, was imprisoned in Carlisle Castle. (190)
On 24th March, Robert Aske, Thomas Darcy and Robert Constable were asked by the Duke of Norfolk to return to London in order to have a meeting with Henry VIII. They were told that the King wanted to thank them for helping to put down the Bigod rebellion. On their arrival they were all arrested and sent to the Tower of London. (191)
Aske was charged with renewed conspiracy after the pardon. (192) Thomas Cromwell had kept a very low profile during the Pilgrimage of Grace but there is no reason to suppose that he lost his place as the king's right-hand man. (193) However, he now conducted the examination of Robert Aske on 11th May. Robert Aske was asked a total of 107 written questions. Geoffrey Moorhouse claims that Aske made no attempt to hide his early involvement in the Pilgrimage of Grace: "The most striking thing about all of Robert Aske's testimony is how very straightforward he was, especially for one in such a predicament as his. It was as though he was not only incapable of telling a lie but even of obfuscating the truth." (194)
When news reached John Bulmer and Margaret Cheyney in Lastingham about the arrest of Aske and Darcy, they discussed the possibility of Bulmer fleeing to Scotland. Their parish priest later recalled that if Bulmer left the country on his own she "feared that she should be parted from him forever". Apparently he stated "Pretty Peg, I will never forsake thee." According to Geoffrey Moorhouse: "Others heard him say that he would rather be put on the rack than be parted from his wife. For her part, she vowed that she would rather be torn to pieces than go to London, and she begged him to get a ship that would take them and their three-month-old son to the safety of Scotland." (195)
The government later claimed that Margaret suggested that John Bulmer should start another uprising. It was said "she enticed Sir John Bulmer to raise the commons again" and that "Margaret counselled him to flee the realm (if the commons would not rise) than that he and she should be parted". John Bulmer then contacted several local landowners to discuss his plans. At least two of the men approached, Thomas Francke and Gregory Conyers, told Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk about the planned uprising by Bulmer. (196)
John Bulmer and Margaret Cheyney were arrested in early April, 1537. They were taken to London and were tortured. "We have no record of Margaret's confession, either, though it was doubtless extracted, but Bulmer refused to say anything in his that would implicate her and he pleaded guilty to the treason charge, possibly in the forlorn hope that this would exonerate her. Both of them, in fact, originally pleaded not guilty before changing their minds while the jury was actually considering its verdict and one view is that they did so because they had been promised the King's mercy if they admitted their guilt. Bulmer referred to Cheyney as his wife and nothing else right up to the end, much to the irritation of his accusers and the judge." (197)
Thomas Darcy was tried in Westminster Hall. During his trial he accused Thomas Cromwell of being responsible for the Pilgrimage of Grace: "Cromwell it is thou that art the very original and chief causer of this rebellion and mischief, and art likewise causer of the apprehension of us that be noble men and dost daily earnestly travail to bring us to our end and to strike off our heads." (198)
Despite his spirited defence he was found guilty of treason on 15th May. Henry VIII wanted Thomas Darcy to be executed in Doncaster. However, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, told the King that as Darcy was a popular figure in the area this act might start another uprising. Henry was persuaded to have Darcy executed at Tower Hill instead. This was carried out on 30th June 1537 and Darcy's head was displayed on London Bridge. (199) Darcy's biographer, Richard Hoyle, has pointed out: "It was later claimed that Darcy had been found guilty only because Sir Thomas Cromwell, principal secretary, led the peers trying him and persuaded them to believe that he would be pardoned by the king." (200) Robert Constable was taken to Hull to be executed. (201)
Thomas Cromwell managed to obtain statements from some of the prisoners that implicated Robert Aske in the Sir Francis Bigod rebellion. Cromwell also found a letter signed by Aske and Darcy that called on people not to join Bigod but to remain in their homes. Cromwell argued that by urging them to stay in their homes, they were by implication telling them not to join the King's forces and not to assist in the suppression of the rising. This, according to Cromwell, this was treason.
Aske was found guilty of high treason and sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. Henry VIII insisted that the punishment should be carried out in York where the uprising began so that the local people could see what happens to traitors. Market day had been chosen for the execution. On 12th July, 1537, Aske was tied to a hurdle and dragged through the streets of the city. He was taken to the high upon the mound on which Clifford's Tower stood. On the scaffold Aske asked for forgiveness. Aske was hanged, almost to the point of death, revived, castrated, disembowelled, beheaded and quartered (his body was chopped into four pieces). (202)
It is estimated that about 200 people were executed for their part in the Pilgrimage of Grace. This included Robert Aske, Thomas Darcy, Francis Bigod, Robert Constable, John Bulmer and Margaret Cheyney. The heads of two of the largest religious houses, Abbot William Thirsk of Fountains Abbey and Abbot Adam Sedbar of Jervaulx Abbey, were also put to death. However, others like Edward Lee, the Archbishop of York, who had signed the oath, was spared.
As Jasper Ridley, the author of Henry VIII (1984) has pointed out: "Nearly all the noblemen and gentlemen of Yorkshire had joined the Pilgrimage of Grace in the autumn. Henry could not execute them all. He divided them, somewhat arbitrarily, into two groups - those who were to be forgiven and restored to office and favour, and those who were to be executed on framed-up charges of having committed fresh acts of rebellion after the general pardon. Archbishop Lee, Lord Scrope, Lord Latimer, Sir Robert Bowes, Sir Ralph Ellerker and Sir Marmaduke Constable continued to serve as Henry's loyal servants." (203)
Thomas Cromwell was determined to remove all those religious leaders who he suspected of being supporters of the Pilgrimage of Grace. In the winter of 1537 Cromwell sent out his commissioners to discover the loyalty of the people who were running the remaining monasteries. The commissioners relied heavily on information from local people. William Sherburne, a former friar, accused Robert Hobbes of being a supporter of the rebels. Hobbes was interviewed and he refused to recant: "Hobbes held firm, although in some places it is difficult to establish an exact meaning from the long and rambling depositions of a man physically ill from strangury, and to disentangle apologies for bluntness of speech from repentance on points of principle. It is certain, however, that to the very end he remained opposed to the suppression of the monasteries, the distribution of ‘wretched heretic books’ by Cromwell, and the royal divorce, all sufficient to make his conviction a formality. Indeed, he confessed his offences and offered no defence." Robert Hobbes was hanged, drawn, and quartered outside the abbey and its land and property was given to the Crown. (204)
Richard Whiting, the Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey survived this investigation. Cromwell sent his agents back the following year. This time they were more critical of Wilding's leadership. They identified divisions among the monks, especially between the older and younger ones, and that the abbot had his favourites in the community. Whiting was also accused of spending too much away from the monastery and living at his manors of Sturminster Newton in Dorset and Ashbury in Berkshire. (205)
On 19th September 1539, Richard Layton, Thomas Moyle, and Richard Pollard arrived at the abbey without warning. (206) They were not convinced about Whiting's answers and he was sent to the Tower of London. They discovered a book condemning Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine of Aragon. They also discovered evidence that Whiting hid a number of precious objects from Cromwell's agents. The commissioners wrote to Cromwell claiming that they had now come to the knowledge of "divers (many) and sundry treasons committed by the Abbot of Glastonbury". (207)
Whiting was sent back to Somerset in the care of Richard Pollard and reached Wells on 14 November. "Here some sort of trial apparently took place, and next day, Saturday, 15th November, he was taken to Glastonbury with two of his monks, Dom John Thorne and Dom Roger James, where all three were fastened upon hurdles and dragged by horses to the top of Toe Hill which overlooks the town. Here they were hanged, drawn and quartered, Abbot Whiting's head being fastened over the gate of the now deserted abbey and his limbs exposed at Wells, Bath, Ilchester and Bridgewater." (208) The heads of two other large houses at Colchester Abbey and Reading Abbey were also executed in 1539. (209)
Since the death of Jane Seymour, Henry had shown little interest in finding a fourth wife. One of the reasons is that he was suffering from impotence. Anne Boleyn had complained about this problem to George Boleyn as early as 1533. His general health was also poor and he was probably suffering from diabetes and Cushings Syndrome. Now in his late 40s he was also obese. His armour from that period reveals that he measured 48 inches around the middle. (210)
However, when Thomas Cromwell told him that he should consider finding another wife for diplomatic reasons, Henry agreed. "Suffering from intermittent and unsatisfied lust, and keenly aware of his advancing age and copulence" he thought that a new young woman in his life might bring back the vitality of his youth. (211) As Antonia Fraser has pointed out: "In 1538 Henry VIII wanted - no, he expected - to be diverted, entertained and excited. It would be the responsibility of his wife to see that he felt like playing the cavalier and indulging in such amorous gallantries as had amused him in the past." (212)
Cromwell's first choice was Marie de Guise, a young widow who had already produced a son. Aged only 22 she had been married to Louis, Duke of Longueville before his early death in June 1537. He liked the reports that he received that she was a tall woman. He was "big in person" and he had need of "a big wife". In January 1538 he sent a ambassador to see her. (213) When Marie was told that Henry found her size attractive she is reported to have replied that she might be a big woman, but she had a very little neck. Marie rejected the proposal and married King James V of Scotland on 9th May 1538. (214)
The next candidate was Christina of Denmark, the sixteen-year-old widowed Duchess of Milan. She married Francesco II Sforza, the Duke of Milan at the age of twelve. However, he died the following year. Christina was very well connected. Her father was the former King Christian II of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Her mother, Isabella of Austria, was the sister of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Henry VIII received a promising report from John Hutton. "She is not pure white as (Jane Seymour) but she hath a singular good contenance, and, when she chanceth to smile there appeareth two pits in her cheeks, and one in her chin, the witch becometh her right excellently well." He also compared her to Margaret Shelton, one of Henry's former mistresses. (215)
Impressed by Hutton's description, Henry VIII sent Hans Holbein to paint her. He arrived in Brussels on 10th March 1538 and the following day sat for the portrait for three hours wearing mourning dress. However, Christina was disturbed by Henry's treatment of Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn and apparently told Thomas Wriothesley, "If I had two heads, one should be at the King of England's disposal." (216) Wriothesley told Cromwell that he should look for a bride "in some such other place". Henry was very disappointed as he loved the painting and looked at it on a regular basis. (217)
In 1539 Thomas Cromwell sent Robert Barnes to Copenhagen to discuss Anglo-Danish relations, in particular the prospect of an anti-papal alliance that might involve Henry VIII marrying Anne of Cleves, the daughter of John III. (218) He thought this would make it possible to form an alliance with the Protestants in Saxony. An alliance with the non-aligned north European states would be undeniably valuable, especially as Charles V of Spain and François I of France had signed a new treaty on 12th January 1539. (219)
As David Loades has pointed out: "Cleves was a significant complex of territories, strategically well placed on the lower Rhine. In the early fifteenth century it had absorbed the neighbouring country of Mark, and in 1521 the marriage of Duke John III had amalgamated Cleves-Mark with Julich-Berg to create a state with considerable resources... Thomas Cromwell was the main promoter of the scheme, and with his eye firmly on England's international position, its attractions became greater with every month that passed." (220)
John III died on 6th February, 1539. He was replaced by Anne's brother, Duke William. In March, Nicholas Wotton, began the negotiations at Cleves. He reported to Thomas Cromwell that "she (Anne of Cleves) occupieth her time most with the needle... She can read and write her own language but of French, Latin or other language she hath none... she cannot sing, nor play any instrument, for they take it here in Germany for a rebuke and an occasion of lightness that great ladies should be learned or have any knowledge of music." (221)
Cromwell was desperate for the marriage to take place but was aware that Wotton's reported revealed some serious problems. The couple did not share a common language. Henry VIII could speak in English, French and Latin but not in German. Wotton also pointed out that she "had none of the social skills so prized at the English court: she could not play a musical instrument or sing - she came from a culture that looked down on the lavish celebrations and light-heartedness that were an integral part of King Henry's court". (222)
Wotton was frustrated by the stalling tactics of William. Eventually he signed a treaty in which the Duke granted Anne a dowry of 100,000 gold florins. (220c) (14) However, Henry refused to marry Anne until he had seen a picture of her. Hans Holbein arrived in April and requested permission to paint Anne's portrait. The 23-year-old William, held Puritan views and had strong ideas about feminine modesty and insisted that his sister covered up her face and body in the company of men. He refused to allow her to be painted by Holbein. After a couple of days he said he was willing to have his sister painted but only by his own court painter, Lucas Cranach. (223)
Henry was unwilling to accept this plan as he did not trust Cranach to produce an accurate portrait. Further negotiations took place and Henry suggested he would be willing to marry Anne without a dowry if her portrait, painted by Holbein pleased him. Duke William was short of money and agreed that Holbein should paint her picture. He painted her portrait on parchment, to make it easier to transport in back to England. Nicholas Wotton, Henry's envoy watched the portrait being painted and claimed that it was an accurate representation. (224)
Holbein's biographer, Derek Wilson, argues that he was in a very difficult position. He wanted to please Thomas Cromwell but did not want to upset Henry VIII: "If ever the artist was nervous about the reception of a portrait he must have been particularly anxious about this one... He had to do what he could to sound a note of caution. That meant that he was obliged to express his doubts in the painting. If we study the portrait of Anne of Cleves we are struck by an oddity of composition.... Everything in it is perfectly balanced: it might almost be a study in symmetry - except for the jewelled bands on Anne's skirt. The one on her left is not complemented by another on the right. Furthermore, her right hand and the fall of her left under-sleeve draw attention to the discrepancy. This sends a signal to the viewer that, despite the elaborateness of the costume, there is something amiss, a certain clumsiness... Holbein intended giving the broadest hint he dared to the king. Henry would not ask his opinion about his intended bride, and the painter certainly could not venture it. Therefore he communicated unpalatable truth through his art. He could do no more." (225)
Unfortunately, Henry VIII did not understand this coded message. As Alison Weir, the author of The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2007) has pointed out, the painting convinced Henry to marry Anne. "Anne smiles out demurely from an ivory frame carved to resemble a Tudor rose. Her complexion is clear, her gaze steady, her face delicately attractive. She wears a head-dress in the Dutch style which conceals her hair, and a gown with a heavily bejewelled bodice. Everything about Anne's portrait proclaimed her dignity, breeding and virtue, and when Henry VIII saw it, he made up his mind at once that this was the woman he wanted to marry." (226)
Anne of Cleves arrived at Dover on 27th December 1539. She was taken to Rochester Castle and on 1st January, Sir Anthony Browne, Henry's Master of the Horse, arrived from London. At the time Anne was watching bull-baiting from the window. He later recalled that the moment he saw Anne he was "struck with dismay". Henry arrived at the same time but was in disguise. He was also very disappointed and retreated into another room. According to Thomas Wriothesley when Henry reappeared they "talked lovingly together". However, afterwards he was heard to say, "I like her not". (227)
The French ambassador, Charles de Marillac, described Anne as looking about thirty (she was in fact twenty-four), tall and thin, of middling beauty, with a determined and resolute countenance". He also commented that her face was "pitted with the smallpox" and although he admitted there was some show of vivacity in her expression, he considered it "insufficient to counterbalance her want of beauty". (228) Antonia Fraser has argued that Holbein's painting was indeed accurate and Henry's reaction is best explained by the nature of erotic attraction. "The King had been expecting a lovely young bride, and the delay had merely contributed to his desire. He saw someone who, to put it crudely, aroused in him no erotic excitement whatsoever." (229)
Henry VIII asked Thomas Cromwell to cancel the wedding treaty. He replied that this would cause serious political problems. Henry married Anne of Cleves on 6th January 1540. He complained bitterly about his wedding night. Henry told Thomas Heneage that he disliked the "looseness of her breasts" and was not able to do "what a man should do to his wife".
Two of her ladies-in-waiting, Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, and Eleanor Manners, Countess of Rutland, asked Anne about her relationship with her husband. It became clear that she had not received any sex education. "When the King comes to bed he kisses me and taketh me by the hand, and biddeth me good night... In the morning he kisses me, and biddeth me, farewell. Is not this enough?" She enquired innocently." Further questioning revealed that she was completely unaware of what had been expected of her. (230)
Henry VIII was angry with Thomas Cromwell for arranging the marriage with Anne of Cleves. The conservatives, led by Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, saw this as an opportunity to remove him from power. Gardiner considered Cromwell a heretic for introducing the Bible in the native tongue. He also opposed the way Cromwell had attacked the monasteries and the religious shrines. Gardiner pointed out to the King that it was Cromwell who had allowed radical preachers such as Robert Barnes to return to England.
David Loades, insists that Cromwell was not a Lutheran: "He agreed with Luther on the need for vernacular scriptures, but remained ambivalent on the central Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith alone. The best general description of his beliefs is that they were Erasmian or Evangelical." However, this did bring him into conflict with people such as Bishop Gardiner. Cromwell had also protected Evangelical preachers such as Hugh Latimer, and had played an important role in persuading Henry to accept an English translation of the Bible." (231)
Barnes was clearly in danger but on 28th February, 1540, he made a serious mistake by preaching a sermon attacking Bishop Gardiner. On 5th March, Barnes was summoned to appear before Henry VIII and Gardiner. Barnes begged forgiveness but continued to preach against the religious conservatives. On 3rd April, he was arrested along with two of his followers, Thomas Garrard, and William Jerome, and taken to the Tower of London. (232)
Thomas Cromwell retaliated by arresting Richard Sampson, Bishop of Chichester and Nicholas Wotton, staunch conservatives in religious matters. He then began negotiating the release of Barnes. However, this was unsuccessful and it was now clear that Cromwell was in serious danger. (233) The French ambassador reported on 10th April, 1540, that Cromwell was "tottering" and began speculating about who would succeed to his offices. Although he resigned the duties of the secretaryship to his protégés Ralph Sadler and Thomas Wriothesley he did not lose his power and on 18th April the King granted him the earldom of Essex.
Quarrels in the Privy Council continued and Charles de Marillac reported to François I on 1st June, 1540, that "things are brought to such a pass that either Cromwell's party or that of the Bishop of Winchester must succumb". On 10th June, Cromwell arrived slightly late for a meeting of the Privy Council. Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, shouted out, "Cromwell! Do not sit there! That is no place for you! Traitors do not sit among gentlemen." The captain of the guard came forward and arrested him. Cromwell was charged with treason and heresy. Norfolk went over and ripped the chains of authority from his neck, "relishing the opportunity to restore this low-born man to his former status". Cromwell was led out through a side door which opened down onto the river and taken by boat the short journey from Westminster to the Tower of London. (234)
On 12th June, Thomas Cranmer wrote a letter to Henry VIII saying he was amazed that such a good servant of the king should be found to have committed treason. He pointed out that he had shown "wisdom, diligence, faithfulness and experience as no prince in the realm ever had". Cranmer told Henry that he loved Cromwell as a friend, "but I chiefly loved him for the love which I thought I saw him bear ever towards your grace singularly above all others. But now if he be a traitor, I am sorry that ever I loved him or trusted him, and I am very glad that his treason has been discovered in time. But yet again I am very sorrowful, for whom should your grace trust hereafter." (235)
Thomas Cromwell was convicted by Parliament of treason and heresy on 29th June and sentenced him to be hung, drawn and quartered. He wrote to Henry VIII soon afterwards and admitted "I have meddled in so many matters under your Highness that I am not able to answer them all". He finished the letter with the plea, "Most gracious prince I cry for mercy, mercy, mercy." Henry commuted the sentence to decapitation, even though the condemned man was of lowly birth. (236)
On 28th July, 1540, Cromwell walked out onto Tower Green for his execution. In his speech from the scaffold he denied that he had aided heretics, but acknowledged the judgment of the law. He then prayed for a short while before placing his head on the block. The executioner bungled his work, and took two strokes to sever the neck of Cromwell. He suffered a particularly gruesome execution before what was left of his head was set upon a pike on London Bridge. (237)
According to the French ambassador, Charles de Marillac, on 3rd March, 1541, Henry VIII was quoted as saying: "under pretext of some slight offences which he had committed, they had brought several accusations against him, on the strength of which he had put to death the most faithful servant he ever had." (238)
In the spring of 1540, Henry VIII met the 15-year-old, Catherine Howard. It has been suggested by Retha M. Warnicke that the two of the leading Roman Catholics in England, Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk and Bishop Stephen Gardiner, arranged for the King to meet Catherine and this was part of a power struggle against two religious reformers Thomas Cromwell and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer: "That Catherine herself became queen has traditionally been attributed to a competition for power between court factions divided by religious allegiance, a conservative group led by Norfolk and Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, against reformers led by Thomas Cromwell, the lord privy seal, and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer; the conservatives allegedly took advantage of Henry's disappointment with Anne of Cleves early in 1540 to direct his attention towards Catherine." (239)
Jasper Ridley, the author of Henry VIII (1984), has questioned this theory. "Henry often crossed the river from Whitehall in his barge to visit Catherine Howard in Southwark. On several occasions he met her there at parties in Gardiner's house. There is a well-established tradition that Norfolk and Gardiner introduced her to Henry in the hope that she would become his mistress and persuade him to adopt Gardiner's pro-Catholic policy and destroy Cromwell; but there is not a shred of evidence that Catherine Howard played any part whatever in Cromwell's downfall or in the shift in Henry's policy in 1540." (240)
Alison Weir pointed out that at this time Henry met Catherine Howard he was not in good health: "It had already therefore occurred to her that she might become queen of England, and this was no doubt enough to compensate for the fact that, as a man, Henry had very little to offer a girl of her age. He was now nearing fifty, and had aged beyond his years. The abscess on his leg was slowing him down, and there were days when he could hardly walk, let alone ride. Worse still, it oozed pus continually, and had to be dressed daily, not a pleasant task for the person assigned to do it as the wound stank dreadfully. As well as being afflicted with this, the King had become exceedingly fat: a new suit of armour, made for him at this time, measured 54 inches around the waist." Catherine was able to ignore these problems: "Catherine flattered Henry's vanity; she pretended not to notice his bad leg, and did not flinch from the smell it exuded. She was young, graceful and pretty, and Henry was entranced." (241)
The first documented indication of Henry's feelings for Catherine Howard was the granting of lands, confiscated from a convicted felon, on 24th April, 1540. The following month Henry began to investigate the possibility of divorcing Anne of Cleves. (242) Anne feared that her life was in danger. However, Henry made it clear that he was willing to accept an annulment of his marriage based on his inability to consummate the relationship. This was because he feared that she was the wife of another man, Francis, Duke of Lorraine. "His lawyers had to argue that his problem was relative impotence, an incapacity limited to one woman. This was often put down to witchcraft. But publicly the annulment was justified by reference to Henry's decision to refrain from consummation until he had ascertained that Anne was free to marry him, to Anne's contract with the son of the duke of Lorraine, and to Henry's reluctance to wed her." (243)
After she made a statement that confirmed Henry's account, the marriage was annulled on 9th July 1540, on the grounds of non-consummation. Anne of Cleves received a generous settlement that included manor and estates, some of which had been recently forfeited by Cromwell, worth some £3,000 a year. In return, Anne agreed that she would not pass "beyond the sea" and became the King's adopted "good sister". It was important for Henry that Anne remained in England as he feared that she might stir up trouble for him if she was allowed to travel to Europe. (244)
Henry VIII married Catherine Howard on 8th August 1540 at Hampton Court. The historian David Starkey, has attempted to explain the reasons for the marriage: "Physically repelled by Anne of Cleves, and humiliated by his sexual failure with her, he sought and found consolation from Catherine. We can also guess that sex, which had been impossible with Anne, was easy with her. And it was easy because she made it easy. Henry, lost in pleasure, never seems to have asked himself how she obtained such skill. Instead, he attributed it all to love and his own recovered youth." (245)
Henry VIII showered her with "magnificent jewels, gold beads decorated with black enamel, emeralds lozenged with gold, brooches, crosses, pomanders, clocks, whatever could be most splendidly encrusted in her honour". Soon after the wedding he gave her a habiliment containing "eight diamonds and seven rubies" and a necklace of "six fine table diamonds and five very fair rubies with pearls in-between" and a muffler of black velvet with thirty pearls on a chain of gold. (246)
Historians have only been able to identify one portrait, painted by Hans Holbein, that is definitely of Catherine of Howard. "Dispute has raged as to whether its subject really is Catherine. But the identification of the jewels settles the issue once and for all. It also establishes, for the first time, her exact appearance. She had auburn hair, pale skin, dark eyes and brows, the rather fetching beginnings of a double chin, and an expression that was at once quizzical and come-hither." (247)
Richard Hilles saw Catherine in the summer of 1540. He described her as "a very little girl". Alison Weir has suggested that this may refer to her diminutive stature, it could also refer to her age, as it conveys a distinct impression of extreme youth." (248) Catherine was over a foot smaller than Henry. The French ambassador, Charles de Marillac, rated her beauty as only "middling" but did praise her gracefulness, and found "much sweetness in her expression". Antonia Fraser points out that as she immediately attracted Henry "she must have considerable prettiness and obvious sex appeal" (249)
On 17th January, 1541, Henry ordered the arrest of Thomas Wyatt and Ralph Sadler. Both men had been close friends of Thomas Cromwell and were seen as religious reformers. The following month, Sir John Wallop, the conservative former ambassador to France, was also arrested. Charles de Marillac predicted a civil war in England: "There could be no worse war than the English carry on against each other... For after Cromwell had brought down the greatest of the realm... now others have arisen who will never rest till they have done as much to all Cromwell's adherents." (250)
All three men were eventually released. Eustace Chapuys claims "the Queen took courage to beg and entreat the King for the release of Mr. Wyatt, a prisoner of the Tower." David Starkey provides evidence that Catherine was involved in obtaining the release of all three men. "Catherine, like many teenagers, certainly showed herself to be wilful and sensual. But she also displayed leadership, resourcefulness and independence, which are qualities less commonly found in headstrong young girls... True, she was a good-time girl. But, like many good-time girls, she was also warm, loving and good-natured. She wanted to have a good time. But she wanted other people to have a good time, too. And she was prepared to make some effort to see that they did... Catherine, in short, had begun rather well. She had a good heart, and a less bad head than most of her chroniclers have assumed." (251)
However, Queen Catherine was unable to save the life of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury. Henry VIII had ordered her arrest in May 1539. She had been considered one of the leading Roman Catholics in England. However, the only evidence against her was that she had forbidden her servants to read the English Bible, and had once been seen burning a letter. (252) Margaret was the daughter of George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, who was the brother of Edward IV and Richard III. She therefore had a valid claim to the throne. (253)
Catherine Howard took an interest in Margaret's case. "That spring saw Catherine stirred to action by the plight of three people imprisoned in the Tower. One was Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, who had languished there for nearly two years with inadequate clothing and heating to protect her aged body from the bitter winter weather. When she learned of this, the Queen saw her tailor on 1st March and ordered him to make up garments which were to be sent to Lady Sailsbury: a furred night-gown, a bonnet and frontlet, four pairs of hose, four pairs of shoes and one pair of slippers. With the King's permission, Catherine paid for all these items out of her privy purse." (254)
Henry became more hostile with the rising in the north in the early months of 1541 led by Sir John Neville. He became convinced that Margaret was the figure-head of the opposition. Although she had a valid claim to the throne, she herself had never expressed any desire to occupy it. At the age of 68 she was also way beyond childbearing age and therefore constituted no threat in herself to the King.
On 28th May, 1541, Henry gave orders for Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, to be executed. Antonia Fraser has argued: "This can claim to be the most repulsive piece of savagery ever carried out at the King's wishes... Her real crime was of course to be the mother of one who sided with the Pope and was beyond the King's vengeance." (255) Alison Weir agrees and has called it as "one of the worst atrocities of Henry's reign". (256) When she arrived at the scaffold she told the executioner that she would not lay her head upon the block, saying she had received no trial. The executioner was not the usual one employed on such occasions and was young and inexperienced. He hacked away at her head and neck for several minutes before her head was removed. (257)
Upon hearing the news of her death, her son Reginald Pole announced to his "thunder-struck" secretary that he was now the proud son of a martyr and disappeared into his closet for an hour, "then came out as cheerful as before". It is reported that Pole commented: "Let us be of good cheer. We have now one more patron in heaven." (258)
During this period Catherine appointed her former lover, Francis Dereham, as her secretary and usher of the chamber. (259) She later insisted that this appointment was on the urging of her step-grandmother, Duchess Agnes Howard. However, according to Retha M. Warnicke, it was possible she was being blackmailed: "It was probably intended to silence him, too, about their former relationship. She could reasonably hope for success in this, for Dereham later confessed that on two occasions she bribed him to hold his tongue." (260)
In June 1541 Henry VIII took Queen Catherine on a tour of the Northern counties. Although he had been power for 32 years he had not visited this part of England that made up a third of his kingdom. He took with him an army of 5,000 men. Progress was slow as it was a very wet summer. Charles de Marillac reported that "the roads leading to the North... have been flooded and the carts and baggage could not proceed without great difficulty." (261) The Court lingered in Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire for most of July.
They did not reach Lincoln until 9th August. The royal couple stayed at the Bishop of Lincoln's little manor house at Lyddington. On 11th August, Catherine committed the first of her indiscretions. She knew Thomas Culpeper, was in the area and she wrote him a letter: "Master Culpeper, I heartily recommend me unto you... I never longed so much for thing as I do to see you and to speak with you... It makes my heart to die to think what fortune I have that I cannot be always in your company... Come when my Lady Rochford is here, for that I shall be best at leisure to be at your commandment... Yours as long as life endures." (262)
Catherine's biographer, Retha M. Warnicke, has argued: "It is possible, however, to put a different interpretation upon Catherine's letter, that its emotional tone was fuelled less by sexual ardour than by the desperation of a young woman who was seeking to placate an aggressive, dangerous suitor, one who, moreover, as a member of the privy chamber had close contact with the king. The promise she mentioned could have concerned the Dereham affair. Culpeper, it may be suggested, had established some form of threatening control over the queen's life, and although he - as he admitted - was seeking sexual satisfaction with her, Catherine was trying to ensure his silence through a misguided attempt at appeasement." (263) Jasper Ridley claims that Catherine met Culpeper in Lady Rochford's room in the middle of the night, while Henry was sleeping off the effects of his usual large supper. (264)
The route of the Royal Progress turned inland towards Yorkshire the scene of the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion a few years previously. Henry spent a few days hunting at Hatfield Chase. It contained ponds and marshes as well as scrub and woodland. Men in boats went on to the water where others hunted in the woods. It is estimated that over 200 stags and deer were killed as well as "a great quantity of young swans, two boats of river birds and as much of great pikes and other fish." (265)
Henry VIII then moved to Pontefract Castle. According to the French ambassador who accompanied Henry, the castle was visited by the nobility and gentry who lived in Yorkshire: "Those who in the rebellion remained faithful were ranked apart and graciously received by the King and praised for their fidelity. The others who were of the conspiracy, among whom appeared the Archbishop of York, were a little further off on their knees... One of them, speaking for all, made a long harangue confessing their treason in marching against the sovereign and his Council, thanking him for pardoning so great an offence and begging that if any relics of indignation remained he would dismiss them. They then delivered several bulky submissions in writing." (266)
Henry VIII and his party visited York before retuning to London. He arrived back at Hampton Court on 29th October. While the King had been away Archbishop Thomas Cranmer had been contacted by John Lascelles. He told him a story that came from his sister, Mary Hall, who had worked as a maid at Chesworth House. She claimed that while in her early teens Catherine Howard had "fornicated" with Henry Manox, Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpeper. (267)
Cranmer had never approved Henry's marriage to Catherine. He did not personally dislike her but he was a strong opponent of her grandfather, Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk. If Lascelles's story was true, it gave him the opportunity to discredit her supporters, the powerful Catholic faction. With her out of the way Cranmer would be able to put forward the name of a bride who like Anne Boleyn favoured religious reform. (268)
Cranmer had a meeting with Mary Hall. She told him that when she heard about Catherine's relationship with Manox in 1536 she went to see him and warned him of his behaviour. Manox replied: "Hold thy peace, woman! I know her well enough. My designs are of a dishonest kind, and from the liberties the young lady has allowed me, I doubt not of being able to effect my purpose. She hath said to me that I shall have her maidenhead, though it be painful to her, not doubting but I will be good to her hereafter." Hall then told of Catherine's relationship with Dereham. She claimed that for "a hundred nights or more" he had "crept into the ladies dormitory and climbed, dressed in doublet and hose" into Catherine's bed. (269)
On 2nd November, 1541, Archbishop Cranmer, presented a written statement of the allegations to Henry VIII. Cranmer wrote that Queen Catherine had been accused by Hall of "dissolute living before her marriage with Francis Dereham, and that was not secret, but many knew it." (270) Henry reacted with disbelief and told Cranmer that he did not think there was any foundation in these malicious accusations; nevertheless, Cranmer was to investigate the matter more thoroughly. "You are not to desist until you have got to the bottom of the pot." (271) Henry told Thomas Wriothesley that "he could not believe it to be true, and yet, the accusation having once been made, he could be satisfied till the certainty hereof was known; but he could not, in any wise, that in the inquisition any spark of scandal should arise against the Queen." (272)
Henry also gave orders that Catherine Howard was to be confined to her apartments with just Jane Boleyn (Lady Rochford) in attendance. Eustace Chapuys told Charles de Marillac that she was refusing to eat or drink anything, and that she did not cease from weeping and crying "like a madwoman, so that they must take away things by which she might hasten her death". It was also reported that Lady Rochford was guilty of aiding and abetting Catherine to commit high treason.
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer visited the Queen in her apartments on 6th November. His main objective was to obtain a confession that she had committed adultery. Without it, no one could proceed against her, for pre-marital fornication was neither a crime nor acceptable grounds for annulling a marriage. He found the Queen "in such lamentation and heaviness as I never saw no creature, so that it would have pitied any man's heart in the world to have looked upon".
Unable to get much sense out of the Queen he returned the following day. Cranmer told her that if she made a full confession the King would probably show mercy. She eventually confessed that Francis Dereham called her "wife" and she used the term "husband" and that it was common gossip in the household that they would marry. He had "many times moved me unto the question of matrimony" but she refused all his proposals. Catherine made a serious mistake with this confession. Under the law of the time, if she had made a pre-contract of marriage with Dereham, her marriage to Henry was invalid and therefore she could not be convicted of adultery. (273)
Catherine Howard admitted that she had on many occasions gone to bed with Dereham. "He hath lain with me, sometimes in his doublet and hose, and two or three times naked, but not so naked that he had nothing upon him, for he had always at the least his doublet, and as I do think his hose also; but I mean naked, when his hose was put down." Catherine claimed that she had not willingly had sexual intercourse with Dereham and that he had raped her with "importunate force". Catherine admitted that the last time she saw Dereham was in 1539. He said he had heard a rumour that she was romantically involved with Thomas Culpeper and the couple were about to marry. She replied: "What should you trouble me thereabouts, for you know I will not have you; and if you heard such report, you know more than I." (274) This was the first time that Thomas Culpeper's name had been mentioned. Archbishop Cranmer knew that Culpeper was a highly favoured gentleman of the King's Privy Chamber. Cranmer was searching for someone who had committed adultery with the Queen. Cranmer now had another candidate and he ordered the arrest and questioning of Culpeper. (275)
Catherine Howard also confessed about her relationship with Henry Manox. "My sorrow I can by no writing express, nevertheless I trust your most benign nature will have some respect unto my youth, my ignorance, my frailness, my humble confession of my faults and plain declaration of the same, referring me wholly unto your Grace's pity and mercy. First at the flattering and fair persuasions of Manox, being but a young girl I suffered him at sundry times to handle and touch the secret parts of my body, which neither became me with honesty to permit, nor him to require." (276)
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer thought this confession would please Henry VIII as he could now see his marriage to Catherine was invalid and he would be free to marry again. However, Henry wanted more time to think about the situation. He therefore ordered Catherine to be sent to the former Abbey of Syon at Brentford. He also told Cranmer to arrange for all those who were involved in the affair to be sent to the Tower of London to await questioning. (277)
Manox was the first to be cross-examined. He told them he had been employed by the Duchess Agnes Howard to teach Catherine music and singing and admitted having tried to seduce her. When the Duchess discovered them kissing she had beaten them both and commanded that they should never to be alone together again. This had not deterred Manox, and on another occasion she had agreed he might caress her private parts. In his words he had "felt more than was convenient". However, he told his interrogators: "Upon his damnation and most extreme punishment of his body, he never knew her carnally". (278) The Privy Council, seeing that he had committed no crime, released him.
As Kelly Hart has pointed out, Catherine was highly unlikely to have become too involved with Manox. She knew that to marry a man of his background would have been to cause her serious problems: "They (Catherine and Manox) could only have married if they had eloped, to lead an impoverished life. In an age where a woman might starve to death if she married a man of little means, Catherine was understandably aiming for someone who could keep her future children in luxury." (279)
Thomas Wriothesley interviewed the Queen's servants. Katherine Tylney and Margaret Morton both gave evidence that Thomas Culpeper met the Queen in Lady Rochford's chamber. Morton testified that while at Pontefract Castle in August 1541, Lady Rochford locked the room from inside after both Catherine and Culpeper went inside. Morton also said that she "never mistrusted the Queen until at Hatfield I saw her look out of her chamber window on Master Culpeper, after such sort that I thought there was love between them". On another occasion the Queen was in her closet with Culpeper for five or six hours, and Morton thought "for certain they had passed out" (a Tudor euphemism for orgasm). (280)
Jane Boleyn (Lady Rochford) was interviewed in some depth. She had previously given evidence against her husband, George Boleyn, and sister-in-law, Anne Boleyn. She claimed that at first Catherine rejected the advances of Culpeper. She quoted her as saying: "Will this never end?" and asking Lady Rochford to "bid him desire no more to trouble me, or send to me." But Culpeper had been persistent, and eventually the Queen had admitted him into her chamber in private. Lady Rochford was asked to stand guard in case the King came. Rochford added that she was convinced that Culpeper had been sexually intimate "considering all things that she hath heard and seen between them". (281)
Antonia Fraser, the author of The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992), is highly critical of the evidence provided by Lady Rochford: "Lady Rochford attempted to paint herself as an innocent bystander who had somehow been at the other end of the room where the Queen was meeting Culpeper, without knowing what was going on. Catherine on the other hand reversed the image and described a woman, like Eve, who had persistently tempted her with seductive notions of dalliance; while Culpeper too took the line that Lady Rochford had 'provoked' him into a clandestine relationship with the Queen... Once again, as with the technicalities of the Queen's adultery, absolute truth - and thus relative blame - is impossible to establish." (282)
Mary Hall testified that she saw Catherine and Culpeper "kiss and hang by their bills (lips) together and as if they were two sparrows". Alice Restwood said that there was "such puffing and blowing between (Catherine and Dereham) that she was weary of the same". Margaret Benet admitted that "she looked out at a hole of a door and there saw Dereham pluck up (Catherine's) clothes above her navel so that he might well discern her body". Benet went on to say she heard the couple talk about the dangers of her becoming pregnant. She heard "Dereham say that although he used the company of a woman... yet he would get no child". Catherine replied that she also knew how to prevent having children. She told Dereham that she knew "how women might meddle with a man and yet conceive no child unless she would herself". (283) David Starkey has asked the question: "Was this confident contraceptive knowledge? Or merely old-wives' tales? In either case, it explains why Catherine was prepared to have frequent sex with no apparent heed to the risks of pregnancy." (284)
Thomas Culpeper appeared before the Privy Council to give evidence in his defence. He claimed that although Lady Rochford had "provoked him much to love the Queen, and he intended to do ill with her and likewise the Queen so minded to do with him, he had not passed beyond words". Edward Seymour told Culpeper that his intensions towards Queen Catherine were "so loathsome and dishonest" that in themselves they would be said to constitute high treason and so therefore he deserved to die. (285)
The trial of Culpeper and Dereham began on 1st December, 1541 in Westminster Hall. Dereham was charged with "presumptive treason" and of having led the Queen into "an abominable, base, carnal, voluptuous and licentious life". He was accused of joining the Queen's service with "ill intent". It was claimed that Dereham once told William Damport that he was sure he might still marry the Queen if the King were dead. Under the 1534 Treason Act, it was illegal to predict the death of the King. (286)
Culpeper was accused of having criminal intercourse with the Queen on 29th August 1541 at Pontefract, and at other times, before and after that date. During the trial Culpeper changed his plea to guilty. Dereham continued to plead his innocence but both men were found guilty. Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, sentenced them to be drawn on hurdles to Tyburn "and there hanged, cut down alive, disembowelled, and, they still living, their bowels burnt; the bodies then to be beheaded and quartered". (287)
Charles de Marillac reported that Culpeper especially deserved to die, even though he did not admit to having full intercourse with Catherine, "for he confessed his intention to do so, and his confessed conversations, being held by a subject to a queen, deserved death". Marillac explained that Henry had "changed his love for the Queen into hatred, and taken such grief at being deceived, that of late it was thought he had gone mad". Henry also suggested that she was such a "wicked woman" that she "should have torture in her death". (288)
Francis Dereham was tortured on 6th December. According to Thomas Wriothesley he admitted that he had said that he might "still marry the Queen if the King were dead". He also admitted having sexual intercourse with Catherine Howard in 1538 but he vehemently denied committing adultery with the Queen. Later that day, the King was asked if he would change the sentence to beheading. He agreed for Culpeper but stated that Dereham "deserved no mercy". The decision was one based on the background of the two men. Men of the higher class were rarely "hung, drawn and quartered".
Culpeper were executed on 10th December 1541. Culpeper asked the crowd to pray for him. No block had been provided. He knelt on the ground by the gallows, and was decapitated with one stroke of the axe. Dereham then suffered the full horror of being hanged, castrated, disembowelled, beheaded and quartered. Both heads were set up on pikes above London Bridge. (289)
Henry VIII now asked Parliament to pass a new law that would enable him to order the execution of Catherine Howard. Members were told that Catherine had led "an abominable, base, carnal, voluptuous and vicious life" and had acted "like a common harlot with divers (many) persons... maintaining however the outward appearance of chastity and honesty". (290)
The proposed new law stated that "an unchaste woman marrying the King should be guilty of high treason". Anyone concealing this information was also guilty of high treason. The proposed law also stated that any woman who presumed to marry the King without admitting she had been unchaste would merit death. The Act was passed on 16th January 1542. As David Starkey has pointed out the "key clauses of the Act were flagrantly retrospective". (291)
Catherine Howard was told on 25th January that she could go to "the Parliament chamber to defend herself". She declined the offer and submitted herself to the King's mercy. She was visited by a deputation of members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Catherine told them that she deserved to die and her only care was to have a good death. She asked to have the block brought to her in advance so "that she might know how to place herself". (292)
Eustace Chapuys reported that the "Queen is very cheerful, and more plump and pretty than ever; she is as careful about her dress and as imperious and wilful as at the time she was with the King, notwithstanding that she expects to be put to death, that she confesses she has deserved it, and asks for no favour except that the execution shall be secret and not under the eyes of the world." (293)
On 29th January 1542, Henry gave a banquet attended by sixty-one young women. It was claimed that the women had been chosen as candidates to become the next Queen of England. Chapuys reported that "the common voice is that this King will not be long without a wife, because of the great desire he has to have further issue." It was claimed that Henry was particularly attentive to the 20-year-old Anne Bassett. It was rumoured that she had been his mistress for several years. (294)
The Act of Attainder was passed by Parliament on 6th February 1542. Catherine Howard and Jane Boleyn (Lady Rochford) were both sentenced to death and loss of goods and lands. Henry went into the House of Commons and thanked them "for that they took his sorrow to be theirs". Chapuys told Charles V that Henry had "never been so merry since first hearing of the Queen's misconduct. (295)
On 10th February 1542, officials arrived at the Abbey of Syon to take Catherine to the Tower of London. As soon as she learned what they had come for, she became hysterical and had to be dragged to the waiting barge. On her journey to the Tower she passed under London Bridge, where the rotting heads of Thomas Culpeper and Francis Dereham were still being displayed. The Constable of the Tower, Sir John Gage, reported that over the next couple of days Catherine "weeps, cries and torments herself miserably without ceasing". (296)
At seven o'clock on Monday, 13th February, 1542, Catherine Howard was taken to Tower Green. Gage reported that she was so weak with crying that she could hardly stand or speak. Before her execution she said she merited a hundred deaths and prayed for her husband. According to one witness Catherine said she "desired all Christian people to take regard unto her worthy and just punishment". The executioner severed her head in a single blow. (297)
Lady Rochford followed her to the block. Eustace Chapuys reported that she was "in a frenzy" brought on by the sight of Catherine's "blood-soaked remains being wrapped in a black blanket by her sobbing ladies". It was reported that she made a speech where she called for the preservation of the King before she placed her head "on a block still wet and slippery with her mistress's blood." (298)
It would seem that Catherine Parr was on the verge of marrying Thomas Seymour when she met Henry VIII. He was immediately attracted to Catherine. Susan E. James has argued: "Print and film alike have represented Catherine as an ageing, plain-faced, pious widow with few attractions, selected by the king for her talents as a nurse. This is a misleading image that does not hold up beneath the weight of contemporary evidence. She was of medium height, with red hair and grey eyes. She had a lively personality, was a witty conversationalist with a deep interest in the arts, and an erudite scholar who read Petrarch and Erasmus for enjoyment. She was a graceful dancer, who loved fine clothes and jewels, particularly diamonds, and favoured the colour crimson in her gowns and household livery. Catherine also conveyed a sense of her own value, independent of the marital relationship, which was rare for a woman of this period." (299)
Henry asked Catherine to become his sixth wife. She was in a difficult position. Although she was deeply in love with Thomas Seymour, it was made clear to her, that her reluctance to accept the king as her husband was to defy God's will. Catherine wrote to Seymour "my mind was fully bent the other time I was at liberty to marry you before any man I know". However she decided to marry Henry. Jane Dunn, the author of Elizabeth & Mary (2003) has pointed out: "In marrying the King rather than this love, Catherine Parr had sacrificed her heart for the sake of duty." (300) It has also been suggested that Catherine accepted his proposal for religious reasons: "She was marrying Henry at God's command and for His purpose. And that purpose was no less than to compete the conversion of England to Reform." (301)
Catherine Parr married Henry VIII on 12th July, 1543, at Hampton Court with eighteen people in attendance. A few days later, the King and Queen left on what turned out to be a protracted honeymoon that kept them away from London for the rest of the year. First they travelled into Surrey to visit some of Henry's favourite hunting parks at Oatlands, Woking, Guildford and Sunninghill. They spent several months at Ampthill Castle, the former home of Thomas Wolsey. The plague was particularly virulent in London that summer and autumn and they did not return to the capital until December.
Catherine inherited three step-children, Mary (27), Elizabeth (9) and Edward (6). Queen Catherine became an excellent step-mother. Antonia Fraser, the author of The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) points out: "It is greatly to her credit that she managed to establish excellent loving relations with all three of her step-children, despite their very different needs and ages (the Lady Mary was twenty-one years older than Prince Edward). Of course she did not literally install them under one roof: that is to misunderstand the nature of sixteenth-century life when separate households were more to do with status than inclination. At the same time, the royal children were now all together on certain occasions, under the auspices of their stepmother... But the real point was that Catherine was considered by the King - and the court - to be in charge of them, an emotional responsibility rather than a physical one." (302)
Elizabeth did not see very much of her father. On 31st July 1544, she wrote to Catherine asking if she could spend time with the royal couple at Hampton Court. "Inimical fortune, envious of all good and ever revolving human affairs, has deprived me for a whole year of your most illustrious presence, and, not thus content, has yet again robbed me of the same good; which thing would be intolerable to me, did I not hope to enjoy it very soon. And in this my exile I well know that the clemency of your Highness has had as much care and solicitude for my health as the King's Majesty himself. By which thing I am not only bound to serve you, but also to revere you with filial love, since I understand that your most illustrious Highness has not forgotten me every time you have written to the King's Majesty, which, indeed, it was my duty to have requested from you. For heretofore I have not dared to write to him. Wherefore I now humbly pray your most excellent Highness, that, when you write to his Majesty, you will condescend to recommend me to him, praying ever for his sweet benediction, and similarly entreating our Lord God to send him best success, and the obtaining of victory over his enemies, so that your Highness and I may, as soon as possible, rejoice together with him on his happy return. No less pray I God that he would preserve your most illustrious Highness; to whose grace, humbly kissing your hands, I offer and recommend myself." (303)
During the summer of 1544 Henry VIII led a military expedition to France. "During his absence Henry appointed his queen regent-general, together with a regency council dominated by the queen's fellow religionists.... This assumption of power, not merely by a woman but by a woman who only a year before had been a Yorkshire housewife, made the queen enemies, particularly among the religious conservatives who resented her evangelical beliefs." (304) While he was away Catherine wrote him several letters about events at home. According to Antonia Fraser they were "remarkably well-written." (305) Catherine took this opportunity to bring Princess Elizabeth back to court. From the middle of July until the middle of September she kept the royal children with her at Hampton Court.
Henry VIII formed an alliance with Charles V. In 1545 a treaty between the two kings included the proposal that Prince Edward marry Charles V's daughter, Maria and that Mary would marry Charles V himself. Elizabeth's future was also discussed and it was suggested that she should marry Charles V's son and heir, Philip of Spain, although that failed to go beyond the initial stages of negotiation. It is claimed that during discussions "Charles was polite, but not encouraging." (306)
Henry, who was in poor health (although it was treason to say so), had agreed a new Act of Succession that stated that in the case of his death the throne would pass to his son Edward and his heirs, but, if Edward died without children, Princess Mary would succeed to the throne. If she, too, died without heirs, the throne would pass to Princess Elizabeth. He excluded his elder sister, Margaret Tudor (she had died in 1541) and her heirs, who were the royal family of Scotland. This included her granddaughter, Mary Stuart.
Catherine Parr wrote several small books on religious matters. It has been pointed out that Catherine was one of only eight women who had books published in the sixty-odd years of the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII. These books showed that she was an advocate of Protestantism. In the book, The Lamentation of a Sinner Catherine describes Henry as being "godly and learned" and being "our Moses" who "hath delivered us out of the captivity and bondage of Pharaoh (Rome)"; while the "Bishop of Rome" is denounced for "his tyranny".
As David Loades, the author of has pointed out, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2007): "The Queen meanwhile continued to discuss theology, piety and the right use the bible, both with her friends and also with her husband. This was a practice, which she had established in the early days of their marriage, and Henry had always allowed her a great deal of latitude, tolerating from her, it was said, opinions which no one else dared to utter. In taking advantage of this indulgence to urge further measures of reform, she presented her enemies with an opening." (307)
Catherine also criticised legislation that had been passed in May 1543 that had declared that the "lower sort" did not benefit from studying the Bible in English. The Act for the Advancement of the True Religion stated that "no women nor artificers, journeymen, serving men of the degree of yeomen or under husbandmen nor labourers" could in future read the Bible "privately or openly". Later, a clause was added that did allow any noble or gentlewoman to read the Bible, this activity must take place "to themselves alone and not to others". Catherine ignored this "by holding study among her ladies for the scriptures and listening to sermons of an evangelical nature". (308)
In February 1546 conservatives, led by Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, began plotting to destroy Catherine. Gardiner had established a reputation for himself at home and abroad as a defender of orthodoxy against the Reformation. (309) On 24th May, Gardiner ordered the arrest of Anne Askew and Sir Anthony Kingston, the Constable of the Tower of London, was ordered to torture Askew in an attempt to force her to name Catherine and other leading Protestants.
The Lord Chancellor Thomas Wriothesley and his assistant, Richard Rich took over operating the rack, after Kingston complained about having to torture a woman. Despite suffering a long period on the rack, Askew refused to name those who shared her religious views. According to Askew: "Then they did put me on the rack, because I confessed no ladies or gentlemen, to be of my opinion... the Lord Chancellor and Master Rich took pains to rack me with their own hands, till I was nearly dead. I fainted... and then they recovered me again. After that I sat two long hours arguing with the Lord Chancellor, upon the bare floor... With many flattering words, he tried to persuade me to leave my opinion... I said that I would rather die than break my faith." (310) On 16th July, 1546, Askew "still horribly crippled by her tortures but without recantation, was burnt for heresy". (311)
Bishop Stephen Gardiner had a meeting with Henry VIII and raised concerns about Catherine's religious beliefs. Henry, who was in great pain with his ulcerated leg and at first he was not interested in Gardiner's complaints. However, eventually Gardiner got Henry's agreement to arrest Catherine and her three leading ladies-in-waiting, "Herbert, Lane and Tyrwhit" who had been involved in reading and discussing the Bible. (312)
David Loades has explained that "the greatest secrecy was observed, and the unsuspecting Queen continued with her evangelical sessions". However, the whole plot was leaked in mysterious circumstances. "A copy of the articles, with the King's signature on it, was accidentally dropped by a member of the council, where it was found and brought to Catherine, who promptly collapsed. The King sent one of his physicians, a Dr Wendy, to attend upon her, and Wendy, who seems to have been in the secret, advised her to throw herself upon Henry's mercy." (313)
Catherine Parr told Henry that "in this, and all other cases, to your Majesty's wisdom, as my only anchor, Supreme Head and Governor here in earth, next under God". He reminded her that in the past she had discussed these matters. "Catherine had an answer for that too. She had disputed with Henry in religion, she said, principally to divert his mind from the pain of his leg but also to profit from her husband's own excellent learning as displayed in his replies." (314) Henry replied: "Is it even so, sweetheart? And tended your arguments to no worse end? Then perfect friends we are now again, as ever at any time heretofore." (315) Gilbert Burnett has argued that Henry put up with Catherine's radical views on religion because of the good care she took of him as his nurse. (316)
The next day Chancellor Thomas Wriothesley arrived with a detachment of soldiers to arrest Catherine. Henry told him he had changed his mind and sent the men away. Glyn Redworth, the author of In Defence of the Church Catholic: The Life of Stephen Gardiner (1990) has disputed this story because it relies too much on the evidence of John Foxe, a leading Protestant at the time. (317). However, David Starkey, the author of Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII (2003) has argued that some historians "have been impressed by the wealth of accurate circumstantial detail, including, in particular, the names of Catherine's women." (318)
Henry's health continued to cause concern. According to Peter Ackroyd, the author of Tudors (2012), Henry's private secretary, William Paget, became a powerful influence upon the ailing king. Ackroyd suggests that Paget associated himself with the reformers in the king's council. In the autumn of 1546 the imperial ambassador, described the unexpected rise in the influence of religious reformers: "The Protestants have their openly declared champions... some of them had gained great favour with the king, and I could only wish that they were as far away from court as they were last year." (319)
As Paget's biographer, Sybil M. Jack, has pointed out: "William Paget... had become one of the most powerful office-holders in the kingdom. He spoke for the monarch, controlled considerable patronage, and was the linchpin both of Henry's diplomatic correspondence and the national intelligence network. It was Paget's job to sift out from the intercepted mail and oral communications real plots from imaginary or invented ones, to distinguish reliable from double agents." (320)
Dr. George Owen, the royal physician, who was paid £100 a year to treat the king, told the Privy Council in December, 1546, that Henry was dying. The Privy Council, now under the control of religious radicals such as John Dudley, Edward Seymour and Thomas Seymour decided to keep the news secret. On 24th December, Catherine took Mary and Elizabeth to stay at Greenwich Palace for the holidays. On their return they were told that Henry was too ill to see them. (321)
Henry VIII died on 28th January, 1547. The following day Edward and his thirteen year-old sister, Elizabeth, were informed that their father had died. According to one source, "Edward and his sister clung to each other, sobbing". Edward VI's coronation took place on Sunday 20th February. "Walking beneath a canopy of crimson silk and cloth of gold topped by silver bells, the boy-king wore a crimson satin robe trimmed with gold silk lace costing £118 16s. 8d. and a pair of ‘Sabatons’ of cloth of gold." (322)
He (Henry) was tall, he had the body of an athlete and his face was so finely proportioned that it could have been feminine... He was in such good condition that he could stay in the saddle long enough to exhaust half a dozen horses, one after the other; he could hurl a heavy spear great distances and he could draw the longbow more impressively, it was said, than any other man in England....
He was a gifted musician who amassed a large collection of instruments and himself played the lute exceptionally well, the organ and the virginals only a little less so. He could sight-read music as well as anyone and he had a very fine singing voice.
He could dominate any gathering and was extrovert, affable, and charming. Full of energy and proud of his athleticism, Henry cast himself above all in a military role and had a passion for weapons and fortifications. A fine horseman and an excellent archer, he was an enthusiast for those two substitutes for war: hunting and the tournament.
Henry is so greedy that all the riches in the world would not satisfy him... to make himself rich he has impoverished his people. This King.... does not trust a single man... and will not cease to dip his hand in blood as long as he doubts the people.
It is no novelty among us to see men slain, hung, quartered, beheaded... for comments that were... interpreted as having been spoken against King Henry.
I believe he (Henry VIII) favours me more than any other subject in England... However... I have no cause to be proud, for if my head could win him a castle in France it should not fail to go.
Cause such dreadful executions upon a good number of the inhabitants hanging them on trees, quartering them, and setting the quarters in every town, as shall be a fearful warning.
When she first appeared at court she was about 21 years old, lithe, ivory-skinned, not a conventional beauty but vital and polished, glowing. Her father Thomas Boleyn was an experienced diplomat, and Anne had spent her teenage years at the French court. Even now, Englishwomen envy the way a Frenchwoman presents herself: that chic self-possession that is so hard to define or imitate. Anne had brought home an alluring strangeness: we imagine her as sleek, knowing, self-controlled. There is no evidence of an immediate attraction between Henry and the new arrival. But if, when she danced in that first masque, she raised her eyes to the king, what did she see? Not the obese, diseased figure of later years, but a man 6' 3" in height, trim-waisted, broad-chested, in his athletic prime: pious, learned, the pattern of courtesy, as accomplished a musician as he was a jouster. She saw all this but above all, she saw a married man...
We don't know exactly when he fell for Anne Boleyn. Her sister Mary had already been his mistress. Perhaps Henry simply didn't have much imagination. The court's erotic life seems knotted, intertwined, almost incestuous; the same faces, the same limbs and organs in different combinations. The king did not have many affairs, or many that we know about. He recognised only one illegitimate child. He valued discretion, deniability. His mistresses, whoever they were, faded back into private life.
But the pattern broke with Anne Boleyn. She would not go to bed with him, even though he wrote her love letters in his own effortful hand. He drew a heart and wrote his initials and hers, carving them into the paper like a moody adolescent. In time favours were granted. She allowed him to kiss her breasts. Her "pretty duckies", he called them. She had made the man a fool.
This, at least, was the view of most of Europe. No one dreamed that Henry would put aside a princess of Spain for the daughter of a mere gentleman. Nor could the English aristocracy credit what was happening. Long after the break with Rome, they remained revolted by Boleyn pretensions and loyal to Katherine and the pope. Anne did have the backing of a powerful kinsman, the Duke of Norfolk; her father had been lucky enough to marry into the powerful Howard clan. But for some years, the situation was deadlocked. There were two queens, the official one and the unofficial one: the king was sleeping with neither. Wolsey had been fortune's favourite, but failure to obtain the divorce cost him his career. He was exiled from court; though he died a natural death, it was under the shadow of the axe. Anne moved into his London palace. Still she kept Henry at a distance. She was, and is, credited with serpentine sexual wiles, as well as a vindictive streak that ruined anyone who crossed her. The truth may be more prosaic. Henry had decided at some point that Anne was the woman who would give him a healthy son. He wanted that son to be born in wedlock. It may have been he who insisted on self-control, and Anne who simmered and fretted.
I send you this letter begging you to give me an account of the state you are in... I send you by this bearer a buck killed late last night by my hand, hoping, when you eat it, you will think of the hunter.
Good Christian people... according to the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it... I pray God save the King, and send him long to reign over you... for to me he was always a good, a gentle, and sovereign Lord.
According to Holinshed, who wrote 25 years after Henry's death, 72,000 thieves and vagabonds were hanged during his reign. It is over 2 per cent of the 2,800,000 inhabitants of England, which equals the proportion of the 6, 000,000 Jews exterminated by Hitler.
His rule was humane, his executions sporadic... he never killed anyone with his own hand... The number of victims... was not large.
Henry VIII... was very fond of having his own way... those who suffered most... were his ministers and the great nobles... But to tell the truth, the common people in England were often not sorry to see the great nobles who lived among them lose their heads or their properties, as long as King Henry... did not tax them too heavily. Whatever may have been his faults, and he had many, there can be no doubt that by far the greatest number of the people in England loved him.