In 1518 Sir Robert Throckmorton died on his way to the Holy Land, and George succeeded to a considerable estate, which he further enlarged during his lifetime. Throckmorton, a staunch Catholic, was a leading figure in opposition to the religious reforms of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. (2)
In June 1527, Henry VIII told Catherine of Aragon 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." (3)
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." (4)
George Throckmorton, the MP for Warwickshire, led support for Queen Catherine in the House of Commons. He told Henry VIII that his conscience would be greatly troubled if he married Anne Boleyn, as he believed that he had a sexual relationship with her sister, Mary Boleyn, and her mother, Elizabeth Howard Boleyn. According to Thomas Cromwell, who was present, "Henry replied weakly that he had not had carnal relations with Anne's mother". (5)
Queen Catherine also had strong support from other senior figures in the government. This group included Sir Thomas More, Bishop John Fisher and Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall. 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. (6)
In 1536 Throckmorton was arrested and charged with supporting the Pilgrimage of Grace. 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 Hussey, 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. (7) However, Throckmorton was released without charge.
The following year he was arrested again. This time he was accused of being a supporter of Cardinal Reginald Pole. Considered to be the leader of the opposition to Henry VIII he had fled to Rome where he had written Defence of the Unity of the Church. Pole argued that the leadership of Europe resided in the Pope Paul III, to whom all things spiritual and temporal must be referred. (8) It also provided a very positive picture of Thomas More and John Fisher (his biographer describes it as hagiography). The book concluded with an extended call to Henry to repent. (9) After being held for several months he was released without charge.
The fall of Thomas Cromwell in 1540 improved Throckmorton's position, though there is no evidence that he played a significant role in these events. According to his biographer, Jennifer Loach: "The change in the religious climate did prove beneficial to Throckmorton and his conservative associates. He apparently returned his full attention to acquiring additional lands and consolidating his holdings, and in 1542 he married for a second time. He was able to see his family of eight sons and eleven daughters well established." (10)
Sitting in the Reformation Parliament as knight of the shire for Warwickshire, Throckmorton, a staunch Catholic, constantly fought against Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine of Aragon, the royal supremacy, and all efforts to reform the church. During the critical year, 1532, Throckmorton visited and plotted with men from all the conservative constituencies. After one speech in the House of Commons, he was summoned before the king himself. There he warned Henry that his conscience would be greatly troubled if he married Anne Boleyn, "for that it is thought that ye have meddled with both the mother and the sister". Taken aback, Henry replied weakly that he had not had carnal relations with Anne's mother, and Thomas Cromwell, who was present, firmly interposed that the King had not had relations with the sister either.
Committed to the papal supremacy and dedicated to fighting against legislation directed against clerical liberties, Throckmorton enmeshed himself in factional politics. He met several other conservative country gentlemen in the Queen's Head tavern in Fleet Street to discuss parliamentary affairs.
The supporters of Catherine of Aragon... were assisted in the House of Commons by members of the Queen's Head group, an inchoate band of the Catholic members who dined and talked politics together at the Queen's Head Tavern. Among them were Sir George Throckmorton (whose brother later served the self-exiled nobleman and scourge of Henry VIII, Reginald Pole.