Lorenzo Campeggi

Henry Algernon Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland

Lorenzo Campeggi was born in Milan in 1471. He took his doctorate in canon and civil law at Bologna in 1500, the same year in which he married Francesca Guastavillani with whom he had five children. (1)

Campeggi's wife died in 1509 and Campeggi began a career in the Church.

Campeggi moved to Rome and in 1511 Pope Julius II employed him on a diplomatic mission to to visit the courts of Emperor Maximilian and King François in an effort to organise a crusade against the Ottoman Turks. (2)

Pope Leo X promoted Lorenzo Campeggi to cardinal on 1st July 1517. The following year he was sent to have talks with Henry VIII and Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. (3) As T. F. Mayer has pointed out: "Showered with gifts by both king and cardinal, Campeggi became a stout English partisan, as well as an imperialist.... The election of Adrian VI in 1522 cemented Campeggi's position in the curia and as agent of England.... On 2 December 1524 he received the bishopric of Salisbury." (4)

Bishop of Bologna

Pope Clement VII appointed Lorenzo Campeggi as Bishop of Bologna on 2nd December 1523. He was in Rome when the city was sacked by the troops of King Charles V of Spain in 1527. Pope Clement fled to Orvieto and left Cardinal Campeggi as papal legate in the city.

In May 1527, Henry VIII ordered Cardinal Thomas Wolsey to arrange his marriage to Catherine of Aragon to be annulled. 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." (5)

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." (6)

Lorenzo Campeggi & Henry VIII

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. 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." (7)

On 13th April 1528, Pope Clement appointed Cardinal Campeggi and Cardinal Wolsey to examine all the facts and pass a verdict without possibility of appeal. (8) 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." (9)

Campeggi eventually arrived in England on 8th October 1528. He informed Wolsey that he had been ordered by Pope Clement 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. (10)

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. (11) 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." (12) 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". (13)

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. (14)

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." (15)

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. (16) 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 Lorenzo Campeggi and Thomas 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

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." (17)

The trial was adjourned by Cardinal Campeggi on 30th July to allow Catherine's petition to reach Rome. With the encouragement of Anne Boleyn, Henry became convinced that Wolsey's loyalties lay with the Pope, not England, and in 1529 he was dismissed from office. (83) Wolsey blamed Anne for his situation and he called her "the night Crow" who was always in a position to "caw into the king's private ear". (84)

Henry VIII also blamed Lorenzo Campeggi for the situation and in August 1533 he lost the revenues of Salisbury, and on 21st March 1534 was deprived by act of parliament. Back in Rome he joined the commission which decided Henry's excommunication in 1535.

Lorenzo Campeggi died on 25th July 1539.

Primary Sources

(1) Alison Plowden, Tudor Women (2002) page 52

When the Pope's representative, Cardinal Campeggio, came over to England in 1528 to try to arrange an amicable settlement, he found Catherine immovable in her determination to defend to the last the soul and the honour of her husband and herself. She utterly rejected the suggestion that she should give in gracefully and retire into a nunnery. She had no vocation for the religious life and intended to live and die in the estate of matrimony to which God had called her. But, she told Campeggio, she was an obedient daughter of the Church. She would submit to the Pope's judgement in the matter and abide by his decision, whichever way it might go. Unless and until judgement was given against her, she would continue to regard herself as the King's lawful wife and England's Queen and nothing, declared England's Queen flatly, would compel her to alter this opinion - not if she were to be torn limb from limb. If, after death, she should return to life, she would prefer to die over again rather than change it.

(2) T. F. Mayer, Lorenzo Campeggi : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

Showered with gifts by both king and cardinal, Campeggi became a stout English partisan, as well as an imperialist. Although formally appointed cardinal-protector of England only on 22 January 1523, he effectively filled that office from his return to Rome, when he also became a member of the Segnatura di Giustizia and a papal secretary. Despite his new official role, however, Campeggi was not involved in much English business, except for the referring of episcopal provisions in consistory. The election of Adrian VI in 1522 cemented Campeggi's position in the curia and as agent of England.... On 2 December 1524 he received the bishopric of Salisbury, which he had been promised in 1518. The election of Clement VII in 1523 further exalted Campeggi's status. He was then also a member of Johann Goritz's humanist sodality. Clement made him bishop of Bologna on 2 December 1523 (held until 1525) and then on 9 January 1524 legate to the diet of Nuremberg.

During the sack of Rome in 1527 Campeggi lost everything. Clement, who fled to Orvieto, left him behind as papal legate in the city, just when the time came of his greatest utility to England. Wolsey and Henry VIII expected Campeggi to be malleable when they proposed that a papal co-legate should decide on Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon in co-operation with Wolsey. Campeggi had, however, already given a legal opinion to the pope which leaned heavily in the direction of validating the marriage in the event of its being proved invalid.

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(1) T. F. Mayer, Lorenzo Campeggi : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(2) Jasper Ridley, The Statesman and the Fanatic (1982) page 110

(3) Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2007) page 184

(4) T. F. Mayer, Lorenzo Campeggi : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(5) Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2007) page 228

(6) Alison Plowden, Tudor Women (2002) page 54

(7) Peter Ackroyd, Tudors (2012) page 44

(8) T. F. Mayer, Lorenzo Campeggi : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(9) Peter Ackroyd, Tudors (2012) page 44

(10) Jasper Ridley, The Statesman and the Fanatic (1982) page 175

(11) Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) page 29

(12) Anna Whitelock, Mary Tudor: England's First Queen (2009) page 42

(13) Alison Plowden, Tudor Women (2002) page 52

(14) Peter Ackroyd, Tudors (2012) page 44

(15) Jean du Bellay, letter to François I (25th January, 1529)

(16) T. F. Mayer, Lorenzo Campeggi : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(17) Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2007) page 200