By Heather R. Darsie
On 15 May 1536, Anne Boleyn was put on trial for her alleged crimes against Henry VIII. Three years earlier, a roughly five-months pregnant Anne and her husband Henry were learning that things were leaning in favor of their marriage. Henry and Anne secretly wed around 14 November 1532 in Dover, then officially secretly wed (confusing, I know) in January 1533 when it became apparent that Anne was pregnant. However, Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon was still technically valid. Henry and Anne needed an annulment as soon as possible so that the child Anne was carrying would be legitimate royal issue.
Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, convened a hearing about Henry’s Great Matter on or about Wednesday, 10 May 1533, which lasted until Friday, 26 May 1533. Several people were ordered to appear beforehand for questioning before the formal debates could occur Katharine of Aragon failed to appear and on 10 May 1533 was declared contumax, or in contempt of court, for not appearing. It was declared that,
“Here were looked for witnesses to prove such words as the late Queen spake at the time of the execution of the citation against her, as Master Bryan and others, whose presence might have done much good for divers causes. Also it was looked for that my old lady of Norfolk and my lady Guildford should have been here this day, which can very well depose in this matter. Also here should have lacked the King’s Grace’s protestation, being, as I understood, in my lord Chancellor’s hands, if some had not been ready to make anew.”
Due to Katharine’s absence, the proceedings went on much more swiftly than originally expected.
“The King’s questions were determined and answered in the Convocation at York on Tuesday last [9 May] according to his expectation, with as much towardness as ever I saw in my life, thanks to the labors of Dr. Lee.”
Cromwell formally told Henry on 17 May that resolution of his Great Matter would come on 26 May 1533,
“Your Grace’s great matter is now brought to a final sentence to be given on Friday next. I cannot assign a shorter time, as every day next week shall be ferial, but trust to do then as becomes me.”
Also on 17 May, Cranmer informed Cromwell that, “I trust I have satisfied the King’s expectation.” Cranmer had not told Anne what was happening, only Cromwell and Henry. One can imagine that Anne knew what was going on and that it was leaning in her favor.
Cranmer on 23 May 1533 wrote to Henry VIII, announcing,
“Today, 23 May, I have given sentence in your great and weighty cause. I send a copy thereof by the bearer, Ric. Watkyns. As I was advertised by the letters of Mr. Thurlesbye, your chaplain, that it was your pleasure that I should cause your counsel to conceive a procuracy concerning the second marriage, I have sent the letters to them, and required them to act accordingly. I desire to know your pleasure concerning the second matrimony as soon as you and your counsel are perfectly resolved therein, for the time of the coronation is so near at hand that the matter requires good expedition.
Love learning about the Queens of England? Are you interested in Tudor history or Women’s history? Then check out my book, Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister’, a new biography about Anna of Cleves told from the German perspective!
Please check out my new podcast, Tudor Speeches.
You Might Also Like
- The Curious Case of a Misidentified Portrait of Anne Boleyn
- The Poetry of Anne Boleyn: Second Poem
- Henry VIII’s Second Letter to Anne Boleyn
- Anne Boleyn and the Famine
- Love Letter Nine from Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn: Anne has the Sweat!
Sources & Suggested Reading
- Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry 8. Vol. 6, Nos. 461, 491, 495, 496, & 528.
- Ives, Eric. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing (2005).