Sunday, July 20, 2008

Question from Kelly - Henry lying about Anne

In The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir it said that when Henry first saw Anne Boleyn he devised a plan to seduce her, but when he didn't want her he said she seduced HIM. Why did he say untruthful things?

2 comments:

PhD Historian said...

Because he knew he could get away with it. He was, afterall, the king, so no one was ever very likely to accuse him of lying. Such an accusation could have very dire consequences for the accuser. Courtiers are, by nature, flatterers an syncophants, not truth-sayers and consciences. Too, Henry had a lifelong habit of convincing himself of "truths" that were sometimes not consistent with the facts. It was one of his more colorful personality traits.

Foose said...

Henry could be guilty of telling porkies when he was prepared in advance -- for audiences with ambassadors and addressing Parliament, for example. But I think that he did have at least an impulse to truthfulness, especially in his younger days, when he was confronted point-blank -- there is the episode where he was accused of having "meddled" with both Lady Boleyn and Mary Boleyn and blurted out "Never with the mother!" and Cromwell had to smoothly interject, "And never with the sister, either." There is also the scene where Catherine of Aragon challenged him to come right out and say she was not a virgin on their wedding night, and Henry backed off.

But he also seemed to lie when he got emotionally wrought up (cf. Anne Boleyn "having to do with a hundred men" or Anne of Cleves being "no maid," etc.) The incident that Alison Weir seems to be referring to is a conversation that Cromwell recounted to Chapuys on the evening of January 29, 1536 (the day that Anne miscarried). Cromwell said that the king had told him he "had made this marriage seduced by her witchcraft" (which is a little different from saying, "Hey, man, she came on to me"). So we know about it only secondhand and Cromwell or Chapuys might have touched up the wording a bit for their own purposes. But it sounds like something Henry might have said if he was upset and venting (January 29 was a stressful day for all) and Anne was looking terrible ("thin old woman," according to Chapuys) and blaming him and at some point he might have just looked at her and thought, I must have been out of my mind to marry her.

Witchcraft offered a comforting excuse for his folly. But he also went on to say that the witchcraft made the marriage "null and void," which suggests he was simultaneously working up a prepared legal rationale for getting rid of Anne. The incident is a sort of combination of both situations in which Henry was likely to lie -- the defensive emotional outburst, and the calculating political set-piece.