Sunday, March 15, 2009

Question from Michelle - More on "The Great Matter"

I have a few questions about The Great Matter. I've read a bit about it, but I've never really been able to find what I consider to be satisfying answers to my questions (if they even exist).

I'll start by saying that I do believe that Henry began to seek the annulment from Catherine because he truly believed their marriage was invalid based on the Leviticus passage and evidenced to him by the lack of living sons by her. I don't believe Anne would have risen as she did had Catherine and Henry had 3 robust sons romping around the palace! What it turned into is a different thing, but initially, I do think he really believed that. All that said, my first question is why, after Henry realized that the annulment was not going to be "easy", did he not start going down the "treason" road with Catherine to get rid of her more quickly? To me, this shows too that he really believed he was correct about the invalidity. But more practically, was it possibly because Catherine was so beloved? Or that her royal ties were so great throughout Europe? I ask too because, from what I've read, Catherine did actually send (or try to send) letters to her nephew Emperor Charles on the matter of the divorce, essentially stating she was right and the King wrong - couldn't that be actual treason? In other words, Henry seems to have even had a case for treason - without having to trump something up. So why not go that route?

My second question is impossible to know for certain, but I'd love to know your thoughts. What do you think about Catherine and Arthur? Did they consummate their marriage? I know that it was sometimes common to keep younger couples apart in that sense for a while, but that seems unlikely to me since Catherine was 16ish and Arthur 14 or 15. And with Margaret Beaufort giving birth at 13, it seems that in royal families, producing heirs was more important than waiting until a more suitable age for consummation. Plus they were living together in Ludlow castle. Also, I know that Arthur was sick, but was he really that sick consistently for 5-6 months? I also read that he was reported to say something to the effect of 'marriage being tiring work'. Or was that simple boasting? On the other hand, would Catherine, being as devoutly pious as she was, lie about such a thing? It does not seem that she would, however, could she have been worried because she knew she lied initially? Or that she knew she would certainly be ruined (and more importantly, Mary would be illegitimate for certain) if she admitted it? (I think she continued to believe until she died that she would eventually be restored as queen).
I'd appreciate your thoughts and any good reading sources! Thanks!

[Ed. note - the second part of this post what covered in the thread below, but additional comments are always welcome!]


Anonymous said...

Catherine's nephew, Charles, was not an easy figure to ignore. Altho 'rumor' had it that he would come to her rescue if his aunt called for him, I don't believe that if that call had come he would have made the effort.

Political alliances, opinions, sides, and keeping friends was too important, and Charles wouldn't have wanted to shift any balance away from him and in favor of Henry. However, I do feel that Henry considered it a very good possibility and he, too, didn't want to shake things. Better to treat gently with Catherine.

Neither side seemed to give much credit to Catherine. She could very well have sparked a 'holy war', but wisely chose to keep her marital problem a close-held situation, and not a European conflict.

The fact that the annulment wasn't going to be easy wasn't really known for quite a few years. The approval of Rome always seemed to be right around the corner. When Henry finally decided to do the job himself, the network was in place to remove The Pope's influence and matters took themselves by their own hands.

The letters she sent to Charles could be considered treason, as well as the correspondance with The Pope once it had been determined that anything she wrote, to anybody outside of England, was an offense against the king. However, she never called for armed interference. If she had, then most likely Henry would had proceeded harshly against her.

The consumation between Arthur and Catherine...I believe she was virgin when she married Henry.

djd said...

I think that Henry made himself believe any rationale that he or someone else came up with if it would lead to him getting what he wanted. I believe also that Ann Boleyn was the major motivation for Henry's great matter, and if Ann had agreed to become his mistress there would have been no great least for the moment. I do think he would have eventually divorced Catherine in order to have legitimate male heirs if she didn't die first.
I also think that Henry knew Catherine was a virgin and that she was too devout to swear on her soul about something like her virginity if it were not true. She could have lived very comfortably but chose to be a martyr to what she believed was right...and suffer she did.
I think Henry was very good at fooling himself into believing whatever he had to in order to live with himself and his actions, and those who wanted to live agreed with whatever he came up with. What a scary way to live.

Luv said...


I agree with you, Anne was the major was the major motivation for Henry's great matter. I also believe that if Anne wasn't pregnant, Henry VIII probably wouldn't have married her. Anne would have had to wait until after Katherine died in order for Henry to married her.

Henry knew that Queen Katherine was a virgin when he married her. At the trial, when Queen Katherine appeal directly to the king , she said: "When you first met me,and I take God to be my judge, I was a true maid, without touch of man. Henry VIII just sat there. He did not contradict her,nor did he try to deny it. Henry VIII did not even argue with her. Clearly Henry VIII knew,that Queen Katherine was telling the truth, and everyone in court knew it too.

Anonymous said...

Henry believed what Henry wanted to believe to get what he wanted. That way he could justify ( in his mind )
what he did to Anne and Catherine.

Anne's Fan

Anonymous said...

It seems from everything that we read everyone was very God centered and pious in the midst of King Henry's Great Matter. So I believe that tells us that Catherine of Aragon told the truth and that King Henry also told the truth by never denying it.

I don't however, think of Anne Boleyn as this sweet, young, innocent girl who was just so in love with the King but just couldn't give him a male heir so she fell from favor. I think that she was overly ambitious, determined, calculating, and deceitful. I think that she planned, plotted and connived to get what she wanted. King Henry on the other hand was no saint either and was trying to please Anne (he even offered to make her his number one mistress which was viewed differently than what we think of it today) while trying to show some sort of respect for Catherine and Mary. All the while he was fighting with Rome and all the people who loved Catherine as their gracious and beloved Queen and those who hated or disliked Anne. He had a lot on his plate. As I see it King Henry had a lot of traitors among his loyals and treason was rampant in King Henry's court. I think that it all drove him crazy. I wonder if there had never been an Anne Boleyn if King Henry would have ever pulled away from Rome? Would there ever have been a Refomation? I am not giving credit to Anne Boleyn for the Reformation, because I really think that Anne just wanted to be Queen and her family just wanted to be rich and in the King's favor. The Reformation just became a means to an end. What do others think about this? Is there any historical indication that Anne and her family were behind the Reformation?

Anonymous said...

The king's Great Matter.This was about King Henry wanting to get a divorce from Catherine of aragon but the pope wouldn't allow it.that being pope Clement VII and pope paul III.Henry needed to find a solution out of this marriage and the only way he could was to strip the monastries of their wealth and power before burning them down.After all Catherine was passed child bearing age and he had been infatuated with the lady Anne Boleyn.Henry pursued Anne for seven years before he married her and had her crowned queen.Catherine had her fammillies backing and of the spanish people and also of the catholic people in england.To them she would have been and was the rightfull queen of England.Many prefered her to Anne.Catherine also had the spanish emperor her nephew backing her and helping her.Henry outdid and beat catherine in the divorce proceedure which took place at Bridewell palace.Cahterine at the end of it was stripped of her title as queen and was only to be known as princess dowager she was given several residences to stay in but they were damp and dark and unhealthy she was given a few maids and forbidden any contact with her daughter Mary.she did complain of how unhealthy the residences she had to stay in were in messages to the king.The king's chaplain would have dealt with this.she was then permitted a more better place of stay that being Kimbolton but her amounts of maids kept being reduced.This is were Catherine died in 1536.I also beleive Catherine was a virgin before she married Henry.I don't think Catherine during the time she was married to Arthur ever had sexual relations of any kind.Because the marriage was only short lived.Perhaps there might not have been a reformation if he had never met Anne.But someone else probably would have done it years or centuries later.but I can see if it wasn't for Anne i think everyone would have been worshipping as a catholic more longer.Which means it would have prevented rivalry between the people of the two religions.

Anonymous said...

Since we are discussing the Great Matter, I have a question. Does anyone here believe that Henry ever really loved Catherine of Aragon?

Anonymous said...

I don't believe Henry ever loved Katherine of Aragon. I think he married her for the same reason Henry VII arranged the marriage with Arthur, to make a smart political alliance with Spain and retain Ferdinand as an ally against France. I think an argument could be made that in the beginning, Henry and Katherine were at least on good terms and not unhappy in the marriage, but I don't believe that Katherine ever excited Henry or that he felt any passion in their marriage. I think he respected and admired her, especially in her role as Queen; she was clearly born and bred royalty. But as for love, I don't think so.
I'm sure some will say that Henry never loved anyone but himself, but I don't believe that. While it often manifested in horrid forms, I think Henry was a passionate person. He loved music and poetry, and I think he had a passion for being 'in love', what ever that meant to him.

Laura said...

While Henry's passion for Anne Boleyn certainly contributed to his desire for a speedy divorce, I think that even without Anne he would have pursued a divorce and a subsequent remarriage. Continuing the Tudor dynasty was his first and biggest responsibility, whatever else he did, he needed to produce a Tudor male to take his place on the throne.

As for the contention that Katherine was too pious to lie about the consummation of the marriage, I disagree. Katherine was raised nearly from birth to be Queen of England. She believed it was God's will that she became queen. Obviously, there is no way to prove one way or another that she was a virgin when she married Henry, but if she wasn't, she would have lied to protect herself and her daughter.

Clearly, Henry was no judge of a woman's sexual status, since Katherine Howard was obviously no virgin, but he didn't suspect her.

In the end, whatever arguments he used and perhaps even came to believe, his "Great Matter" had far more to do with securing his dynasty than it did with love, or sex or sin.

epiphany said...

Laura summed up my sentiments perfectly. We make the mistake of judging 16th century persons by 21st century sensibilities. Henry was desperate for a legitimate heir. The fact that his daughter Elizabeth went on to be a very capable ruler in no way changes this - Henry had no way knowing how things would turn out. Ordinarily, a queen would marry, often a foreign prince, who would then become king. A big factor in Elizabeth's success was that she never married, although she kept promising that she would. Anyway, the Tudor dynasty was shaky at best, and there were many in England with a better claim to the throne than Henry. Katherine was past the point of child bearing, and Henry needed to be free to remarry and produce an heir. What he wanted what not unusual; many royal couples had divorced, or the queen had taken religious vows, which always superceded marruage vows and would allow their children to remain legitmate. Katherine was as stubborn as a mule; she had been raised almost since birth to believe she was destined to be Queen of England. This is also why it's entirely possible she and Arthur consummated their marriage and she lied about it. Being deeply religious doesn't make a person invulnerable to sin. She may have believed the sin of lying was worth keeping her God-given place on the throne, and her daughter's place in the succession. Remember, to KoA, a woman ruling was the norm - her mother was Queen Isabella. Yes, Henry loved KoA, but not in the way we're discussing it here; he admired and respected her, and, at least in the beginning, was proud to call her his Queen. I doubt he had any real passion or romantic attachment to her. She was older, politically astute, and provided him with good advice while he was young - remember he was only 17 when he took the throne - he was a kid! Henry was also keen to score some military victories, and Ferdinand had intimated he would help bankroll thtese ventures when Henry married his daughter.
Anne Boleyn was NOT the reason for the Great Matter; I don't even think she really loved him, ( I think her motivations were ambition and revenge against Wolsey) although he was certainly in love with her. Henry was right to desire a legitimate male hair; he just so happened to already have his next wife chosen, so the Great Matter gets pinned on Anne. Even if never existed, Henry would have still moved heaven and earth to obtain a divorce.