Monday, June 01, 2009

Question from Holly - Talk of Henry's marriages in other countries

I'm wondering if anyone knows what was being said in other countries as Henry's wife count stacked up. It seems like some eyebrows would have been raised, in particular after Anne of Cleves became Henry's "sister". Was England an important enough ally to just ignore Henry's "quirks"?


Foose said...

In July 1540, as Anne's marriage was being annulled, the English envoys Wallop and Carne had an interview with King Francois, who was planning to marry his niece to Anne of Cleves' brother.

Carne suggested the French king might want to thoroughly investigate the matrimonial entanglements of Anne's brother, much as Anne's betrothal to the Duke of Lorraine's son should have been more carefully studied.

"Told [Francois] the nobles and commons had accordingly petitioned the King [Henry] to commit his marriage to the examination of the clergy; therewith the King [Francois] said, 'What, with the matrimony made with the Queen that now is?' To whom I, Edward Carne, said ‘Yea.’ Then he [made] a great sigh, and so spake no more.” Said the King [Henry] hoped that Francis would not think he would do anything in the matter but according to justice and equity, and that he would show the part of a friend in case of any sinister reports. [Francis] replied that he would take no opinion of the King but as a loving brother and friend should do, and in this matter Henry's own conscience must be judge. He would weigh and consider as a friend what further happened, according to Henry's request."

Francois kept hoping that Henry would take Anne back, because he was planning to construct a grand anti-imperial alliance between himself, Henry and the anti-Imperial German princes led by Cleves, with Anne and her brother as the glue holding the alliance together through their respective marriages in England and France.

But the French are agog over the details, as Carne and Wallop find out at a dinner meeting in the Chateau of Anet:

"The Cardinal of Bellay, who was with the King [Francois], spoke to Wallop of the divorce, saying it was more to be marvelled at than any other, because men could judge no cause 'why it should or might be'; and he wished to know the particulars, as he was always ready to speak up for the King." King Francois pipes up: "Two things he seemed very earnest to know viz., the cause of divorce and whether the late Queen should depart thence." A distinguished guest cannot conceal his curiosity: "The Cardinal of Ferrara talked of the matter to Carne, suggesting that the King might have made a pre-contract. Told him he might be sure the King had only acted as any other might in like case. He was very anxious to know the cause."

Foose said...

Meanwhile, in the Low Countries, rumor was going wild. Pate reported in July 1540:

"Heard in Antwerp that the people said the dissolution of the King's last marriage had alienated the hearts of the Electors, but that, being wise, he had 'contravailed' the Emperor or French king in their place."


"A papal nuncio came yesterday having left Rome on the 3rd inst., who, with the resident nuncio, had an interview with [Granvelle, the Emperor's chief minister]. There are divers rumours of the dissolution of the King's marriage, that the Queen will be secluded in an abbey, and the King marry either the duchess of Milan or an English Duke's daughter."

On hearing the news, the Emperor was mellow. The repudiation of Anne meant Henry would probably not be participating in anti-Imperial Leagues. What the papal nuncio actually wrote to Cardinal Farnese was:

"[Granvelle] told me the English ambassador had come to him, and afterwards to the Emperor, and announced that his King has referred the case of his present wife, sister of the duke of Cleves, to his Council, to decide whether she is his lawful wife. The Emperor is astonished, but, apparently, not displeased."

Later, after Kathryn Howard's fall, the Emperor told Chapuys to make sure that Anne is not taken back as Queen.

The anti-Imperial Germans were shocked. Thomas Barnaby wrote to Wallop: "'[The ambassadors of Guelders, in cahoots with Cleves against the Emperor] moved me' of the report that the King (of England) would be separated from the Queen. The 'old ambassador' said first that the French king had told him this, but afterwards that it was the King or some other great man, but he had heard nothing of it from the duke of Cleves, and he thought it was but a dream."

And in October 1540:

"They do not refrain from obloquies of the King's repudiation of lady Anne of Cleves. A kinsman of the duke of Cleves, wishing lady Anne to return, trusted to see the day that the King would repent of her repudiation."

There was talk that Anne's situation would be brought up at the Imperial Diet, so Pate warned Henry to send someone who would be able to make the English case look good.

Just as shocking was the fact that Anne was still alive! The papal nuncio reported to Farnese in September 1540: "So far [Henry] is pleased with his new wife; the other, sister of Cleves, has retired in peace, and lives." [emphasis mine]. Which suggests that yes, Henry had a certain reputation as a wife-killer (as previously suggested by Christian of Denmark's pert rejoinder to the English envoys seeking her hand in 1539, that the king of England's first wife "was poisoned, his second was innocently put to death, and the third lost for 'lack of keeping in childbed.')

Foose said...

So, in response to your last question, I would say that the elites of other countries were primarily focused on the potential of an English alliance. The wild speculation that Henry might take back Anne as Queen suggests that by keeping her in England, but without obvious grievances as to her maintenance and precedence, Henry was perhaps counting on her usefulness as an anti-Imperial deterrent -- the Emperor was very concerned that Henry would take her back and join the alliance against him. (There's no consideration that he could take her back without joining an alliance; in the 16th century, an alliance without a marriage was seen as "but a dry peace" and probably the converse was true, too.)

Moreover, she was a kind of living demonstration of Henry's contention that if Catherine of Aragon had behaved properly, she too could be living handsomely under his protection as the king's "sister," which he insisted she really was.

The "sister" strategy, while unusual, was reasonably respectable in comparison to the choices of some other contemporary princes, like Philip of Hesse, who, confronting his own passion for a lady in waiting, opted for polygamy.