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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Question from Guy - Annulling of the Howard marriage

Did Henry VIII have his marriage to Catherine Howard annulled? If so, on what grounds?

8 comments:

  1. Apparently he didn't.

    The reason seemed to be because Henry didn't need to make illegitimate any children of a previous marriage (as he did with Mary and Elizabeth), or need to legally free himself for a new marriage (as he did with Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, and Anne of Cleves).

    At Katheryn Howard's fall, Henry had new wife in mind.

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  2. Sorry, I meant to say:

    At Katheryn Howard's fall, Henry had NO new wife in mind.

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  3. Initially, the fact that she was pre-contracted to francis dereham would have been enough to sentence her for treason, however this she denied. so a law was passed stipulating that because she didnt tell the king of her sexual past she could be sentenced for treason punishable by death. Her marriage was anulled and then she was stripped of her title of queen before being beheaded a few months later.

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  4. Does anyone know a primary source for it? I always read that he had four of his marriages annulled, but can't find (even flicking through Bal;dwin Smith and Denny's biographies) what the reason was, not for sure.

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  5. He had his marridge to her anulled on charges of adultry! She commeted incest with several men from her various childhood homes, such a Lambeth place. She failed to tell the king of this, her enemies found out, and the pentalty was that her head wasn't attatched to her body at the end of the day!

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  6. Can anybody actually give a RELIABLE source to show the marriage was annulled. I don't see any mention in Baldwin Smith, Denny, Starkey, Fraser or Letters&Papers. Maybe I've just overlooked something.

    I agree with Roland that as there were no children that needed to be removed from the line of succession, all Henry needed to rid himself of Katheryn was Parliament's assent to what, I believe, was a murder of convenience carried out in public.

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  7. There is a standard source called The Matrimonial Trials of Henry VIII, by Henry Ansgar Kelly, which discusses Henry VIII's annulments in detail. The author only cites three annulments (Aragon, Boleyn, Cleves). Regarding Catherine Howard, he points out (with reference to Gairdner) that if adultery occurred, Catherine committed it with Henry, as she was married (by pre-contract) to Dereham at the time of her marriage to Henry.

    A law was passed, however, in 1540, abolishing the need for dispensations based on kinship (except for kinships specifically stated in Scripture) and pre-contract; I would think that would protect Catherine legally. Kelly takes the view the law was intended to protect Henry, not Catherine, as she "probably kept her earlier marriage skirmishes to herself."

    Crucially, Kelly says, when Catherine's conduct was exposed, "...the king did not want the precontract business brought up. Perhaps he thought it would not be good for his reputation; besides, it was sufficient to have her condemned of treason, for there was no offspring to worry about, as there was in the case of Anne Boleyn."

    Alison Weir (The Six Wives of Henry VIII) says the Howard marriage was "never formally annulled." David Loades' The Tudor Queens of England notes that "by 22 November [1541] the Council was convinced of the guilt of all three [Howard, Dereham, Culpeper]. On that day it was decreed that Catherine was no longer to be styled Queen but only the Lady Catherine Howard. This had no judicial significance, but was perhaps a pointer to the way in which it had been decided to proceed against her."

    Possibly it was this action by the Council that has led people to assume the marriage was annulled. A lot of secondary sources state that while confined at Syon, Catherine was "served as queen" or "attended as queen," and the primary sources keep referring to her still as the queen, so perhaps the Privy Council's decision was not generally known or published. There was also a law in effect against speaking against the queen, whoever it was, so perhaps everyone was just being careful.

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  8. The answer to the original question clearly seems to be No. Despite the Privy Council's decision, Catherine [nee Howard] was the King's wife, and so Queen in strict law if not so styled, up to her death. Though probably contracted to Dereham she never admitted this and no court ever ruled against her on it; the Act of Attainder was silent on the point and her death ended the possibility that this could become the subject of a ruling.

    In law, therefore, the 'six wives of Henry VIII' were actually three: Jane Seymour, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr; and his only legitimately-born child was Edward VI. The remaining 'marriages' were nullities because of affinity (in one case) or precontract (in the others). Mary I and Elizabeth I were both born bastards but legitimated by subsequent Acts.

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