Thursday, October 02, 2014

Question from Alex - Mary Tudor and Henry Fitzroy

I recently read that Henry VIII, at one point, thought about possibility of Mary marrying her half-brother, Henry Fitzroy. How serious that intent was, and why it failed in the end?

[Some coverage of this question is in the comments to the previous post linked below. - Lara]


PhD Historian said...

I would be very curious where you read about that "possibility." To be frank, it sounds like some modern novelist's invention. I cannot myself imagine Henry VIII ever entertaining that particular possibility for even a moment. It would have violated church law on marriage and would have been entirely beyond the bounds of dispensation or exception. And it would have been entirely too similar to Henry's own marriage to his brother's widow, a marriage that Henry notably dissolved on the grounds that it was against the laws of the church and beyond the power of the church to grant exception. How could Henry have invoked church law in regard to one but ignore it in regard to the other? I have never seen such a proposal mentioned in the records of the period, and I strongly suspect no such proposal was ever made. If I am wrong, I would be very curious to see the original 16th century record documenting it.

Lara said...

See the last comment (from Foose) on the previous thread that I linked to - it appears that it was actually suggested at the time.

I Googled on part of the quote Foose put in the previous comment and got the volume of the Letters Papers it was in - Vol IV, Part 2 (pg. 2113 of the version I found on Google books - yay for public domain book scanning!)

That said, I have to wonder how serious the suggestion actually was, or if it was just a ploy in that stage of the back-and-forth of the king's "Great Matter".

PhD Historian said...

Thanks for pointing that out, Lara. Very interesting. That the report came from Campeggio is probably telling. As is the reference to the papacy possibly providing a dispensation for the marriage. Unless I completely misunderstand canon law, the church cannot grant any dispensation that violates so-called "natural law." And marriage between brother and sister, even of the half blood, was considered a violation of natural law. I suspect Campeggio was scaring up rumors in advance of the hearings on Henry's marriage to Katherine, trying to make Henry appear desperate (as indeed Henry was!), deliberately creating a negative impression of Henry so as to provide a particular atmosphere as the hearings opened. The more foolishly desperate Henry could be made to appear, the easier it would be to decide for Katherine ... as Campeggio no doubt intended to do from the start, before being outwitted by Henry. For Henry's part, he attributed his failure to sire a male heir by Katherine to God's punishment for his (Henry's) violation of a similar natural law. I cannot imagine that he would have considered sending his son and daughter into a similar prohibited marriage without considering that it would be similarly punished and childless.

Anonymous said...

IIRC, Henry had an affair with Anne Boleyn's sister, and, he even requested a papal dispensation to allow him to marry someone with whom he was in the first degree of affinity due to illicit intercourse with a close relative (at least, if his marriage to Catherine is found invalid). So, Henry didn't seem to have any problem in picking and choosing between which canonical prohibitions had to be honored and which ones did not.


PhD Historian said...

You are correct, Esther, that Henry's relationship with Anne Boleyn could potentially have been subject in canon law to the prohibition on affinity. However, any proposed marriage between Mary Tudor and Henry Fitzroy would not have been governed by affinity. Instead, it would have been judge by consanguinity. Thus the two relationships and the two marriages were quite different under canon law, and not comparable. Some affinity could be dispensed. But brother-sister consanguinity could not be dispensed.

PhD Historian said...

I might add that consanguinity is an issue of natural law. The word means "same blood," indicating a biological relationship. It is thus a relationship by nature. Affinity, on the other hand, is a spiritual issue, in canon law terms. The relationship is not created through biology, but rather through spiritual association. In your example, Henry VIII was not biologically related to either Mary Boleyn or Anne Boleyn, so there was no consanguinity. But by having sexual intercourse with Mary Boleyn, Henry entered into a spiritual relationship with her that was akin to (but definitely not sanctioned by) the holy sacrament of marriage. As such Anne, as Mary's sister, became Henry's spiritual sister(-in-law). Spiritual affinities can be dissolved by an ecclesiastical court or papal decree. Biological consanguinity cannot be dissolved or dispensed.