The Path to St. Peter ad Vincula: Part I

The Path to St. Peter ad Vincula:  Part I

Nicholas Sander was an English Catholic who in 1586 wrote The Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism, (De Origine ac Progressu Schismatis Anglicani.)  For the purpose of this blog the materials relayed from his book will concentrate on Sander’s discussion of Anne Boleyn.  That he was not a supporter of Anne is an understatement. That he saw it as his duty to publish any-and-all anecdotes that reached him is also an understatement.  In an introduction to a later publication of Sander’s book (1877), editor, David Lewis wrote that Sander was not a “slave to his resentments and passions” and did no true harm to Anne’s reputation as many had already done as much (Sander XXVI).

“The French Ambassador did not spare her, and the king’s own sister, the duchess of Suffolk, is said to have uttered ‘opprobrious language’ against her.”  Lewis went on to report that “the Venetian Calendar of State Papers, edited by Mr. Rawdon Brown, is a contemporary account of Anne, not more flattering than that of Dr. Sander” (Sander XXV).

Mario Savorgnano, Venetian Ambassador to England, had many of his dispatches to the Doge and Senate compiled by historian Marnio Sanuto in Diaries.   Sanuto’s work covers the time-period of January 1496 to September 1533 in 58 volumes. Rawdon Brown used materials from these volumes in 1871 in his translations of the Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice.  Savorgnano, while praising King Henry VIII on August 25, 1531, lessened the commendation by declaring that one “thing detracts greatly from his merits, as there is now living with him a young woman of noble birth, though many say of bad character, whose will is law to him” (Brown August 1531 682)

.Marin Sanudo
Page from the book, Diaries, by Marnio Sanuto.

Simon Grynaeus, a religious reformer from Basel, who, through Erasmus, had an introduction to Sir Thomas More, spent several months in England in late 1531.  Although he accepted the task to help Henry collect the opinions of the continental reformers on the divorce between Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, Grynaeus spoke of Anne “as a woman entitled to no respect” (Sander XXV).

simon gryn booksimon gryn book2
Pages from the book by Simon Grynaeus.

Lodovico Falier, Venetian co-Ambassador to the Court of Henry VIII  from January 1528 until August 1531 wrote a summary report on 10 November 1531 which was presented to the Venetian rulers declaring that Queen Katherine of Aragon was “beloved by the islanders more than any Queen that ever reigned” (Brown November 1531 694).  Sander relayed a contemporary’s assessment of Anne. “Madam Anne is not one of the handsomest women in the world: she is of middling stature, swarthy complexion, long neck, wide mouth, bosom not much raised, and in fact has nothing but the English king’s great appetite and her eyes, which are black and beautiful. That is an account of Anne Boleyn in October 1532, when she was living ‘like a queen at Calais,’ accompanied by the king” (Sander XXV-XXVI).

NPG D24782; Simon Grynaeus after Unknown artist
Engraving by an unknown artist of Simon Grynaeus.

The following is a story attributed by Sander only to the ‘French Ambassador in Venice’ who received this about the same time as Falier was giving his report. It is also relayed in Sanuto’s Diaries for the date 24 November, 1531 as reported by Brown in the Calendar of State Papers—Venice. “It is said that more than seven weeks ago a mob of from seven to eight thousand women of London went out of the town to seize Boleyn’s daughter, the sweetheart of the king of England, who was supping at a villa –in una casa di piacere—on a river; the king not being with her; and having received notice of this she escaped by crossing the river in a boat.  The women had intended to kill her, and amongst the mob were many men disguised as women; nor has any great demonstration been made about this, because it was a thing done by women” (Sander xxvii; Brown November 1531 701).

Even more tantalizing than the above story is the one concerning the birth of Anne Boleyn.  Lewis goes on quite a tirade concerning the work of William Rastall (Rastell), Life of Sir Thomas More.  It appeared to be used as an argument for the validity of Dr. Burnet’s (Gilbert Burnet was a 17th century Scottish theologian, respected historian, and Bishop of Salisbury) story of the birth of Anne Boleyn—more on that in a little bit.  Sander’s lengthy discourse caused me to spend way too much time investigating. As near as I can piece together, William Rastell did not write a book about his uncle Sir Thomas More (William’s mother was Sir Thomas’ sister) but printed the text of More’s own work, A dyaloge of Syr Thomas More knyghte: one of the counsayll of oure soverayne lorde the kyng & chauncellour of hys duchy of Lancaster…. William later edited it into More’s English Works.  John Rastell a printer and William’s father, and his subcontractor, Peter Treveris, had completed an initial printing in June 1529 (Devereux 153-155). Therefore, when Lewis pronounced, “Dr. Burnet was a bolder man” than Nicholas Sander and that Brunet “denies also that Rastell ever wrote a Life of Sir Thomas More” as to why his story “deserves to be read” I had to investigate (Sander xxvii).

rastell
Printer’s Mark of John Rastell

“Were true,” writes Burnet, “very much might be drawn from it, both to disparage king Henry, who pretended conscience to annul his marriage for the nearness of affinity, and yet would after that marry his own daughter.  It leaves also a foul and lasting stain both on the memory of Anne Boleyn, and of her incomparable daughter, queen Elizabeth.  It also derogates so much from the first reformers, who had some kind of dependence on queen Anne Boleyn, that it seems to be of great importance, for directing the reader in the judgment he is to make of persons and things, to lay open the falsehood of this account.  It were sufficient for blasting it, that there is no proof pretended to be brought for any part of it, but a book of one Rastall, a judge, that was never seen by any other person than that writer.  The title of the book is ‘The Life of Sir Thomas More.’  There is great reason to think that Rastall never writ any such book; for it is most common for the lives of great authors to be prefixed to their works.  Now this Rastall published all More’s works in queen Mary’s reign, to which if he had written his life, it is likely he would have prefixed it.  No evidence, therefore, being given for his relation, either from record or letters, or the testimony of any person who was privy to the matter, the whole is to be looked on as a black forgery, devised on purpose to defame queen Elizabeth” (Sander xxviii).

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Sir Thomas More

The implication that Henry VIII had sired a daughter, Anne, by Elizabeth Howard Boleyn was the outgrowth of the steady rumor that Henry had intimate relations with Elizabeth. Henry addressed the gossip to Sir George Throgmorton saying, “Never with the mother” (Friedman 326).  This blog will relay the story via the work of Nicholas Sander relayed through Dr. Burnet and Nicholas Pocock.

Pocock, who wrote Records of the Reformation: The Divorce 1527-1533, was no fan of Sander’s work.  In later years he edited a volume and wrote extensively of Sander’s mistakes.  In a lengthy chapter titled, “An Appendix Concerning Some of the Errors and Falsehoods in Sanders’ Book of the English Schism,” Pocock referred to his predecessor as “so great a master, impudence, and falsehood are matter of fact” (Burnet and Pocock 615).

Henry VIII was determined to marry Anne Boleyn and he was concerned over Cannon Law which could prohibit the marriage due to consanguinity.  It was accepted that Henry had committed “intrigue with Mary Boleyn, the elder sister of Anne” (Pocock xxxviii).  Nicholas Sander would not hold to Henry VIII’s argument that he must divorce Catherine of Aragon due to consanguinity yet would marry Anne Boleyn “having at the same time knowledge that this very impediment subsisted against the marriage with Anne Boleyn” (Sander 95). According to Sander, Henry had confessed in “a letter to Pope Clement VII that he had committed adultery with Mary Boleyn, the sister of Anne” (Sander 98).  This would make Henry related to Anne by the first degree of consanguinity.  Sander chided Henry for his lack of respect to the doctrines of the Church and for “his hypocrisy …and the falsehood of his heart” (Sander 98).  This being reference to Henry divorcing Katherine Aragon as the wife of his brother and for his relations to Mary Boleyn and Elizabeth Boleyn.

“Whether there was any connexion of a similar kind between Henry and the mother of Anne Boleyn may perhaps still be somewhat doubtful.  The king, on one occasion, denied that there had been any such intercourse, thereby tacitly admitting the other charge” (Pocock xxxviii).

ehboley

Portrait believed to be of Elizabeth Howard Boleyn

Whatever the truth concerning the matter of Lady Boleyn and Henry VIII, Pocock believed that Sander overreached himself in his eagerness to defame Elizabeth Regina.  He does later find more charity with Sander and states that Sander truly believed the information he had been given (Pocock xli).    Below is the document dated March 1533, in which a priest named Thomas Jackson was charged with having stated that the King had committed adultery with Anne and Elizabeth Boleyn. It was reported by Sander and later reproduced by Pocock, titled, “Number CCCXXIX.”

Certain Articles deposed against Sir Thomas Jakson,
Chantree priest of Chepax, for certain words spoken by
him maliciously against our sovereign lord and king and
the queen’s grace by John Kepar and Bryan Banke of the
said town, which things also they have confessed before
Mr. William Fairfax, Esquire, Sheriff of the county of York.
First, The said Chantry Priest said that the king’s grace had
lived before this his marriage lawfully made with the queen’s
grace, not after the laws of God, but in adultery with her
grace and so doth now still continue, putting away from him
his lawful wife.
 
Item, He said maliciously that the king’s grace should first
kepe the mother and after the daughter, and now he hath
married her whom he kept afore and her mother also, upon
which words we presented the said preiset unto the sheriff
aforesaid, upon which presentment the said preist was
attached with all his goods, and the said John Kepar
and Brian Banke were by the said sheriff made to bind
themselves ot come hither and present the same to the
king’s grace counsel; which they have now done, most
meekly desiring to be at your pleasure demitted, for
they be poor men, and to lye long here should be to them
great hindrance.
 
Which thing to be true the said John Kepar and Brian Banke
will stand by at all times and have bounden themselves
before the sheriff by their hands and seals.
 
Endorsed—
Certain Articles deposed against Sir Thomas Jakson priest
(Pocock 468).
jakson proof of ab
Document Number CCCXXIX

“That the report of such intercourse spread during the first year of the marriage is plain from the document Number CCCXXIX, and the story must be allowed whatever weight is due to an assertion of a charge in itself improbably, and for the invention f which no adequate reason can be assigned.  Hitherto it has been supposed that Nicholas Sanders was the inventor of the libel; but this document shews that the report existed at least half a century before Sanders’ book, ‘De Schismate,’ was published.  It was, of course easy to magnify the particulars of such a story till it grew to the dimensions of Anne being the king’s own daughter” (Pocock xxxix).  Sander declared that “Henry had sinned with the mother of Anne Boleyn. And there was therefore, that relationship between them which subsists between parent and child.  It is never lawful for a father to marry his own daughter” (Sander 99).

Pocock told how Sander had acquired the tale from a book about the life of Sir Thomas More by Rastell and had never checked the facts.  “That Anne could be the king’s daughter by lady Boleyn is easily shewn to be impossible from considerations of time and circumstance” (Pocock xxxix).  Although Pocock never relays to us the proof of this, he does give Sander some slack due to the wording of the dispensation that Cranmer had petitioned from the Pope to allow Henry to marry Anne.  Cranmer had to cover every possible point and we are cautioned not to place too much stress “on Cranmer’s assertion, that the affinity supposed to be contracted by illicit intercourse of a man with his wife’s sister, daughter, or mother.”  Specifics would not even be that necessary as Cannon Law “being express upon this subject: Secundum canones etiam per coitum fornicarium et incestuosum contrahitur affinitas.”  Pocock assures us that the details of Cranmer’s request are “veiled in the decent obscurity of a dead language” (Pocock xxxix-xl).

Thomas_Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer

This blogger is upset with herself for spending too much time and energy on these rumors but they do illustrate the lengths people went to defame Anne Boleyn.  Now we come to the crux of Sander’s argument.

Henry was deemed as shameless and Sander was astounded by the “hypocrisy and the rashness and lewdness of one man” but marveled the more at the fact that “multitudes of men should endure patiently, not their own lewdness, but that of another—not only endure it patiently, but respect it, praise and honour it so far as to build upon it their belief, their hope and salvation” (Sander 99-100).

Anne Boleyn B necklace
Anne Boleyn
He exclaimed that “Now, all English Protestants, honour the incestuous marriage of Henry and Anne Boleyn as the well-spring of their gospel, the mother of their Church, and the source of their belief” (Sander 100).  The religious issue was never far behind the personal and the political.  Pope Clement VII had officially declared that Henry had by “de facto married one Anne, contrary to Our commandments, and in contempt of Our prohibitions contained in Our letter in forma Brevis, thereby temerariously disturbing the due course of law; the marriage contracted by the aforesaid Henry and Anne all manifest and notorious deeds to be what they are and were, null and unjust and contrary to law” (Lilly 350).  For further measure, Clement declared “by the same sentence that the children, born or to be born of that marriage, are and always have been bastards” (Lilly 351).

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Pope Clement VII

As mentioned, politics wrapped itself in the religious and personal lives of the Tudor Era and the Pope saw fit to “deal gently and mercifully with the said Henry.” He gave Henry over a year to comply with the orders to repudiate Anne and reinstate Catherine or face excommunication.  The Pope could not afford to alienate Henry and was hoping for a reprieve to allow matters to resolve themselves and thus not offend Charles, Holy Roman Emperor, nephew of Catherine of Aragon.  That fascinating angle to this topic will not be addressed here. Thus, Catholic Sander was convinced that “this marriage opened a door to every heresy and to every sin” which eventually brought her downfall (Sander 101).

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