Path to St. Peter ad Vincula–Part II

Path to St. Peter ad Vincular—Part II

Anne Bolyen’s path to her final resting place in St. Peter ad Vincular began the minute King Henry VIII turned his full attention on her.  The personal element of their courtship is not the subject of this blog entry, rather the political and religious maneuverings that culminated in their marriage.

Once Anne came onto the scene, Henry’s previous scruples of being married to his brother’s widow, which was unclean as taught by scripture, became magnified.  It was unacceptable to be married to Katherine of Aragon any longer.  Henry had negotiated with the French King, Francis I, in order to gain support in his bid for a divorce. He also had contact with his nephew-by-marriage, Charles V, to no avail.  Added to these attempts to treat, Henry gathered the opinions of university scholars and theologians throughout Europe in order to bend the Pope to claim in his favor.  Nothing happened as the Pope, in this delicate position, procrastinated.  In frustration Henry wrote to Clement VII on December 6, 1530, from Hampton Court of his displeasure.  Henry believed that “his demands, however just and reasonable, are put aside” and that “sometimes he cannot believe the Pope to have done what he knows he has done.”  Clement refused to allow the divorce case to be heard in England against the support of the French King and his councilors and “also the whole nobility and leading men in England” (Brewer IV 6759).  An exasperated Henry exclaimed that the Pope had shown “by his acts before all the world that he is wholly devoted to the Emperor’s will.” Even more interesting is the fact that Henry, having read William Tyndale’s text (more on that below), laid it out to Clement that if he desires “his own rights to be respected, let him not interfere with those of Henry” and “let him not suppose that either the King or his nobles will allow the fixed laws of his kingdom to be set aside.”  Henry would not let “the laws of England suffer the contrary, and … he will not brook denial” (Brewer IV 6759).

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Pope Clement VII Portrait by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1526

Clement VII responded to Henry’s letter on January 7, 1531, and told Henry “there are many things in your letters in which we miss your usual wisdom, and even your modesty” and denied the “taunt that we are governed by the Emperor” Charles V.  Clement claimed that it was “clear from the complaints against him made by the Emperor” that he had not submitted to Charles’ demands (Gairdner V 31).

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Pope Clement VII response to Henry VIII letter

Clement addressed the charge that the case could not be heard in England.  He admitted “that this is so, because it is the peculiar privilege of the Holy See to refer to himself all causes which in any province cannot be effectively determined” and the “Apostolic See allowed her [Katherine] allegation to be considered sufficient, that England was a suspected place, as the King was her opponent” (Gairdner V 31).  Contrary to what Henry had been reading in Tyndale, the Pope emphasized that the kingdom’s laws would not be violated “provided they can be preserved without scandal to the Catholic Church, which is to be preferred to all law.” Perhaps suspecting the loss of Henry to the cause of the Catholic Church Clement beseeched him to remember “his title of Defender of the Faith, and peaceably arrange this cause, or acquiesce in the judgment of the Holy See” (Gairdner V 31).

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Anonymous writer’s defense of the Pope

Henry remained as patient as he could for two more years awaiting the Pope’s decision, but with Anne pregnant he took action and married her in January 1533.  In a proclamation Henry declared that he was “married and espoused according to the laws of God and holy Church to the lady Anne, his lawful wife, who as appertaineth to the estate is by the said assent anointed and crowned Queen of this realm” (Pocock 497).  Henry further created a Proclamation in June 1533 to warn his subjects “to avoid the danger and penalty of the Statue of Provision and Premunire” which laid out his divorce from Katherine of Aragon and the fact that he “hath lawfully married and taken to wife, after the laws of the Church, the right high and ecellent princess Lady Anne now Queen of England, and she solemnly crowned and anointed as pertaineith, to the laud, praise, and honour of Almighty God, the surety of the king’s succession and posterity, and to the great joy, comfort, and contantation of all the subjects of this realm” (Pocock 502).  Despite the universal happiness of the realm that Henry proclaimed occurred upon the announcement of his marriage, he had to explain to his people that his divorce from Katherine was final and anyone in doubt would “incur and run in the pains and penalties comprised in the statutes” (Pocock 502).

Within England, the pro-Catholic and the pro-Imperial factions rejoiced when Pope Clement annulled the marriage of Henry and Anne on July 11, 1533, by proclaiming, “Sententia deffinitiva Clementis Popæ septimi pro matrimonio Henrici Octavi Angliæ  Regis cum Catharinâ et contra secundas ejusdem nuptias cum Annâ Bolenâ.  Data Romæ anno Domini 1533.  Pontificatûs Clementis decimo” (Pocock 677).  Of course, Henry ignored the command.  Anne was the one to suffer from the ill will of those in England loyal to the old faith.

Samuel Singer, as editor of the George Cavendish work on Thomas Wolsey, commented that since the “marriage of Henry with Anne Bullen led to the separation of the kingdom from the See of Rome, her memory has consequently always been vituperated in all possible ways by every true son of the Catholic Church…” Protestant writers have not “been wanting in zeal to defend the queen from all the unjust aspersions upon her character, and have considered her as a martyr to the cause of the reformed church” (Cavendish II 44).  However, what was Anne’s true role?  Was she a staunch supporter of the reformed church?  Was she using the Reformation as a means to an end for her acquisition of the queenship? Most pieces of ‘evidence’ could be interpreted to support either proposition.

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An engraving of Anne Boleyn in the cover George Cavendish’s book, said to be after the original portrait by Holbein.

A story collaborated by John Foxe and George Wyatt (added in George Cavendish’s work on Wolsey) related how Anne Boleyn shared with Henry a copy of the banned book The Obedience of a Christian Man written in 1528 by William Tyndale.  Advocating, among other things, that a king of a country should be the head of the Church not the Pope, Tyndale’s claims were radical and dangerous to say the least.  Although the idea of the divine right of kings did not take a firm foothold during the Tudor era, Henry embraced the idea that a pope had no earthly authority and that the king “is the minister of God,” and kings “are God’s ministers serving for the same purpose….” Henry welcomed Tyndale’s claim that “God therefore hath given laws unto all nations, and in all lands hath put kings, governors, and rulers in his own stead, to rule the world through them” (Tyndale 25).

Therefore while the Catholics blamed Anne for revealing the book to Henry in order to obtain the divorce from Katherine through strengthening his resolve to break from Rome and create a Church under his leadership, the Protestants praised her because “the help of this virtuous Lady, by the means aforesaid, had his eyes opened to the truth, to advance God’s religion and glory, to abhor the Pope’s doctrine” (Strype 172).

Anne had promoted Protestant ideas and had in her possession several banned books beyond Tyndale’s which she shared with Henry.  It appears as if the King enjoyed Simon Fish’s Supplication of the Beggars (Warnicke 111-112) and accepted some of the doctrines of the Protestants.  Henry was a conservative and did not alter many of the Church doctrines.  Anne was the more liberal.  The Scottish clergyman and historian, Alexander Alesius, wrote Elizabeth Regina “true religion in England had its commencement and its end with your mother” (Denny 132).  Influenced by Anne, many ecclesiastical appointments were of evangelical “scholars who favoured the purer doctrine of the gospel” (Denny 212).  Men such as Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, and Nicholas Shaxton were the most prominent.  Members of her own household were also more liberal including her chaplain, Matthew Parker, future Archbishop of Canterbury, to whom she entrusted the spiritual life of her toddler daughter, Elizabeth, to him in the event of anything happening to her.

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William Tyndale

Another Protestant doctrine from Tyndale that Anne embraced was the theory that the Bible should be translated into the vernacular.  Showing her reluctance to push conservatives too far by disobeying a strictly forbidden work, Anne never owned an English language Bible—she had one in French.

For References, please refer to the blog entry, Path to St. Peter ad Vincula-Part I

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