Okay, let me admit it. Right up front. I can’t confirm the date. For the last twenty years, I have been assembling a timeline. Every time I read something that resonates, and it references a specific date, I add it to the timeline. I have not always been as vigilant as I am now about recording my sources.
So here I have a reference – bracketed at that – to February 15th as the date on which Anne Boleyn told Sir Thomas Wyatt, in front of Eustace Chapuys, the Spanish Ambassador (indeed, in front of the entire court), that she had “a furious desire to eat apples.” Searching now, all I can find is Claire Ridgeway’s notation in an article about Wyatt that this incident occurred on February 22. Now, let me say that it is NEVER a good idea to bet against Claire Ridgeway. She has created and maintains The Anne Boleyn Files; she also launched and run The Tudor Society (good advice: bookmark the Anne Boleyn Files, join The Tudor Society. Enough said). Claire is the ultimate authority.
But I am itching to talk about this. As much as Anne Boleyn was dying to share her news. And so I am going for it today.
Remember the context: Anne Boleyn likely began to sleep with Henry VIII during their trip to Calais in October/November to meet with Francis I and drum up French support for their marriage. Anne was rumored to have gotten pregnant in December, they married on January 25. At this point, Anne was still sworn to maintain secrecy because of all that would have to be done to fully legitimize their union. One of the big items: Thomas Cranmer had been appointed Archbishop of Canterbury (this would lend him a lingering legitimacy from the very church they were in the process of rejecting) but the Papal Bulls had not yet arrived (they got there at the end of March). Another major item: on February 4, Cromwell introduced a bill to the new parliamentary session that had just begun to restrict the right to make appeals to Rome; this was passed into law at the beginning of April. Henry also needed to work out legal procedures establishing how his marriage to Catherine would be judged by the Church of England’s senior clergy. Those were completed to allow Cranmer to open his court at Dunstable on May 10, and finally rule on May 23 that Henry’s marriage to Catherine was invalid – even threatening Henry with excommunication if he did not put away Catherine. On May 28, Cranmer declared Henry’s marriage to Anne good and lawful – opening the door for Anne’s coronation on June 1.
So now roll back the timeline. It’s January .You are Anne Boleyn. You gave in because the King was close to being able to make good on his promise of marriage. Now you are pregnant – and the King has married you and intends to move heaven and earth to see you crowned. What do you do?
You leave your rooms. You spy an old friend – Sir Thomas Wyatt – in the crowd. You call to him. He comes to you, bows and speaks. He asks how you fare. You answer. Loudly enough that the entire room can hear you.
“I have a furious desire to eat apples, such as I have never had in all my life. The King says it must mean that I am with child, but I say no, not at all.”
Then you laugh and return to your rooms. You have just announced your pregnancy to the world. Your triumph.
There was such promise at this time. The promise becomes all the more poignant in light of how things turned out…
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