January 29, 1536 was the day that everything changed for Anne Boleyn – it was the day she miscarried of the son that would have kept her safe forever. While the event may not have led directly to her repudiation and execution, it certainly opened the possibility.
Henry VIII needed an heir, that was the bottom line. Remember, this was the man who fully believed that God’s judgment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was revealed in the fact that she had borne him no sons – it was this truth that had pushed him to break with the Catholic Church he had always loved and form his own, answerable to no one but him. Henry trusted his conscience – and that trust was surely much more deserved at the start of his reign than by the end. Power corrupts, and few figures illustrate this as well as Henry VIII.
When Anne miscarried this time, after two major later-term miscarriages – one in 1534, another in 1535 – it led him to see the hand of God once again, or think he did. I say this based on his alleged reaction to the news – depending on the source, he either said “I see God will not give me male children” or warned Anne “you shall have no more sons by me.” Either way, his meaning was clear.
But there’s more to the story. It’s one of those uniquely Tudor tales, packed with elements of divine symmetry and retribution: January 29th was also the day of Catherine of Aragon’s funeral. How ironic that Anne lost her child on the very day Catherine was committed to the earth. On top of that, a rumor, spread by Jane Dormer, Countess of Feria, suggested that the miscarriage was brought on by Anne Boleyn coming into a room to find Jane Seymour on Henry’s lap – prompting Anne to fear that Henry would treat he like had had treated her predecessor (that was the theory put forward by Eustace Chapuys, the Spanish Ambassador, anyway).
Henry Clifford, The Life of Jane Dormer, Duchess of Feria.
Letters & Papers – Chapuys’ letter to Charles V, dated February 10, 1536
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