This was a huge step. Anne was granted a hereditary peerage in her own right – the first time this had ever been done in England. And what a peerage! Pembroke was the title borne a century earlier by Henry’s great-uncle Jasper Tudor. Whatever happened to or with Henry, Anne was semi-royal.
The ennoblement occurred right before Anne was about to accompany Henry on a trip to France to drum up support for the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. The title was a way of enhancing Anne’s status for the meeting – a step that was soon followed by Anne’s taking over the crown jewels which Catherine was forced to surrender.
The real question is whether this was a reward for Anne finally ceding her virginity to Henry – or the assurance she needed before she would do so. The wording of Anne’s patent vested succession to the title in her “heirs male” – omitting the usual “lawfully begotten” qualifier. That strongly suggests that they were contemplating such a possibility. Either way, the question was mooted a couple of weeks later, when Henry and Anne were in France and it became clear that they were sleeping together – they had interconnecting bed chambers they spent most of their time in, the Venetian ambassador was claiming they had married in secret…that kind of stuff. Whether the relationship started there is irrelevant to all but the romantics among us, who like to imagine that the lovers were transported after the triumph of the meeting with Francis and threw caution to the wind in the certainty that they would soon be lawfully married…
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