Specifically, Henry said he felt old enough that “he doubted whether he should have any child by the Queen.” We know he said it because Chapuys wrote about the incident to Charles V. But I think it was a bald-faced lie. Before I share the full letter so you can judge for yourself, let me share some context.
Henry had just killed Anne and married Jane. I could see where killing Anne could make him feel world-weary. I can also see where this kind of admission would be designed to reassure Jane that she would not be blamed for any failing. But did Henry believe it himself? Nah. Here’s the kicker: Henry FitzRoy had just died, so if Jane had no children then Mary would become the logical heir to the throne. That was the whole point of the conversation – Henry was sucking up to Spain. Charles and Chapuys’ hatred for Anne was one of the strong political reasons that compelled her death; this was another political tool. France and Spain were coming close to war, and Henry was making overtures to them both to keep England safe…dangling Mary in marriage both before the Duke of Angouleme (Francis’ third son) as well as Don Luis (Charles’ brother-in-law). Both of the diplomats lapped it up…
On leaving the company I took Cromwell apart, who assured me that the King was very well disposed to listen to the matters of which we had treated, and as to the Princess, the King had lately told him that he felt himself already growing old, and doubted whether he should have any child by the Queen; for which reason he intended, in a few days, to declare the Princess heir of the kingdom, and that then would be the proper time to speak of her marriage with the Infant Don Loys, telling me also in great confidence that the French had made the greatest solicitation to have the Princess for the Dauphin, and being refused, asked to have her for the duke of Angoulême; on which they had given them some good words, but that was all they should have, and that I might trust him that they would do nothing with the French to your Majesty’s prejudice, whatever the pensioners of France, like the duke of Norfolk, might say. I further proposed to him the article which had been already talked about touching the Pope, using several arguments to show that it would greatly assist the enterprise against France; for, besides that the subjects of Guienne and Normandy would be more inclined to declare for the King, means might also be found to make his Holiness declare against France by the indications long since written from Rome to Cromwell; which proposal touching the affair of the Pope, Cromwell repeated in English to the Chancellor and the bishop of Chichester, desiring me for further confirmation to declare it again. And they approved of it.