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September 29, 1528 – Cardinal Campeggio Arrives in England

An 18th Century Painting of Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio, Artist Unknown (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio was the legate appointed by Pope Clement V to hear Henry VIII’s annulment request case in England.

The case, better known as “The King’s Great Matter,” had arisen at least a year before: Henry wanted to dissolve his marriage to Catherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn. Given how many other monarchs had been accommodated with annulments when succession issues were involved, this should have been a foregone conclusion…except that Catherine’s nephew was Charles V, King of Spain, Holy Roman Emperor – and the general whose armies had just sacked Rome and held Clement almost prisoner. Truthfully, if Henry had been planning to take a French bride, Clement would have had two of the three main powers behind him and could have ruled in Henry’s favor (that was Wolsey’s plan, and he was pretty confident in it). But Charles would not accept his aunt being thrown over for the woman that he and his ambassador called “the Concubine” (or worse).

So what did Clement do? Procrastinate in the hopes that Henry’s passion for Anne would burn itself out. First he tried to insist that Henry and Catherine come to Rome to have their case heard there. Then in a move that looked like a concession, he sent a Papal Legate (Campeggio) to hear the case in England. But at the same time he also told Campeggio to delay…and that’s exactly what Campeggio did. An example? Campeggio landed in England on September 29, but it took him nine days to make the 68 miles to London (medieval historians tell us that a merchant could travel between thirty-five and forty miles a day even if they traveled only during daylight hours…).  Another example? Campeggio arrived in London on October 8, but the trial did not begin until May 31, 1529. (This was the Blackfriars trial, at which Catherine gave an epic speech – read it here, trust me you want to).

Although the delay proved ineffectual, the Pope and the Emperor were pleased with Campeggio’s performance. On his way back to Rome, Campeggio met Clement and Charles in Bologna, where the Pope gave Campeggio the castle of Dozza and the Emperor took Campeggio’s family under his patronage…

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