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May 31, 1529 – Opening of the Legatine Court at Blackfriars

“Catherine of Aragon Denounced Before Henry VIII” by Laslett John Pott (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

This was quite a day for Cardinal Wolsey! He really thought he was golden right about now….

A bit of context: in April 1528 (more than a year before!), Pope Clement VII had agreed to delegate the power to try the case involving the proposed annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. He allowed Wolsey to preside…with another papal legate. This papal legate turned out to be Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio, who had been secretly instructed to delay things as long as possible. After all, the whole world was betting that Henry would soon tire of Anne and abandon this crazy idea. That didn’t happen – and slow as Campeggio was, the day finally came when the trial had to begin. That was today.

Henry and Wolsey were confident of the outcome. Kings were routinely granted annulments when their wives did not produce sons – Henry’s own sister had been granted an annulment on grounds that were considerably more shaky. Yes, Henry and Wolsey knew that Catherine’s nephew Charles V would be upset, but they figured he would understand that this was the way of the world….instead, they were the ones upset, the ones to learn how much more power was held by Spain and the Holy Roman Empire. Campeggio would revoke the case to Rome, Wolsey would die in disgrace, and Henry would walk away from the Roman Catholic church. But for today, they were happy. Confident.

[Of course, Catherine had not given her show-stopping speech yet. Read it here…or save it for later next month!]


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