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January 25, 1533 – Henry and Anne’s Secret Marriage

The Secret Wedding between Henry (Jonathan Rhys-Meyer) and Anne (Natalie Dormer), from The Tudors

So there were many theories as to when Henry and Anne married. My favorite is propounded by Agnes Strickland – she gives several of the alternatives (all earlier than this) and then comes down that she believes this is the correct one. I agree. While I believe that Henry and Anne consummated their relationship in France, I don’t believe they actually married until they knew Anne was pregnant…the point from which The Great Matter accelerated: Henry needed a legal heir.

I will let Agnes describe the scene:

“[The wedding], so fatal to the bride, who was to purchase the brief possession of a crown with the loss of her head, took place on St. Paul’s day, January 25, 1533. ‘On the morning of that day, at a very early hour,’ says a contemporary, ‘Dr. Rowland Lee, one of the royal chaplains, received the unwonted order to celebrate mass in an unfrequented attic in the west turret of Whitehall. There he found the king, attended by Norris and Heneage, two of the grooms of the chamber, and the marchioness of Pembroke, accompanied by her train-bearer Anne Saville, afterwards lady Berkeley. On being required to perform the nuptial rite between his sovereign and the marchioness, in the presence of three witnesses assembled, the chaplain hesitated; but Henry is said to have assured him that the pope had pronounced in favor of the divorce, and that he had the dispensation for a second marriage in his possession.”

At this point, Agnes steps back from the story:

“This portion of the narrative we are inclined to doubt; since Henry, weary of the delays attending the prosecution of the divorce, which in its procrastinated tedium can only be compared to a modern chancery suit, had resolved upon the bold measure of treating his marriage with queen Katherine as a nullity. As for the scruples of Rowland Lee, they were more likely to have been overcome by the promise of the mitre of the bishopric of Lichfield, than by the fiction of a papal dispensation for the intended marriage.”

Gotta love Agnes!

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