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April 12, 1533 – Anne Boleyn Attends Mass as Queen

Anne and Henry walking through a crowd
Anne and Henry, from Cassell’s Illustrated History of England (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

This was huge. This was the point at which Henry could never turn back. He had told Catherine he did not consider their marriage valid and had indeed married Anne back in January – but all this was still relatively private. This was the carefully planned formal start to his new life – his announcement to the country and the world that henceforth they would pray for King Henry and Queen Anne. They chose the date to coincide with Easter Sunday, to liken their marriage to England’s own resurrection.

I’m going to let Chapuys describe it

On Saturday, Easter Eve, dame Anne went to mass in Royal state, loaded with jewels, clothed in a robe of cloth of gold friese. The daughter of the Duke of Norfolk, who is affianced to the Duke of Richmond, carried her train ; and she had in her suite 60 young ladies, and was brought to church, and brought back with the solemnities, or even more, which were used to the Queen. She has changed her name from Marchioness to Queen, and the preachers offered prayers for her by name. All the world is astonished at it for it looks like a dream, and even those who take her part know not whether to laugh or to cry.

The King is very watchful of the countenance of the people, and begs the lords to go and visit and make their court to the new Queen, whom he intends to have solemnly crowned after Easter, when he will have feastings and tournaments ; and some think that Clarencieux went four days ago to France to invite gentlemen at arms to the tourney, after the example of Francis, who did so at his nuptials. I know not whether this will be before or after, but the King has secretly appointed with the Archbishop of Canterbury that of his office, without any other pressure, he shall cite the King as having two wives ; and upon this, without summoning the Queen, he will declare that he was at liberty to marry as he has done without waiting for a dispensation or sentence of any kind.

The new status quo was reinforced with a deputation to Catherine informing her that she was never to use the title Queen again, that henceforth she would be known only as the Princess Dowager..even though the formal decision that their marriage was null would not be issued until the following month. Chapuys described this part too:.

On Wednesday the Duke of Norfolk, and the other Commissioners declared their charge to the Queen, which was in substance to persuade her to give up her appeal, and be content to have the cause settled here ; in doing which she would not only lay the whole kingdom under obligations to her, and prevent the effusion of blood, but the King would treat her better than she could ask. At last, perceiving there was no hope of getting her to comply, they told her they were charged by the King to say that she must not weary herself about it any longer, for he had married the other lady more than two months ago, in presence of several persons, though none of them had been invited to it. Then, after many gracious words and excuses for what they were doing, as only out of obedience to the King’s command, they departed.

After their departure Lord Mountjoy, the Queen’s chamberlain, came to notify her that the King would not allow her henceforth to call herself Queen, and that at the close of one month after Easter he would not defray her expenses, nor the wages of her servants, and he intended that she should retire to some of her own houses and live on a small income, which he had assigned her, which would not suffice for her attendants a quarter of a year. She replied that as long as she lived she would call herself Queen. As to keeping house, she would not commence so late ; and if the King felt himself so much aggrieved at the expense of her allowance, she would be satisfied with what she had, and with her confessor, physician, apothecary, and two women, and go wherever he wished. Otherwise, failing of food for herself and her servants, she would go and beg for the love of God. Although the King himself is not ill-natured, it is this Anne who has put him in this perverse and wicked temper, and alienates him from his former humanity, and we must believe that she will never cease until she has seen the end of the Queen, as she has done that of the Cardinal, whom she did not hate so much. The Queen has no fears, but is marvellously concerned for the Princess.

You can’t help but feel the urgency in Chapuys’ words. England had taken an impossible step and he had no idea how to react. It is wild to think that from this point on, no one would ever really curtail Henry again…

Every day crowds of people come to inquire of my servants and neighbours whether I have determined to leave, for until I depart many will always think that your Majesty has consented to this marriage ; otherwise they cannot believe that the King would have dared to have done it. I think, therefore, your Majesty should revoke me immediately.

PS – Charles didn’t. There’s more to the letter, if you want to go poke around yourself )

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