Eustace Chapuys served as the Spanish Ambassador to England during the pivotal years of Henry VIII’s reign: he arrived in 1529, when Henry was just starting to try to put aside his first wife, and said his goodbyes twenty-seven years later in 1545 to Henry’s sixth wife, Katherine Parr (well, he was absent briefly between April 1539 and July 1540 while relations between England and Spain were sour). His extensive and detailed letters back to Charles V give us amazing insights into the pivotal events of the era: the break with Rome, the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn and the rise of Jane Seymour, the fall of Catherine Howard and the rise of Katherine Parr. Unfortunately, we did not get his analysis of the Anne of Cleves marriage and Cromwell’s fall as he was absent between April 1539 and July 1540 while relations between England and Spain were sour.
Chapuys was born in Savoy, France, and spent the first fifteen years of his diplomatic career representing Spain to the court of Francis I of France. That was not a good place for him – he loathed the French because of their designs on his homeland – and he was much happier once he was transferred to England. There, he quickly began to work tirelessly to defend Catherine of Aragon and her daughter Mary. As part of this, he was one of Anne Boleyn’s harshest critics and perpetuated some of the worst myths about her, and yet he maintained his integrity throughout. Indeed, the fact that he did not believe that Anne was guilty of the crimes that sent her to the block is seen by many as that queen’s e ultimate exoneration…
RIP to a good man.
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