The day after the anniversary of the execution of Anne Boleyn it may be appropriate to recall the plight of Henry VIII ‘s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England, who Anne ousted.
Catherine believed that Cardinal Wolsey Archbishop of York was responsible for her matrimonial breakdown.
In the summer of 1529, at the Blackfriars Priory, on the banks of the River Thames, a court was convened to test the validity of her marriage to Henry VIII. Two judges were appointed to hear and judge the case, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio.
Catherine was not long at the court, she soon curtseyed to the king and left on the arm of her assistant Master Griffith. Henry ordered her return, and the crier called for her to come back. ‘Catherine, Queen of England, come into the court!’
‘Madame,’ urged Griffith, as they scuttled toward the exit, ‘ye be called again.’
‘On on, ‘she snapped’ it makes no matter, for it is no impartial court for me, therefore I will not tarry. Go on your ways.’
We learn this from George Cavendish, Wolsey’s ever loyal gentleman-usher and the cardinal’s biographer. Cavendish followed events after Catherine’s exit – she never went back to the court – which several days later involved a full-blooded confrontation between the queen and Wolsey. In Cavendish’s account, however, loyal to his master he only hears Catherine’s raised voice but sadly does not give us a blow by blow account of the confrontation. He does, however, tell of an eye-watering attack by Wolsey on Anne Boleyn’s father
Notwithstanding. John Foxe (1517-1587) historian and martyrologist, (often accused of Protestant bias) from a seemingly reliable source, Cardinal Campeggio’s secretary, who was present during the dust-up, does detail the fisticuffs, and by Jove, Catherine let the cardinal have it, all guns blazing!
Here are the two accounts, Cavendish’s first.
The Bishop of Carlisle being with him in his barge said unto him, (wiping the sweat from his face), ‘Sir,’ quoth he, ‘it is a very hot day.’
‘Yea,’ quoth my Lord Cardinal, ‘if ye had been as well chafed as I have been within this hour, ye would say it were very hot.’
And as soon as he came home to his house at Westminster, he went immediately to his naked bed, where he had not lain fully the space of two hours, but that my Lord of Wiltshire came to speak with him of a message from the king.
My lord, having understanding of his coming, caused him to be brought unto his bedside; and he being there, showed that the king’s pleasure was that he should at once (accompanied by the other cardinal) [ Cardinal Campeggio] repair unto the queen at Bridewell, into her chamber, to persuade her by their wisdoms, advising her to surrender the whole matter unto the king’s hands by her own will and consent; which should be much better to her honour than to stand to the trial of the law and to be condemned, which should be much to her slander and defamation.
To fulfil the king’s pleasure, quoth my lord, he was ready, and would prepare him to go thither out of hand, saying further to my Lord of Wiltshire, ‘Ye and other my lords of the council, which be near unto the king, are not a little to blame and misadvised to put any such fantasies into his head, whereby ye are the causers of great trouble to all this realm; and at length get you but small thanks either of God or of the world,’ with many other vehement words and sentences that was like to ensue of this matter, which words caused my Lord of Wiltshire to water his eyes, kneeling all this while by my lord’s bedside, and in conclusion departed.
And then my lord rose up, and made him ready, taking his barge, and went straight to Bath Place to the other cardinal; and so went together unto Bridewell, directly to the queen’s lodging: and they, being in her chamber of presence, showed to the gentleman usher that they came to speak with the queen’s grace.
The gentleman usher advertised the queen thereof incontinent. With that, she came out of her privy chamber with a skein of white thread about her neck, into the chamber of presence, where the cardinals were giving of attendance upon her coming.
At whose coming quoth she, ‘Alack, my lords, I am sorry to cause you to attend upon me; what is your pleasure with me?’
‘If it please you,’ quoth my Lord Cardinal, ‘to go into your chamber, we will show you the cause of our coming.’
‘My lord,’ quoth she, ‘if ye have anything to say, speak it openly before all these folks; for I fear nothing that ye can say or allege against me, but that I would all the world should both hear and see it; therefore I pray you speak your mind openly.’
Then began my lord to speak to her in Latin. ‘Nay, good my lord,’ quoth she, ‘speak to me in English, I beseech you; although I understand Latin.’
‘Forsooth then,’ quoth my lord, ‘Madam, if it please your Grace, we come both to know your mind, how ye be disposed to do in this matter between the king and you, and also to declare secretly our opinions and our counsel unto you, which we have intended of very zeal and obedience that we bear to your Grace.’
‘My lords, I thank you then,’ quoth she, ‘of your good wills; but to make answer to your request I cannot so suddenly, for I was set among my maidens at work, thinking full little of any such matter, wherein there needeth a longer deliberation, and a better head than mine, to make answer to so noble wise men as ye be: I had need of good counsel in this case, which toucheth me so near; and for any counsel or friendship that I can find in England are nothing to my purpose or profit. Think you, I pray you, my lords, will any Englishmen counsel or be friendly unto me against the king’s pleasure, they being his subjects? Nay forsooth, my lords! And for my counsel in whom I do intend to put my trust be not here; they be in Spain, in my native country. Alas, my lords! I am a poor woman, lacking both wit and understanding sufficiently to answer such approved wise men as ye be both, in so weighty a matter. I pray you to extend your good and indifferent minds in your authority unto me, for I am a simple woman, destitute and barren of friendship and counsel here in a foreign region: and as for your counsel I will not refuse but be glad to hear.’
And with that she took my lord by the hand and led him into her privy chamber, with the other cardinal; where they were in long communication: we, in the other chamber, might sometimes hear the queen speak very loud, but what it was we could not understand. The communication ended, the cardinals departed and went directly to the king, making to him relation of their talk with the queen; and after resorted home to their houses to supper.
Here is John Foxe’s version
[W]hen she understood the cause of their coming being thereat something astonished at the first, after a little pausing with herself, she began answering for herself.
Shortly after this the two legates came to the queen at the same place of Bridewell, and declared to her how they were deputed judges indifferent between the king and her to hear and determine whether the marriage between them stood with God’s law or not.
‘Alas my lords is it now a question whether I be the king’s lawful wife or no?
‘When I have been married to him almost twenty years and in the meane season never question was made before? Divers prelates yet been alive and lords also privy counsellors with the king at that time, then adjudged our marriage lawful and honest, and now do say it is detestable and abominable. I think it create marvel and in especially when I consider, what a wise prince the king’s father was, and also the love and natural affection, that King Fernando my father bare unto me. I think in myself that neither of our fathers, were so uncircumspect, so unwise, and of so small imagination, but they foresaw what might followed of our marriage, and in especially the king my father sent to the court of Rome and thereafter long suite with great cost and charge obtained a licence and dispensation, that I being the one brother’s wife and peradventure carnally known might without scruple of conscience marry with another brother lawfully, which licence under lead I have yet to show, which things make me to say and surely believe, that our marriage was both lawful, good, and Godly:
But of this I only may thank you my Lord Cardinal of York, for because I have wondered at your high pride and vainglory, and abhor your voluptuous [pleasures of the body/gratification] life and abominable, lechery and little regard your presupeous [presumptuous] power and tyranny, therefore of malice you have kindled this fire and set this matter a broche, in especial for the great malice, that you bear to my nephew the Emperor, whom I perfectly know you hate worse than a scorpion because he would not satisfy your ambition and make you Pope by force and therefore you have said more than once that you would trouble him and his friends and you have kept him a true promise for all his warres and vexations he may only thank you, and as for me his poor aunte and kinswoman what trouble you put me to by this new found doubt, God knows to whom I commit my cause according to the truth.’
The cardinal excused himself saying that he was not the beginning or the mover of the trouble, and that it was sore against his will, that ever the marriage should come in question, but he said that by his superior the Bishop of Rome, he was deputed as a judge to hear the cause, which he swore on his profession to hear indifferently, but whatsoever was said, she believed him not, and so the Legates took their leave of her and departed.
These words were spoken in French, and written by Cardinal Campeius’s [Camppeggio] secretary, which was present, and by me translated as near as I could.[John Foxe]
I am with Catherine on this. I believe Wolsey did orchestrate the marriage break up for exactly the reasons she stated.
Henry VIII, the Reign.
Henry VIII, the Reign.