Henry VIII: Catherine of Aragon or Anne Boleyn? (Commentary)

This commentary is based on the classroom activity: Henry VIII: Catherine of Aragon or Anne Boleyn?

Q1: According to source 2, what happened in the spring of 1527 that encouraged Henry VIII to think about marrying Anne Boleyn?

A1: Henry VIII had a meeting with the Bishop of Tarbes in the spring of 1527. The Bishop of Tarbes raised the question of the validity of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. If this was true, he was not really married to Catherine and was therefore free to marry Anne Boleyn.

Q2: Read about Henry FitzRoy. Why did Catherine of Aragon become concerned when Henry VIII brought him to court in 1527?

A2: Henry FitzRoy, was the illegitimate son of Henry VIII. By 1527 Catherine of Aragon had still not produced a son and "could no longer bear children". She hoped that Henry would accept their daughter, Mary, as his heir. However, when he brought Henry FitzRoy to court she feared he would name his illegitimate son as his heir.

Q3: Select information from the sources that helps to explain why Henry VIII wanted to marry Anne Boleyn.

A3: Anna Whitelock in source 2 points out that Catherine of Aragon was forty-two-years old and unable to have children, while Anne Boleyn was in her early twenties. Eric William Ives (source 4) supports this view and indicates that she was young enough to provide a male heir.

Q4: In source 5, Alison Weir says that "Catherine was always an extremely popular queen". Select two examples from sources that were written at the time that supports this statement.

A4: Jean du Bellay (source 6) points out that the women in England supported Catherine of Aragon against Henry VIII. Lodovico Falier (source 7) claims that women were so hostile to Anne Boleyn that "a mob of from seven to eight thousand women of London" tried to kill her.

Q5: What did Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggi advise Catherine of Aragon to do?

A5: Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggi attempted to persuade Catherine of Aragon to "retire into a nunnery" (source 11). However, as he points out in his report to Pope Clement VII that she refused to do this and "intends to live and die in the estate of matrimony" (source 9).

Q6: What information did Henry VIII find in the Bible to justify divorcing Catherine of Aragon. How did Catherine counteract this argument?

A6: Henry read in the Bible that it was wrong for a man to marry the widow of a dead brother. He therefore becomes convinced that God had denied him a royal heir as a punishment for marrying Arthur's widow.

Catherine of Aragon claims that she had not "known" Prince Arthur (the marriage had not been consummated) and therefore was not really married to Henry's brother. (source 8)