On this day in 1533, King Henry VIII took a second wife. After almost twenty-four years of marriage to his Spanish princess, Katherine of Aragon, his patience with her unsatisfactory childbearing skills had worn thin, and his love for her lady-in-waiting, Anne Boleyn, had only increased. Anne Boleyn, who was roughly ten years Henry's junior, had held out on that most desired feature of love (in Henry's mind) - she would not take him to her bed until it was absolutely certain that they would marry. Anne had already watched her older sister, Mary Boleyn, fall into that trap and be discarded just as quickly as she had been picked up. Anne refused to be another mistress of the handsome and charming king - she would be his wife, or nothing at all.
Well, as the end approached for Henry and Katherine's marriage, all seemed to be going well. A trip to Calais for Henry and Anne seemed to ensure Anne's position as the future queen, while the annulment was being argued about and decided in England. For some reason, it seems that Anne and Henry slept together for the first time during their trip to France. Perhaps that is because it was now clear to Anne that her future was set - the road was paved to the throne, and soon she would take Katherine of Aragon's legal place beside Henry - crown on her head and all. At least, this is what we think.
So, the wedding went ahead! Just before dawn on 25 January, according to historian Alison Weir, some of the king's closest companions and members of Anne's family gathered in Henry's personal chapel at Whitehall Palace, where a simple ceremony was carried out. According to Weir, there were four or five witness - all of whom were sworn to secrecy about the event.
The secrecy of the wedding was such a success, that months later people at court were gossiping about the upcoming wedding between Henry and Anne! Even Eustace Chapuys, the Spanish Ambassador and enemy of the Boleyn faction, had no idea that the wedding had taken place, or that Anne was already carrying the heir!
Interestingly, I read on Claire Ridgway's blog - The Anne Boleyn Files - that 25 January 1533 is not the only date associated with this wedding. In fact, according to a Tudor chronicler named Edward Hall, the couple was married on 14 November 1532, St. Erkenwald's Day. Here is what he wrote about the event:
“The kyng, after his returne [from Calais] maried priuily[privily] the lady Anne Bulleyn on sainet Erkenwaldes daie, whiche mariage was kept so secrete, that very fewe knewe it, til she was greate with child, at Easter after.”
*It is important to note that there is controversy, not only about the actual date of the wedding, but about whether Anne became pregnant in wedlock or out.*
This is an important question, because it depends on whether or not Elizabeth Tudor was born prematurely, on time, or late. If you count the months from when Anne and Henry returned from Calais (13 November 1532), it places Elizabeth's birth date (7 September 1533) ten months later. Is it possible that Anne really fell pregnant in November? That is a question that is up for debate, and has been written about by historians like Eric Ives and David Starkey.
If Anne and Henry were instead married on 14 November, the day after they returned from Calais, (and assuming that Anne was not already pregnant), then Elizabeth would have been conceived during wedlock - much to the pleasure of future Protestant supporters. Of course, this is a valid question. We are fairly positive that Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII slept together in Calais, but of course that does not necessarily mean that Anne conceived! For the sake of a possible pregnancy, it is definitely possible that they would have wanted to rush a wedding on 14 November - even if they later found out that Anne was not pregnant. In any case, it is quite clear that Anne would have been pregnant by the end of January, by this date. Whether or not Elizabeth was conceived in or out of wedlock is simply a detail that we may never be certain of.
As David Starkey points out, it is possible that both weddings took place! Although the January wedding was reported as 'secret,' Starkey says, “The first marriage in November had been designed to reassure Anne. The second, with its half-invocation of Papal authority was intended to reassure Henry’s subjects. When news of it leaked, which it quickly did, it would suggest that
Henry had received the nod from Rome.”
A Rather Inconclusive Conclusion
So what was the date of Henry and Anne's wedding? Did they marry in secret on St. Erkenwald's Day, to ensure that a child conceived would be legitimate? Did they marry on this day, 25 January, to hastily save a child's legitimacy? Was Anne pregnant in November, or did she fall pregnant in December or January? The only facts we know for sure are that Anne's daughter was born on 7 September 1533 - 8 months after the largely agreed-upon January wedding, and that Anne was definitely pregnant by 25 January. The other dates/ideas are a little fuzzy, but at least it gives us a time frame to work with. Some time between 14 November and 25 January, Anne and Henry were married in a secret ceremony that 1) Made Henry a man with two wives, and 2) Decieved the English people.
So what do you think? Which day do you think Anne and Henry wed, and when do you think Anne actually conceived Elizabeth? Did Henry and Anne actually consummate their love in France, or are we wrong about that too? Weigh in below and let me know what you think...