At this point in 1533, the King's "Great Matter" had been a hotly debated topic for years, and his first wife Katherine of Aragon had already been sent away from court, cruelly dismissed and referred to as the Dowager Princess of Wales - the title she would have held if she had remained the single widow of her first husband and Henry's brother, Prince Arthur Tudor. While Katherine endured the dark and dank conditions of the series of countryside castles she was moved to and from, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn were forging ahead in their mission to secure a future together. In fact, by this point (and possibly unbeknownst to Katherine), the two of them had secretly married, and Anne was already carrying the king's heir.
On this day in 1533, the new Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (and an obvious new favorite of the king) sat in judgment of the king's case at Dunstable Priory. It was there that he made the decision and announcement that Henry's marriage to Katherine of Aragon had been illegal, and was now declared null and void. In its place, Henry was deemed free to have married Anne Boleyn, and any children that would come from their union would be legitimate princes and princesses of the kingdom. This ruling was despite Katherine's prior protestations that she had never consummated her first marriage with Henry's brother. (If you'll remember correctly, Katherine and Arhur were only married for a few months before his tragic and untimely death). Now, the debate about whether or not Katherine was a virgin when she married Henry is something that I've written about and debated several times, and it was certainly the hot debate at court at the time. However, Henry was no longer interested in hearing about Katherine's first marriage. In his mind, he knew what had happened. He had decided once and for all that Katherine had slept with Arthur, and that had deemed their marriage invalid. Cue Anne Boleyn, who just happened to be beautiful, mysterious, and hard to get. Of course, these factors did not bode well for the Queen, and this fateful day in 1533 sealed that decision. Katherine would, from here on out, be referred to as the Dowager Princess - not the Queen of England. She would live out the rest of her days in the countryside, far away from court, and she would receive no communication from the court or her daughter, Mary (who was now to be called the Lady Mary, rather than the Princess Mary). Katherine would die at Kimbolton Castle in 1536, just months before her rival Anne would be beheaded and replaced by Jane Seymour. A cruel world the Henrican court was, wasn't it?
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