29 January 1536 was an incredibly important day for the Tudors. Not only was it the day that Henry VIII's first wife Katherine of Aragon was buried - (see my post about Katherine's death) -, but it was also the day that the final straw came in terms of Anne Boleyn and her marriage to Henry. I'll briefly discuss them both here. Let's start with Katherine...
Of course, her burial on 29 January was appropriate for a royal woman - and most women would be glad to be remembered in such a way! But for Katherine, who had been Queen of England for most of her life and had enjoyed the honors and titles that came along with her position at Henry's side, this was a cruel and inappropriate demotion. Her funeral service was fit for a Princess of Wales - which was her title at her death because of her previous marriage to Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales - which became, in Henry's mind, her only legal marriage.
Although it wasn't a fancy state funeral fit for an English Queen, we can smile at the fact that Katherine was finally at peace. After about ten years of fighting with Henry, being moved from run-down castle to run-down castle, and giving up her life and belongings to the new queen, Anne Boleyn, Katherine must have been ready to give up the fight at the end. Hers began as a life of promise, hope, and happiness - the perfect life for a European Princess - but it ended much differently.
Interestingly, another important event took place on 29 January, and it affected Anne Boleyn in an awful way. For at least the third time, Anne was pregnant with the king's child. After giving birth to Princess Elizabeth in 1533, and then having at least one miscarriage since then, her hopes were high and we can assume that she was praying extremely hard for the delivery of a healthy prince - one to secure her position as England's queen and Henry VIII's rightful wife.
There was some talk that Anne blamed her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, for the tragedy - insisting that he had frightened her with the news of her husband's serious fall while jousting just days earlier. But it's unlikely that that was the reason for the miscarriage, because great care was taken when informing Anne of her husband's injury - for the sake of the unborn child.
It is interesting to note that both Chapuys and Wriothesley made mention of the fetus being a male child. Anne Boleyn herself said that she "reckoned herself fifteen weeks gone with child" at the time of the miscarriage, but even in modern times it takes about seventeen to eighteen weeks to determine the sex of a baby, so is it even possible that the people around Anne Boleyn were able to tell?
I've made my effort to debunk this myth once before, but since it is associated with this day in history, I'll touch on it again. Who here has heard of the description that Anne's miscarried fetus was deformed? Well forget that you ever heard that! While studying at Oxford this past semester, I wrote an entire paper about this miscarriage, and I poured over books by historians like Eric Ives and David Starkey, and I am now absolutely convinced that there was NO evidence of this child being deformed or in any way abnormal! For more detail, it would be worth having a look at my post about the myths surrounding Anne Boleyn, but to be brief, we should keep in mind that the first mention of a deformed fetus was made in the Elizabethan era - by a Catholic - that is, an enemy of both Elizabeth and Anne.
With that being said, the miscarriage absolutely devastated Anne and Henry - and it may have sealed her fate. This is controversial, of course, and we probably cannot know how much of a direct effect it really had on Anne's fall, but the timing of it all is a little ominous, don't you think?
Let's just look at what else is going on by the end of January 1536. Already, Henry has had his eye on Jane Seymour, one of Anne's ladies-in-waiting, probably since the previous Summer. At this point, Anne has given him a daughter and at least one other failed pregnancy - proving herself to be just as unsuccessful as Katherine of Aragon, in terms of delivering sons. However, where Katherine's personality did her credit, Anne's did not have the same effect. She was tempestuous, difficult, and sharp-tongued - and the novelty of that wore off quite quickly for Henry. Isn't there a a great possibility that the January miscarriage played a large part in Henry's decision to end the marriage? Maybe he didn't decide at that moment that she should die - in fact, he definitely did not! - but I personally believe that it contributed to his decision to be rid of her.
As we know, the enormity of Anne's fall came very quickly - which we'll cover from now until her last day on 19 May 1536. I feel terribly for her on this day, and it's easy to see how distressed she was at this event. As she said on that day, "I have miscarried of my savior." I do believe that, in part at least, to be true.