Henry VIII Part II: Using Religion to Divorce Catherine of Aragon

The first time King Henry started to change his perceptions on marriage was in 1524. He is no longer having sexual relations with Catherine at this time, and he no longer finds his wife attractive. He started to doubt the strength of his marriage. He believed that God as punishing him because he had taken his brother’s wife for his own. He felt that this was the reason why she had not given birth to a son with him.

Since he did not have a male heir to the throne, Henry started to worry about who would be his successor.
At that time, the heir to his throne was his daughter, Mary. However, queens were not the most desirable successor since the last time there was a Queen of England (Matilda in 1136) , a civil war broke out as a result. It was early 1525 when Anne Boleyn caught the eye of Henry, who becomes infatuated with the girl. In early February of 1526, Henry VIII asks Anne to become his mistress. He is 35 years old at the time and she is only 19. She says no to the king, who is surprised at her answer. She tells him that she will only give her virginity to a man that she is married to.

It is springtime in 1527 when Henry starts to contemplate how he can get out of his marriage with Catherine. After reading a passage in Leviticus, he swears that the reason he has not had a son is because he took his brother’s wife as his own. He decides that the best way to remedy the mistake is by divorcing Catherine. The Church courts of law (called the ecclesiastical court) meet in 1527 to discuss the validity of Henry’s marriage. During the Middle Ages, these courts were quite powerful and would see to maters that concerned spirituality or religion. They tackle the issue of Henry’s marriage on more than one occasion, but they could not come up with an answer. They instead referred the case to Rome.

In June of 1527, Henry tells Catherine that they should separate because they have been living in sin. He asks that she cooperates with his request. She is allowed to choose a house to retire to until the matter can be resolved in a proper manner. Catherine was shocked to hear his request , angered and disappointed, she makes it clear that she is not in agreement with any divorce proceedings.

But, the divorce takes place in January of 1528. It was Thomas Wolsey that wrote to the Pope asking to send the papal legate, Lorenzo Campeggio, to England so that he could pass judgment on the king’s marriage. Catherine started to feel the pressure of the king’s wishes, as he wanted her to retire to a convent. With her gone, the King was free to marry who he pleased. Cardinal Campeggio arrives in Dover, England in September of 1528. He had been advised by the Pope to avoid making a decision for as long as he could. However, in the next month, he meets with Henry.