chapter  3
14 Pages


Bishop Fisher condemned this last exercise as a sheer waste of money 'for no lasting good' (72, pp. 94-5).

The same could be said of all of Henry VIII's grandiose military and diplomatic activities during the first twenty years of his reign. Then, in 1529, he suffered a double humiliation. Francis I of France, to whose side he had switched only four years before, made peace with Henry's erstwhile ally, the Habsburg Charles V, without consulting him. At the same time the papacy, of which the English King had been the defender and supporter for much of the previous twenty years, refused to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. This was a much more serious rebuff. The security of the Tudor dynasty required an undisputed succession. In other words, the designated heir should have credentials which were unimpeachable and certainly superior to those of any pretender - the fifteenth-century civil wars were not a remote memory. Ideally the heir should have been male and legitimate. However, by the 1520s the union of Henry and Catherine had produced only one surviving child, their daughter Mary. The Queen was ageing and the King's anxiety about the future of the dynasty was growing. His passion for Anne Boleyn, one of the court ladies, merged personal desire and political concern in a formidable combination. In the complex and sometimes squalid proceedings by which Henry sought to resolve his problems, only the central issues need to be rehearsed here. If the King was to marry Anne, his first marriage would have to be terminated. A divorce would be unacceptable to his Catholic subjects, who would not recognise the legitimacy either of a second marriage or of its offspring. Only an annulment of his marriage to Catherine - a declaration of its invalidity - would suffice. But after much procrastination the Pope, who alone could grant it, refused to do so.