Sunday, November 14, 2010

What REALLY Happened On This Day—November 14th—in Tudor History?

One of the more interesting claims to come out of the differing biographies and historical accounts of the Tudor Era is the possibility that Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn had more than one secret wedding ceremony and the anniversary of their ill-fated marriage is actually today, November 14, 1532.
Thanks to Elizabeth I's September 7, 1533 birthday, it's hard to dispute that Henry and Anne finally consummated their six-and-a-half-year relationship in November of 1532.
According to “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn,” Boleyn biographer Eric Ives claims Henry and Anne thought that he was sufficiently detached from Katherine of Aragon to finally have sexual relations. After all, Henry just had taken Anne on the state visit to Calais to treat with King Francis I and even he officially received her as the King of England's consort--a major coup. There are also theories (as portrayed on Showtime's The Tudors) that Henry and Anne finally slept together when their return home was delayed by storms and they remained in Calais a few days.
The idea that a 16th century king desperate for a male heir would risk any resulting child being declared illegitimate is the likely impetus for the idea that Henry and Anne would marry--perhaps in secret--as quickly as possibly after the consummation. That would mean a November ceremony or perhaps just a traditional, formal betrothal.
By January, 1553, it's clear that Anne believed herself to be pregnant and it is widely believed the couple underwent a more formal secret ceremony in front of only their closest confidents on January 25 in the turret over the entrance gate to Whitehall Palace, London. In fact, the wedding was kept so quiet that Eric Ives quotes Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial ambassador, as reporting, in March 1533, rumors that Henry would not marry Anne until Easter of that year, clearly in the dark about any earlier wedding.
According to Ives's research, Tudor chronicler, Edward Hall, was the one who wrote of the possible November ceremony, putting forward St. Erkenwald's Day (November 14, 1532) as the date.
“The king, after his return [from Calais] married privily the Lady Anne Bulleyn on Saint Erkenwald’s Day, which marriage was kept so secret that very few knew it, till she was great with child, at Easter after.”
Of course, this date meant that Elizabeth was conceived in marriage. Had the wedding been January 25, Elizabeth would have been blatantly illegitimate by any standards. There would be no defense of her bastardy.
Even Catholic apologist and Boleyn hater, Nicholas Sander, dates Henry and Anne’s marriage as the 14th November.
All of this is fairly convincing evidence of two ceremonies.
Henry VIII loved nothing more than the masque. He loved to fool people and make them believe what he wanted them to believe. It is entirely possible that he would hold a secret wedding ceremony and dissemble in public.
However, the January ceremony baffles me a bit because Henry HAD to realize that the date would put paternity of his child (and long-awaited male heir, in HIS mind) and the legitimacy in question. They clearly had to real witnesses to a November ceremony and perhaps thought they needed another ceremony--with witnesses--to make it official before Anne started showing?
Then again, there seems to be no end to the things that baffle me (and millions of others) about Anne and Henry.

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