I’m delighted to be part of Lauren McKay’s virtual book tour for Inside the Tudor Court, a look at the court of Henry VIII and his six wives through the correspondence of Imperial Ambassador Eustace Chapuys. Below you’ll find an excerpt from the book.
Amberley Books is giving away a free copy of the book at each stop on the tour, so if you would like to be entered in the drawing, click over to the contest form and leave your email address here:
The contest will be closed at noon US CDT on Sunday April 13th and the winner will be contacted shortly after!
Update 04-13-14: The contest is now closed and the winner has been contacted. Thanks to all who entered!
It is true that in an indirect manner they have occasionally hinted at what they call Your Majesty’s ingratitude and ill-behaviour towards them, and I should certainly have replied, using the very same weapons, had I not thought it better to dissemble.
It had been six years since Henry had first had doubts about his first marriage, and five years since the divorce proceedings began. In that time Henry had lost friends, alliances had been forged and broken, embassies had come and gone, and an irrevocable breach had opened between England and Rome. However, all this ceased to matter for the days of Anne’s coronation celebrations.
For four days Henry and his court went wild. On 30 May Anne made her progression on the Thames from Greenwich Palace to the Tower of London, where she was greeted by her husband to the roaring fire of 1,000 guns. The next morning she at last made her way from the Tower to Westminster Abbey, dressed in coronation robes of ermine-trimmed purple velvet, and wearing a coronet of gold. For the next two days Henry celebrated with jousts, feasts and celebrations along the Thames. It had been an incredibly lavish affair; the Milanese ambassador predicted that it cost the city of London around 200,000 ducats. The French embassy, whom the Boleyns favoured, had pride of place in the procession, while the Imperial embassy was ignored. Chapuys’ description of the four days of festivities, including the coronation, have often been dismissed on the grounds that he avoided them. Yet the evidence suggests that he was present much of the time. Surely no ambassador could have resisted witnessing the spectacle, or would have risked their master’s wrath with second-hand information of such an important event. In fact, in a letter to de Granvelle he describes Anne’s progress from Greenwich to the Tower, and one of the evenings during the festivities on the Thames. Chapuys describes the coronation as ‘altogether a cold, poor, and most unpleasing sight to the great regret, annoyance, and disappointment not only of the common people but likewise of all the rest’. He was possibly playing down the spectacle for Charles’s sake, but he appears to have enjoyed some elements of the festivities, as he also reports that he was lavishly entertained at a banquet held on the German ambassador’s barge where, he wrote to de Granvelle, they drank a toast to the Emperor as the guns of the Tower fired. Thus Chapuys was actively participating in events.
The ambassador is not the only observer to leave us with a negative account of the coronation; indeed, some critical accounts have been erroneously attributed to Chapuys. One in particular that has shaped our view of Anne’s appearance, and contributed to the myth that she was deformed, is a letter in the archives in Brussels.
It has often been attributed to Chapuys but its handwriting and style are entirely different from his and those of his secretaries. It says:
The crown became her [Anne] very ill, and a wart disfigured her very much. She wore a violet velvet mantle, with a high ruff of gold thread and pearls, which concealed a swelling she has, resembling goître.
This anonymous letter also claims that the French embassy were insulted in the streets as they passed, being called ‘whoreson’, ‘knave’ and ‘French dog’.
The letter is obviously written by someone vehemently opposed to Anne and the French, but it was not Chapuys.
Whatever the conflicting views of the coronation, this was Anne’s ultimate triumph; now she would have to deliver on her promise of a son and secure her reign.
Katherine was grief-stricken at the news of the coronation, and stubbornly refused to be called anything other than queen. Chapuys was quick to explain her actions, telling Charles that it was not out of arrogance or desire of vain glory that she insisted on the title. In fact, he confided, she would take greater glory in being called the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain than the greatest queen in the world, if she knew that she really had no claim to that title. Perhaps deep down the ambassador was painfully aware of how Katherine’s behaviour looked, but now was not the time to be publicly divided. He also refrained from making the point in his despatch that,
had Charles taken action months before, it was entirely possible that matters would not have reached this state – a fact that no doubt played on the ambassador’s mind.
The marriage and coronation had, however, spurred Charles into action, or at least his version of action. His council regrouped and issued the following bulletin:
the King having lived in undisputed marriage with the Queen for about 18 years, and having by her the Princess, who ought to succeed him, procured six years ago a commission from the Pope to cardinals Campeggio and York to proceed to a divorce, but the Queen appealed to Rome. The King, however, persisted in the case being tried out of Italy, in some place where he could appear in person. This point was debated, and finally the Consistory determined that the King’s excusator could not be admitted without a mandate. The Emperor has continually commended the matter to the Pope, by ambassadors and letters, and at their interview at Bologna. Briefs have been obtained to prevent the King from marrying, but he has nevertheless done so, and has forbidden Katharine to be called Queen.
Charles proposed several courses of action which are so ineffectual as to be comical:
1. The prosecution of justice.
3. Force, together with the said justice.
The suggestions were more or less what Chapuys had recommended to Charles several months earlier but were now too late. Henry was hardly likely to obey any demands, with the impending birth of an heir. Charles’s council agreed, adding that war was out of the question, especially as Henry had not acted violently against Katherine or Charles. Even if war were an option, they would have to wait for the Pope to pass sentence on the divorce. With such a council as this on her side, it is hardly surprising that Katherine relied so heavily on Chapuys. Despite Chapuys’ attempts to dampen Charles’s enthusiasm for badgering Henry to leave Anne, he was of course obliged to carry out his master’s wishes. Henry and his councillors had told him repeatedly in 1533 that the idea was impossible. Henry would, however, be generous and honourable if Katherine accepted the situation. If she did not, then Henry would punish her through Mary, which was now the ambassador’s greatest concern. The council made it perfectly clear that no further discussion would be tolerated.
Charles also considered taking Katherine out of England but was strongly urged against it; the council suggested that Henry might later feel remorse for leaving Katherine if he tired of Anne or began to fear his subjects. Such declarations show the council was very much in the dark when it came to English politics; they demonstrate how vital Chapuys was to Charles as an informant, and how Charles held Chapuys’ opinion above that of his own council in such matters.
Still, the Emperor appeared to have renewed vigour regarding the divorce. Prior to Anne’s coronation, Miguel Mai, Charles’s Imperial proctor in Rome, was replaced by Rodrigo Davalos, a man who would not shy away from direct and forceful language with the Pope. Davalos’s intent was to tell Clement, in no uncertain terms, that Charles was deeply displeased and offended by Clement’s inaction. On the Emperor’s orders, Davalos accompanied Don Fernando de Sylva, the Count of Cifuentes, and the Cardinal of Jaen, to speak directly with Clement. The Pope in turn solemnly assured the men that he would make a decision as soon as possible. Davalos wrote to Charles and Chapuys that he was skeptical of Clement’s promise, which Chapuys mirrored in his despatch to the Emperor, mordaciously adding that, if any verdict were to be given, it would be helpful if it arrived before Anne gave birth.
Charles also sought Chapuys’ advice about an alternative measure: enlisting Francis I to persuade Henry to leave Anne. Francis’s first wife, Claude, whom Anne once served, had died almost a decade before, and his second wife, Eleanor of Austria, was Charles’s sister and Katherine’s niece. Could Eleanor perhaps be persuaded by her brother to influence her husband? Charles’s ambassadors in France assured him that Francis had expressed great displeasure at Henry’s marriage to ‘the concubine’ and had endeavoured to dissuade him from it. Emboldened by this report, Charles wrote to his brother-in-law, Francis. However, Chapuys, when asked his opinion, was more realistic. He frankly advised Charles not to expect anything from Francis, reminding the Emperor that Anne and the French king were on very good terms and she had shown partiality to France; he doubted that Francis would risk damaging this relationship. The very fact that Anne had just received a gift from the French king of ‘a handsome and richly decorated litter with three mules and a harness’ suggested Charles was fighting a losing battle.
Charles had instructed Davalos to ‘consult on the best means of forcing the king of England to put away his concubine, and, if possible, getting his Holiness to deprive him of his kingdom’. Charles rightfully feared that Anne and Henry would care very little if the Pope issued such an edict, even if Clement declared their issue to be illegitimate. Henry had come too far now to cower before the Pope, especially if Anne gave him a son. Charles’s passion for the issue echoes Chapuys’ feelings months prior, but psychologically Chapuys had moved on, determined to salvage what he could to improve the terms of a settlement for Katherine and Mary. His blunt, unenthusiastic and even slightly bewildered responses to Charles show us just how far behind the Emperor truly was.
The powerful position held by Anne and her family helped maintain diplomatic ties to France, and Chapuys now felt more than ever that he must tread with absolute caution. He was careful not to petition to see Katherine, whose fury and grief at the coronation were extreme. Upon receiving instructions and letters from Charles to Katherine, Chapuys chose not to visit her, and instead translated the letters in cipher into Spanish, Latin and French. The ambassador feared that, if he did ask to see Katherine, he would ‘lose the little credit I seem to enjoy just now with them’. Chapuys was also concerned about being forced to demand that Katherine submit to Cranmer’s decision regarding her divorce, so removing himself from a potentially unpleasant situation was prudent.
Chapuys seems to have counselled Katherine to do nothing for the time being, despite her anger at Anne’s coronation, and to wait for the papal judgement before taking any action. Katherine preferred to battle Henry and Anne head on, but she took the ambassador’s advice and said nothing. Perhaps Katherine still feared the removal of the ambassador, which would explain her numerous letters to Charles and Chapuys commending the ambassador as ‘her only refuge for the direction of her affairs’.
Charles’s letter to his aunt spoke of his continued efforts to force Clement to give a verdict. This pleased the ambassador, as did Charles’s copy of his instructions to Davalos for his meeting with Clement. The ambassador effusively praised Charles, declaring,
The instructions for Your Majesty’s ambassadors at Rome being, as I said above, so beautifully drawn up, I might be excused adding any suggestions of my own, and thus making parade of my ignorance; yet in order the better to obey Your Majesty’s commands, which is the thing in this world I most desire.
However, the ambassador did tactfully admit that, as perfect as Charles’s instructions were, he had written to Davalos and Cifuentes, supplying a few suggestions. If Francis did, by some miracle, declare for Katherine, Chapuys suggested that, along with the papal sentence when it finally arrived, Charles’s other sister, Mary of Hungary, now Governor of the Netherlands, should send her own ambassadors to give weight to the decree.
Henry had a penchant for cajoling Chapuys into making Katherine see reason. In late June the ambassador was called before the Privy Council. He faced a larger group of men than usual, which was no doubt designed to intimidate him. However, they included Cromwell, Cranmer, Gardiner et al. – men with whom he had sparred before and knew well.
They announced that Henry had always found in the Imperial ambassador ‘a very strong, praiseworthy, and complete inclination towards the maintenance of peace and friendship between the Empire and England, and also towards the transaction of business amicably’.
Henry was confident that Chapuys was ‘a prudent, discreet, and experienced councillor’ and, as such, he must surely understand that Henry had now married a legitimate wife, crowned her queen, and as there could only be one queen in the realm Katherine must relinquish the title. Henry would be guided by Chapuys on how to treat Katherine from now on, especially regarding the allowance he gave her.
The ambassador appeared to be unmoved, thanking the king for his good opinion. His next words would have no doubt caused irritation among the council: they, Chapuys reasoned, must know that Henry’s marriage and Cranmer’s sentence had no effect on Katherine’s case. Taking advantage of the situation and their undivided attention, he felt he should ‘make a slight remark or two’.
As Henry had acknowledged that Katherine had been once his legitimate wife and queen, thus Mary was a legitimate child, there was no reason for Katherine to relinquish the title. He then tried a different tactic, not one which Katherine would have approved of, appealing to their male sensibilities. Women in general, he stated, were fond and proud of such titles, and ‘she ought to retain it as a consolation and comfort in her misfortunes, were it for no other reason than to preserve the rank she once had’.
Chapuys was even able to use Henry’s own sister, Mary, as an example. It was well known that Mary, who had been married to King Francis’s father for mere months, still insisted on being called Queen of France, despite the fact that she had remarried. It was an argument the men could not dispute, and the ambassador reminded the council that Henry had first declared that his divorce sprung from a crisis of conscience. Once more he used Henry’s words as a weapon; Henry had once declared that he would not for anything in this world have taken another wife. If Henry truly cared for Katherine, which such a scruple indicated, then he could not in good conscience take away her title, or do anything to make her life uncomfortable. Surely Henry was not the sort of man to punish his ex-wife. ‘The Queen did not build towers, castles, or fortresses with it [her allowance], or raise armies against him; the whole was spent paying the gentlemen of her household and in providing marriage portions for her gentlewomen, a custom which the King himself was bound to observe.’
When asked how Katherine should be treated Chapuys used an historical analogy: ‘Indeed one might answer such a question as the King had asked, in the words of King Porus of India to Alexander the Great, when he became his prisoner: “Basilice siue regaliter”, which was as much as he could ask from a prince.’
The men could only praise Chapuys’ zeal for peace.