The Pope Urges Henry VIII to abandon Anne Boleyn

On the 11th of July 1533, Pope Clement VII declared that Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon was valid and legal. Effectively, it meant that the King of England’s marriage to Anne Boleyn was declared null and void.


This is the excerpt from Letters and Papers (the source is Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 6, 1533):

Sentence of Clement VII against Henry VIII, declaring his divorce from Katharine and marriage with Anne Boleyn null; and pronouncing the King to have incurred the greater excommunication, but suspending the declaration of the same till the end of September.”

Later, in Letters and Papers, we find:

“On the 11th of this July, the Pope in Consistory pronounced a sentence restoring the Queen to her royal state, annulling the King’s marriage with Ana, whose children are declared illegitimate, and declaring that the King is excommunicate, and has incurred the penalties contained in the briefs.

The Queen’s agents, seeing that the principal cause was not despatched in the last Consistory, presented the other remisorias, that matters might be arranged during the vacation, and the expedition insisted on at the next audiences. It is thought it will be shortly obtained.

A term was assigned to the King, until 1 Oct., for him to present any processes or writings of which he intends to make use.”


After checking the validity of Henry’s marriage, the Roman Curia – the central body that assists the pope in the exercise of his supreme pastoral office – stated that Henry’s marriage to Catherine was legal.

And so the pope was able to make the final decision and begin to threat the King of England with excommunication. In Clement’s opinion and in the eyes of the whole Catholic Europe, Henry was still married to Catherine of Aragon. For that reason, the pope urged the King of England to abandon his pregnant Anne Boleyn and return to his true wife, Catherine of Aragon until September 1533.


Upon learning that a sentence of excommunication hung over him, Henry behaved defiantly and showed that he didn’t care about all these warnings and threats. Henry VIII wasn’t going to abandon Anne Boleyn who was expected to deliver a long-awaited son for the king. He would never bow to the pope’s authority again, and the religious reforms in England would continue. Henry would be eventually excommunicated in the 17th of December 1538.

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