King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn sailed to Calais on the 11th of October 1532 after she had been elevated to Marquess of Pembroke in an elaborate ceremony on the 1st of September 1532. Some time passed before the monarch and the lady of his dreams met with his French counterpart. Henry was the first one to meet with François, while Anne waited and prepared.
Eric Ives writes about the visit of Anne and Henry to Calais:
“Anne had ten days in Calais with Henry, living like a queen, escorted by him everywhere and lodging with him at the Exchequer, the only interruption being the surprise arrival of a delegation of welcoming notables from Francis I on the 15th. Then, on the 21st, the king left to meet ‘his beloved brother’ and to spend four days at the French court at Boulogne for what has been described as a ‘stag party’ – ‘the great cheer that was there, no man can express it.’ Then it was England’s turn, and Henry arrived back at Calais with Francis on Friday, 25 October.”
Let’s summarized the chronology of the main events of the couple’s voyage to Calais.
- The Meeting with the Grand Master of France on the 16th of October 1532. Anne and Henry were comfortably lodged in Calais. At the same time, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, as well as Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby, and a group of gentleman met with Anne de Montmorency and his men at the English Pale, 6 miles outside of Calais.
- King Henry VIII met with his life-long rival, King François I, on the 21st of October 1532. Anne was left in Calais, while Henry spent 4 days with François I at the French court that resided in Boulogne. During Henry’s absence, the two rulers, who called each other ‘beloved brothers’ (sounds quite ironic, doesn’t it?), were partying and whirling in extravagant feasts.
- On the 25th of October 1532, François I made Norfolk and Suffolk Knights of the Order of St Michel, which had been created by King Louis XI in 1469 in competition with the Order of the Golden Fleece founded by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy and Louis’ cousin.
- Henry and François arrived at Calais with a sumptuous procession on the 25th of October 1532. On the same day, the Valois ruler sent Anne a diamond via the Provost of Paris.
- At last, dressed as a Greek goddess, Anne Boleyn made her a sensational, eccentric, and dramatic entrance during a banquet organized by Henry in François’ honor on the 27th of October 1532. Given the magnificent pageantry of the event, François must have remembered Anne and the festivities for a long time. It seems that Anne and François had a private conversation on that evening, and perhaps he promised her to support her marriage to Henry, only later to withdraw this promise because François was a Catholic monarch and could not do so.
- Henry and Anne spent the last full day in Calais with François on the 28th of October 1532. In a responsive gesture of generosity, the Tudor monarch made Anne de Montmorency, Grand Master of France, and Philippe de Chabot, Admiral of France, Knights of the Garter.
- Henry said a tearful goodbye to François the 29th of October 1532. How tearful could it be, or how pretentious it really was on both sides? These two monarchs could never be friends and allies, especially given that Henry envied François for most of his reign.
- After the stormy weather had subsided, Henry VIII’s large royal bed and his baggage were loaded ready for departure Sunday on the 10th of November 1532, but the departure was delayed for some time by a thick fog that enveloped the city of Calais.
- Henry and Anne finally sailed for Dover on the 12th of November 1532, and in just 2 days, they successfully landed at the port of Dover, on the Kent coast.
- It is possible that Henry and Anne entered into a secret marriage on the 14th of November 1532. The Tudor Chronicler Edward Hall records a marriage ceremony between Henry and Anne on this date, St Erkenwald’s Day. Anne could have stipulated that she would consent to share a bed with Henry if they got married, and it is highly likely that she was a maid at the time.
- The couple, who could already be spouses (bigamous as Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon was not yet annulled) arrived in London at Eltham Palace Sunday on the 24th of November 1532. They spent a few days in Dover and the surrounding area, and it is highly likely that during all this time, the monarch and the woman with whom he was obsessed for so long were intimate.
All images are in the public domain.
Text © 2020 Olivia Longueville