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Alarm Of Catherine And The Growth Of Lutheranism

Absolution Of Lord Thomas Fitzgerald For The Murder Of The Archbishop Of Dublin

Anger Of Anne Boleyn And The Duke Of Norfolk

Anne Boleyn Chosen By Henry To Succeed Catherine

Unpopularity Of Anne Boleyn And Removal Of Catherine From The Court

The Divorce

The Court At Blackfriars

Warlike Resolution Of The Pope Restrained By The Cardinals

Danger Of Challenging The Papal Dispensing Power

Illness Of The Pope

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Expectation That Henry Would Return To The Roman Communion

Intended Escape Of The Princess Mary Out Of England

Anne Sentenced To Die

Illness Of The Princess Mary

Competition For Henry's Hand

The Pope's Authority Abolished In England

Likelihood Of A Separation Of The King From Anne

Illness Of Queen Catherine

Coronation Of Anne Boleyn

Henry Advised To Marry Without Waiting For Sentence

Illness Of Queen Catherine

While the Pope was held back by the Cardinals, and the Great Powers were
watching each other, afraid to move, the knot was about to be cut, so far
as it affected the fortunes of Catherine of Aragon, in a manner not
unnatural and, by Cromwell and many others, not unforeseen. The agitation
and anxieties of the protracted conflict had shattered her health. Severe
attacks of illness had more than once caused fear for her life, and a few
months previously her recovery had been thought unlikely, if not
impossible. Cromwell had spoken of her death to Chapuys as a contingency
which would be useful to the peace of Europe, and which he thought would
not be wholly unwelcome to her nephew. Politicians in the sixteenth
century were not scrupulous, and Chapuys may perhaps have honestly thought
that such language suggested a darker purpose. But Cromwell had always
been Catherine's friend within the limits permitted by his duty to the
King and the Reformation. The words which Chapuys attributed to him were
capable of an innocent interpretation; and it is in the highest degree
unlikely that he, of all men, was contemplating a crime of which the
danger would far outweigh the advantage, and which would probably
anticipate for a few weeks or months only a natural end, or that, if he
had seriously entertained such an intention, he would have made a
confidant of the Spanish Ambassador. Catherine had been wrought during the
autumn months into a state of the highest excitement. Her letters to the
Pope had been the outpourings of a heart driven near to breaking; and if
Chapuys gave her Charles's last message, if she was told that it was the
Emperor's pleasure that she and her daughter must submit, should
extremities be threatened against them, she must have felt a bitter
conviction that the remedy which she had prayed for would never be
applied, and that the struggle would end in an arrangement in which she
would herself be sacrificed.

The life at Kimbolton was like the life at an ordinary well-appointed
English country-house. The establishment was moderate, but the castle was
in good condition and well-furnished; everything was provided which was
required for personal comfort; the Queen had her own servants, her
confessor, her physician, and two or three ladies-in-waiting; if she had
not more state about her it was by her own choice, for, as has been seen,
she had made her recognition as queen the condition of her accepting a
more adequate establishment. Bodily hardships she had none to suffer, but
she had a chronic disorder of long standing, which had been aggravated by
the high-strung expectations of the last half-dozen years. Sir John
Wallop, the English ambassador at Paris, had been always "her good
servant;" Lady Wallop was her creatura and was passionately attached to
her. From the Wallops the Nuncio at the French Court heard in the middle
of December that she could not live more than six months. They had learnt
the "secret" of her illness from her own physician, and their evident
grief convinced him that they were speaking the truth. Francis also was
aware of her condition; the end was known to be near, and it was thought
in Court circles that when she was gone "the King would leave his present
queen and return to the obedience of the Church."

The disorder from which Catherine was suffering had been mentioned by
Cromwell to Chapuys. The Ambassador asked to be allowed to visit her.
Cromwell said that he might send a servant at once to Kimbolton, to
ascertain her condition, and that he would ask the King's permission for
himself to follow. The alarming symptoms passed off for the moment; she
rallied from the attack, and on the 13th of December she was able to write
to Ortiz, to tell him of the comfort and encouragement which she had
received from his letters, and from the near prospect of the Pope's
action. In that alone lay the remedy for the sufferings of herself and her
daughter and "all the good." The Devil, she said, was but half-tied, and
slackness would let him loose. She could not and dared not speak more
clearly; Ortiz was a wise man, and would understand.

On the same day she wrote her last letter to the Emperor. The handwriting,
once bold and powerful, had grown feeble and tremulous, and the
imperfectly legible lines convey only that she expected something to be
done at the approaching parliament which would be a world's scandal and
her own and her daughter's destruction.

Finding herself a little better, she desired Chapuys to speak to Cromwell
about change of air for her, and to ask for a supply of money to pay the
servants' wages. Money was a gratuitous difficulty: she had refused to
take anything which was addressed to her as princess dowager, and the
allowance was in arrears. She had some confidence in Cromwell, and
Charles, too, believed, in spite of Chapuys's stories, that Cromwell meant
well to Catherine, and wished to help her. He wrote himself to Cromwell to
say that his loyal service would not be forgotten.

Chapuys heard no more from Kimbolton for a fortnight, and was hoping that
the attack had gone off like those which had preceded it; on the 29th,
however, there came a letter to him from the Spanish physician, saying
that she was again very ill, and wished to see him. Chapuys went to
Cromwell immediately. Cromwell assured him that no objection would be
raised, but that, before he set out, the King desired to speak with him.
He hurried to Greenwich, where the Court was staying, and found Henry more
than usually gracious, but apparently absorbed in politics. He walked up
and down the room with his arm around the Ambassador's neck, complained
that Charles had not written to him, and that he did not know what to look
for at his hands. The French, he said, were making advances to him, and
had become so pressing, since the death of the Duke of Milan, that he
would be forced to listen to them, unless he could be satisfied of the
Emperor's intentions. He was not to be deluded into a position where he
would lose the friendship of both of them. Francis was burning for war.
For himself he meant honourably, and would be perfectly open with Chapuys:
he was an Englishman, he did not say one thing when he meant another. Why
had not the Emperor let him know distinctly whether he would treat with
him or not?

Chapuys hinted a fear that he had been playing with the Emperor only to
extort better terms from France. A war for Milan there might possibly be,
but the Emperor after his African successes was stronger than he had ever
been, and had nothing to fear.

All that might be very well, Henry said, but if he was to throw his sword
into the scale the case might be different. Hitherto, however, he had
rejected the French overtures, and did not mean to join France in an
Italian campaign if the Emperor did not force him. As to the threats
against himself, English commerce would of course suffer severely if the
trade was stopped with the Low Countries, but he could make shift
elsewhere; he did not conceal his suspicions that the Emperor meant him
ill, or his opinion that he had been treated unfairly in the past.

Chapuys enquired what he wished the Emperor to do. To abstain, the King
replied, from encouraging the Princess and her mother in rebellion, and to
require the revocation of the sentence which had been given on the
divorce. The Emperor could not do that, Chapuys rejoined, even if he
wished to do it. The King said he knew the Pope had called on the Emperor
to execute the sentence; he did not believe, however, that Madame, as he
called Catherine, had long to live, and, when she was gone, the Emperor
would have no further excuse for interfering in English affairs. Chapuys
replied that the Queen's death would make no difference. The sentence had
been a necessity. The King ended the conversation by telling him that he
might go to see her, if he liked; but she was in extremis, and he would
hardly find her alive. At the Princess's request, Chapuys asked if she
also might go to her mother. At first Henry refused, but said, after a
moment, he would think about it, and added, as Chapuys afterwards
recollected, a few words of kindness to Catherine herself.

Unfeeling and brutal, the world exclaims. More feeling may have been
shown, perhaps, than Chapuys cared to note. But kings whose thrones are
menaced with invasion and rebellion have not much leisure for personal
emotions. Affection for Catherine Henry had none, however, and a pretence
of it would have been affectation. She had harassed him for seven years;
she had urged the Pope to take his crown from him; she had done her worst
to stir his subjects into insurrection, and bring a Spanish fleet and army
into English waters and upon English soil. Respect her courage he did, but
love for her, if in such a marriage love had ever existed, must have long
disappeared, and he did not make a show of a regret which it was
impossible for him to feel. He perhaps considered that he had done more
than enough in resisting the advice of his Council to take stronger

After despatching the letter describing the interview at Greenwich, the
Ambassador started with his suite for Kimbolton, and with a gentleman of
Cromwell's household in attendance. Immediately on his arrival Catherine
sent for him to her bedside, and desired that this gentleman should be
present also, to hear what passed between them. She thanked Chapuys for
coming. She said, if God was to take her, it would be a consolation to her
to die in his arms and not like a wild animal. She said she had been taken
seriously ill at the end of November with pain in the stomach and nausea;
a second and worse attack of the same kind had followed on Christmas Day;
she could eat nothing, and believed that she was sinking. Chapuys
encouraged her--expressed his hopes for her recovery--said that he was
commissioned to tell her that she might choose a residence for herself at
any one of the royal manors, that the King would give her money, and was
sorry to hear of her illness. He himself entreated her to keep up her
spirits, as on her recovery and life the peace of Christendom depended.
The visit excited her, she was soon exhausted, and they then left her to
rest. After an interval she sent for the Ambassador again, and talked for
two hours with him alone. She had brightened up; the next morning she was
better; he remained four days at Kimbolton, which were spent in private
conversation. She was the same Catherine which she had always
been--courageous, resolute, and inflexible to the end. She spoke
incessantly of the Emperor, and of her own and her daughter's situation.
She struck perpetually on the old note: the delay of the "remedy" which
was causing infinite evil, and destroying the souls and bodies of all
honest and worthy people.

Chapuys explained to her how the Emperor had been circumstanced, and how
impossible it had been for him to do more than had been done. He
comforted her, however, with dilating on the Pope's indignation at the
execution of Fisher, and his determination to act in earnest at last. He
told her how Francis, who had been the chief difficulty, was now becoming
alienated from the King, and satisfied her that the delay had not been
caused by forgetfulness of herself and the Princess. With these happier
prospects held out to her she recovered her spirits and appeared to be
recovering her health. At the end of the four days she was sleeping
soundly, enjoying her food, laughing and exchanging Castilian jokes with a
Spaniard whom Chapuys had brought with him. She was so much better, so
happy, and so contented, that the Ambassador ceased to be alarmed about
her. He thought it would be imprudent to abuse the King's permission by
remaining longer unnecessarily. The physician made no objection to his
going, and promised to let him know if there was again a change for the
worse; but this person evidently no longer believed that there was any
immediate danger, for his last words to Chapuys were to ask him to arrange
for her removal from Kimbolton to some better air. Catherine, when the
Ambassador took leave, charged him to write to the Emperor, to Granvelle,
and to Secretary Covos, and entreat them, for God's sake, to make an end
one way or the other, for the uncertainty was ruining the realm and would
be her own and her daughter's destruction.

This was on the night of Tuesday, the 4th of January. Chapuys was to leave
the next morning. Before departing he ascertained that she had again slept
well, and he rode off without disturbing her. Through the Wednesday and
Thursday she continued to improve, and on the Thursday afternoon she was
cheerful, sate up, asked for a comb and dressed her hair. That midnight,
however, she became suddenly restless, begged for the sacrament, and
became impatient for morning when it could be administered. Her confessor,
Father Ateca (who had come with her from Spain, held the see of Llandaff,
and had been left undisturbed through all the changes of the late years),
offered to anticipate the canonical hour, but she would not allow him. At
dawn on Friday she communicated, prayed God to pardon the King for the
wrongs which had been inflicted upon her, and received extreme unction;
she gave a few directions for the disposition of her personal property,
and then waited for the end. At two o'clock in the afternoon she passed
peacefully away (Friday, Jan. 7, 1536).

A strange circumstance followed. The body was to be embalmed. There were
in the house three persons who, according to Chapuys, had often performed
such operations, neither of them, however, being surgeons by profession.
These men, eight hours after the death, opened the stomach in the usual
way, but without the presence either of the confessor or the physician.
Chapuys says that these persons were acting by the King's command,
but there is nothing to indicate that the confessor and physician might
not have been present at the operation had they thought it necessary.
Chapuys had previously asked the physician if the Queen could have been
poisoned. The physician said that he feared so, as she had not been well
since she had taken some Welsh ale; if there had been poison, however, it
must have been very subtle, as he had observed no symptom which indicated
it; when the body was opened they would know. The physician had thus
looked forward to an examination, and had he really entertained suspicions
he would certainly have made an effort to attend. If he was prohibited, or
if the operation had been hurried through without his knowledge, it is not
conceivable that, after he had left England and returned to his own
country, he would not have made known a charge so serious to the world.
This he never did. It is equally remarkable that on removing from
Kimbolton he was allowed to attend upon the Princess Mary--a thing
impossible to understand if he had any mystery of the kind to communicate
to her, or if the Government had any fear of what he might say. When the
operation was over, however, one of the men went to the Father Ateca and
told him in confession, as if in fear of his life, that the body and
intestines were natural and healthy, but that the heart was black. They
had washed it, he said; they had divided it, but it remained black and was
black throughout. On this evidence the physician concluded that the Queen,
beyond doubt, had died of poison.

A reader who has not predetermined to believe the worst of Henry VIII.
will probably conclude differently. The world did not believe Catherine to
have been murdered, for among the many slanders which the embittered
Catholics then and afterwards heaped upon Henry, they did not charge him
with this. Chapuys, however, believed, or affected to believe, that by
some one or other murdered she had been. It was a terrible business, he
wrote. The Princess would die of grief, or else the Concubine would kill
her. Even if the Queen and Princess had taken the Emperor's advice and
submitted, the Concubine, he thought, under colour of the reconciliation
which would have followed, would have made away with them the more
fearlessly, because there would then be less suspicion. He had not been
afraid of the King. The danger was from the Concubine, who had sworn to
take their lives and would never have rested till it was done. The King
and his Mistress, however, had taken a shorter road. They were afraid of
the issue of the brief of execution. With Catherine dead the process at
Rome would drop, the chief party to the suit being gone. Further action
would have to be taken by the Pope on his own account, and no longer upon
hers, and the Pope would probably hesitate; while, as soon as the mother
was out of the way, there would be less difficulty in working upon the
daughter, whom, being a subject, they would be able to constrain.

It was true that the threatened Papal brief, being a part and consequence
of the original suit, would have to be dropped or recalled. Henry could
not be punished for not taking back his wife when the wife was dead. To
that extent her end was convenient, and thus a motive may be suggested for
making away with her. It was convenient also, as was frankly avowed, in
removing the principal obstacle to the reconciliation of Henry and the
Emperor; but, surely, on the condition that the death was natural. Had
Charles allowed Chapuys to persuade him that his aunt had been murdered,
reconciliation would have been made impossible for ever, and Henry would
have received the just reward of an abominable crime. Chapuys's object
from the beginning had been to drive the Emperor into war with England,
and if motive may be conjectured for the murder of Catherine, motive also
can be found for Chapuys's accusations, which no other evidence, direct or
indirect, exists to support.

If there had been foul play there would have been an affectation of
sorrow. There was none at all. When the news arrived Anne Boleyn and her
friends showed unmixed pleasure. The King (Chapuys is again the only
witness and he was reporting from hearsay) thanked God there was now no
fear of war; when the French knew that there was no longer any quarrel
between him and the Emperor, he could do as he pleased with them. Chapuys
says these were his first words on receiving the tidings that Catherine
was gone--words not unnatural if the death was innocent, but scarcely
credible if she had been removed by assassination.

The effect was of general relief at the passing away of a great danger. It
was thought that the Pope would now drop the proceedings against the King,
and Cromwell said that perhaps before long they would have a Legate among
them. Even Chapuys, on consideration, reflected that he might have spoken
too confidently about the manner of Catherine's end. Her death, he
imagined, had been brought about partly by poison and partly by
despondency. Had he reflected further he might have asked himself how
poison could have been administered at all, as the Queen took nothing
which had not been prepared by her own servants, who would all have died
for her.

Undoubtedly, however, the King breathed more freely when she was gone.
There was no longer a woman who claimed to be his wife, and whose presence
in the kingdom was a reflection on the legitimacy of his second daughter.
On the Sunday following, the small Elizabeth was carried to church with
special ceremony. In the evening there was a dance in the hall of the
palace, and the King appeared in the middle of it with the child in his
arms. All allowance must be made for the bitterness with which Chapuys
described the scene. He was fresh from Catherine's bedside. He had
witnessed her sufferings; he had listened to the story of her wrongs from
her own lips. He had talked hopefully with her of the future, and had
encouraged her to expect a grand and immediate redress; and now she was
dead, worn out with sorrow, if with nothing worse, an object at least to
make the dullest heart pity her, while of pity there was no sign. What was
to be done? He himself had no doubt at all. The enemy was off his guard
and now was the moment to strike.

Anne Boleyn sent a message to Mary that she was ready, on her submission,
to be her friend and a second mother to her. Mary replied that she would
obey her father in everything, saving her honour and conscience, but that
it was useless to ask her to abjure the Pope. She was told that the King
himself would use his authority and command her to submit. She consulted
Chapuys on the answer which she was to give should such a command be sent.
He advised her to be resolute but cautious. She must ask to be left in
peace to pray for her mother's soul; she must say that she was a poor
orphan, without experience or knowledge; the King must allow her time to
consider. He himself despatched a courier to the Regent of the Netherlands
with plans for her escape out of England. The Pope, he said, must issue
his Bull without a day's delay, and in it, for the sake of Catherine's
honour, it must be stated that she died queen. Instant preparations must
be made for the execution of the sentence. Meanwhile he recommended the
Emperor to send some great person to remonstrate against the Princess's
treatment and to speak out boldly and severely. The late Queen, he wrote,
used to say that the King and his advisers were like sheep to those who
appeared like wolves, and lions to those who were afraid of them. Mildness
at such a moment would be the ruin of Christendom. If the Emperor
hesitated longer, those who showed no sorrow at the mother's death would
take courage to make an end with the daughter. There would be no need of
poison. Grief and hard usage would be enough.

The King with some hesitation had consented to Chapuys's request that
Catherine's physician should be allowed to attend the Princess. The
presence of this man would necessarily be a protection, and either Anne's
influence was less supreme than the Ambassador had feared or her sinister
designs were a malicious invention. It is unlikely, however, that warnings
so persistently repeated and so long continued should have been wholly
without foundation, and, if the inner secrets of the Court could be laid
open, it might be found that the Princess had been the subject of many an
altercation between Anne and the King. Even Chapuys always acknowledged
that it was from her, and not from Henry, that the danger was to be
feared. He had spoken warmly of Mary, had shown affection for her when her
behaviour threatened his own safety. He admired the force of character
which she was showing, and had silenced peremptorily the Ministers who
recommended severity. But if he was her father, he was also King of
England. If he was to go through with his policy towards the Church, the
undisguised antagonism of a child whom three quarters of his subjects
looked on as his legitimate successor, was embarrassing and even perilous.
Had Anne Boleyn produced the Prince so much talked of all would then have
been easy. He would not then be preferring a younger daughter to an elder.
Both would yield to a brother with whom all England would be satisfied,
and Mary would cease to have claims which the Emperor would feel bound to
advocate. The whole nation were longing for a prince; but the male heir,
for which the King had plunged into such a sea of troubles, was still
withheld. He had interpreted the deaths of the sons whom Catherine had
borne him into a judgment of Heaven upon his first marriage; the same
disappointment might appear to a superstitious fancy to be equally a
condemnation of the second. Anne Boleyn's conduct during the last two
years had not recommended her either to the country or perhaps to her
husband. Setting aside the graver charges afterwards brought against her,
it is evident that she had thrown herself fiercely into the political
struggles of the time. To the Catholic she was a diablesse, a tigress,
the author of all the mischief which was befalling them and the realm. By
the prudent and the moderate she was almost equally disliked; the nation
generally, and even Reformers like Cromwell and Cranmer, were Imperialist;
Anne Boleyn was passionately French. Personally she had made herself
disliked by her haughty and arrogant manners. She had been received as
Queen, after her marriage was announced, with coldness, if not with
hostility. Had she been gracious and modest she might have partially
overcome the prejudice against her. But she had been carried away by the
vanity of her elevation; she had insulted the great English nobles; she
had spoken to the Duke of Norfolk "as if he was a dog;" she had threatened
to take off Cromwell's head. Such manners and such language could not have
made Henry's difficulties less, or been pleasing to a sovereign whose
authority depended on the goodwill of his people. He had fallen in love
with an unworthy woman, as men will do, even the wisest; yet in his first
affection he had not been blind to her faults, and, even before his
marriage, had been heard to say that, if it was to be done again, he would
not have committed himself so far. He had persisted, perhaps, as much from
pride, and because he would not submit to the dictation of the Emperor, as
from any real attachment. Qualities that he could respect she had none.
Catherine was gone; from that connection he was at last free, even in the
eyes of the Roman Curia; but whether he was or was not married lawfully to
Anne, was a doubtful point in the mind of many a loyal Englishman; and, to
the best of his own friends, to the Emperor, and to all Europe, his
separation from a woman whom the Catholic world called his concubine, and
a marriage with some other lady which would be open to no suspicion and
might result in the much desired prince, would have been welcomed as a
peace-offering. She had done nothing to reconcile the nation to her. She
had left nothing undone to exasperate it. She was believed, justly or
unjustly, to have endeavoured to destroy the Princess Mary. She was
credited by remorseful compassion with having been the cause of her
mother's death. The isolation and danger of England was all laid to her
account. She was again enceinte. If a prince was born, all faults would
be forgotten; but she had miscarried once since the birth of Elizabeth,
and a second misfortune might be dangerous. She had failed in her
attempts to conciliate Mary, who, but for an accident, would have made
good her escape out of England. When the preparations were almost complete
the Princess had been again removed to another house, from which it was
found impossible to carry her away. But Chapuys mentions that, glad as
Anne appeared at the Queen's death, she was less at ease than she
pretended. Lord and Lady Exeter had brought him a Court rumour of words
said to have been uttered by the King, that "he had been drawn into the
marriage by witchcraft; God had shown his displeasure by denying him male
children by her, and therefore he might take another wife."

Lord and Lady Exeter were not trustworthy authorities--on this occasion
even Chapuys did not believe them--but stories of the kind were in the
wind. It was notorious that everything was not well between the King and
Lady Anne. A curious light is thrown on the state of Anne's mind by a
letter which she wrote to her aunt, Mrs. Shelton, after Mary's rejection
of her advances. Mrs. Shelton left it lying open on a table. Mary found
it, copied it, and replaced it, and the transcript, in Mary's handwriting,
is now at Vienna.

"MRS. SHELTON,--My pleasure is that you seek to go no further to move
the Lady Mary towards the King's grace, other than as he himself
directed in his own words to her. What I have done myself has been
more for charity than because the King or I care what course she
takes, or whether she will change or not change her purpose. When I
shall have a son, as soon I look to have, I know what then will come
to her. Remembering the word of God, that we should do good to our
enemies, I have wished to give her notice before the time, because by
my daily experience I know the wisdom of the King to be such that he
will not value her repentance or the cessation of her madness and
unnatural obstinacy when she has no longer power to choose. She would
acknowledge her errors and evil conscience by the law of God and the
King if blind affection had not so sealed her eyes that she will not
see but what she pleases.

"Mrs. Shelton, I beseech you, trouble not yourself to turn her from
any of her wilful ways, for to me she can do neither good nor ill. Do
your own duty towards her, following the King's commandment, as I am
assured that you do and will do, and you shall find me your good
lady, whatever comes.

"Your good Mistress,


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Previous: Warlike Resolution Of The Pope Restrained By The Cardinals

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