The tragic death of little Henry in February, 1511, after only six weeks, had a profound effect on the king. In spite of papal benediction, he began to suspect that his marriage to Catherine was doomed by the law of God.
1511 ended with revival of the Hundred Years War with France still under Louis XII. Henry basked in the months of campaigning and made his presence felt, if not in the Battle of the Spurs, certainly for the sieges of Thérouanne and Tournai In 1513. Fighting and killing an enemy wasn't the same as jousting. But Henry was always game, perhaps even more so for war. Even much later on, in 1544, when he was old, obese and ill, no one could dissuade him from taking to the field of battle again.
But in comparison to modern warfare, battle in the 16th century often appeared to be more like a local, summer tournament. Wolsley, for example, commanded two hundred men. Others such as Ruthal and Foxe each led a force of only a hundred men. There were three hundred of the king's household guards, and Henry's guard consisted of priests, choristers, secretaries, grooms and Chamber pages.
Whist Henry was in France, the Scots were defeated at Flodden by the Earl of Surrey. James IV was killed, which meant that Henry's sister Margaret would be Regent of Scotland for her baby son.
During the French campaign of the summer of 1513, Catherine, perhaps eager to participate, wrote to Wolsey stressing how she and her ladies were 'horribly busy with making standards, banners and badges'.
Henry and his entourage triumphantly returned to England in October, 1513. Courtiers were then rewarded for their efforts. The promoted Lord Treasury Surrey regained the Dukedom of Norfolk, and his son, the Lord Admiral, became the new Earl of Surrey. The Marshal of the army, Charles Brandon became Duke of Suffolk. The Lord Chamberlain, Lord Herbert was promoted to Earl of Worcester.
One of the spectators of the ceremony was the Duc de Longueville, who previously commanded 'a hundred gentlemen of the French King's house', and had been taken prisoner of war.
Thomas Wolsey's brilliant handling of the war, its declaration, waging and the advantageous treaty he established with Louis XII, impressed Henry so much that Wolsey (the butcher's son) was promoted Bishop of Lincoln, then Archbishop of York in 1514, then cardinal, and finally in 1515, Lord Chancellor. Henry had absolute confidence in Wolsey's excellent abilities in all administrative affairs, at least until 1529.
The peace treaty of 1514 with France was also sealed by the marriage of Henry's younger sister, Mary, to the old King Louis XII, who still thought himself capable of begetting a son. This was not to be however, for he died not long afterwards.
Mary had taken to the Duke of Suffolk, Charles Brandon. They secretly eloped and this caused a considerable scandal. They were exiled and heavily fined, although eventually pardoned. Their marriage determined the Suffolk line of nobility.
Wolsey also became the patron of artists and sculptors. It was he who determined the arrival of great talents from Italy, such as the sculptor Giovanni da Maiano.
By 1516 Henry VIII was enraptured with the already married Elizabeth Blount who exceeded in all 'goodly pastimes', so much so that the new mistress bore Henry a son in 1519 (Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, 1519-1536). The king was very proud of his illegitimate boy, and ostensibly paraded him before the court, which must have been a bitter experience for poor Catherine.
Henry was very generous with the cuckolded husband who gained a peerage, grants and lands, so the arrangement was generally accepted.
That same year, in February 1516, Catherine gave birth to a girl. She was christened Mary. 'If it is a girl this time, by God's grace boys will follow', Henry declared optimistically to the Venetian ambassador, but Catherine was beginning to show physical signs of her efforts to supply the nation with a son and heir to the throne.
Europe was in the throes of great change. The Spanish empire was expanding in the New World. Portugal's prosperous, Eastern spice trade was having a positive effect on the economies of European nations. The authority of the Church was increasingly questioned by the new philosophy of Humanism with it's search for truth and beauty. Yet despite all this England still remained orthodox.
Henry in fact, felt duty bound to write against Lutherism. Thomas More with John Fisher helped him to complete the Defence of the Seven Sacrements, in 1521 for which the Catholic Church was most grateful. The book even became a best-seller in Europe. Henry was appointed the title of Fidei Defensor (defender of the Faith) signed by the Golden bull of Pope Leo X in 1524.
It seems likely from the tone of the criticism, that Henry was responsible, but it's probable that Thomas More greatly contributed.
Louis XII had been replaced by the flamboyant and arrogant Francis I, to whom Henry took an immediate dislike. This helped to strengthen his conviction that France remained England's traditional foe.
Wolsey excelled himself even more by organising the splendid occasion of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, a sumptuous gathering, summit meeting and tournament between Henry and Francis to establish peace in Europe. This took place near Guisnes.
It consisted of a month of banquets, musical festivities and a hopeful renaissance of chivalry, but the old animosities persisted.
(Over 5000 English ladies and gentlemen of Henry's court including supporters of his entourage, were shipped across the channel for the great event. The provisions made ready at Calais cost £8,839. On top of this the wine and beer cost a further £1,568).
When Pope Leo X died, Henry pushed for the election of Wolsey, for Henry's ambition was to become Europe's arbitrator, and controller. His efforts were in vain however. His frustration and concern regarding the problems of the dynasty returned to the point of even greater exasperation.
Henry was convinced that he had gone against the Holy Writ by marrying the wife of his deceased brother. His nature was such that the more he dwelt upon the matter, the more convinced of it he became. In his view he had lived in sin, and was being punished for it. He therefore concluded that Catherine had never been his lawful wife.
He needed Wolsey to persuade Rome of the necessity to invalidate his marriage to Catherine. His dissatisfaction with Catherine was prior to any serious interest he took in other women, including Anne Boleyn. But such is destiny, and Anne Boleyn was highly ambitious.
She refused any advances to become merely Henry's mistress. She had great confidence in her ability to captivate the King, simply by not succumbing to his desires. For this her price was no less than the title of Queen. For Henry the primordial objective was to sire a legitimate heir. Thus began the 'King's Great Matter.'
Text © Mirino. Sources include- 'Henry VIII and his Court' by Neville Williams, 'The lives of the Kings & Queens of England' edited by Antonia Fraser. With many thanks. Top portrait of Henry VIII probably by Holbein the Younger. Portrait of Francis I of France by Jean Clouet (1475-1540). Oil on oak panel c. 1530, Louvre Museum. With thanks also to Wikimedia Commons. April, 2013