Anne Boleyn's miscarriage of the much desired son and heir, allegedly brought about by the shock on hearing the news of the king's serious riding accident, was the last straw for Henry.
Finding a pretext to get rid of her was no problem, for there was already enough evidence that she had been unfaithful, and if more were needed there was always the rack. The lutist, Mark Smeaton was thus persuaded to confess to adultery with the queen. Henry Norris was also involved, as were two gentlemen of the Chamber, and even her own brother, Lord Rochford, was accused of committing incest with her.
Naturaly Henry was convinced of their guilt, and totally persuaded of Anne's evil, lascivious nature.
After the suspected lovers had been painfully persuaded into confessing, Anne Boleyn was tried and categorically found guilty.
The indictment against her read : '(...) contemning her marriage, bearing malice in her heart against the King and following her frail and carnal lust, she did falsely and traitorously procure by means of indecent language, gifts and other arts... divers of the King's daily and familiar servants to be her adulterers and concubines, so that several of them, by her most vile provocation and invitation, became given and inclined to the said Queen'.
Anne was even designated as 'the English Messalina or Agrippina'.
She was executed the 19th May, 1536 on Tower Green. That same day a dispensation was issued by Cranmer. By special court Henry's marriage to Anne was proclaimed unlawful due to her previous marital contract to Percy. All this was more than enough to permit Henry to marry Jane Seymour.
The marriage took place in the Queen's Chapel, Whitehall, the 30th May. Although her coronation had been planned for the autumn of that year, the ceremony was never performed because of the plague.
Jane Seymour had a modest and duty-bound nature. Inclined towards the reformist faith, her motto was 'Bound to obey and serve', which she most certainly did. She implemented peace between Henry and his first daughter Princess Mary. Then she more than fulfilled her duty by giving birth to the much yearned for son.
Before she gave birth, a Te Deum was sung on Trinity Sunday, 1537 'for the joy of the Queen's quickening of child', a first in contributing to establish the liturgy.
The son was born in Hampton Court on the 12th October, but the birth was given under very difficult conditions, a Caesarean section which essentially caused Jane's death twelve days later, despite other considerations such as : 'through the fault of them that were about her, who suffered her to take great cold and eat things that her fancy in sickness called for.'
She had done what had been required and expected of her, and because of this she was the only one of Henry's queens to be buried in St. George's Chapel, Windsor.
Henry had already ruled for twenty-eight years, and Jane had bestowed him with the Prince he had so longed for, Edward, Prince of Wales.
Also for this reason Henry ordered that his own coffin be laid beside Jane's when his own time would come, ten years later.
Henry had his son, and was richer than ever he could have previously imagined, thanks to the failure of the Pilgrimage of Grace followed by Cromwell's dissolving of religious properties and monasteries. Those who protested, including the abbots eager to defend their houses, were ruthlessly crushed. Even holy shrines such as that of St. Thomas à Becket were plundered and desecrated.
Without considering any other 16th century holy shrines of England, it took twenty-six wagons to haul away the loads of wealth plundered from the shrine of St. Thomas à Becket.
A new English Bible was needed in all the Churches of England to replace the former version, and this was based on the work of Coverdale and Tyndale.
Cromwell and Cranmer also held doctrinal meetings with the German Lutherans.
Henry felt that there was a growing need to protect England and its new Church. He badly needed an ally. As Francis I and Charles V had signed a ten year truce, Henry feared a European invasion with the objective to impose a papal bull to depose him. Consequently he ordered a construction of coastal defences.
Although Henry liked the idea of remaining a widower now that he had his son, he was well aware of the importance of a protective alliance with Protestant States. A new wife from such States would seal such an alliance.
Holbein was called upon to paint portraits of likely contenders, and the artist returned to England with a splendid portrait of Anne of Cleaves, as well as one of her sister, Amelia. This followed a portrait that the artist had previously painted of the Duchess of Milan. Henry had already seen this work and was excited about meeting the Duchess.
As previously alluded to regarding Anne of Cleaves, Holbein must have been well aware of the importance of such an alliance to have invested so much in this particular work. He was a great enough artist to know how best to portray The Flanders Mare, to everyone's advantage, hopes and expectations.
In order to push for the best possible alliance, and knowing that Anne's father, the Duke of Cleaves was at loggerheads with the Emperor Charles V over Gelderland, Cromwell himself claimed that 'Princess Anne of Cleaves excelled the Duchess of Milan in beauty as the golden sun did the silvery moon'.
The marriage treaty was agreed and signed the 4th October, 1539.
Henry so much admired Holbein's portrait, that he agreed that Anne was the best choice in all respects. She travelled through Düsseldorf to Antwerp then Calais where she was advised to wait for the best weather conditions before making the cossing to Deal.
Upon her arrival Henry was so eager to see her that he with several courtiers disguised themselves to permit the king to secretly meet her ahead of schedule (planned for the 3rd January) on New Year's day, to 'nourish love'.
However, as soon as he saw her, he knew that there was no hope of nourishing anything. Henry left as soon as decency permitted.
On the barge that took him back to Greenwich, he confided to his master of the Horse, Anthony Browne : 'I see nothing in this woman as men report of her and I marvel that wise men would make such reports as they have done'.
He had been badly misled, yet he knew that he was trapped. For the sake of the nation's security, he had to go through with the marriage which took place the 6th January, 1540 at the Royal Palace of Placentia in Greenwich.
The marriage was never consummated. Henry informed Cromwell of this, adding: 'I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse'.
They shared the same bed for a few nights, but it was hopeless. Again to Cromwell : '(...) for her breasts and belly she should be no maid; which when I felt them struck me so to the heart that I had neither will nor courage for the rest'.
Anne was unattractive, timid, frigid and intellectually uninteresting. She was also frightened of colossal Henry. That the marriage had failed so dismally, would probably have been a relief for her. This even though she had to leave Court as soon as the 24th June. Later that same year Anne consented to the matrimonial annulment. On the 9th July the annulment was established on the grounds of the marriage not being consummated, but there was also reference to her pre-marital contract to Francis of Lorraine.
That she had been dryly referred to then as 'the Flanders Mare' was caustic irony, of course, for as the master of the Horse well knew, the best brood-mares of the king's stables all came from Flanders.
But if she were put to pasture precipitately, Anne nevertheless benefited from a generous settlement which included Richmond Palace, and Hever Castle, the home which formerly belonged to the Boleyns.
Free of monarchial duties, Anne even became more interesting. Henry and she developed a sincere friendship. She was treated as an honorary member of the King's family, and was often referred to as 'the King's Beloved Sister'.
The inscription on the portrait of Prince Edward, written by Sir Richard Morison, reads:'Little one, emulate thy father and be the heir of his virtue; the world contains nothing greater. Heaven and earth could scarcely produce a son whose glory would surpass that of such a father. Do thou but equal the deeds of thy parent and men can ask no more. Shouldst thou surpass him, thou hast outstript all, nor shall any surpass thee in ages to come.'
Henry VIII . part VI
Henry VIII . part VI
Henry VIII . part IV
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 after Hans Holbein the Younger (1498-1543). Portrait of Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna). Portrait of young Prince Edward, later King Edward VI of England by Hans Holbein (likely to have been given to the Henry VIII on the 1st January, 1539). Portrait of Anne of Cleves, c. 1539, by Hans Holbein. Oil and tempera on parchment mounted on canvas, 65 x 48 cm. Le Louvre, Paris. With thanks also to Wikimedia Commons. June, 2013