Navigate the 1563 Edition
PrefaceBook 1Book 2Book 3Book 4Book 5
Critical Apparatus for this Page
Commentary on the Text
Names and Places on this Page
Unavailable for this Edition
508 []

Actes and Monuments of the Church.

of Christen people so longe time, that it semed not only hard, but also impossible for mannes power to abolishe the same. But that whyche passeth mannes strength, God here beginneth to take in hand, to supplante the old tirannye and subtile supremacy of the Romish Bishop, Thoccasyon wherof began thus (through the seacrete prouidence of God) by a certaine vnlawful marriage betwene Kinge Henrye the eight, and the lady katherin his brothers wife Which marriage being found vnlawfull, and so concluded by all vniuersities, not to be dispensed withal by any man, at length brought forth a veritie long hid before, that is, that nether the Pope was that, he was recounted to be: And that again presumptuouslye he tooke more vpon him than he was able to dyspence wythall. These little beginninges being once called into question, gaue great lyght to men and ministred withall, great occasyon to seke further: In so much at lengthe the Pope was espied, both to vsurpe that which he could not claime, and to claime that which he ought not to vsurpe. As touching the first doubt of thys vnlawfull marriage, whether it came of the kinge him selfe, or of the Cardinall, or of the Spaniardes, as the Chronicles them selues doo not fully expresse, so I canne not assuredly affyrme. This is certaine, that it was not wythoute the synguler prouidence of God, (where by to bringe greater thinges to passe) that the kinges conscience herein semed to be so troubled, accordinge as the woordes of hys owne Oration had vnto his commons, do declare, whose Oration here followeth, to geue testimony of the same.

[Back to Top]
¶ The oration of the kinge, made to his commons, concerning his troubled conscience for his vnlawful mariage. 
Commentary  *  Close

Henry VIII delivered this oration at Bridewell on 8 November 1529 (see Edward Hall, The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancastre & York (London, 1547) and it remained in all four editions. Henry VIII's sense of dynastic insecurity, more clearly expressed here than perhaps at any other moment of the reign, he was clearly referring to the 'Wars of the Roses', still within living memory. He refers to his own grandfather, Edward IV (of York), who had contested the throne with Henry VI (of Lancaster) between 1461 and 1471, and who ruled unopposed to 1483. Famously, his successor, Edward V was usurped (or perhaps legitimately replaced) by Richard III, who was himself removed by the successful rebellion of Henry Tudor (a distant Lancastrian candidate). Henry VII had married Elizabeth York and their heirs - Arthur, Henry, Mary and Margaret - had united the Plantagenet family. The 'fayre daughter' is, of course, Princess Mary (later Mary I), born 18 February 1516, the only child of Catherine and Henry to survive early childhood. The king emphasised the seriousness of the situation in which he might find himself, having 'so long lyued in adultery to Gods great displeasure, and haue no true heyre of my body to inherit this realme'. The king promised that 'I seke a remedy'. Already, two ecclesiastical tribunals had been assembled to hear the case, one at Westminster in 1527 and another at Blackfriars monastery in 1529. Moreover, Henry had also canvassed widely among the English theologians (e.g., John Fisher, John Stokesley) and canonists (e.g., Stephen Gardiner, William Warham) and assembled a group of scholars to examine the evidence from every conceivable angle (including such men as Richard Croke and Nicholas de Burgo). Henry's case revolved around the fact that Arthur and Catherine had consummated their marriage which had created insurmountable impediments between Catherine and himself. In essence he had married his genuine sister; his daughter was the product of an incestuous union, was illegitimate and, thereby, could not inherit. Henry's sincerity has been called into question by historians and chroniclers from the time of the speech itself, but there is no real reason to doubt his claims. One of the key characteristics of the Tudors, and Henry in particular, was their devotion to the veneer of legality for their acts. The question of legitimacy hung over the Tudors, and Henry was obsessed by the idea of a legitimate male heir and of avoiding a return to the bloodshed of the civil wars. By this point, of course, Henry had also been convinced that his marriage to Catherine was entirely illegitimate, so he has no real reason to dissemble with regard to Catherine's merits and his feelings toward her.

[Back to Top]

MarginaliaThe oratiō of king Hēry the viii. concernyng his marriage.OVr trusty and wel beloued subiectes both you of the nobilitye, and you of the meaner sort, it is not vnknowen to you how that we, both by Goddes prouision and true and lawfull enheritaunce haue raigned ouer this realme of Englande, almost the terme of xx. yeres. Duringe whych time we haue so ordered vs, thancked be God that no outward ennemy hath oppressed you, nor taken any thing from vs, nor we haue inuaded no realme, but we haue had victory and honor, so that we thinke that you, nor none of your predecessors neuer liued more quietlye, more wealthy, nor in more estimatyon vnder any of our noble progenitors: But when we remember our mortalitye, and that we muste die, then we thinke that all our doings in our life time are clearly defaced, and worthy of no memory, if we leaue you in trouble at þe time of our death. For if our true heire be not knowen at the time of oure deathe, see what mys-chief and trouble shal succede to you and your children. The experience there of some of you haue scene after the death of our noble graūdfather kinge Edwarde the iiii. and some haue heard what mischief and manslaughter contynued in this realme betwene the houses of Yorke and Lancaster, by the which dyssention this realme was like to haue bene clearlye destroyed. And although it hath pleased almighty God to send vs a faire doughter of a Noble woman & me begotten, to our great cōforte & ioy, yet it hath bene told vs by diuers greate clarkes, that neither she is our lawful doughter, nor her mother our lawful wyfe, but that we lyue together abhominablye and detestably in open adoultrye, in so muche that when our ambassade was last in Fraunce, and motion was made, that the Duke of Orleaunce should marrye our saide doughter, one of the chief councellors to the French king saide. It were well doone to know whether she be the king of England his lawful doughter or not, for well knowen it is, that he begate her on his brothers wife which is directlye agaynste Gods law and his precepte. Thincke you my Lordes that these wordes touch not my bodye and soule, thincke you that these doynges doo not dailye and hourlye trouble my conscyence and vexe my spirites, yes we doubt not, but & if it were your owne cause, euery man would seke remeady when the pearill of your soule, and the losse of your inheritaunce is openlye laid to you. For this onlye cause I protest before God, and in the word of a prince, I haue asked councel of the greatest clarkes in Christendome, and for this cause I haue sente for thys Legate as a manne indifferente onlye to knowe the truth, and to settle my conscience, and for none other cause as God can iudge. And as touching the Quene, if it be adiudged by the law of God that she is my lawful wife, there was neuer thinge more pleasaunte nor more acceptable to me in my life, bothe for the discharge and clearinge of my conscience and also for the good qualities and conditions the which I knowe to be in her. MarginaliaThe praise of þe QueneFor I assure you all, that beside her noble parentage, of the whych she is discended (as al you know) she is a woman of most gentlenesse, of most humilitye and buxumnes, yea and of all good qualyties appertaining to nobilitie, she is without comparison, as I this xx yeres almooste haue had the true experimente, so that if I were to marry againe, if the marriage might be good, I would surely chuse her aboue al other women: But if it be determined by iudgemente that our marriage was against Goddes lawe and clearly void, then I shall not onlye sorow the departing from so good a Lady & louynge companion, but muche more lamente and bewaile my infortunate chaunce, that I haue so

[Back to Top]
Go To Modern Page No:  
Click on this link to switch between the Modern pagination for this edition and Foxe's original pagination when searching for a page number. Note that the pagination displayed in the transcription is the modern pagination with Foxe's original pagination in square brackets.
Type a keyword and then restrict it to a particular edition using the dropdown menu. You can search for single words or phrases. When searching for single words, the search engine automatically imposes a wildcard at the end of the keyword in order to retrieve both whole and part words. For example, a search for "queen" will retrieve "queen", "queene" and "queenes" etc.
Humanities Research Institute  *  HRI Online  *  Feedback
Version 2.0 © 2011 The University of Sheffield