Fresh from the keyboard of Mr. Al, here is the latest installment of the love life of Henry the VIII.
Henry found Anne so unpleasant that he couldn’t do his royal duty with her. No royal duty, no babies. No babies, no point to being married. But what to do? Sending Anne back to Germany would probably spark a war that England couldn’t hope to win. Keeping a wife he found so repulsive that he couldn’t stomach having sex with her was equally unacceptable. What to do? Henry didn’t know. But he did know the guy who got him into this mess and that guy had better get him out of it or he’d nail his hide to the outhouse door!
It’s hard to muster much sympathy for a guy like Cromwell. He wasn’t as greedy as Wolsey, but then Wolsey didn’t build a career by killing people Henry didn’t like. Six innocent people died in the Anne Boleyn business alone. They were not the first, nor the last. But, like Wolsey before him, Cromwell staked all on finding Henry the wife of his dreams. Too bad for Cromwell that he let other matters cloud his judgment. Stuff like King Francis and the Emperor; Possible civil unrest, the Catholic factions, the Lutheran factions. He thought he could get away with ignoring Henry’s desire for a good looking, buxom wife. Nope.
When Henry finally cornered Cromwell and explained the facts to him, Cromwell was shaken. Shaken because he knew he was trapped like a rat. Deceiving Henry about Anne’s looks had been Cromwell’s project from start to finish. He tried to shift the blame onto just about anyone but himself, to no avail. Plenty of people had told Henry that Anne was a saucy number, but when Henry leaned on them, all fingers pointed to Cromwell. “He ordered us to lie to you, your Highness! He threatened us!” Henry believed them. Why not, they were telling the truth.
Henry was doing a not so slow burn on this Anne business and Cromwell’s enemies were making sure the fire wouldn’t go out. Not that they had anything against Anne, she offended no one. But her demotion meant Cromwell’s destruction. While Cromwell worked feverishly to find a solution, the Catholic faction came up with one. A secret weapon that would guarantee that Henry would put Anne aside, put Cromwell’s head on the block and God willing, put them in the King’s good graces. The secret weapon’s name was Katherine Howard.
Poor Anne was not going to make it as Queen. But how to get rid of her? There had been talk of a pre-contract of marriage between Anne and the son of the Duke of Lorraine. It was just talk. No such document ever turned up. But the fact that it MIGHT exist bothered Henry’s tender conscience so much that he could not bear the thought of having sex with Anne. How could he when she had been promised to another?
When no evidence turned up it was obvious to Henry that the searchers weren’t looking in the right place. And Anne? It was news to her. No one likes to be insulted about their appearance. Henry did try to be nice. He didn’t say anything to her face; In public he was the perfect gentleman. Unlike his relationship with Anne Boleyn, the public had no idea there was a problem. Part of it may have been that they were not inclined to believe bad things about her.
As un-worldly as she was, and she was VERY unworldly, she knew something was seriously wrong. No one had explained the facts of life to her before she married Henry. She had no experience whatsoever with sex or men. She had been told that after a man and woman married, the man “did” something that caused the woman to have a baby. Anne had no idea what that something was, but she was pretty darned certain that Henry hadn’t done it yet. Poor kid.
To the consternation of the Catholic faction, Henry made Cromwell an Earl. The new Earl of Essex seemed more in favor than ever. They didn’t know Henry very well. Henry liked to elevate his enemies before striking them down. Cromwell was still trying to get Henry to accept Anne as a suitable wife. This wasn’t going down well with Henry at all. The fact that Henry couldn’t consummate his marriage with Anne wasn’t his fault. And he could prove it. He suggested to some gentlemen that if they bothered to talk to some of the serving girls he had cornered in the pantry, they’d be happy to confirm that his Majesty was still virile.
Perhaps Henry had meant it, but it’s hard to imagine a more dangerous thing to do in Henry’s court than to talk to serving girls about wither or not the King could still get it up. There is no evidence that anyone took Henry up on his offer. As matters transpired, they didn’t need to ask serving girls. Henry had suddenly caught sight of Katherine. The Catholic faction was beside itself. Henry had taken the bait. I don’t know if 16th century folk had any use for irony. The post-modernists of today love to act as though they invented it. They probably called it “divine justice” back then. Either way, some people must have noted that the young girl the Catholic faction was pinning it’s hopes on was first cousin to the girl that, as the first Queen Anne, had nearly destroyed it.
Wait a minute, Mr. Al. Are you saying Katherine Howard and Anne Boleyn were cousins? What a small world Henry inhabited. After you description of an execution from a few weeks back, I’m not sure I want to know what happened to Cromwell. As to Anne of Cleves, what did he do?