Princess Mary Tudor (later Mary I of England) was the daughter and only surviving child of Henry VIII and his first wife Katherine of Aragon’s 24-year marriage. She was styled and titled Princess Mary up until the Archbishop of Canterbury; Thomas Cranmer declared her parent’s marriage invalid in May 1533. After this date her mother, previously Queen Katherine was to be known as the Princess Dowager of Wales and Mary, now deemed a bastard was to be known as simply Lady Mary.
Both mother and daughter refused to accept or respond to their new titles, which of course put them both on a direct collision course with Henry VIII and an already pregnant Anne Boleyn.
In September 1533 Anne Boleyn gave birth to Princess Elizabeth and not the son they expected. This did nothing to solidify Anne’s position as many in the country believed that without an annulment from the Pope, Henry and Katherine’s marriage was still valid and that it was not Katherine’s daughter that was the bastard, but Anne’s. This was a serious pressure point for Anne as it directly challenged her marriage and the legitimacy of her child.
No doubt to ease his wife’s uncertainties and for the peace of the realm, Henry VIII instructed his minister Thomas Cromwell to draft an Act of Succession, which would make the King’s marriage to Anne Boleyn and the passing of the crown to their children watertight.
The Act became law in March 1534 and declared several significant clauses.
- That the King’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon was never valid and that the judgement of that did not lie with any power outside England.
- Any children, ie Princess Mary born of the unlawful union were illegitimate and therefore could not inherit the English Crown.
- The King’s marriage to Anne Boleyn was completely legal and also could not be judged otherwise by any foreign power, eg The Pope.
- Only the children of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn were legitimate and could succeed the King.
- Everyone in the land would be required to swear an Oath that the King was now the head of the Church of England, that the King’s marriage was valid and that they would act accordingly on pain of being convicted and executed for High Treason.
Katherine of Aragon, Lady Mary and other nobles in the land including the former Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas More refused to swear the oath.
The consequences of this defiance from Lady Mary in an age when a daughter’s obedience to her father was expected without question lead to her being banned from communicating with her mother and being taken into the household of her baby half sister as one of her attendants. This did not bode well as Lady Shelton who was an aunt of Anne Boleyn headed up Princess Elizabeth’s household.
With Mary’s display of loyalty to her mother and her refusal to obey her father the child who had a short time ago been a cherished daughter of both parents, a sought after prize on the Royal European marriage market and a lively young woman, now became a direct threat and enemy of Anne Boleyn and her child.
Next week I will explore how despite Anne Boleyn’s efforts at conciliation the relationship between the two women continued to disintegrate with potential life threatening results.