This post will do a quintessential leadership analysis of Henry VIII during the years between 1525, when Anne Boleyn came on the scene and Catherine of Aragon became an inconvenience, and 1536, when Anne Boleyn was executed.

It’s important to note at this point that although Catherine of Aragon produced only one child – Mary I – during their marriage (she had several miscarriages, as did Henry VIII’s Catherine of Aragonother wives, which now seem to have been scientifically linked to Henry VIII himself, who may have had a rare blood type known as Kell positive), up until 1525, she and Henry VIII seemed to have had an amiable marriage, in spite of Henry’s philandering.

Anne Boleyn, who often carries the lion’s share of the blame for what happened to Catherine and in England during the next 11 years, was in fact only a single factor – although perhaps the tipping one –Anne Boleyn in what led to the tumult and upheaval within the royal family, the country, and the church during that time.

Several factors had an impact on why Henry VIII suddenly reversed himself on the legality of his marriage to Catherine in 1525 after they’d been married for 16 years (their marriage would not be annulled by the Church of England until 1533, but Catherine of Aragon never accepted the decision and maintained that she was Henry’s wife and the queen until her death from natural causes in 1536).

The French monarchy, the Holy Roman Empire, Thomas Wolsey, and Henry’s and Wolsey’s enemies at court were major players in where English international relations were in 1525 and how they were quickly thrown up in the air and changed dramatically within a year.

By 1520, France and the Hapsburg dynasty were becoming the powers to be reckoned with in Western Europe. In 1520, eager for a Franco-Anglo alliance, Thomas Wolsey arranged a meeting between Francis I, the king of France and Henry VIII at Field of the Cloth of Gold in the Netherlands in 1520.

Henry and Francis were very much alike in their educations, interests, and athleticism. They were also both extremely competitive. In addition to the political purposes of this meeting, tournaments had been arranged to show off the skills and abilities of the two young kings with the agreement that they would not compete against each other.

Henry broke the agreement – an act of unquintessential leadership that he became well known for – by challenging Francis to a wrestling match in which Henry emerged as the loser.

As a result, no alliance came out of the two-week meeting and relations with France were definitely worsening.

Not long after the Field of the Cloth meeting, the ever-scheming Wolsey, whose greatest aspiration was to be a pope, decided to throw England’s lot in with Charles V, who was at the time the king of the Hapsburg dynasty.

(After defeating Pope Clement VII in Rome in 1527, Charles and Pope Clement became allies. In 1530 Pope Clement VII crowned Charles as the Holy Roman Emperor, so Charles’ ties to the Roman Catholic Church were not only strong and close, but unbreakable, and he could exert a lot of influence over papal decisions.)

Charles V was also the nephew of Catherine of Aragon and his allegiance to his aunt was unquestioning.

In the 1520 meeting that Wolsey arranged between Charles V and Henry VIII, they agreed to form an alliance against France, with Charles providing the land power and Henry providing the sea power. In addition, Mary I was betrothed in marriage to Charles V, which strengthened the bond of the alliance.

Charles led a very successful campaign against France, capturing Francis I in the first battle in 1525. This was also the year that Anne Boleyn came to court.

The same year Henry named his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, as heir to the throne, and gave him the titles and lands that would ensure his succession. The move infuriated Catherine, who believed Mary should be the heir to the throne, and perhaps initiated the bitterness that consumed her, understandably, the rest of her life.

Even though Henry had a male heir in place, he still wanted a legitimate male heir to succeed him. This driving desire brought out other unquintessential leadership traits in Henry that would be present the rest of his reign: changing the rules when they didn’t suit him, bullying, and trying to force everything to go the way he wanted it to and if it failed, blaming anyone and everyone involved and eliminating them by arrest on false charges and execution. The bloody period of Henry VIII’s reign was about to begin.

Anne Boleyn had already caught Henry’s eye. However, she refused to become his mistress and indirectly told him the only way Henry could have her was if Anne was his wife. Eager for a legitimate male heir and convinced, probably accurately, that Catherine would never be able to give him a male heir, Henry sought a way to dissolve his marriage to Catherine so he could marry Anne Boleyn.

Citing “new ecclesiastical understanding” based on Leviticus 18:16, Henry met with Wolsey and told him that God had cursed the marriage and he wanted Wolsey to go to Pope Clement and have it annulled. Henry used the issue of not knowing whether the marriage between Arthur and Catherine had been consummated (it is unlikely it was and Catherine maintained that it had not been, in which case the scripture wouldn’t apply), but passionately said that piety and obedience to God left him no choice but to end the marriage.

Wolsey was a shrewd politician and understood the position Henry was putting himself and Wolsey in politically and religiously and tried to talk Henry out of divorcing Catherine. Henry, showing another unquintessential leadership trait, refused to listen and demanded that Wolsey obtain the annulment. 

Pope Clement VII, at first, simply ignored Wolsey’s request. At the time, he and Charles V were enemies, and he knew that granting the annulment would have serious consequences for Rome. Henry kept pushing Wolsey and Catherine began a campaign of her own to save the marriage by sending surreptitious messages to Charles asking him to intervene.

When Charles heard that Henry wanted to divorce his aunt, while he did not intervene then with the pope, he immediately ended his engagement to Mary and took a wife. When Henry found out, he ended his alliance with Charles and entered into an alliance with France against him.

Meanwhile, Wolsey was between a rock and a hard place. Pope Clement, who had by now been captured in Charles’ defeat of Rome, had given him the authority to have a convocation of the cardinals in England to get the facts together, but had denied them any authority to make a binding decision. 

The struggle between the pope and Wolsey and Henry, who by 1528 had declared, in another unquintessential leadership stance, the sole and supreme religious and political law in England. While Henry didn’t directly, at this point, say the church in Rome didn’t have any authority over him, he certainly implied it. Henry began to take his case to the citizens of England, hoping to gain mass support from his subjects. 

He had two big obstacles. One was the sheer power the Catholic church had over aspects of the average Englishman’s life. The church was the center of English life. The second was Catherine’s popularity among the people, and the sense they had that she was getting a raw deal from Henry.

Obstacles like these never deterred Henry. As an unquintessential leader, he just bulldozed over everything that stood in his way, doing whatever he wanted to get the outcome he wanted. He certainly lived by the motto that “the end justifies the means.”

Wolsey continued to unsuccessfully try to obtain the annulment. Finally, Henry got fed up with his failure to do so – and because Anne Boleyn didn’t like and didn’t trust, for good reason, Wolsey and urged Henry to get rid of him – and had him arrested in November 1530 on charges of treason. Wolsey died of apparently natural causes – but who knows? – on his way to his trial on those charges later that month. Had he not, there is absolutely no doubt he would have been convicted and executed.

By 1531, Henry had moved further toward openly questioning the authority and the power of the pope and the Catholic church. He sent all the evidence for the divorce and the ensuing cardinal convocations with papal restrictions to the leading theological scholars at all the major universities in Europe to ask for their opinions. They were all in agreement that Pope Clement had exceeded the limits of his power and authority.

He also had English theologians developing reforms to the church in England, which included non-papal and non-Roman authority but only English authority – with the ruler as the head of the church – and he took the legal arguments to Parliament to adjudicate in December of 1531. Parliament also agreed that the pope had abused his power.

Pope Clement obviously was not happy with these developments and warned Henry of excommunication if he continued. However, Henry barged forward.

Thomas Cromwell, Henry’s chief statesman and an ardent supporter of the English reformation (a position that led him down a path similar to Wolsey’s in actions and made him a hated enemy of those in the English court who did not want to break with Rome), called a meeting of the English bishops in which he charged them with treason because of their loyalty oaths to the pope which conflicted with their loyalty to Henry.

The bishops realized the untenable situation they – and their lives – were in, and when they were brought to court to face the charges at Henry’s request, they offered Henry money and pledged their loyalty to him as “the supreme head of the Church of England.”

Henry took the bishops’ pledge to Parliament in January of 1532 and demanded that they produce official legislation that codified the pledge of loyalty to him, while keeping Catholicism as the official faith of England. This precipitated the final break with Rome.

In 1532, Thomas Cromwell engineered a meeting between English church officials and Parliament from which a conclusion was reached that an appeal to Rome about the dissolution of Henry and Catherine’s marriage was not necessary. The result was an English conclave of the bishops and Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in which the decision was made to allow the divorce of Henry and Catherine.

This resulted in the immediate severance of the English church from Rome, Henry being excommunicated, and the door opened for his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Catherine, however, continued to appeal to Rome, as a Catholic in good standing, until her death to intervene and restore the marriage. The bridges that Henry burned made her appeal fall on deaf ears.

In January 1533, with a new/old (Henry never gave up his Catholic beliefs and the Church of England stayed essentially Catholic in theology and look and feel, much as it does even today) church in place with Henry as its supreme leader, Henry and Anne were married.

Another unquintessential leadership trait that Henry had now becomes more apparent: the chase appeals to him far more than the conquest. By all accounts, the marriage was tumultuous. Henry began cheating on Anne almost immediately, and she, unlike Catherine, but very much like Henry, was strong-willed, opinionated, and not afraid to fight with Henry. Anne also made many enemies at court because she was  a strong person, so there were many people eager for a chance to undermine her and get rid of her.

Perhaps Anne’s worst fault, in Henry’s eyes, was that she didn’t give him a legitimate male heir. The marriage produced a daughter, Elizabeth I, in September 1533, who in the end succeeded Henry VIII, but not without her own wild and crazy ride to succession, but if there were any other pregnancies, they ended in miscarriage.

Anne’s enemies in court, sensing Henry’s disillusionment with her, began badmouthing her to Henry as early as 1534. Another unquintessential leadership trait that Henry had is that he listened to and believed them because it would give him an excuse to get rid of her and marry again in hopes of producing a legitimate male heir.

On May 2, 1536, Henry had Anne arrested on charges of adultery (unproven) and witchcraft (also unproven, but the highly-charged superstitious mindset that had developed during the Middle Ages and cast a long shadow over human thinking until the 18th Century, was very much alive and well), among others.

Anne was executed by beheading 17 days later on May 19, 1536. That this is unquintessential leadership should go without saying.

In the next post, we’ll do a quintessential leadership analysis on the last 11 years of Henry VIII’s life and reign.

Comments
  1. […] This last post analyzing the quintessential leadership of Henry VIII will cover the last 11 years of Henry’s life. We will pick up here where we left off at the end of Quintessential Leadership Analysis of Henry VIII – Pt. 2 – 1525 – 1536. […]

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