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Tudor Minute, January 25, 1533: A Secret Wedding

Hey, this is Heather from the Renaissance English History Podcast, and this is your Tudor Minute for January 25.

Today in 1533 Henry VIII got married to Anne Boleyn in secret. She was already pregnant with Elizabeth, and the ceremony took place in the middle of the night, just before dawn, at Whitehall. There were only about four or five witnesses, mostly Henry’s close friends. The marriage was kept in the strictest secrecy because Henry, of course, didn’t have permission from the pope to remarry.

Dr. Rowland Lee was likely the officiant, and the story goes that he pressed Henry to know whether he had received a license from the Pope to remarry. Henry told him he had, and when asked to produce it, Henry said he had it in a secret place. He said that he wanted to marry in secret to avoid the scandal that would surely ensue, and Dr Lee went ahead with the ceremony. Some historians have said that Dr Lee and Henry were acting during this ceremony – pretending in an elaborate game that made it seem as if the Pope had approved, when of course he didn’t.

The marriage was so secret that Cranmer didn’t know about it until at least two weeks later, and the Imperial Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, was still writing letters in March talking about rumors of an Easter wedding.

That’s your Tudor Minute for today. Remember you can dive deeper into life in 16th century England through the Renaissance English History Podcast at englandcast.com.