The Tudor Society

11 October – Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn set sail for Calais

On this day in Tudor history, 11th October 1532, King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, the newly created Marquess of Pembroke, set sail from Dover aboard the king’s ship, The Swallow.

They were off to Calais on a mission involving the Great Matter, Henry VIII's quest for an annulment. But why? What would they do there? Who would they meet?

Find out more about this trip, what happened and what happened next, in today's talk.

Other videos on this trip:

Also on this day in Tudor history, 11th October 1537, there was a solemn procession and prayers said for Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s third wife, who was in labour with her first and only child, Edward. In last year’s video, I share contemporary accounts of the procession and Jane’s labour:

Also on this day in history:


On this day in Tudor history, 11th October 1532, at just before dawn, King Henry VIII and his sweetheart, Anne Boleyn, the newly created Marquess of Pembroke, set sail from Dover on the Kent coast aboard the king’s ship, The Swallow.
They were headed for Calais, which was an English territory at the time. The purpose of their trip was to meet with King Francis I of France and gain his support for their relationship and their quest for the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

They landed at Calais, at 10 o’clock the same morning. Wynkyn de Worde recorded the visit in his contemporary pamphlet “The Maner of the tryumphe of Caleys and Bulleyn”, writing that the couple were “received with procession and with the mayor and the lord deputy and all the spears (knights) and the soldiers in array with a great peal of guns”. Chronicler Edward Hall writes that Henry and Anne then went to hear mass at the Church of St Nicholas before retiring to their lodgings at The Exchequer.
The couple stayed together there until 21st October, when Henry left Anne to meet Francis I and spend time with him at the French court in Boulogne. After a few days with the French king, Henry brought Francis back to Calais to meet Anne, who made a dramatic entrance at a lavish masque held by the king in Francis’s honour on 27th October.

The trip was a success. Francis I was sympathetic to Henry and Anne’s plight, and offered to give Henry French protection against Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor and Catherine of Aragon’s nephew. Francis was also displeased with the way the pope was handling the situation. In a letter to the Bishop of Auxerre, with instructions for him to talk to the pope, Francis wrote “every one knows that it has not been usual to compel kings to come to Rome. Both the Kings desire to inform the Pope more fully of their causes of complaint, so that he may remedy them for the future”.
Henry VIII and Francis I made their farewells on 29th October 1532 and Henry and Anne intended to leave for England immediately. However, storms and then fog delayed their departure and the couple didn’t land at Dover until early on 14th November 1532, St Erkenwald’s Day. Edward Hall writes of how Henry and Anne “maried priuily” on that day, keeping it a secret even when they arrived back in London on 24th November. On their return to London, the couple began co-habiting and it wasn’t long before Anne was pregnant. The couple had another secret ceremony at Whitehall on St Paul’s Day, 25th January 1533, and their first child, a daughter, the future Elizabeth I, was born on 7th September 1533.

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