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:

  • 1521 – The title of Fidei Defensor, “Defender of the Faith”, was conferred by Pope Leo X on Henry VIII. This was a reward for Henry VIII writing his pamphlet Assertio septem sacramentorum adversus Martinum Lutherum (“Declaration of the Seven Sacraments Against Martin Luther”), defending the Catholic Church against the works of Martin Luther.
  • 1531 – The Battle of Kappel and the death of Huldrych Zwingli, the Swiss Reformer, at the battle.
  • 1537 – Traditional date given to the birth of Lady Jane Grey. It is now thought that she was born in spring 1537, “before the end of May” (Leanda de Lisle).
  • 1542 - Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder, poet and diplomat, died at Sherborne in Dorset. He had been complaining of severe headaches since 1539. Wyatt was just thirty-nine years old at his death, but his poetry, and that of his friend, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, is still enjoyed the world over, although the majority of his work was not published in his lifetime. Literary critic, and author of two books on Wyatt, Patricia Thompson, calls Thomas Wyatt “the Father of English Poetry” and Wyatt is known for introducing the sonnet into English.
  • 1549 – Arrest of Edward Seymour, the Duke of Somerset, Lord Protector of the Realm and Governor of the King’s Person. He was brought in front of Edward VI, who summarised his charges as “ambition, vainglory, entering into rash wars in mine youth, negligent looking on Newhaven, enriching himself of my treasure, following his own opinion, and doing all by his own authority, etc.”
  • 1551 – John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, became the Duke of Northumberland and Henry Grey, father of Lady Jane Grey, became the Duke of Suffolk.
  • 1558 – Death of Paul Bush, Bishop of Bristol, at Winterbourne. He was buried in Bristol Cathedral.
  • 1982 – The raising of the Mary Rose, Henry VIII's ship, from the seabed just off the coast off Portsmouth where she had lain since she sank on 19th July 1545.


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