The Tudor Society

5 April -The pope was wrong

On this day in Tudor history, 5th April 1533, the English Church's legislative body, Convocation, ruled that the pope was wrong and that Henry VIII was right, i.e. it ruled that the Pope had no power to dispense in the case of a man marrying his brother’s widow, and that it was contrary to God’s law - Catherine of Aragon should not have been able to marry Henry VIII.

Henry VIII was finally getting the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon sorted out, and it was just as well, seeing that he was married to Anne Boleyn now, she was expecting their first child and was due to be crowned queen shortly!

Also on this day in Tudor history, 5th April 1531, Richard Roose, the cook of Bishop Fisher’s household, was boiled to death. Find out why in last year’s video:

Also on this day in history:

  • 1478 – Death of John Booth, Bishop of Exeter, at East Horsley. He was buried in the parish church there.
  • 1513 – Treaty of Mechlin signed by Henry VIII, Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Pope Leo X against France.
  • 1532 – Death of William Bolton, royal administrator and Prior of St Bartholomew’s, West Smithfield, London. In Henry VIII's reign, Bolton oversaw works in Henry VII's Chapel in Westminster Abbey, Hampton Court Palace and the rebuilding of New Hall. He died in London and was buried in his priory church, before the altar.
  • 1559 – Funeral of Sir Anthony St Leger, Lord Deputy of Ireland, at the parish church in Ulcombe in Kent.
  • 1588 – Birth of Thomas Hobbes, philosopher and author of the famous philosophical work, “Leviathan”, in Westport, Malmesbury, Wiltshire.
  • 1605 – Death of Adam Loftus, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, in Dublin at the archbishop's palace of St Sepulchre. He was buried at St Patrick's Cathedral.


On this day in Tudor history, 5th April 1533, Convocation gave its ruling on King Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. The English Church’s legislative body concluded that the Pope had no power to dispense in the case of a man marrying his brother’s widow, and that it was contrary to God’s law.

Here is the record from Letters and Papers:
“Notarial attestation of the determination of the Convocation of Canterbury, begun 5 Nov. 1529, on the two points discussed in the King’s divorce, determining, 1, that the Pope has no power of dispensing in case of a marriage where the brother’s widow has been cognita. The house consisted of 66 theologians. The proxies were 197; the negatives 19. The second question was, whether Katharine was cognita. The numbers present, 44 ; one holding the proxies of three bishops. Decided in the affirmative against five or six negatives. Dated 5 April 1533.”

On the 11th April 1533, the archbishop wrote to the King, “Beseeching the King very humbly to allow him to determine his great cause of matrimony, as belongs to the Archbishop’s spiritual office, as much bruit exists among the common people on the subject”, and the king replied in the affirmative, saying that he was not “displeased with Cranmer’s zeal for justice.”

On 10th May 1533, the archbishop opened a special court at Dunstable Priory, Bedfordshire, to examine Henry VIII’s case for the annulment of his first marriage. After hearing testimonies from people such as Dr John Bell, the King’s proctor; the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk and Lady Jane Guildford, the opinions of universities and Convocation, and examining the proceedings of the Legatine Court at Blackfriars, the court came to a decision and gave their sentence on 23rd May. Cranmer declared the marriage to be “against the law of God” and annulled the marriage.

King Henry VIII was already married to Anne Boleyn by this point, as he believed his first marriage to be invalid, and on 28th May 1533, the archbishop proclaimed the validity of Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn following a secret enquiry at Lambeth Palace. The next day, celebrations for Anne Boleyn’s coronation kicked off with a lavish river procession, and on 1st June 1533, a pregnant Anne was crowned queen at Westminster Abbey. She gave birth to the couple’s daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth I, on 7th September 1533.

Only 1 comment so far Go To Comment

  1. R

    Convocation was forced to make this decision because Henry had threatened to take all of the goods of the clergy and to imprison them if they didn’t submit to him. The Lords are also worried and its safer to agree with the King. Anti clerical sentiment was in the Court as well and they saw the Pope as the symbol of that. As a result Henry gets his way.

    Of course the Pope had every right to make the decision because Katherine had used her legal right to appeal her cause during the hearing at Blackfriars. Henry had agreed to this. He was losing patience because he wanted his sweetheart and time was marching on.

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5 April -The pope was wrong