Tag Archives: The King’s Great Matter

Jurgen Wullenwever

Henry VIII. to the Archbishop of Bremen.
Is much distressed to hear that his friend George Wolweber has been stopped on his journey, deprived of his goods, and thrown into chains. Did not expect such a return for his kindness towards the citizens of Bremen. Thinks the archbishop has been misled by malicious reports, and requests him to restore Wolweber to liberty. Richmond, 15 Dec. 1535.

Wullenwewer.png‘Henry VIII: December 1535, 11-20’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 9, August-December 1535, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1886), pp. 318-340. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol9/pp318-340 [accessed 6 December 2016].

Jurgen Wullenwever takes a lot of finding but when you do find him his story mixes the political and religious upheaval of Northern Europe with the story of Henry VIII’s divorce.  Apparently , as the letter above shows, he was a much sought after chap in December 1535 but managed to get into serious bother when he stopped at a local tavern, partook of much too much booze and woke up the following morning behind bars with various officials trying to get their mitts upon his person. The letter is from Henry to the Archbishop of Bremen in an attempt to secure Wullenwever’s release.

Wullenwever was actually on his way to Lubeck when he was captured having tried to raise support for the town with various German protestant cities. At that time the merchants of Lubeck were a dominant feature of the Hanseatic League. One of the original reasons for this power was that it controlled entrance to the Baltic.  However by 1535 the importance of Lubeck was on the decline whilst the importance of the Low Countries was on the rise.  Lubeck  was part of Denmark and wanted to be independent so it got rid of its city council and appointed Jurgen Wullenwever it’s burgomaster.

In order to gain independence Wullenwever had to juggle the sweeping changes that were occurring in European religion and keep the Danish/Swedish elite at arms length not to mention those pesky Low Country types and the Holy Roman Emperor in the person of Charles V.  Now is not the time to delve into the European politics of the period. Suffice it to say none of the above were too keen on the idea of a democratic city state.

What Henry VIII wanted was an agreement between the citizens of Lubeck and England of mutual support and appreciation.  He would support them in their bid for independence from Denmark/Sweden if they would support him in his attempt to divorce Katherine of Aragon…what with their democratic protestant leanings he felt they would be right behind him.  He felt this would strengthen his hand against the Pope and against the Holy Roman Emperor.  Apparently, it is suggested, he even had a fleeting thought of being offered the Danish crown, which had fallen recently vacant hence the Lubeckers bid for mercantile and political freedom.

The plot thickens from there.  Inevitably Cromwell attended secret meetings in London. Legh – better known for his role visiting the monasteries could be found in Hamburg having intense discussions on the subject.  Lubeck sent its own envoys. The duke of Norfolk became stroppy because he wasn’t invited to any of the meetings. Demands were made by the Lubeckers for financial support along with a less than subtle hint that if Henry didn’t stump up the cash then there were German princes who would be more than happy to help support one of the principal partners in the Hanseatic League.  It all progressed with the usual pomp and fanfare that you might expect whilst behind the scenes Chapuys wrote notes that suggested that he or someone he knew had spent a lot of time skulking in the shadows trying to listen to other people skulking in the shadows.

And then it all went very wrong.  It turned out that not all the inhabitants of Lubeck thought Henry was right to get rid of Katherine. Assorted Lubeck clergy indulged in a spat of verbal fisticuffs. More letters were written, Cromwell was heavily involved, Henry became indignant.  The citizens of Lubeck decided that perhaps they could agree with Henry and by the way could he send some gunpowder to show his gratitude.

Whilst the good burghers of Lubeck had been dallying with Henry the crown of Denmark had been filled.  Christian III now sent an envoy to Henry reporting that he had been elected and now required Henry’s support and what was this nonsense about Henry making a treaty with the treacherous citizens of Lubeck? Cromwell, Mr Fixit, smoothly suggested that there had never been no treaty, not never….

Henry and Cromwell stood on the sidelines whilst the Lubeckers with their ideas of democracy and reformed religion were forced to come to terms with the monarch they didn’t want.  Wullenwever went on the run but ended up drunk in a tavern. He was handed over to his enemies who tortured and executed him two years later on charges of being an anabaptist ( one who rejects the notion of infant baptism and believes in adult baptism – the term literally means re-baptised. Anabaptism evolved into a theology that meant that the Bible was the only rule for life and for belief.)

 

http://www.executedtoday.com/2013/09/24/1537-jurgen-wullenwever-burgermeister-of-lubeck/

Harreld, Donald. (2015 ) A Companion to the Hanseatic League

 

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Catherine of Aragon – queen of England

catherineofaragon_1769901iHistory might have been very different had the baby boy born on New Year’s Day 1511 survived beyond the first perilous months of infancy. Starkey records that two hundred and seven pounds of gunpowder were used to celebrate the child’s birth.

 

Little Prince Henry, Duke of Cornwall lived for fifty-two days. He was buried at the end of February. Catherine although she became pregnant readily enough either miscarried or produced infants who died: seven in all. Sir Loyalheart still wore lover’s knots on his jousting armour but the much needed heir had yet to make an appearance.   By 1514 the first rumours of a possible divorce were bandied about but in 1516 Princess Mary was born and there was renewed optimism.

 

In the meantime Henry went to war with the French and Katherine became regent of England and Wales. It was she who was in charge of England when the Earl of Surrey fought and won the Battle of Flodden. Meanwhile Henry’s father-in-law let him down with regard to France. Ferdinand signed a peace deal with the French having inveigled Henry into a war against them. It cannot have helped his daughter’s marital relations. Ultimately Henry would marry his youngest sister to King Louis XII of France. Spain went from being an ally to an enemy. Later Henry would propose that his daughter Mary, should marry to cement a French alliance when all Catherine wanted was for her daughter to marry her nephew, Charles, the son of Juana and Philip.

 

Charles V was a disappointment to his aunt. Catherine worked carefully after Princess Mary’s proxy marriage to the French dauphin in 1518 to bring her own plans about. He visited England and in 1523 launched an invasion of France along with the English but he failed to fulfil his side of the deal. Then Charles won the Battle of Pavia against the French and dropped the English because he no longer needed them. He deserted his aunt as well.

 

There had been other changes over the years. Henry came to rely on Wolsey during his time in France in 1513. He didn’t turn to Catherine so readily for advice when he returned to England. In 1515 Wolsey became Lord Chancellor. He would remain at the heart of Henry’s government until his fall in 1529.

 

If Catherine was finding life difficult with Henry and with shifting European politics she gave no sign of it. In fact she became increasingly popular with her English subjects. There had been riots in May 1517 and Catherine had interceded on behalf of the condemned apprentices.

 

Catherine’s last known pregnancy occurred in 1518. By 1523 her good looks had faded and she’d become somewhat on the fat side. Francis I of France described her as “old and deformed.” Then, to add injury to insult, in 1525 Henry unveiled a son. Henry Fitzroy was Henry’s son with Bessie Blount and he was six years old. Catherine was not amused. The row was tremendous. If only she’d realised it, things were about to get worse.   In 1525 Henry stopped sleeping, it would appear, with Catherine. He may also have put his current mistress Mary Boleyn to one side.

 

In May 1527 the King’s Great Matter was discussed. Henry wanted to be rid of his Spanish wife. He wanted a divorce. He claimed that he was concerned for his immortal soul.  He should never have married his brother’s wife. He felt that his childlessness- because clearly girls didn’t count- was a consequence of his sin. He also wanted to marry Anne Boleyn who’d refused to become his mistress.

 

Poor Catherine had lost her looks, her fertility, her political influence and now she was going to lose her husband.

 

 

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