The King’s Great Matter THE KING’S GREAT MATTER The Spanish-English marriage alliance of Catherine of Aragon and Prince Arthur was arranged when the children were very young. Catherine traveled to England only to face tragedy when her young husband, Arthur died in 1502.Henry VII wanted to marry Catherine to his younger son, who would be, Henry VIII so that he did not lose the dowry money from Catherine’s parents and to secure some other agreements between the two countries. In the Catholic Church, it was forbidden to marry the wife of a deceased brother. A papal dispensation was required for the marriage. It was easily obtained from Pope Julius II.
Henry VII died before the marriage took place but Henry VIII immediately married Catherine once he became King. Many people involved questioned the validity of this dispensation. Catherine’s mother, Isabella did not like the idea of her daughter being remarried and requiring a document from the Pope to have it done. But, once Henry VII died and Henry VIII proceeded with the marriage, no one mentioned the dispensation or the validity of it until Henry decided that he needed a grounds for divorce. Under the circumstances of Henry not wanting to be with his wife anymore, he proposed many doctrines that had been insignificant until then. Henry and Catherine actually had a fairly good marriage.
The biggest problem in the marriage was lack of ability to produce a male heir. This was very important to Henry. They tried several times but were not successful. The couple did have one child that lived but, it was a girl named Mary. After many miscarriages and years of disappointment, Catherine began to get much older and lose much of her attractiveness.
Henry not only began to lose interest in his wife, but he also began to worry about not having a son to succeed him on the throne. This was when the King’s great matter began. Throughout this time period, Cardinal Wolsey, an advisor to Henry and very powerful in the Catholic Church, moved closer and closer to Henry. As the relationship progressed Henry became more distant to Catherine. Wolsey spied on Catherine and she thought he acted against her always. She began to believe that Wolsey had always hated her and possibly that she had always hated him also.
She held him responsible for the promotion of Henry’s bastard son, for tempting the King of France to break the word agreed at Madrid and plunging Europe into war, for ruining the alliance between the two countries, and for seducing the pope and the Italian states. She also held Wolsey responsible for Henry’s irritability. It isn’t surprising that Catherine also blamed Wolsey for Henry wanting to divorce her. But, Catherine was not the only one with this idea. The ambassador, the emperor, Reginald Pole, Catholic controversialists, and Catholic writers ever since have agreed that Wolsey was probably the instigator.
Catherine’s thought that Wolsey had put the ideas of divorce into Henry’s head was very reasonable. She believed that Wolsey thought this was the best way to safeguard his pro-French policy by removing Catherine and replacing her with a French princess. Wolsey was serious about his French alliance and did hope to arrange a French marriage. He also feared Catherine. He knew that he needed to get rid of her so that he get closer to the king and help him handle his affairs.
Most of the time, Cardinal Wolsey was looking out to better himself and his policies. Catherine was wrong about a few things though. She did not blame Henry for any of this. She felt he had been manipulated and took up for him every chance she had. She was wrong about Henry.
He was not the innocent person she thought he was. Protestant writers have told the story according to Henry, that his conscience had separated him from Catherine. But, still many have said that it was simply out of desire for another woman. Henry’s want for a divorce from Catherine of Aragon has also been attributed to his health. During the years 1527 -28, it was obvious that his health was on the decline.
In 1524, he suffered from a head injury while jousting with the Duke of Suffolk. This injury is said to have caused him many severe headaches and possibly an alteration in behavior and character. His character began to change slowly after this. He went from a happy leader, fairly good husband and interested in his people to an irritable, suspicious, and selfish king. In the same year he also suffered from an ulcer in his leg which contributed to his irritability and impatience. Someone told Henry that he had been living in sin with his brother’s wife.
The name of who told him this was never released. Henry’s arguments of his marriage to Catherine being invalid consisted of two sections. The first section argued that the union of a man and the wife of his brother was contrary to the law of God and that any papal dispensation pretending to allow it was worthless. The second section argued that the particular dispensation granted by Pope Julius II, which he had married Catherine under, was invalid. His first argument contained several parts.
The first part was two texts in Leviticus. Leviticus 18:16 reads Thou shall not uncover the nakedness of thy brother’s wife: it is thy brother’s nakedness’ and Leviticus 20:21 reads If a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an impurity: he hath uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.’ Henry and his advisors could not just use these scriptures. They advisors had to prove that they were true under all circumstances and were out of reach of all papal authority. However, the texts from Leviticus that Henry used were contradicted by a text from Deuteronomy. This text read: When brethren dwell together, and one of them dieth without children, the wife of the deceased shall not marry to another, but his brother shall take her, and raise up seed for his brother.’ In order for Henry’s arguments to succeed he had to somehow get rid of this text from Deuteronomy. It was attacked in many ways.
Some argued that the text from Deuteronomy was a ceremonial or respective interpretation of the law that was allowed to the Jews but, like circumcision, was dissolved by the coming of Christ. Others argued that this text was only permissible under certain rare conditions, none of which was present in Henry’s case. Henry, Wolsey, and a few other advisors had been meeting privately to discuss how the proceedings of the divorce should take place. These secret meetings were how the whole process came to be known as the king’s great matter. The plan was not to involve Rome at all.
Cardinal Wolsey and Warham were going to hold a secret court in England. They were going to call Henry in, charging him with living in sin with his dead brother’s wife. …