Divorcing in the 16th Century

His majesty King Henry Tudor of England, VIII of his name, slammed the papers against the table and said, “We have a problem. I’ve been told by his holiness, the Pope,” he said mockingly, “that I, in fact, cannot divorce my pious wife, Catherine, who, according to him, has done no wrong. Obviously, he would not be able to understand the wrong that Catherine has done to England because he does not have to concern himself with heirs –or wives for that matter-.” He looked at the small assembly and frowned. “I propose we put up signs all over the city that ridicule the pope and his rule. We will make doodles of him with a big head and an ugly nose. And, what else? We will charge five pounds to anyone who is loyal to him rather than me! Anything slanderous you can come up with. That ought to sway him.”

“Doodles, your grace?” asked Chancellor Thomas Wolsey.

“Doodles!”

“But, your grace, we’ve already done that.” Thomas said. “To no avail, as the pope is still deliberating.”

“Well, then make him deliberate faster. I need solutions, Thomas. Has anybody got any ideas? I truly cannot go on like this. Catherine is an absolute bore. Do you know what she said to me the other day? She said we should go to Spain to visit her nephew. Good grief, woman! Every Englishman knows that there is absolutely nothing more dreadful than Spain. Just a bunch of bulls and tasteless hats! Am I wrong, Thomas?”

“I-I-I-I’m sorry, your grace, what was that?”

“The hats, Thomas! Are they or are they not tasteless?”

“Absolutely, your grace. They’re just absolutely dreadful.”

“Right they are. So, any ideas?”

“If I may, your grace?” The beautiful Anne spoke up from her seat. “I believe I have a solution to our predicament. However, it is rather unorthodox and, to be frank, could go against the views of some in this room.” Thomas and Henry exchanged looks.

“Go on.”

“Your grace,” Thomas chimed in. “I highly advise against heeding anything the Lady Boleyn has to say. She’s no authority in ecclesiastical matters. Please, allow me some more time. I will get the pope’s approval.”

“Thomas, everyone everywhere knows something that you don’t. How can you disregard Lady Boleyn’s argument which you’ve not heard? Anne, please, carry on.”

Anne smiled and pulled from her handbag a tattered leather-bound book. “I have here a book written by William Tyndale. He-“

“William Tyndale?” exclaimed Thomas as he took the book Anne held. “This book is banned. It is forbidden. How did you get your hands on this? Your grace, you couldn’t possibly consider the words of a heretic.”

Anne took the book back angrily. “He is no heretic. He is an educated man who realized the Roman Catholic Church had been poisoned by the greed and desires of men. He advocates for the return of true religion, one between man and God rather than man, church, and God. It’s all there in his book.”

“Your grace, please. Clearly this would never hold up in parliament. I’m sure the pope is nearing his decision and it will be in our favor. All we need do is wait.”

“Thomas, I swear to God, interrupt Lady Boleyn one more time and it’s off with you.” Henry frowned. Turning his attention to Anne again, he asked, “what exactly are you suggesting, my sweet Anne?”

“Your grace, simply put, a man of your stature and wisdom would want what’s best for England, would he not?” After seeing Henry nod, Anne continues saying, “you’d want God on your side and what better way than to bring your subjects closer to Him? You’re anointed by God. If you took matters into your own hands, it would please the Lord and he’d be on your side. Maybe that’s why you’ve not had sons. Maybe it’s delayed gratification as He’s waiting for you to bring his people back, like Abraham, and this is your promised land.”

“Your grace,” interrupted a nervous Thomas, “you can’t believe this-“

“Shush, Thomas, I’m thinking.”

“It’s all in the book, your grace.” Anne added.

After a brief pause, Henry smiled mischievously. “Anne, my dear, I should need to deliberate further on this information you’ve brought for me. I believe what you say is accurate. I should like to read more of what this Tyndale has to say so I can build my case for parliament. I already have an idea of what I will do.”

“And what is that?”

“It is no lie that the Roman Catholic Church has been poisoned by the worldly desires of the men that lead it and I should have no hand in allowing that vice to poison England as well. ‘Tis my duty to disengage England from such foulness. So, I’ll make my own church!” And then no one will be able to tell me who I can and can’t divorce, Henry added to himself. “I’ll call it Henry’s Epic Inquisition! Yes… yes, I like the sound of that.”

“But your grace,” Thomas said. “we can’t call it that.” Not to mention that parliament would never agree.

“Then call it The bloody Church of England. I don’t care. Get me a quill and parchment. Anne, baby, pack your things. Our honeymoon is afoot!”

 

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