Saturday, March 9, 2013

#TudorTroubles: Anne Boleyn and Henry Percy

Anne Boleyn
Public Domain

March 9

Tudor Troubles:
Marriage for Anne Boleyn?
Part 2

Anne Boleyn had attract the attention from potential suitors as soon as she arrived at the English Court due to her French customs, dress and physical attributes. She is best described by American historian Retha M. Warnicke as "the perfect woman courtier... her carriage was graceful and her French clothes were pleasing and stylish; she danced with ease, had a pleasant singing voice, played the lute and several other musical instruments well, and spoke French fluently... A remarkable, intelligent, quick-witted young noblewoman... that first drew people into conversation with her and then amused and entertained them. In short, her energy and vitality made her the center of attention in any social gathering."

It was long before Anne had began courting even though she had been promised to her Irish cousin, James Butler. Her position as a lady-in-waiting for Queen Catherine of Aragon granted her full access to the queen's inner chambers. Queen Catherine of Aragon was a devote  Catholic who was visited by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey frequently. Cardinal Wosley was very close to the royal family during this time. Anne probably caught the attention of Cardinal Wosley's aide, Henry Percy, while the Roman Catholic Cardinal was visiting Queen Catherine of Aragon. Henry's father was Henry Algernon Percy, 5th Earl of Northumberland. The handsome man was around Anne's own age and was the heir to one of the largest earldoms in England. She accepted his advances and the two started to secretly court. The couple had done well to keep their courtship a secret until rumors began to float around Hampton Court that they were secretly engaged. These rumors would later play an important role in Anne Boleyn's downfall and had contributed to the dissolution of her marital arrangements to James Butler.

When King Henry and Cardinal Wosley learned of the relationship they were greatly displeased with the couple. They didn't feel the couple were a good match for each other even though the couple were in love. Cardinal Wosley confronted Henry Percy in front of the servants saying,

 "'I am amazed at your foolishness in getting entangled, even engaged, to this silly girl at court - I mean Anne Boleyn.  Have you not considered your position?  After the death of your noble father you stand to inherit one of the greatest earldoms in the country.  It would thus have been more proper if you had sought the consent of your father in this affair and to have made his highness the king privy to it, requesting his royal blessing.  Had you done so, he was not only have welcomed your request but would, I can assure you, have promoted you to a position more suited to your noble estate.  And thence you might have gained the king's favor by your conduct and wise council and and thus risen further still in his estimation.

'But now look what you have done by your thoughtlessness.  You have not only offended your own father but also your sovereign and pledged yourself to someone whom neither would agree to be suitable.  And do not doubt that I shall send for your father and when he comes he will break off this engagement or disinherit you forever.  The king himself will make a complaint to your father and demand no less an action than I have suggested.  Indeed, I happen to know that the king has already promised this lady to someone else and that though she is not yet aware of it, the arrangements are already far advanced.  The king however, being a man of great prudence and diplomacy, is confident that, once she is aware of the situation, she will agree to the union gladly.'

Henry Percy tried to persuade his father to allow the relationship between him and Anne Boleyn but found the Cardinal's words to be true. Henry's father threatened to disown him if he continued forth with his plans to marry Anne Boleyn. Henry Percy only had one choice. He couldn't risk upsetting his king, father and the cardinal. He broke Anne's heart and married Mary Talbot soon afterwards. His father had arranged for him to marry Mary Talbot several years before Henry and Anne had met. His father forbid him from ever contacting or communicating with Anne Boleyn.

Anne Boleyn was infuriated with Cardinal Wosley and vowed to seek revenge upon him. She openly expressed her anger towards the King's most trusted aide. Her inappropriate behavior towards the Cardinal lead to her dismissal from the queen's service and she was forced to leave the court. Her father sent her to live at her childhood home, Hever Castle. 

You can read a first person account of Henry Percy's encounter with Cardinal Wosley here

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