Anne Boleyn as the first Eurosceptic


          I saw the last performance of Anne Boleyn at the Globe on Sunday. It was a great performance of a brilliant new play. It captured the power games of the court of King Henry, and shed an interesting light on the mind of  James I and VI, who looks back on Elizabeth and Anne.

           The author, Howard Brenton, portrays Anne as a powerful politician in the Protestant cause. She sells the Protestant religion to a King advised by a Cardinal by appealing to Henry’s  own sense of importance, self interest and need to settle his own divorce, as well as using her feminine charms over him. She comes across as an early Eurosceptic, wishing England to settle its own affairs at home without recourse to Rome. She dislikes the intervention of Roman authority between a person and their God, and  seeks the issue of the Bible in English to all. She sees the advantage of the dissolution of the monasteries.

             The play includes an important scene where Thomas Cromwell, by now the King’s trusted adviser, is busily drafting the famous and seminal Statute of Appeals. ( 24 Henry viii c 12  ” An Act that the appeals in such cases as have been used to be pursued to the see of Rome shall  not be from henceforth had nor used but within this realm”).

 They cited  historical precedent for claiming imperial power to the government of England.

                “Where by divers sundry old authentic histories and chronicles it is manifestly declared and expressed that this realm of England is an empire, and hath been so accepted in  the world, governed by one supreme head and king…..”

They claim that the power of self government within these islands is complete

           “he (the king) being also institute and furnished …with plenary, whole and entire power, preeminence,authority, prerogative and jurisdiction to yield justice and final determination to all manner of folk…in all causes, matters, debates and contentious happening to occur…”

The power to appeal to Rome had to be  removed owing to

“great inquietation,vexation, trouble,costs and charges of the King’s Highness and many of his subjects….but also to the great delay and let to the true and speedy determination of the said causes…” and for the difficulty in cross examining witnesses in so far away a place. They asserted that remote justice was delayed justice, wrong justice or no justice at all.

           This revolutionary piece of legislation is presented as  a restatement of old law and is partially founded on Richard II’s  praemunire provisions. (legal butresses against foreign jurisdictions). The Crown approached the break with Rome in a crab like way, aware of the dangers of retaliation from the continent by the Catholic powers as well as by the Pope.  Nonetheless, it was radical to state that in future the Crown was the fount of all justice and legal settlement. The Church in England was the King’s to shape and control.

              The Crown used its influence in Parliament to give full Parliamentary backing to this constitutional revolution. It proved useful in later years when Parliament wished to transfer powers from the Crown to itself. It is only in the last thirty years that England – now with the rest of  the UK – has ceased to be a sovereign empire governed by itself, as it has surrendered more and more of its power to the Brussels government.

              What Parliament can give away, it can reassert. It was a pleasure to be reminded of such a gutsy lady, who fought for a great cause as well as for her own advancement. She was indeed one of the architects of the Tudor revolution in government, the consolidation of English governing power here at home. She was also the mother of Elizabeth 1. It was Elizabeth who had to secure her father’s Protestant settlement against Spain, which she did by leading the  anti Armada campaign in 1588. The establishment of home rule took place through a simple Act of Parliament. It survived until a much later Parliament decided to give it away, once again allowing appeals to continental courts.

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  1. Mike Stallard
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    Wow! You do get around, don’t you!

    Thank you for linking your evening with the current situation where we have indeed given away our birthright. Politically, of course, you are right. Time to regain our freedom.

    I am now a Catholic though and, yes, my allegiance is ultimately, to God through the Pope and the Church. In my own view, the Protestant Reformation has done its work and, to my delight, the Catholic Church is now just that – or nearly that actually. I feel that I am a citizen of the world now in a way that I never felt before as a rather narrow Anglican.

    I have never seen Anne Boleyn in this light. So thank you for opening a window on history.

  2. lifelogic
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    But does this have relevance to the current UK with its pretence of democracy. Where politicians can continue to deny any real power to the voters by using public and EU powers to subvert the MPs and ministers from acting on the will of the voters. Only consulting the people when they know they will get the result they want or on trivial matters. Also, they can and do, using vast sums of pubic money, pay quangos and similar to drip pro EU propaganda and symbols on to the public, using all the modern technology and methods now available.

    In a country which now also has rather limited fervent religious beliefs and no longer has a monarch with real power. What can be done from the current position given that we have Cameron types in power who are happy to say one thing and do the opposite? History surely has rather limited relevance here.

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted August 23, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      “It is not simply that Mr Redwood is intelligent and cultured: he is wise, discerning and astute. It is a tragedy for the country that he is not even a minister of state, let alone a member of the Cabinet. And it says even more about David Cameron that he leaves such a formidable politician languishing on the backbenches while he favours and promotes those he who will say ‘yes’.”

      From Cranmer’s blog today.

      • Stuart Fairney
        Posted August 24, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

        Yep, especially when ‘Beaker’ is in government.

    • Tim
      Posted August 23, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

      There is absolutely nothing in the EU for the UK. We have had a £262 billion trade deficit with them over the last 10 years. We pay £13.5 billion net annually to subsidise foreign infrastructure and farmers. 70% of our laws are made by this undemacratic organisation and it costs industry £9 billion annually to administer them. We have 1000000 unemployed young people as our employers take on foreign workers who will accept lower than benefit wages. They of course don’t subsidise their health, education, housing and other public service costs. The UK taxpayer does!
      An entire fishing industry lost. For what? Politicians ego and feelings of importance?
      £12 billion in bailout monies. Let us have our in/out referendum now!!

  3. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    So we learn that the Eurosceptic mindset is rooted in being a proud English empire (incidentally still holding some power over Scotland, Wales. N. Ireland and no fewer than 14 overseas territories, spanning the globe). Would Anne Boleyn have been of the same mind if she’d had her own facebook page, could travel within an hour to the continent in her own private jet, or pick up the phone and call anybody. If so, wouldn’t that betray an “island mentality”?
    Isn’t euroscepsis the inability to outgrow the past and voluntary engage in new forms of cooperation, such as co-managing Europe within the concept of pooled sovereignty?
    NB: obviously the EU is an imperfect structure deserving lots of criticism and improvement, but that is another discussion.

    Reply: In Henry VIII’s day the empire did not extend to Scotland, but did include residual claims to parts of France. Self government was powerful then, and is much sought after now.

    • alan jutson
      Posted August 23, 2011 at 8:51 am | Permalink


      “Obviously the EU is an impefect structure …….”

      Not only imperfect but possibly dishonest as well.

      Telegraph today by Ambrose Evans -Pritchard:

      German Bundesbank has now blasted “risky” bailouts !

      Suggests that the EU is drifting towards a debt union without “democratic legitimacy”. Scheme leaves creditor states with escalating “risks and burdens” but with no means of enforcing fiscal discipline to make this workable.

      Will be interesting to see the conclusion of the German consttutional courts (due in September-October) on the legality of the bailouts.

      • alan jutson
        Posted August 23, 2011 at 8:52 am | Permalink

        oops, constitutional.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted August 23, 2011 at 9:24 am | Permalink

        @alan jutson: The DT as the epitome of honesty? What I see are 17 democracies muddling and struggling in an uneven battle with the speedy financial markets. If some lasting institutional solution for “Euroland” will be found in time, it most likely will incur a new democratic deficit at the start, to be overcome later on. When a ship is taking on water, there is no time to hold a referendum among the sailors and passengers. I agree, the German court in Karlsruhe may further complicate matters, it may also provide the best guidance.

        • Prospero
          Posted August 23, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

          The Daily Telegraph was only quoting from the Bundesbank’s monthly report for August. Looking at your original post, you seem not to realise that Anne Boleyn spent much of her youth in France, and it was her perceived cosmopolitan outlook which appealed so much to Henry’s court. Far from having an “island mentaility”, she knew much about the wider world.
          Separately, I am concerned that you argue for a further erosion of democracy within the EU is justifiable, and that it is for unelected Germans to decide the future of the continent. Haven’t we been there before – somewhat more recently than the Tudor period?

        • alan jutson
          Posted August 23, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Permalink


          Iwas simply quoting a quote from the Bundesbank.

          The EU has been a leaking boat now for years, so plenty of time for referendums (that is if they want to hear what the people have to say) on all sorts of things.

          Problem with the EU is that the various leaders think they know what is best for their countries, their people, and of course for themselves and their ever growing tax funded socialist beliefs.

          Its a club which wants one set of rules for everyone, but a different size of membership fee for each member.

    • Peter van Leeuwen
      Posted August 23, 2011 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      Thank you, so I learn something new every day.

    • Damo
      Posted August 23, 2011 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      Peter, you need to learn the difference between the EU and Europe.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted August 23, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

        “Co-managing Europe”?
        As in eurozone, EU, Schengen, Council of Europe. The only European country not part of any of the above is Belarus. Will it be Belarus and Britain in future?

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted August 23, 2011 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      I didn’t know there was a country called ‘Europe’, although I realise you would like there to be. As for “outgrowing the past and voluntary engage in new forms of cooperation” perhaps Eurofanatics such as you would care to forget about always needing to have unelected power over your neighbours. Co-operation does not require the sequestration of power to an unelected body resembling a dictatorship. No doubt you are celebrating the “liberation” of countries in North Africa and the Middle East whilst simultaneously supporting the opposite for Europe.

    • cosmic
      Posted August 23, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      No Peter, the schism with Rome was about the assertion of national identity. This has been a powerful force throughout history.

      There is no EU national identity. This was pointed out forty years ago as a fundamental flaw in the EU scheme by Enoch Powell and I think Anthony Wedgewood-Benn. Now we see that Germans don’t want to pay to prop up Greece and the others.

      We are capable of regulating own affairs to our own tastes and and I see no need to ‘co-manage Europe’, an undertaking which creates more problems than it solves, as we can see with the mess the Euro is in.

    • sm
      Posted August 23, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Permalink


      Are you sure its a democratic institution? If democracy had anything to do with it , there would be a lot less members. We might then retake democracy in the UK. There are too many who hide behind its an EU measure old boy sorry no can do.

      Well can’t you see , it wont do.

      At some point the lawyers will catch up with the aspects of the EU which are allegedly beyond its powers.

    • Mark Austin
      Posted August 23, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      In this context “empire” is a technical term relating to the supremity of the King in Parliament, and not to authority over other territories. This is opposed to the catholic doctrine of the time that the Pope had supreme political (not just religious) authority over all monarchs.

    • libertarian
      Posted August 23, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Permalink


      Do give your outdated 20th Century socialist stereotyping nonsense a rest.

      The illegal, corrupt and dishonest undemocratic EU is more reminiscent of the death of Rome circa 400 AD. Whilst a resurgent independent England is entirely in line with small state, people centred, community democracy that is forming the basis of global success in the 21st century. ie Hong Kong, Singapore, Iceland, Switzerland etc etc

  4. Martin Cole
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 8:12 am | Permalink



    [Queen Elizabeth’s reply to an address from five Catholic bishops]

    “Sirs,—As to your entreaty for us to listen to you, we have it yet, do return you this our answer. Our realm and subjects have been long wanderers, walking astray whilst they were under the tuition of Romish Pastors, who advised them to own a Wolf for their head (in lieu of a careful Shepherd) whose inventions, heresies, and schisms be so numerous, that the flock of Christ have fed on poisonous shrubs for want of wholesome pastures. And whereas, you list us and our subjects in the teeth, that the Romish Church first planted the Catholic faith within our realms, the records and chronicles of our realms testify to the contrary, and your own Romish idolatry maketh you liars; witness the ancient monument of Gildas, unto which both foreign and domestic have gone in pilgrimage, there to offer. This author testifieth Joseph of Arimathea to be the first preacher of the word of God within our realms. Long after that period when Austin came from Rome, this our realm had Bishops and Priests therein, as is well known to the wise and learned of our realm, by woeful experience, how your Church entered therein by blood, they being martyrs for Christ, and put to death because they denied Rome’s usurped authority.
    As for our Father being drawn away from the Supremacy of Rome by schismatical and heretical counsels and advisers, who, we pray advised him more or flattered him than you, good Mr. Father, when you were Bishop of Rochester? And then, you Mr Bonner, when you were Archdeacon? And you Mr. Turberville? Nay, further… who was more an adviser to our Father than your great Stephen Gardiner, when he lived?…. Was it not you and such like advisers that… stirred up our Sister against us and other of her subjects? Whereas you would frighten us by telling how Emperors… have owned the Bishop of Rome’s authority. It was contrary in the beginning, for our Saviour Christ paid His tribute unto Cæsar, as the chief superior; which shows your Romish supremacy is usurped…. We give you, therefore, warning, that for the future, we hear no more of this kind, lest you provoke us to execute those penalties enacted for the punishing of our resisters, which out of our clemency we have foreborne.” —From Greenwich, Dec. 6, Anno Secundo Regni.

    • Alex Withey
      Posted August 24, 2011 at 12:56 am | Permalink

      Thank you – this is a joy to read. “…for want of wholesome pastures…” it is wonderful to think that they could be just a vote away. Let us be a sovereign people again and begin the renewal of our nation together.

  5. backofanenvelope
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    I would have thought the most important principle established by Henry VIII and Elizabeth was that an Englishman did not, and could not, owe allegiance to foreign princes. We ought to emblazon that over every school gate.

    • cosmic
      Posted August 23, 2011 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      Presumably by ‘Elizabeth’ you mean Elizabeth 1st. Elizabeth 2nd seems decidely vague about this point.

    • lifelogic
      Posted August 23, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      “Emblazoned over every school gate”

      Perhaps instead of one of Huhne’s absurd, pointless, toy wind turbines or a funded by the EU symbol indicating that a tiny proportion of the parents taxes has been returned to them. But only providing they waste money displaying this ugly, obnoxious symbol to all their children and other passers by every day.

    • Prospero
      Posted August 23, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      I hope not, as it is historically incorrect. Within ninety years of Elizabeth’s death, the English were inviting a Dutch prince, William of Orange, to become king, and thirty years later, they called upon the services of the distinctly German-speaking, George, Elector of Hanover to carry out the same task. Both happened to be Protestant, but probably just as important was the fact that both agreed that the (British) parliament should have paramount authority in the land – a principle which we should continue to support today.

      • rose
        Posted August 23, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

        If Anne Boleyn was the first Eurosceptic, her daughter was the last truly educated and wise monarch. Some of her successors had learning, and some had wisdom, but she had both, in spades.

      • sjb
        Posted August 23, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

        Following the recent Norway massacre suppose SIS report on “chatter” about a more devasting assault planned on London. Three of the suspects use a character from Shakespeare as their name when posting on blogs.

        Parliament decides to pass emergency legislation authorising the indefinite detention of anyone who posts using one of the Bard’s character’s name. Do you still think Parliament should be the supreme authority?

  6. History Buff
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    I would like to suggest that King Richard III, while he was Duke of Gloucester, was the first Eurosceptic. He disagreed with his brother King Edward IV signing the Treaty of Picquigny with the French King Louis XI and refused to take a pension from the French King in spite of the fact that Edward and many of his nobles did. We now know that he was absolutely right to be against signing any treaties with the French!

    It is also interesting to note that had Richard won the Battle of Bosworth (526 years ago yesterday) there may have been no EU. No Tudor Dynasty, no Divine Right of Kings, no Civil War, no Hanoverians, no Kaiser Wilhelm, no World War I, no Hitler, no World War II and therefore no need for an European Union.

    • Susan
      Posted August 23, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      Working on that theory would not work because Richard III is classed as a usurper himself, in which case the crown did not belong to him in the first place. The throne belonged to what would have been Edward V, one of the Princes in the Tower. Richard III, though it has never been proved beyond doubt, had them murdered.

      Also Edward IV again was a usurper, taking the throne away from Henry VI, the rightful king, whom Edward had murdered after he won the battle of Tewkesbury, in which Henrys only son was killed. It was a wise move, not only because of the lack of money to fight wars, but because of the unsettled nature of issues in England, to make peace with France at this time.

      It is quite possible if History had taken its proper course at this time, that Henry VI would have remained king and England would have moved much closer to Europe, particularly France.

    • rose
      Posted August 23, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

      And had James II and the pretenders gone off to rule Ireland as Catholic monarchs after 1688, there might have been no Jacobitism and no troubles. Possibly no collaboration with Hitler either.

    • rose
      Posted August 23, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

      And is David Cameron rather like Charles II? Not exactly taking French money and converting to Catholicism on his deathbed, but giving out one impression and secretly negotiating another? Or not? That was the trouble with Charles II. One just couldn’t tell. His political youth had been too troubled and traumatic to allow frankness and single dealing in later life.

      • rose
        Posted August 23, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

        As had Elizabeth I’s for that matter.

      • rose
        Posted August 23, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

        PS Besides presiding with wit and charm over a much longed for Restoration, with no money, and on weaker terms than ever known before, let us hope it is not one day said of him something along the lines of:

        “Here lies a great and famous king
        Whose word no man relied on
        He never said a foolish thing
        Nor ever did a wise one”

        • simple soul
          Posted August 24, 2011 at 11:44 am | Permalink

          The PM could retort much as Charles did:
          “This is very true, as my words are my own, but the actions are the civil servants’.”

    • rose
      Posted August 23, 2011 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

      But there would still have been a Napoleon Bonaparte, and he thought it out the most thoroughly.

  7. John Stevens
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    I greatly enjoyed this. Perhaps you might follow up, given your time in Wales (Mabinogion etc.) on whether King Arthur was the first eurofanatic. Best wishes.

    • rose
      Posted August 23, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

      Of course he was: he was half Roman.

  8. AndyC71
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Commentors above seem to be missing the point; the post isn’t about religion, it’s about the UK’s relationship with Europe. Prior to the reformation, ultimate legal authority rested with the Pope, in principle if not always in practice. Henry’s reformation, and Elizabeth’s cementing of it, broke that link and asserted that England is in law a sovereign nation.

    For Pope read Brussels, and you have the current position today! The analogy is actually a very good one in political terms. I’ve argued here before that we need a new Act of Supremacy, and it’s a shame the current government didn’t enact one, despite promising that before the election.

    • sm
      Posted August 23, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      Parliament is already taken as supreme – as it is acknowledged that it reflects the will of the people . There is no need for a Supremacy Act -we do need to ensure MP’s vote as their electorate wishes by referism recall or other methods.

      Our MP’s wont change direction from the rocks… why indeed?

      We may need a mechanism to steady and protect us from the few that sup the cup of power.

      • AndyC71
        Posted August 24, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        Yes and no. We’re in the odd position of having a supreme parliament which has – progressively since 1972 – taken the decision not to be supreme. The net result is that the judiciary interprets EU law as taking precedence over British law.

        To rectify that would require the amendment of the 1972 EU act to reassert the primacy of laws passed in Westminster. That does amount to a new Act of Supremacy, to put it in 16th Century terms, and it’s a shame Mr Hague would like us to believe that’s what he did earlier this year. He did no such thing, and he knows it.

    • lifelogic
      Posted August 23, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      Promises before an election are clearly not something to be taken seriously certainly not ones from Cast Iron or the Tories. Will everyone be taken in again at the next election I rather think not. But then they will have no sensible alternative to vote for anyway.

  9. Acorn
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Were you celebrating the Battle of Bosworth (22/8/1485) this weekend? That’s where the Tudor dynasty started. Are you secretly yearning for another Henry Tudor, to come across the channel and stick it to the Plantagenets (ie Coalition)?

    Some similarity in Libya today. There the tribes united against a common enemy. When the common enemy is defeated, they go back to fighting among themselves; they always have and, it ain’t going to change because the west says it must. Just like the Plantagenets did. Lancaster; York; War of the Roses. The tribes of England. Those were the days.

  10. Susan
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    The only reason Henry VIII wanted to break with Rome was to rid himself of his then wife Catherine of Aragon who could not produce a male heir after years of trying. As the Pope in Rome would not give Henry a divorce to marry Anne Boleyn, the only way was to break from Rome to achieve this. However, originally it was to Rome Henry first appealed.

    Anne Boleyn was no heronine of history, she was a pure opportunist who happened to favour the new religion at the time. Her ambition was to marry into the rich Percy family at first until she was noticed by Henry VIII and had been refused as a bride for Henry Percy. Her sister Mary had been Henry VIIIs mistress and from this Anne had learned to refuse Henry and keep him waiting to force him to marry her. Anne did much harm to those around her, allowing people such as the noble Sir Thomas More to die because he would not sign an oath to break with Rome. The people of England despised Anne, having unseated the very popular queen Catherine, whom when exciled from court was treated very badly. Also Catherine of Aragons daughter Mary I was treated with contempt and cruelty by Anne.

    Anne was indeed a great scolar, something she passed onto her daughter the great Elizabeth I. However, Henry soon tired of her because she could not produce the heir that she promised him and her reckless nature helped to bring about her downfall. She lost her head after only three years of marriage on the charge of adultery. Her brother George Boleyn was also accused along with further members of the Kings household, all died along with her.

    As to Cromwell, as Henrys Chancellor who also embraced the new religion, he too lost his head because he had arranged a marriage with Anne of Cleves, a protestant. Henry VIII had become isolated in Europe, as a Papal bull was issued to depose him, and it was for this reason he looked for a new ally. Thus came about the Cleves marriage, but on first sight of Anne of Cleves Henry found her looks distasteful. The marriage was annulled and Cromwell lost his head.

    It is to be noted that Katherine Parr Henrys sixth wife, and final wife, nearly lost her head because she sought to teach Henry the new religion. It is believed Henry died still believing in the Catholic religion, and his only reason for breaking with Rome was his need to seek a divorce. Also the money from Cromwells dissolution of the monasteries brought Henry much needed money to the treasury.

    Many innocent people died because of Anne Boleyn. It is perhaps to be noted also, that during her lifetime Elizabeth I, Annes daughter, very rarely mentioned her mother but referred often to her Father, and did not give her a new grave more in keeping with that expected for a Queen.

    I do not believe there is anything to learn from this period of History about the problems of Europe today.

    • uanime5
      Posted August 23, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      Good to see that some people still study history. It would be a grave mistake to confuse supporting a religion for you own advantages with Euroscepticism.

      Henry VIII was a strong supporter of the Pope and even was named ‘Defender of the Faith’. It was only after the Pope refused to give him a divorce that he sought the power to be grant divorces himself.

  11. Pete Chown
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    My understanding was that the split with Rome was more political than theological. For example, Luther rejected transubstantiation, but Anglicanism retained it during Henry’s lifetime. Similarly, Anglicanism didn’t shift to the Protestant Biblical canon until 1563, well after Henry’s death.

    I’m not a historian so I may have misunderstood, but because of this I’m surprised to hear of someone ‘selling’ Protestantism to Henry. I got the feeling that Henry was very interested in politics and power, but not at all interested in Christian doctrine. If Anne Boleyn sold him anything, it was the chance to do a power grab. Rome was in a weak position because people were leaving on doctrinal grounds, so it was an excellent opportunity for England to leave for reasons that were entirely different.

    • cosmic
      Posted August 23, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

      I believe that’s essentially correct. The divorce of Catherine of Aragon was a significant factor as Henry wanted a legitimate heir. Henry placed himself at the head of the church putting himself in a position to seize its wealth and legitimise his divorce and remarriage. There’s no reason to suppose that he had a doctrinal conversion to Protestantism.

      Henry was given the title Fidei Defensor, by a Pope for a tract defending marriage in the eyes of The Church and upholding the supremacy of the Pope. Henry didn’t drop the title and it’s assumed to this day. The schism with Rome certainly didn’t mean that divorce was easily accepted by the CofE.

      Thomas Cromwell was Henry’s closest minister during the break with Rome and arranging the divorce was his weightiest charge. This could not be done for political reasons while the supremacy of The Pope was accepted although it was attempted to gain papal sanction. It’s easy to argue that Cromwell played a far greater part in the break with Rome than Anne Boleyne who merely provided one source of motivation.

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted August 23, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

      Where did Fid Def come from then?

      • Susan
        Posted August 24, 2011 at 8:46 am | Permalink


        Henry VIII was awarded the title’ Defender of the Faith’ or’ Fidei Defensor’ by the Pope for his book Defence of the Seven Sacraments. This was essentially a book to promote the Catholic faith and discredit Martin Luthers teachings at the time.

        The title was taken away from Henry when he was excommunicated by the Pope at the time of his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. However, Henry did keep the title which has been handed down to Monarchs over the ages. The wording was changed by Henry so that it merely means what it says, ‘Defender of the Faith’.

        I believe it was Prince Charles who recently said he would want the title changing to Defender of the Faiths.

  12. Demetrius
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Anne’s family background lay largely in Norfolk and the parts of Eastern England that were in close communication with Flanders, the Dutch and others and the developing ideas there. One key family were the Hoo. It was striking that when Queen Elizabeth I paid a state visit to Norwich she was placed looking across to the coats of arms of her various Norfolk ancestors. On the other hand at Court there was Sir Nicholas Carew, a near cousin, also of Hoo descent, who was pro French. Indeed he obtained his Knight of the Garter rank at the urging of the French King after he had been Ambassador there. Sir Nicholas was beheaded in 1539 after some very murky politics. The politics of this period are very intricate. Also, Anne, Sir Nicholas, all the other Queens of King Henry VIII and the King himself could trace ancestry back to King Edward I. So it was family as well.

    • rose
      Posted August 24, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      The religion is very intricate too: for instance Thomas Howard, the fourth Duke of Norfolk, was a scholarly and devout protestant, tutored by Fox, yet remained a European renaissance prince with many Italians and other continentals at his court. It was he who commissioned the deeply RC Tallis to compose Spem in Alium, an heretical Roman work at that time if ever there was one. He was also the father of an RC martyr who inspired the rest of the line of Howards to be devoted RCs ever afterwards. And only one of the martyr’s siblings remained a protestant, the simple unintellectual sailor, Thomas Howard. Being a godson of Philip II, and called after him, was probably just incidental in converting the martyr, as the children all had an RC tutor, appointed by their protestant father, but he left the renaissance court of this 4th Duke, because he considerd the household too protestant.

  13. Michael Dixon
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    I thought she was very pro-French which is hardly Eurosceptic.

    I stand to be corrected on this but that was my understanding.

    • rose
      Posted August 25, 2011 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      She was educated in France, which gave her a certain advantage in attracting and manipulating men. She also had the King bring over a skilful French swordsman for her execution. But her appreciation of more sophisticated ways would not necessarily lead her to want that country, or any continental country, to dominate her own. We have seen this syndrome over and over again in the modern world, Sayyid Qutb being an extreme example.

  14. Derek Buxton
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Nice to hear that some at least distinguish between Europe and the EU, the latter being the problem. Or at least, it would be if it were not for all our very own devious politicians, present company excepted, following the EU diktat to the comma and beyond.
    I am especially pleased that you, Sir, state that what Parliament gives away it can reassert. We would look forward to that, but I will not hold my breath.

  15. David Hearnshaw
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Interesting, but some hope of anything happening wrt the EU!!

  16. Andrew Smith
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    “What Parliament can give away, it can reassert. ”

    But will it?

  17. BobE
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    My impression is that the third European war is being fought with money this time.

    • rose
      Posted August 24, 2011 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      Or rather, without it.

  18. Jonathan Munday
    Posted August 24, 2011 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Surely the first Eurosceptic was Henry II, whose demand for English sovereignty and control of the church predates Anne Boleyn by 366 years.

    Also King John, raised similar issues fifty years later and was excommunicated for his pains.

    Anne Boleyn was following a noble but ancient call for national independence from European control

    • rose
      Posted August 25, 2011 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      Or Henry IV, whose court was the first to speak English?

  19. javelin
    Posted August 24, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    … and isn’t it true that the application of Occam’s razor leads us to conclude that because or Ireland the financial debacle in the Eurozone is better described as Catholic-Protestant than North-South.

    Perhaps the Catholic difference between sins of ommission and sins of commission have a bearing in the bankers and politicians thinking. I think there may be some merit in this. Sins of commision, are malicious and tend to be mortal sins (based on full knowledge), whilst sins of ommission, are based on ignorance and are very much venal (and less grave).

    Perhaps it is easier, due to social and cultural differences for a Catholic to pay less attention to a future risk if the action is not direct and done in “full knowledge” – which a mortal sin requires.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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