Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Funeral and a Miscarriage: January 29, 1536

In one of those incredible juxtapositions of history, Henry VIII's first wife Katherine of Aragon was buried in Peterborough Cathedral (correction!) and his second wife Anne Boleyn suffered a miscarriage on the same day, January 29, 1536.

Henry VIII refused at the end to acknowledge the validity of his marriage to Katherine and had her buried as the Princess Dowager of Wales, but it was a duly elaborate funeral. This blog, profusely illustrated, provides the detail from the state papers:

First, 16 priests or clergymen in surplices went on horseback, without saying a word, having a gilded laten cross borne before them; after them several gentlemen, of whom there were only two of the house, et le demeurant estoient tous emprouvez, and after them followed the maître d’hotel and chamberlain, with their rods of office in their hands; and, to keep them in order, went by their sides 9 or 10 heralds, with mourning hoods and wearing their coats of arms; after them followed 50 servants of the aforesaid gentlemen, bearing torches and bâtons allumés, which lasted but a short time, and in the middle of them was drawn a wagon, upon which the body was drawn by six horses all covered with black cloth to the ground.

The said wagon was covered with black velvet, in the midst of which was a great silver cross; and within, as one looked upon the corpse, was stretched a cloth of gold frieze with a cross of crimson velvet, and before and behind the said wagon stood two gentlemen ushers with mourning hoods looking into the wagon, round which the said four banners were carried by four heralds and the standards with the representations by four gentlemen.

Then followed seven ladies, as chief mourners, upon hackneys, that of the first being harnessed with black velvet and the others with black cloth. After which ladies followed the wagon of the Queen’s gentlemen; and after them, on hackneys, came nine ladies, wives of knights. Then followed the wagon of the Queen’s chambermaids; then her maids to the number of 36, and in their wake followed certain servants on horseback.

Meanwhile, back at Court, Anne Boleyn suffered a catastrophic miscarriage that may have contributed to her fall and execution. Henry VIII had pursued her and married her, divided England from Christendom, abandoned his first wife and daughter all because he expected Anne Boleyn to deliver a healthy baby boy who would survive infancy, and she failed again. This blog describes the repercussions of that miscarriage, as recounted by Eustace Chapuys, the Holy Roman Emperor's ambassador:

On the day of the interment the Concubine had an abortion which seemed to be a male child which she had not borne 3½ months, at which the King has shown great distress. The said concubine wished to lay the blame on the duke of Norfolk, whom she hates, saying he frightened her by bringing the news of the fall the King had six days before. But it is well known that is not the cause, for it was told her in a way that she should not be alarmed or attach much importance to it. Some think it was owing to her own incapacity to bear children, others to a fear that the King would treat her like the late Queen, especially considering the treatment shown to a lady of the Court, named Mistress Semel, to whom, as many say, he has lately made great presents.

I think that Katherine of Aragon would have felt grief for the loss of another little baby, as she had lost several herself to miscarriage, stillbirth or death during infancy.

Mistress Semel was Jane Seymour, who would be Henry VIII's third wife. Sic transit gloria mundi.

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