The Break with Rome 3

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Henry's problems attaining a divorce through Rome 1527-1529

  • Henry required a divorce through Rome as only a papal annulment of his marriage to Catherine would be seen as legitimate across Europe
  • Henry had to prove his marriage was unlawful from the very beginning
  • Catherine's nephew Charles V was Holy Roman Emperor and the most powerful political figure in Western Christendom 
  • Charles held real influence over Pope Clement VII as he was his military superior in the Habsburg-Valois conflict
  • Clement therefore thought it would be unwise to disgrace the Habsburg emperor by granting the annulment
  • May 1527, Imperial troops sacked Rome and the Pope was held a virtual prisoner
  • Papal policy was now shaped largely by the wishes of Charles V 
  • The chances of an annulment for Henry seemed slim as long as Imperial power held sway in Italy
  • Wolsey hoped he could use his credentials as a papal legate and cardianl to attain the annulemt Henry so desperately wanted 
  • With the Pope imprisoned, Wolsey wanted to to call a council of leading archbishops to proclaim on the divorce without the Pope
  • However, French cardinals were unwilling to play along
  • December 1527, Clement was technically freed however still under Habsburg control
  • Wolsey's hopes of ruling on Henry's case without the Pope were dashed and he now depended upon a revival of French fortunes in northern Italy
  • Wolsey's next strategy was to have the case heard in England with papal approval
  • The Pope wanted nothing to do with the Great Matter as he did not want to upset Charles V for fear of losing Papal independency in Italy
  • At the same time, Clement wanted to content Henry so he suggested Henry get and unnulment in England, marry Anne, and then get an official annulment from Clement in the future (after Catherine died possibly)
  • Essentially this was bigamy and Henry was not interested in such
  • Clement also told his legate Cardinal…


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