Sunday, March 25, 2007

Erase and Rewind

Born Again Virgins ? Surely this is a joke. You're a virgin or you're not. Whatever these people are doing, it doesn't annull their previous actions.

The idea of annulment and starting with a clean slate is not what life is about. You make a "mistake" , you live with it and move on. You cant just wipe it out.

For example, in answer to the question : "How many wives did Henry the Eighth have ?" any sensible person would say "6". But if you allow the idea of "annullment" to mean "it never happened", you get the following smart-alec answer:-
He had two, or four if you're a catholic.

Henry's fourth marriage to Anne of Cleves was annulled. This is very different from divorce, it means that legally, the marriage never took place. There were two grounds for the annullment, Henry and Anne never consumated the marriage, that is, they never had intercourse. In addition, Anne was already betrothed to Duke Francis of Lorraine.

That leaves five.

The pope declared Henry's second mariage to Anne Boelyn illegal, because the king was still married to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

That's four now.

Henry himself, declaring himself the head of the church of england, decided his first marriage was invalid on the legal ground that a man cannot sleep with his brother's widow. He claimed this was "God's law" and it went whether the pope liked it or not.

Depending on whether you believe the pope or the king, this brings it down to four or three marriages.

Henry annulled his marriage to Catherine Howard, because it was treasonable for a queen to commit adultery.

So ladies and gentlemen. That'd be TWO marriages only. Not Six, as your history would have you believe.


Flitcraft said...

I think it's a bit more complicated than that - but alas I dont have the indispensable historian tool kit: Dictionary of National Biography at home. I think your Catholic count is out because annulments dont count in Catholic eyes unless they're from the Pope - and we all know who fell out with the Pope. Thus Henry's home annulments wouldn't count and I don't think excommunicates can legitimately marry at all. However there are also questions about when the excommunication was properly ratified. So the Catholic wifeykins count might get no higher than one (Catherine of Aragon and then he's had his chips for falling out with Il Papa). If you allow the excommunication to come later, and allow that Jane Seymour was OK because Catherine of A was dead, and Anne of Cleves OK because Jane was dead, you then have the problem of the Henry home annulment kit - (add one tame Archbish of Canterbury and stir), because in Catholic eyes that wouldn't work. Pre-contract, non-consummation or not, you have to have the proper dispensation from the Pope, who I don't think gave one. No proddy home applications of 'Wife-B-Gone!' will do. Now Anne of Cleves lives till 1553, so that would make both Catherine Howard and Katherine Parr floozies rather than wives, but to be honest I dont think Catholic Europe accepts anyone after Catherine of A and possibly Jane, because of the great Pope problem.

The proddy wife count depends on the view you take of the legitimacy of Henry's annulments. I am not C of E and hence regard the annulment excuses for the Catherine of Aragon and Catherine Howard marriages as nonsense made up by a looney royal shagger, however I'd reckon not having sex Anne of Cleves would count for an annulment. I would accept the break with Catherine of A as a divorce and hence accept the Ann Boleyn marriage, but an annulment - nah. However this is subjective, in Henry's eyes the final marriage count would probably be two - Jane Seymour and Katherine Parr, because he also, IIRC, pulls the 'annulment just before execution' trick on Anne Boleyn but without DNB I can't confirm all this.

So Henry's answer would be two!

Stan said...

Cheers Flit - I think we both agree the only sensible answer is 6, and that Henry would be laughed at it he had ever decided to become a "born again virgin" after porking half of Europe.

The BBC programme QI has a lot to answer for. Don't get me started on why the Earth does NOT have two moons ... Cruithne is NOT an effing moon, Mister Smartypants Stephen Fry ...