On this day in history…
1 September 1532: Anne Boleyn is made Marquess of Pembroke.
By 1532, “The King’s Great Matter” - Henry VIII’s attempts to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn - had remained unresolved for at least five years. Throughout this period, Anne Boleyn, her family, and her supporters had acquired a significant amount of influence. In 1531, the king sent Queen Catherine to live at the More, and Anne became the first woman at court. Despite Henry VIII’s attentions and his continual promises of marriage, Anne’s position was still precarious at best. The papacy refused to grant an annulment of the king’s first marriage. Henry was, however, beginning to entertain alternative options, the most important of which was the idea of bypassing the Catholic Church altogether. By 1532, he was anxious to garner further support for his marriage and to make Anne seem worthy of queenship. In anticipation of their meeting with Francis I of France in Calais, the king decided to ennoble Anne. On 1 September 1532, he created her Marquess of Pembroke suo jure (in her own right) with an elaborate ceremony at Windsor. Anne wore red velvet and ermine, and her long hair loose (she would also do this at her coronation less than a year later.) Through this title, Anne immediately became one of the wealthiest and most influential individuals in England. Marquesses ranked only below dukes (of which there were three - the Dukes of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Richmond), and as a suo jure peeress, she ranked above all other noblewomen. The king was now intending to marry a noblewoman, rather than a commoner. The newly-created marquess thus accompanied Henry VIII to Calais, and she was treated for all intents and purposes as a future queen. Some historians argue that Henry ennobled Anne merely in case she produced an illegitimate son, as the patent merely stated that the title would pass to her male heirs (without specifying whether they should be legitimate.) If she did produce an illegitimate son, the child would thus be provided for. If this was a motive, the king soon changed his plans, however, for Henry and Anne did in fact conceive a child that winter. Anxious to legitimize the pregnancy, the couple were immediately married (though some argue that marriage occurred first.) Anne was therefore Queen of England when she gave birth to her daughter, Elizabeth, in 1533.