Henry VIII's personal divorce plea


2015-06-26 11:02:24


Henry VIII's personal divorce plea is a letter signed by Henry VIII to Cardinal Benedetto de Accolti, the Bishop of Ravenna. It was written by Henry in an attempt to advance his plans to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boleyn.

This historically important letter is is considered a crucial document in the King's battle to divorce his first wife.


Henry VIII became Prince of Wales following the death of his older brother Arthur, Prince of Wales.

A special dispensation from Pope Julius II was needed to allow Henry to marry his brother's widow, Catherine of Aragon.

However, Catherine failed to provide Henry with a surviving male heir and by 1529 she was considered too old to have any more children.

Due to Henry VIII's greatest desire to produce a male heir, he decided to try and annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry his mistress, Anne Boleyn, in the hope that she could provide him with a son.

However, Catherine was not so keen on this idea and refused Henry's suggestion that she retire quietly to a nunnery. Therefore Henry VIII set his hopes of an annulment upon an appeal to Pope Clement VII, as the Pope was the only person authorised to annul a marriage at that time.

The Pope was, at that time, a prisoner of Catherine's nephew, The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, following the Sack of Rome in 1527, and this prevented him from annulling the marriage.

The document

As Henry was unable to contact the Pope, he wrote a letter to Cardinal Benedetto de Accolti, the Bishop of Ravenna.

In the letter, Henry sent a recommendation for his envoy, Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire (and curiously the father of Anne Boleyn) to be sent to represent him in discussions with Emperor Charles V.

Under pressure from Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, The Pope's inability to grant Henry VIII's request for an annulment meant that Henry had to find another way to end his marriage. Eventually, Henry, although theologically a doctrinal Catholic, took the position of Supreme Head of the Church of England to ensure the annulment of his marriage.

In an interview with the Associated Press in June 2009 David Starkey, a British Historian, TV presenter and Tudor expert, said:

"It is an event of enormous magnitude, the most important event in English history,"

"This is the moment at which England ceases to be a normal European Catholic country and goes off on this strange path that leads it to the Atlantic, to the new world, to Protestantism, to Euro-skepticism."


In June 2011 the item was offered by historical document experts Paul Fraser Collectibles with an estimate of £275,000.

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