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Response to Beartracks (Reply #102)

Mon Mar 2, 2015, 08:05 AM

124. Basically, they have to find a "flaw" in the marriage

Some of which are rather abstruse (see "Pauline Privilege" and "Petrine Privilege", but the whole thing is basically dishonest. The person seeking the annulment is basically trying to pretend that the marriage never really happened.

Let me tell you of a couple of contemporaneous historical annulments requests, those of Henry VIII of England and his sister Margaret in the 16th century.

Henry and Margaret's father, Henry VII, arranged a political marriage between his eldest son, Arthur, and Catherine of Aragon. A few months after the wedding, Arthur died. The king wanted both to maintain the political alliance with Spain and to keep the dowry that Catherine brought (over a million in today's currency, which would have had to be repaid out of the Privy Purse). So he decided to marry his second son, Henry, to Catherine.

There was a problem: Under Church marriage law, one cannot marry one's deceased spouse's sibling. However, this could be got round with a dispensation. So King Henry went to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Warham, to get the dispensation. Warham was then in a political fight with the King and refused to grant it; but Henry twisted his arm, and Warham gave in. Henry then applied to the Vatican for their approval -- Pope Julius II rubber stamped the dispensation and the fullness of time Henry and Catherine were married.

Twenty-some years later, it was obvious that Catherine, now in menopause, was not going to give Henry the son he so desperately craved. (Henry wanted a son because the last time an English king, Henry I, died with only a daughter to follow him, Matilda, there was a civil war.) The incest that Henry was committing was preying on his mind -- that he had fallen in love with the young and beautiful Anne Boleyn was, of course, quite irrelevant.

Recall that Henry VII had pressured Archbishop Warham to get the dispensation for his son's betrothal to Catherine. Church marriage law says that if any party to the marriage is acting under duress, the marriage is void. So Henry VIII requested an annulment on the grounds that the dispensation was improperly given.

However, Catherine did not want her marriage annulled. She claimed that she loved Henry; a dubious claim at best, since Henry did not treat her well. It is far more likely that Catherine did not want her daughter Mary to lose her place as Henry's only legitimate child. After all, should Henry remarry and have a son, this son would take precedence over Mary as Henry's heir. (One of the great "what if"s of English history is "what if Mary had been a boy?"

So, Catherine counter-attacked on two fronts: One based in Church marriage law, and the other purely political. In Church marriage law, in order for a marriage to be valid, two things must happen. The first is an exchange of vows before witnesses, and there was no question that this happened when Catherine married Arthur. The second is that the marriage must be consummated. Catherine claimed that she and Arthur had never consummated their marriage. Thus, the dispensation was irrelevant, and her marriage to Henry was, in fact, her first marriage.

This claim should have gone nowhere. First, Church marriage law makes the presumption that a married couple will have intercourse unless it can be proven otherwise. Second, under Church marriage law, the burden of proof would have been on Catherine, and the operative word is "proof". I'm sure that 16th century divorce lawyers and judges knew just as well as their 21st century counterparts that all parties in a divorce probably lie. Catherine's unsupported word should not have sufficed, and at the time she made this claim, she was not a virgo intacta. Thus, she had no support for her claim.

Something else in Church marriage law is that dubious claims about the validity of the marriage are to be dismissed in favor of the validity of the marriage.

However, her other point of attack depended on her nephew Charles -- King of Spain, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Naples -- to oppose the annulment. Charles was happy to support his aunt, since he disliked Henry both personally and politically. Charles and Henry had entered an alliance against France which Henry broke at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, and Charles felt that Henry had betrayed him. What concerned the Pope was that in 1527, Naples and the Papal States had a war, which Clement lost. Some of Charles' troops sacked Rome. Clement did not want a rerun of that war, so he took Catherine's claim of non-consummation seriously. There were Papal Delegates, special commissions of enquiry and so on. Basically, Clement was stalling.

Finally, when Henry discovered that Anne Boleyn was pregnant, he forced Clement's hand. He pushed through some laws in Parliament, one saying that marriage questions could be settled locally, another saying that all English clergy owed their first allegiance to the crown and a third saying that the Peter's Pence collection (an annual collection in each parish going directly to the Vatican) and the Annates (essentially a tax on Church properties that also went to the Vatican) should go to the Exchequer instead of to Rome. Clement was Not Amused, and decreed against Henry's annulment.

Thus, the actual reason for Clement's action was politics and money.

Now, on to Margaret. Henry VII married her off to King James IV of Scotland. For some reason, James invaded England in 1513, and was met by English troops at the Battle of Flodden. Flodden was an overwhelming victory for the English, and James was killed in the battle. His body was seen by quite a few people, both English and Scots, who knew him at least by sight; he was buried on the battlefield.

James' son became king as James V, but since he was only two, a council of regency was set up. Margaret was one of the regents, and another was Archibald Douglas, the Earl of Angus. In order to solidify his political position, Angus persuaded Margaret to marry him.

This was not a happy marriage. To give just one example, in 1520, Angus attempted to enter Edinburgh at the head of some troops, and was taken under fire by artillery and infantry under the personal command of his wife.

In 1527, Margaret seized on an unfounded rumor that James IV had not died at Flodden, but had regained consciousness, dug himself out of his grave, and recovered from his wounds. However, James had not returned to Scotland, but rather made a secret pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Nevertheless, James was supposed to return to Scotland at any moment. This rumor, of course, is just as credible as the one that Elvis Presley is still alive.

Margaret sent in a petition to Pope Clement for an annulment of her marriage on the grounds that her first husband was actually still alive. Cardinal Beaton, the Archbishop of St Andrews, who loathed Angus as much as Margaret did, supported the petition. Angus, who also wanted out of the marriage, raised no objection -- indeed, he suggested that a better ground for the annulment might be that he had been betrothed as a young man.

In any case, Margaret got her annulment, realized that her first husband was dead, and promptly married someone else.

So, Henry VIII was denied an annulment even though he had solid grounds, and Margaret was granted one on flimsy grounds. It was all political in both cases.

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