25 January 2011

Sad Christmas of 1531

Christmas of 1531 was considered to be one of the saddest the court had seen.  While Henry tried to present a picture of merriment and mirth, his efforts did little to dispel the gloom.  Queen Catherine and her ladies were conspicuously absent.  In the mind of the English people, Anne Boleyn would never serve as a satisfactory substitute for their beloved queen.   In Rome the process of the divorce was in a certain downward spiral.  Anne Boleyn had strong influence whilst she was at Henry's side, but she was also resented, even hated by a growing number of the English people.

Tradition held that on New Year's Day, gifts were to be exchanged amongst the royal court. Anne presented Henry with Pyrenean boar spears, and Henry gave Anne luxurious embroidered crimson, and hangings in cloth of gold, and of silver.  These lovely gifts could not, however, erase the feelings and mood that resulted from Henry's decision to exclude Catherine from the holiday proceedings. It was the first time the king would not give any holiday gift to his queen, and hatefully, he also demanded that no courtier would make a gift to Catherine.  Embarrassingly for Henry and Anne, Catherine did remember Henry with a gift:  a remarkable gold cup, obviously expensive and very fine.  The king was obviously blindsided by the unexpected gift, and took out his rage on the poor gentleman of the privy chamber.  Almost immediately afterward, in a panic, Henry realized he had made a foolish mistake in rejecting the gift.  If the beautiful cup had already been sent back, there was every possibility that it would be presented again at a public court function, where Henry could not possibly reject it and thus be forced to recognize his relationship with Katherine.  

No one could ever accuse Katherine of having a lack of intelligence, and in this case she had shown a sharp cleverness.  As things turned out, the cup had not yet been returned, and Henry issued orders that it not be returned until that evening.

King Henry's uneasiness and Anne's growing sense of anxiety would have been palpable that Christmas of 1531.

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