What were Henry VIII's grounds for attempting to put aside his marriage to Catherine of Aragon? Were they no more than flimsy excuses to gratify his passion for Anne Boleyn? Or were there substantial reasons to lead him to believe that he had been living in sin for two decades?
Making use of hitherto unknown or unexploited documentary evidence, the author sets out the intricacies of canon law regarding impediments to marriage and carefully explores the arguments and precedents Henry and his lawyers invoked in justifying his actions in public, in the ecclesiastical courts of England and Rome, and in the privacy of his own conscience. The effect of this reexamination forces substantial alterations in the traditional accounts not only of his first marriage and annulment, but also of the later ones to Anne Boleyn and Anne of Cleves, for the religious and legal principles involved were anything but flimsy and remained for Henry matters of lasting concern.
Particularly noteworthy is the author's reconstruction of the legatine trial at Blackfriars in 1529, in which he brings to light the complete court record for the first time in 260 years.
This reprinting (2004) of the 1976 edition contains a new Foreword.
Henry Ansgar Kelly studied medieval and Renaissance history and literature at Harvard University (Ph.D, 1965), and, as a member of the Jesuit order, he was trained in theology and canon law at Weston College (Boston College). He has taught at UCLA since 1967, and from 1998 to 2003 he served as Director of UCLA's Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.