The grounds for divorce

Henry's desire for escape

At about the time Henry was despairing of Katherine producing a male heir, he was strongly attracted to one of her ladies-in-waiting, Anne Boleyn. Since he had asked for a papal dispensation to marry Katherine, it was difficult to ask for another to divorce her.

Biblical authority

Henry began to develop religious scruples. Citing the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament of the Bible, he claimed that he should never have married his brother's widow and that it was a sin for which he was being punished by the lack of a male heir.

Leviticus 20:21, with which Henry became increasingly obsessed, says:

‘If a man shall take his brother's wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother's nakedness: they shall be childless.' AV

When a comment is made questioning the family of Emperor Charles V in Doctor Faustus, it may well be alluding to Charles' aunt, Katherine of Aragon, about whom this question of incest was raised.

Diplomatic problems

In 1527, Henry asked Cardinal Wolsey to ensure that Pope Clement VII granted him a divorce. More on the role of cardinals?

However, even had the Pope wished to do so, he was not a free agent:

  • The current King of Spain, also known as the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, had invaded Italy and was in control of Rome, where Faustus visits him in Doctor Faustus
  • Charles was the nephew of Katherine of Aragon and not prepared to have her insulted by a divorce that she did not want.
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