Book that helped Henry VIII annul his marriage

A book that helped King Henry VIII to annul his marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, has been discovered at a Cornish country house


A book that helped King Henry VIII to build his case against the Pope and annul his marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, has been discovered at the National Trust’s Lanhydrock in Cornwall.

Dated 1495, the book is a summary of works by philosopher and theologian William of Ockham who was a major figure in medieval intellectual and political thought. In order to help Henry VIII gather evidence to support an annulment to his marriage, his agents scoured the country for texts such as Ockham’s which questioned the authority of the Pope and argued for the independence of the monarch.

The-book-at-LanhydrockThe book just discovered at Lanhydrock even contains notes and marks in the margins made by Henry VIII’s secretarial staff to draw his attention to relevant passages.

The book has been at Lanhydrock for many years, but its direct connection to the Royal library was not known until Professor James Carley, an expert on the libraries of Henry VIII, was invited to examine some of the volumes in Lanhydrock’s collection. Professor Carley identified an inventory number inside the book which corresponds to the inventory prepared in 1542 for Henry VIII’s chief library at Westminster Palace.

At some point in the 17th century the book was acquired by a Cornish chaplain, Hannibal Gamon, who bequeathed it along with many other scholarly books to the Robartes family at Lanhydrock.

Now the book will be the centrepiece of a new exhibition, Monarchy and the Book, at the house where visitors will be able to see rare and unusual works with Royal themes from Lanhydrock’s library.


Professor James Carley said: “It’s thrilling to discover that the book at Lanhydrock is from the Royal library. The book is important not only for its provenance but for the notes entered in it by Henry VIII’s advisors and no doubt intended for him to see. They draw attention to precisely the sort of issues that were so relevant to the King’s policies in the years leading up to the break with Rome.”

Lanhydrock’s library, with over 2,500 books, is one of the most remarkable of the National Trust’s and is among only a handful of pre-Civil War private libraries surviving in England.

The Monarchy and the Book exhibition will include early histories of the kings of England, bindings and books relating to Henry VIII, political essays by James I, and contemporary Civil War pamphlets describing the trials and execution of Charles I and the Restoration of Charles II.

Monarchy and the Book opens at Lanhydrock on 1 March 2015 and runs until the end of June 2015. For further information telephone 01208 265950 or visit the National Trust website.

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