- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 14, 2002

LONDON King Henry VIII's divorce is still causing problems, more than four centuries after he dumped his queen and broke with the Catholic Church.

The government is fighting to stop a unique document from the much-married monarch's first and most celebrated divorce from being sold overseas.

Arts Minister Tessa Blackstone barred yesterday the foreign sale of a treatise that is credited with helping bolster arguments by King Henry that he was entitled to ditch Catherine of Aragon in favor of Anne Boleyn, the second of his six wives.

"This treatise is of immense historical importance to the nation," Miss Blackstone said in a statement.

"The argument set out in its pages was part of the process that led to a critical moment in English history: the break with Rome and the establishment of the Church of England," she said.

British buyers have until July 13 to come up with $940,000 or they will watch the document be sold to a foreign bidder.

The treatise, which addresses the question of whether a man may marry the widow of his deceased brother, as King Henry had done in wedding Catherine, was written in 1530 by Jacobus Calchus, a Carmelite friar.

"Even in its own right, the document is remarkable, representing as it does one of the finest of the earliest gilt bindings," Miss Blackstone said. "I very much hope that sufficient funds will be raised to allow it to stay in the country."

She made her decision on the recommendation of the government's Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art, which controls the foreign sale of British artworks. If a serious British bid emerges before July 13, Miss Blackstone has the power to extend the grace period.

The Department of Arts and Culture could not provide details about who is selling the document. A spokesman said that from 1687 until the 20th century, the manuscript had been part of the collection of the 11th earl of Kent.

Friar Calchus first came to England in 1529, when King Henry was looking for opinions supporting a divorce from Catherine, his wife of 20 years who had failed to provide him with a son. Their only surviving child was a daughter, Mary.

King Henry wanted to marry Boleyn, an attractive young member of his wife's household.

In the 34-page Latin treatise with its elaborate gilt decorations, which King Henry had bound in finest calf leather, Calchus argues that conscience takes moral priority over the pope.

King Henry said his marriage to Catherine was invalid because she was the widow of his brother, Arthur.

Church authorities agreed with Catherine's argument that her first marriage did not count.

King Henry finally achieved his divorce by separating the English church from the Roman church and taking up leadership of the Church of England.

He rid himself of Catherine in 1532 and married Boleyn the next year. She was executed in 1536, and King Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour, bore him his only surviving son, Edward VI.


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