The Divorce of Henry VIII: The Untold Story from Inside the Vatican

Written by Catherine Fletcher
Review by Anne Clinard Barnhill

Dr. Catherine Fletcher, who teaches at Durham University, England, has researched an often overlooked piece of the puzzle to Henry VIII and his Great Matter, that piece being what actually happened in Italy among ambassadors, the Pope, various cardinals and other international representatives. In her first book, she explores the duties of Henry’s “lobbyist-for-hire,” Gregorio Casali, as Casali pulls no punches to give King Henry what he wants: a divorce from his wife of 20 years, Catherine of Aragon, aunt to Emperor Charles and a key player on the international stage. Like most of the ambassadors of his day, Casali has no qualms about his methods – he will do what it takes to make Henry a free man. This includes almost impoverishing himself to bribe those near the Pope to sway him Henry’s way.

Casali enlists his brothers to help him persuade those in power. Because he is a representative of the king, Casali must live like a king, with opulent clothes, a fine house and a well-stocked table. While the king pays him for his services and often provides funding for such things as bribes, or “gifts” as they were called then, there is frequently a lag between the need for payment and the actual payment. Casali’s efforts go basically unrewarded.

Fletcher does a really good job of bringing this untold story to life, impressing this reader with her scholarship and understanding of the period.