Fletcher, Catherine. The Divorce of Henry VIII: The Untold Story from Inside the Vatican. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-230-34151-7, ISBN10: 0-230-34151-9, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches, 288 pages.
Catherine Fletcher aims to tackle King Henry VIII’s infamous divorce from Catherine of Aragon through the previously untold experiences of the Italian diplomat, Gregorio Casali. An immediate worry is whether Casali, a figure who has garnered zero interest from other historians, is actually worth the scholarly effort: a concern Fletcher addresses positively in the Preface. However, the title of Fletcher’s book reveals that Casali adds more of an Italian flavour to Henry VIII’s first divorce, rather than being the main biographical subject.
Chapter One begins with Henry VIII trying to invalidate his eighteen year marriage to Catherine of Aragon. The twin reasons of needing to produce a male heir to the English throne that Catherine failed to deliver after eighteen years of marriage, and the king’s infatuation with Anne Boleyn motivated the secret proceedings. At the same time, Casali and Pope Clement VII are trapped in Rome’s Castel Sant’Angelo by Charles V’s rampaging troops to be eventually evicted. Casali then sets about resolving the war whilst maintaining his loyalty to England as Henry VIII’s ambassador. Fletcher skillfully juxtaposes Casali’s diplomatic services across Europe with Henry VIII’s growing demands for a divorce from the papal court.
In Chapter Two the divorce takes precedence. Cardinal Thomas Wolsey instructs Casali to work undercover as the Duke of Ferrara’s servant in order to persuade the Pope to grant Henry VIII a divorce. Fletcher also considers -Continue Reading>