from: St Bartholomew's Hospital, West Smithfield

to: Playhouse yard
DISTANCE: 0.5 miles


Playhouse Yard, the place that end Henry's first marriage.

Henry viii's london

directions - leg 2

Turn back and retrace your steps to the end of Glitspur Street. Cross the road and keep going straight up Old Bailey.


When you get to the end of the road, turn right onto Ludgate Hill, cross the road and turn right up Pilgrim Street. 


Bear left into Priory Court, and take another left onto Cobb's Court. Cross straight over Carter Lane into Church Entry and then take a right at the end of the road followed by a left into Playhouse Yard.



Henry's first wife was Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536).


Since they were as young as 3, plans for marriage of Princess Catherine (from Spain) and Prince Arthur (Henry VIII's older brother and heir to the throne) were well underway. They married in 1501, only for Arthur to die half a year later of unknown causes, but probably the sweating sickness.


By 1509, Henry VIII was King - Catherine and Henry married on the 11th June at Greenwich Church. At the time, it was against canon law for a man to marry the widow of his brother, so they received a dispensation from the Pope based on Catherine's testimony that her marriage to Arthur was never consumated.


Catherine struggled to produce a male heir, giving birth to Princess Mary and having a serIes of miscarriages and still births. Though Henry was very fond of Mary, in 1525 he sent her to Ludlow Castle in Shropshire near the Welsh border.


By 1527, Henry’s eyes had turned to one of Catherine’s ladies-in-waiting, Anne Boleyn. Henry tried to annul his marriage to Catherine, but the pope refused. In response, Henry passed the Act of Supremacy, making him Head of the Church of England. He appointed Thomas Cranmer as Archbishop of Canterbury who annulled the marriage. 

You’re standing in Playhouse Yard which at this time were the refectory buildings of the Blackfriars Monastery. It was in this monastery in 1529 that a court conducted the divorce of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon.


Ironically this cemented the King’s break with Rome and led to the dissolution of the monasteries. An own goal. The monastery buildings here were transformed into a playhouse by James Burbage, hence the name, Playhouse Yard.


With Catherine out of the way, Henry married Anne on the 25th January 1533 and Anne was crowned Queen on 1st June 1533. At the next stop we see what became of her.



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