Journal Article

English Royal Marriages and the Papal Penitentiary in the Fifteenth Century*

Peter D. Clarke

in The English Historical Review

Volume 120, issue 488, pages 1014-1029
Published in print September 2005 | ISSN: 0013-8266
Published online September 2005 | e-ISSN: 1477-4534 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ehr/cei244
English Royal Marriages and the Papal Penitentiary in the Fifteenth Century*

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The papal penitentiary was the highest body in the later medieval Church concerned with matters of conscience. It granted absolution in cases reserved for papal authority and issued dispensations and licences that were also a papal monopoly. Requests for these papal favours, where approved by the penitentiary, were recorded in registers, and 150 such registers survive in the Vatican Archives for the pre-Tridentine period. Accessible to researchers only since 1983 they represent a major new body of sources for religious, social and cultural history. This Note shows that they are also important for political and diplomatic history since it presents new evidence from the registers of papal dispensations for four fifteenth-century English royal marriages. The couples in question are Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy, and Margaret of York; Edward, prince of Wales, and Anne Neville; Richard, duke of Gloucester (later Richard III), and Anne Neville; Henry Tudor (later Henry VII) and Elizabeth of York. The Note includes an edition of the pertinent entries in the registers and of a letter granting a further dispensation for the marriage of Charles the Bold and Margaret of York; this was issued by a papal envoy to England and is held in the Archives départementales du Nord (Lille). The Note arises from research for a calendar of entries concerning England and Wales in the penitentiary registers to 1503, currently being prepared by the author and Patrick Zutshi for the Canterbury and York Society.

Journal Article.  8300 words. 

Subjects: British History ; World History ; European History ; International History

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