School of History academic unearths book used by Henry VIII

Professor James Carley has discovered a historical book, once owned by Henry VIII
Professor James Carley discovered the historical book, once owned by Henry VIII

A School of History academic has unearthed a book used by Henry VIII, which helped change the course of English history.

Professor James Carley identified the text, featuring legal and philosophical advice by theologian William of Ockham, as the same one Henry VIII and his legal team used when gathering evidence to secure an annulment from Catherine of Aragon in the 1530s, a move which ultimately enabled England to break ties with Rome.

With the help of David Shaw, Professor Carley identified the copy, currently residing in the library of Cornish National Trust property Lanhydrock, through a 1542 inventory of Henry’s books, showing it had once been part of the king’s library at his palace at Westminster.

Professor Carley is sure the book was consulted by the Tudor monarch whilst gathering evidence to undermine the authority of the Pope and support an annulment, which would leave him free to marry Anne Boleyn. The text contains marks and notes made by the King’s advisors highlighting sections which support his desire for change.

Carley said the discovery was “thrilling”, adding:

“The book is important not only for its provenance but for the notes entered in it by Henry VIII’s advisers and no doubt intended for him to see. They draw attention to precisely the sort of issues that were so relevant to the king’s policies in the years leading up to the break with Rome.”

Funding for the project was provided by the University of Kent. The book will now be displayed in an exhibition, Monarchy and the Book, running at the Victorian country house from next month.