Prospects of a disputed succession to the crown -- Various claimants -- Catherine incapable of having further children -- Irregularity of her marriage with the King -- Papal dispensations -- First mention of the divorce -- Situation of the Papacy -- Charles V. -- Policy of Wolsey -- Anglo-French alliance -- Imperial troops in Italy -- Appeal of the Pope -- Mission of Inigo de Mendoza -- The Bishop of Tarbes -- Legitimacy of the Princess Mary called in question -- Secret meeting of the Legates' court -- Alarms of Catherine -- Sack of Rome by the Duke of Bourbon -- Proposed reform of the Papacy -- The divorce promoted by Wolsey -- Unpopular in England -- Attempts of the Emperor to gain Wolsey.
IN the year 1526 the political prospects of England became seriously clouded. A disputed succession had led in the previous century to a desperate civil war. In that year it became known in private circles that if Henry VIII. was to die the realm would again be left without a certain heir, and that the strife of the Roses might be renewed on an even more distracting scale. The sons who had been born to Queen Catherine had died in childbirth or had died immediately after it. The passionate hope of the country that she might still produce a male child who would survive had been constantly disappointed, and now could be entertained no longer. She was eight years older than her husband. She had "certain diseases" which made it impossible that she should be again pregnant, and Henry had for two years ceased to cohabit with her. He had two children still living -- the Princess Mary, Catherine's daughter, then a girl of eleven, and an illegitimate son born in 1519, the mother being a daughter of Sir John Blount, and married afterwards