Catherine of Aragon

John Florens | Dec 16, 2022

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Catherine of Aragon (Alcalá de Henares, (near Madrid), 16 December 1485 - Cimbolton, 7 January 1536) Queen of England of the House of Trastamara. First wife of Henry VIII, mother of Mary I.

His father, Ferdinand II, was King of Aragon, Naples, Sicily and Navarre, and titular King and Regent of Castile. Mother Queen Isabella I of Castile and León. Maternal aunt of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and Ferdinand I, King of Hungary and the Bohemia.

Family and childhood

Catherine of Aragon was born on 16 December 1485 in the Kingdom of Castile. She took her name after her English great-grandmother, Catherine of Lancaster, Queen of Castile, but it was not foreseeable at the time that this would have a nomen est omen effect on her fate, as she was Queen of England, her great-grandmother's country. Her mother was Isabella of Castile and her father Ferdinand of Aragon. Her mother was the full ruler of Castile and Leon, and her father was King of Aragon, Naples, Sicily and Navarre. Raised in a convent, Isabella was not destined to rule, only becoming head of the kingdom after her brother's death, and during her reign, civilisation was revived in Castile. Ferdinand was less a model of perfection. He was an excellent politician, but his debauchery and mistresses made him notorious. From him he inherited both his anti-Frenchness and his survival skills. He was the youngest child in the royal family. He spent the first fifteen years of his life under the strict tutelage of his mother. Her mother, a strong personality, queen and general, was a great influence on her daughter Catherine. And she was brought up in a manner befitting a future queen. She was the youngest of three daughters, Isabella, Joanna, Mary, and a son John, to join the royal family. With the birth of a male heir, the succession of both kingdoms was assured. The Infanta Catherine received a strict and consistent Catholic upbringing, and like other women of her time, whether of noble or lowly birth, was trained by her mother to be a dutiful, obedient child and wife, a faithful companion to her spouse and the mother of as many children as possible.

Even during her pregnancy in 1485, Isabella took part in the Reconquista campaigns against the Moors. After the fierce fighting, she wanted to rest in Córdoba, but the rainy autumn slowed her progress and she gave birth to her child in Alcalá de Henares (the castle of the Archbishop of Toledo). She was named after one of her ancestors, Catherine of Lancaster. Her blood was therefore Spanish, Portuguese and Plantagenet. After the birth of the infant princess, the battles continued until, shortly before her sixth birthday, the period of reconquest from 722 to 1492 came to an end. The queen decided that her children should receive a proper education, and they were educated, including Catherine, by humanists such as Petrus Martyr Anglerius, Antonio Geraldini and Alessandro Geraldini. In addition to her extensive knowledge of the Bible, she was also familiar with classical literature and was fluent in Latin. On his arrival in England, it was noted that he 'displayed a polished mind... which had few serious rivals among the queens'. In keeping with the royal courts of Europe, she had mastered music, dance and drawing, and, uniquely, she had also paid particular attention to the acquisition of traditional feminine skills (weaving, spinning, baking). In addition, her daughters had to show absolute obedience and submission to their future husbands. Isabella also handed down to her descendants her sober religious beliefs.

Ferdinand wanted to marry his children into the greatest families in Europe. He married Johanna to Philip I (the Fair) when she was just seventeen, while Juan married Archduchess Margaret of Austria, who moved to Spain. He married Isabella to Alfonso of Portugal and, after her husband's death in 1496, she married his cousin, Emmanuel.

Ferdinand of Aragon's caution was also reflected in his youngest daughter's search for a husband. England was not a country of the stature of France or Spain. Yet it was an ancient enemy of France and its ports were free for Spanish ships to sail to the markets of the German Low Countries. Henry VII's eldest son Arthur seemed an excellent choice. The two rulers made contact in 1487. In April 1488, Ferdinand commissioned Doctor Rodrigo Gonzalva de Puebla to draw up a marriage contract for the English king. The English were delighted at the news, but the King of Aragon was not nicknamed the 'cunning Catalan' for nothing, as he knew: Henry and his family were not exactly in complete possession of the throne. Long negotiations were therefore opened on the question of the dowry and the subsequent succession. Finally, in March 1489, the desired treaty was concluded in Medina del Campo, recognising that Catherine was to be Arthur's wife in any case.

Catherine was three years old at the time. From then on she was consciously raised as a Welsh princess. She studied her English ancestors and acquired a basic knowledge of England. The fact that the young princess had been brought up from childhood to lead such a life predetermined her destiny and that, almost by divine will, she was to become Queen of England. By this time, the legitimacy of Tudor power in England seemed to be settled and all the conditions were in place for a favourable marriage. In August 1498, at Woodstock, Arthur was formally betrothed to the absent Catherine, who was then 'substituted' (per procurationem) by Dr Puebla. From then on, Catherine was entitled to the title of Princess of Wales. There followed a cordial exchange of letters between the parents and formal greetings. An unclear point in the contract was the departure of the bride, which had to coincide with the delivery of the dowry. Catherine learned French so that she could converse in that language at court. Doctor Puebla had slightly delayed the date of the bride's departure, but Don Pedro de Ayala, who was on duty in Scotland, urged the young girl to leave as soon as possible. His reason was that Catherine should not become accustomed to the progressive thinking of the Spanish court, as she would never feel at home in 'martial' England.

On 19 May 1499, Catherine and Arthur were married in Worcestershire. The Queen was also replaced at this ceremony by Dr Puebla. A series of 'passionate' exchanges of letters in Latin followed between the newlyweds. Ferdinand's distrust was shown by the fact that, before Arthur's fourteenth birthday, another long-distance marriage was arranged between the two young people, this time at the castle of Ludlow. Finally, in 1500, they agreed that Catherine would travel to England after her sixteenth birthday.

However, Catherine's family was hit harder and harder during this period. In October 1497, Catherine's only brother, the heir to the throne, Prince Juan, died. This left the Aragonese throne without a successor, even before the throne of Castile would have passed to Isabella's daughter, Isabella, by virtue of the female succession. A year later, Isabella also died, but gave birth to a living heir son, Miguel, who was heir to Portugal and Aragon. However, Miguel died young in infancy and the throne passed to Johanna, who gave birth in 1500 to her son Charles, who became heir to the Habsburg and Iberian thrones. In 1500, Catherine's sister Mary married her sister Isabella's widowed husband, King Manuel I of Portugal. In the summer of 1501 Catherine set off for England.

On 17 August, they embarked in La Coruna, but heavy storms did not allow them to set sail until September, when they were able to set sail for the island nation. They finally arrived in Plymouth, England, on 2 October 1501. The Queen was greeted with great joy and immediately set off for the royal seat at Richmond, near London. The King could not wait for Catherine to arrive at the royal residence, so he went to Hampshire with Arthur, his future wife. His main reason for doing so was to see if the future Queen was as healthy and beautiful as was rumoured. However, Catherine was wearing a veil according to Spanish custom, which she was not allowed to remove until the marriage was validated, so Doña Elvira Manuel, Catherine's first lady-in-waiting, forbade the Queen to be seen. Catherine did eventually reveal her face, and the King was relieved to see that his son's future wife was indeed a sight for sore eyes. The sixteen-year-old girl had snow-white skin, an ovoid face and blonde hair with a golden-red tinge. "But her 'perfection' was offset by her short stature, and her extraordinarily deep voice was certainly awe-inspiring. But Prince Arthur was no model of perfection either. Catherine was short, but her husband was a head shorter than her. Her underdeveloped physique was 'due' to her precociousness. She had an excellent upbringing. Like Catherine, he was exposed to classical literature and was fluent in Latin. Their Latin conversation was difficult because they both pronounced Latin words differently, so they could only converse at some level with the help of the bishops. Nor did they have dancing in common, as they both had different ways of doing it. But despite this, the couple had bright prospects. They soon travelled to London to celebrate their now personal marriage in St Paul's Cathedral.

The procession arrived in London on 12 November 1501. Queen Isabella I, Catherine's mother, had strictly stipulated that her daughter's reception should be modest. But Henry VII provided all the pomp and circumstance for the wedding. Catherine wore a simple cherry-coloured headscarf trimmed with gold clips. Catherine was already known as Saint Catherine. Five live performances were played for the audience's entertainment, all of which predicted a bright future for the couple. The wedding took place on 14 November 1501 in St Paul's Cathedral. The wedding was attended by Spanish trombonists who came to London to see Catherine off. Wearing a gold mantilla and jewelled dress, Catherine was escorted down the aisle by Prince Henry of York (later Henry VIII, who was ten years old at the time). Prince Henry already seemed more advanced than his brother Arthur. At the wedding feast, Catherine sat at the King's right hand, her new husband at the children's table, surrounded by his brothers and sisters. The banquet was held in Baynard Castle, a castle rebuilt by Henry VII and used mostly for ceremonial occasions, and accessible only by water. Arthur's role in the celebrations was smaller than Catherine's. The wedding night ceremony followed.

The large English and Spanish entourage escorted the newlyweds to bed, and then left them alone to spend their first night together. However, it is very doubtful whether the newlyweds had intercourse then or at any time afterwards. The night was later to become a deciding factor in Henry and Catherine's divorce, but no official record survives, only court rumours, which can hardly be given credence as the servants probably only testified against the Queen to curry favour with their masters. Catherine later replied to the papal legate that she had shared her bed with Arthur on only seven occasions, but had never 'met' him. The customs of the time also support the queen's claim, since it took several years after the 'child marriages' for the sake of the state before their offspring were born. In time, care was taken to ensure that the heirs were born in 'good condition', learning from previous cases. Henry VII's mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, gave birth to a son at the age of thirteen, but was unable to have any more children after that. It may also be argued that all four parents postponed the marriage as long as possible on the grounds of Arthur's health.

After the wedding night, the two youngsters would be raised separately. Catherine was looked after by her mother-in-law Elizabeth of York, while Prince Arthur was brought up at Ludlow Castle. But contrary to plans, Catherine set off for Ludlow at the end of December as Princess of Wales. The dowry issue was at the heart of this decision. Ferdinand had intended to give a large part of the dowry in jewels rather than cash, but this was a way of playing the King of England, who was notorious for his stinginess. Catherine was forced to live off her dowry in her new residence, and the Spanish envoys could do nothing. Initially reluctant to leave the London court, Catherine bowed to the King's wishes and moved with her Spanish court to Ludlow. The queen spent the winter in bleak and sad surroundings, but few sources are available about this period.

In the spring of 1502, unusually harsh weather hit the north of England and a severe epidemic swept the country. Both Catherine and Arthur contracted the mysterious disease. It was probably pneumonia, but the plague also struck nearby. Chroniclers tell of a certain 'sweating sickness'. On 2 April Catherine lay seriously ill and her husband Arthur died. Barely 16, the Duchess was left a widow after a short marriage.

News of the Prince's death reached the royal court the next day, 3 April. There was never a moment's doubt as to the succession to the throne, as Henry, Margaret and Mary were also present. Elizabeth of York herself was also capable of bringing offspring into the world. While the Council, meeting at Ludlow Castle, awaited instructions for Arthur's funeral, Catherine lay seriously ill in her chamber. The Prince was finally buried three weeks later, in Worcester Cathedral. Catherine's cause and future were now a matter of state. Elizabeth of York immediately decreed that when the Duchess was ready to travel, she should leave for London. Catherine was left alone, her personal feelings little cared for as the matter of her dowry became more pressing.

The idea of getting Catherine engaged to Henry was almost immediately mooted. But here again the question of the dowry arose, which Spain felt had been paid in full, but which England felt was lacking. However, there were two reasons why the English should have dispensed with this small 'deficiency'. King Henry did not want to return the huge dowry sent by Ferdinand, and the new heir to the throne, Henry, was also just eleven years old, making him eligible for an engagement. Ferdinand had been told by Doña Elvira that he had made sure that his daughter was still intact and that there was nothing to prevent another betrothal. He entrusted Prince Estrada with the negotiations.

Prince Estrada began the negotiations by demanding that Catherine return home to Spain immediately if the engagement did not take place immediately. However, King Henry did not want to support Catherine and expected the Spanish court to pay all her expenses while the negotiations were taking place. Ferdinand's lack of money and Henry's greed were at odds, and Catherine was the main victim. The marriage contracts were finally signed on 23 June 1503 by representatives of both parties. However, papal permission was required for the marriage, as the relationship of sister-in-law was considered equivalent to that of a sister-in-law in the Church's interpretation. In such cases, a dispensation had to be granted before the public authorities, since the wedding had taken place before the people. The annulment was needed not only for the marriage itself, but also to certify the legitimacy of the subsequent offspring. The papal dispensation did not, however, exclude the possibility that the previous marriage had been consummated, as is indicated by the Latin word forsitan, which means "perhaps". Catherine initially opposed the marriage, but her father had in fact betrayed her, arranging the betrothal behind her back. The annulment of marriages was not unusual in the period. Catherine's 'value' in European terms was no longer as high as it had been a few years earlier, so Henry VII began to grope around for a potentially more influential wife.

In February 1503 Henry's wife Elizabeth of York died, and it was suggested that the king might marry Catherine. In October 1504, Catherine's mother, Isabella, also died. This split the Spanish kingdom in two and weakened its influence. Catherine lived in England, isolated from the outside world, waiting to see what would happen to her. In the summer of 1505, Henry turned 14, and his father's plan was to tie his whole family to the Habsburgs. Catherine's situation seemed hopeless. On 27 June 1505, Henry VII formally broke off the engagement between his son and Catherine.

Meanwhile, Catherine received only the bare minimum for her care. She spent much of her time huddled with her Spanish envoys in the Bishop of Durham's house, Durham House. Her governess sentenced the young widowed daughter to strict seclusion, and she had very little opportunity to see people. Her tutor, Father Allessandro, was recalled to Spain in 1502 because of rumours that he had spread malicious rumours that Catherine had become pregnant by Arthur. His wealth steadily dwindled, and by 1504 he had no money to buy food for himself and his household. Doña Elvira and Catherine's confessor soon abandoned the young princess, or rather the nanny was dismissed from court.

Catherine fled into self-destructive religiosity. The Pope called on Prince Henry to prevent this. In January 1506, Philip the Fair and Joan of Arc arrived in England, at which point Catherine was able to meet her brother-in-law. On 31 January 1506, the Treaty of Windsor was concluded, foretelling a dark future for Catherine. Henry VII was even prepared to support Philip in a possible war against Castile. But Catherine did not meet her brother Johanna, who arrived in Windsor a few days later. In April 1506 Catherine wrote a letter to her father asking for his help, as King Henry refused to help her. Catherine's lack of money led her to follow Henry's court on several occasions, and she became more closely involved with the young Henry and Princess Margaret. However, the heir to the throne did not have a happy life, King Henry raised his son almost in seclusion, organising every aspect of his days, and sometimes not seeing Catherine for four months. But this relative closeness created a kind of kinship between Henry and Catherine.

Catherine finally confronted the king with her will, namely that she considered her marriage to Henry irreversible. This was in large part due to the fact that Henry had matured into a very handsome and good-looking young man. This is reported by the doctor of Puebla himself in 1507. In 1506, Philip the Fair died, and Joan had almost completely lost her reason. However, during a visit to England, King Henry was taken with her beauty and could have owned considerable land if she had married. However, such a marriage would have needed Ferdinand's blessing. The Aragonese king, when he was in a better financial position, sent money to increase Catherine's dowry. By this time Catherine was financially destitute, having only two simple black dresses, and since moving to England six years ago she had been forced to sell her silver jewellery. Her fate was not helped by her falling ill again in the spring of 1507, probably as a manifestation of a form of depression. Meanwhile, Catherine's new Spanish confessor, the Franciscan friar Fray Diego Fernández, arrived. The priest was joined by a new lady-in-waiting, María de Salinas, who delighted Catherine.

The new priest, however, wanted to take full control of Catherine, causing much embarrassment to the princess's court. Ferdinand's new envoy also objected to the old confessor's machinations. He replaced Don Gutierre Gomez de Fuensalida, Doctor of Puebla, as Spanish ambassador to the English court. The new envoy was ordered by Ferdinand to conclude Catherine's marriage as soon as possible or to take her and her dowry back to Spain. Catherine was present at the celebration of the marriage of Henry's daughter, Princess Mary, to Charles of Austria.

In a letter of 9 March 1509, he informs his father that he can no longer endure the oppression of Henry VII and wishes to return home to Spain. The Spanish envoy had already arranged for Catherine's possessions to be sent home when the old King Henry died on 21 April 1509. Catherine's seven years of torment had come to an end.

Catherine and Henry's wedding

On 11 June 1509, the new King Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon in Greenwich. The King was eighteen years old and the Queen was twenty-three. Catherine walked down the aisle dressed in her virgin wedding dress. The King repeatedly boasted afterwards that he had found Catherine 'unmarried', but later described it as a joke. In mid-summer, they celebrated their marriage with great pomp. Catherine then attended the King's coronation at Westminster Abbey. Catherine was crowned Queen on the same day, which was not common at the time. One thousand five hundred pounds was spent on the Queen's coronation. The queen wore a gold crown, set with six sapphires and pearls, and a gold yoke with a dove at the top.

At the coronation, several, including Thomas Boleyn, were knighted in the Order of Bath. Fewer fell because of the new king than rose. Mostly it was the greedy former representatives of Henry's father who failed and were executed. In addition to these, Henry proclaimed an amnesty and the cancellation of debts. "This day is the end of our slavery, the fountain of our freedom; the end of sorrow, the beginning of joy." The joy of the celebrations was not overshadowed by the death of the king's grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort. But the question arises as to why Henry married Catherine so soon. In a letter to the Archduchess Margaret, Henry writes that he asked her to marry him on his father's deathbed, but this is hardly a plausible explanation. Rather, it was simply his polite refusal of the Archduchess's niece, Eleanor of Austria. A much more realistic reason seems to be the fact that Catherine's dowry would have had to be paid to England in any case, and would have lost their Spanish ally, so they decided to go for Catherine anyway. Another factor may have been Henry VIII's affection for Catherine, since he could not have met any other woman as a child, apart from Catherine and her brothers, since his father had raised and guarded her as a prisoner. This confinement and paternal strictness must indeed have been present in the king's life, since Henry's first steps as king were in stark contrast to those of his father.

The first years and pregnancies

So Catherine must have felt that her life had come to an end. But in examining their marriage, as Antonia Fraser writes in her book, we must set aside our preconceived image of Henry VIII. The king, chubby, big, mean and famous for his mood swings, was then still an attractive-looking young man. And this was reported all over Europe. Catherine's personality has changed a lot since she arrived in England. Seven years of suffering had only strengthened her spirit and her piety. But this piety also made her rigid, uncompromising in any situation. After the wedding, grand jousts and celebrations began. Their monograms H and K, or sometimes C, appeared on several objects and buildings. Catherine's badge was the pomegranate, a reference to her upbringing in Granada. It was often depicted intertwined with the Tudor rose. As was customary, the King and Queen lived in separate courts. His court consisted of one hundred and sixty members, only eight of whom were Spanish. Catherine often cooked herself and sewed the King's shirts in her spare time, so the new Queen's upbringing was one of domesticity.

Catherine and Henry's first child was conceived immediately after the wedding, sometime in late 1509. In the fourth month of pregnancy, the baby moved in Catherine's womb, so doctors were sure the foetus was alive. However, on 31 January 1510, seven months after conception, the child, whose sex was female, was stillborn. Seven weeks after the miscarriage, Catherine became pregnant again and on 1 January 1511 their first child was born, whom they named Henry. The child was christened on 5 January and his godmother was Henry's sister Princess Margaret. A grand jousting tournament was held in his honour. But the little prince lived only fifty-two days. The cause of his death has not been established, but given the high infant mortality rate of the time, it was not in itself an unusual event.

Henry's attention turned to the conquest of France, and in his absence he appointed Catherine regent. Until the arrival of Thomas Wolsey, he was her most loyal confidant. Catherine naturally favoured a Spanish-English alliance against the French. However, it cannot be said that the queen exercised much political influence over the king, since several envoys note that Catherine unconditionally did her master's bidding, to the extent that Ferdinand took it amiss and admonished her to support her father properly. The aforementioned Wolsey was then still serving as a royal almoner at court and was the intermediary between Catherine and Henry's letters.

During Catherine's reign, King James IV of Scotland rebelled against English rule. Catherine herself took up the "fight", making speeches of encouragement and exhortation to the captains. The queen is believed to have spoken Latin, French and, although with an accent, fluent English, in addition to her mother tongue. Catherine did not take part in any real battle, as the Scottish army was soon defeated and the Scottish king was killed on the battlefield. Meanwhile, Henry was also winning minor but less significant victories in France, which Catherine welcomed with enthusiasm.

A year later Henry came into conflict with Ferdinand and began marriage negotiations between his sister Mary and the French King Louis XII.On 13 August 1514 the long-distance marriage was arranged and Catherine travelled to Dover with Mary to say goodbye to her and leave for France. The marriage of the ailing French king and the eighteen-year-old young princess was not looked upon favourably by the Habsburgs. On 1 January 1515, Louis died and Mary married Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, one of Henry's confidants. Thomas Wolsey rose to a leading position at this time, but even then Catherine was Henry's chief confidant and the Queen was on good terms with the Cardinal.

In the spring of 1513, before Henry's departure for France, Catherine became pregnant, but lost the foetus in October.In February 1515, she reported to her father that she had given birth to a son, who did not live long. In May 1515, the queen was pregnant again. Henry did not have a steady mistress at this time, and had minor affairs which did not always necessarily lead to sexual relations. On 18 February 1516, Queen Catherine gave birth to a healthy baby girl, named Mary.

The happy years

The baby was born healthy and full of life, although the Queen went through a long labour. The child was baptised and christened two days later. Cardinal Wolsey was present at the event. The celebrations surrounding the birth of the child were more modest than when the previous son arrived, but the royal couple had a bright future for their offspring. The birth of the princess also opened up new foreign policy prospects for Henry.

While Catherine was still pregnant, on 23 January 1516, her father Ferdinand of Aragon died, but the news of his death was kept from her because she was pregnant. Her love for her family now turned to Charles of Austria. England seemed increasingly isolated from the European powers, and the birth of Mary was an excellent opportunity to forge a new alliance.

As a result of the pregnancies, Catherine became increasingly obese and looked older next to her husband, six years her junior. However, the Queen was able to compensate for her physical gifts with her kindness and learning, and was a staunch believer in humanism. On 31 October 1517, the religious and social transformation known as the Reformation began, and England was no stranger to it. Her confessor, Fray Alfonso de Villa Sancta, bestowed upon Catherine the title of Fidei Defensor, which was also given to her husband for his opposition to Lutheran doctrines. King Henry was still interested in dances, balls and games, but Catherine was more mature and less interested in frivolities. Under the queen's influence, reading and learning Latin became widespread among the upper classes of women, and the acquisition of knowledge became fashionable. She also supported universities, most notably Queen's College, Cambridge.

As Catherine grew older, her religious fervour grew stronger and stronger. But she was extremely respected and fitted in well with the image of the queens of her time. In 1518, the queen became pregnant again, raising the possibility of a possible heir. Later that year, preparations began for the marriage of Mary to the infant French dauphin. The preparation of the contract was the work of Cardinal Wolsey, who at this time became the King's chief confidant. On 18 November, however, Catherine gave birth to a stillborn daughter. In a cruel twist of fate, the King then had a son by Bessie Blount, who was named Henry FitzRoy. Henry acknowledged the bastard child, but this did not particularly change his relationship with his wife, as in 16th century Europe such an event was taken for granted.

In 1519, Catherine's nephew Charles was elected Holy Roman Emperor, transforming the political landscape of Europe and changing Mary's marriage prospects. In 1520, the French and English kings arranged a meeting, which Catherine did not support, preferring, because of her origins, a Spanish-English alliance. On 26 May 1520, Charles and Henry met and raised the idea of an engagement between Mary and Charles.

Succession problems

The need for succession arose in the 1520s, as Catherine grew older and it became unlikely that she would bear another child. However, even if the Queen had become pregnant, there was no guarantee that a son would be born. According to some, Catherine may have suffered from some kind of kidney disease or recurrent blood poisoning and therefore failed to give birth to any more healthy children. However, the possibility of the King divorcing Catherine had not even been raised in the minds of the King or the court at the time. By 1525 Catherine was in her fortieth year and was becoming increasingly ill, herself suggesting that her 'life was uncertain'.

Mary was five years old in 1521, and negotiations with Charles V's envoys about a possible marriage had already begun. Henry and Catherine's plan was that their daughter and Catherine's nephew's child would rule England, thus setting the record straight, and then the question of succession. Henry then executed Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, who was rumoured to be the perfect monarch. In 1522, he launched a joint campaign against Charles and Henry Francis, which further cemented the Spanish-English relationship. In June 1522, the Emperor visited England again, where he met Catherine and his future wife, six-year-old Mary. There was also talk of a Scottish-English marriage between Mary and James in 1524.

Catherine did not personally educate her daughter, but she paid particular attention to her education. She appointed her teachers and supervised her, especially her Latin studies. Juan Luis Vives, a humanist scholar, was a major supporter of Mary's studies.

Henry's mistress at this time was Mary Boleyn, but this did not particularly disturb his relationship with the Queen. No offspring were born of the romance.

On 24 February 1525, at Pavia, the Emperor won a great victory over the French, which was a huge step forward in the matter of the future marriage. However, because of the huge victories and the discontent in the Spanish territories, he broke off his engagement to Mary in May 1525 and married Isabella, the daughter of Catherine's sister Mary. This negative turn of events had a negative impact on the relationship between Catherine and Henry. The king blamed her for the failed Spanish alliance. Underlining the importance of settling the succession, Henry suffered an accident in March 1524 that nearly blinded him.

The King made Henry FitzRoy Duke of Richmond in April 1525. The title was held by both he and his father before his accession. Catherine could no longer tolerate this and openly defied the King. From then on, their relationship began to cool. Henry sent Mary to Ludlow just to spite Catherine. However, this did not mean a devaluation of Mary's importance. In the spring of 1526, however, Henry met Anne Boleyn, which brought a huge change in Catherine's life.

Anne was admitted to Catherine's court as a lady-in-waiting in 1522. The King and Anne quickly fell in love and developed a strong attraction, and it was clear from the start that she was not just another Bessie Blount. Henry's character and behaviour towards Catherine had changed and sometime before May 1527, Henry's desire to divorce Catherine was clear. There are several theories as to what prompted the king to think of divorce, or more accurately separation.

The first of these "effects" may be the underdevelopment of Mary, who was short for her age, probably inherited from her mother, but whose intellectual development was outstanding, but whose physical gifts made the birth of a grandson unrealistic for a while. Another version is that a certain French bishop pointed out to Henry that Catherine's marriage to Henry in the Church might not have been valid. However, the king did not want a divorce, as that would have recognised the validity of the marriage, but to annul his marriage to Catherine.

Divorce was by no means unknown in Europe at the time. However, there were several reasons why Catherine and the King's separation ended in such an unfortunate way. One of these was the question of power, as Catherine's nephew was a great influence on the Pope. In addition, both Anne Boleyn and Catherine were strong characters.

Among the reasons given above, the most likely is that Henry asked his confessor, John Longland, to find some "reason" to have his marriage annulled. The king found the solution in the third book of Leviticus: "And if a man take his brother's wife, it is incest: he hath uncovered the nakedness of his brother's brother. God's punishment is therefore clear on the matter. The king was middle-aged at the time, while Catherine was ageing, plump but kind and very popular with the people. Anne was young and, most importantly, she had given birth to a healthy son. Henry's aim was therefore to get rid of his wife. After 1527, the king was convinced that he had been living in sin and that his marriage to the queen was invalid. As we shall see later, nothing could sway him in his decision. Catherine, like Henry, was adamant to the end and nothing could dissuade her.

Early divorce (1527-1528)

In 1527, Cardinal Wolsey launched an ex officio inquiry into the king's marriage. Catherine was not informed of the opening of the inquiry, but it soon became apparent that the separation would not be as simple as the King had imagined. In 1527, Robert Wakefield wrote a book on the problem, probably commissioned by Henry. However, his argument soon fizzled out and was met with clear rejection by the Church. The king was faced with another problem, namely the Fifth Book of Deuteronomy, which stated that the childless widow of a deceased brother was obliged to marry the brother's brother.

The Pope, Clement VII, was imprisoned by the Emperor, and with the sacking of Rome, the Pope's role of leadership and decision making was briefly removed. The solution to this was to call a meeting of the English bishops and annul the marriage, but Bishop John Fisher of Rochester did not agree to the annulment.

The Queen, through the Spanish envoy Don Inigo de Mendoza, learned of the events behind her back and immediately wrote a letter to Charles V asking him to support her case being tried in Rome rather than in England. His message was brought to the Emperor by Francisco Felipe. Catherine understandably thwarted Henry's calculations, and the rift between them only intensified. The Queen knew that the only vulnerability in the case would be if the Pope's dispensation of 1503, which had said that the marriage to Arthur had been (forsitan) divorced, was challenged. On 12 June 1527, the king communicated his intentions to Catherine. Henry made no mention of Anne, but the Queen burst into tears and was overcome by 'great sorrow'. The King tried to persuade Catherine to withdraw from court. But he met stiff resistance from the Queen herself. The queen declared that she had 'never known Prince Arthur' and blamed Wolsey for the king's decision. It should be noted that at this time the court and public opinion did not see Anne Boleyn as the king's choice, but a French princess.

The relationship between Anne and Henry soon became apparent to Wolsey, so he sent an envoy to Rome to ask for the release needed for a second marriage. In December 1527, the king was granted a dispensation, but it was to no avail, as his first marriage was still valid. In early 1528, an Anglo-French alliance was formed against Charles, and Catherine's position steadily deteriorated as a result. Anne was open to the Protestant religion, but Henry was reserved and only interested in religious matters to achieve his ends. In June 1528, Henry wrote A Glasse of the Truth, in which he argued that his marriage to Catherine was against God's law. In the summer of 1528, Wolsey succeeded in getting the Pope to investigate the matter in England in the person of Cardinal Campeggio.

Investigation of the Papal Legate (1528-1530)

The ailing Campeggio arrived in London on 7 October 1528. Henry VIII received the legate with confidence, with the people and public opinion on Catherine's side, as the Spanish envoy noted. The King was opposed to the possibility of the Pope issuing a new dispensation on his marriage to Catherine. The Queen met the Cardinal three times. During these meetings, she swore an oath that she had married Prince Arthur intact. A strongly religious Catherine, it is very likely that she did not lie to the legate about the matter. She also rejected any suggestion that she had entered a convent. Meanwhile, she insisted all the while that she considered herself the true and lawful consort of the King. After 1526, the king stopped visiting Catherine's bedchamber, their relationship became estranged, and the queen became quite ill during these years. Catherine continued to attend formal events and the appearance of the court remained unchanged. The Queen was, of course, given legal representation. These included John Fisher, William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury, Cuthbert Tunstall, Archbishop of London, Jorge de Athequa, the Queen's confessor, the Bishop of Llandaff, and the humanist Juan Luis Vives. Although her relationship with the latter deteriorated and she eventually left court. The biggest problem was that, according to the papal revelation of 1503, the marriage of Arthur and Catherine was not, beyond all doubt, consummated. Attempts were made to influence the queen by claiming that if an assassination attempt was made against the king, the queen alone could be behind it. Catherine virtuously stood her ground and gained increasing respect among the people, while Anne Boleyn's popularity steadily declined.

The trial began in late May 1529. Catherine had opposed her case being heard in London from the start and on 6 March she wrote to the Pope asking for a trial by the Curia. The Pope's envoy, because of the political situation in the Papal States, wanted a verdict favourable to the Papacy, while Wolsey wanted one favourable to the King. The first trial took place on 31 May 1529 at Blackfriars. The negotiations lasted for nearly two months, but most of the accounts of the proceedings are no longer available. The King and Queen were summoned to appear on 18 June. Catherine solemnly declared that she had married King Henry intact and that she did not recognise the jurisdiction of the tribunal and that her case could only be heard in Rome. The legates asked the queen to return in three days to explain their decision. On Monday, 21 June 1529, the scene Shakespeare wrote about in his play about the king took place. The King and Queen were present at the trial. The King said that his conscience was not at rest, and all that he had done in many statements over the years. The fact that Anne Boleyn was sitting in the audience made the King's speech a little empty. She said that her bishops had all signed a petition to have the question of her marriage investigated. Bishop Fisher here voiced his protest. In his speech, Wolsey said that he had been appointed by the Pope and had tried to make him appear impartial in the matter. The Queen, however, had been carried away by what all present remembered clearly in their memoirs. The Queen rose from her seat and threw herself at the King's feet. Henry immediately lifted Catherine up, but she fell to her knees again. And she said these words:

The king remained silent and never, before or since, has he denied these words. Catherine then rose, bowed to her husband and slowly left the room. The forensic doorkeeper tried several times to call her back, but she would not listen. The crowd waiting outside the building cheered the Queen. He then travelled to Greenwich, where he visited Wolsey, but the Queen was adamant. Negotiations resumed on 25 June, but Henry refused to sign any affidavits stating that Catherine and Arthur had lived together as husband and wife. The Queen continued to refuse to appear at the court summons, but Bishop Fisher passionately defended her. Testimony was given by various witnesses that the Queen and Prince Arthur had had an affair on their wedding night. Wolsey attempted to prove that the bloody sheet proving the consummation had been sent to Catherine's parents, but failed. The tribunal finished its work on 28 June. The Pope, under pressure from Spain, agreed to bring the case to Rome at the end of July. Campeggio, thus proclaimed the Pope's will in the tribunal. Henry had therefore failed. As a consequence of the ineffectiveness of the tribunal, Wolsey lost his power. He was put on trial, but died on 29 November 1530, presumably of a heart attack. At this time, Catherine was joined by the new Spanish envoy Eustace Chapuys, who supported the queen. A priest close to the Boleyn family, Thomas Cranmer, suggested that the matter be diverted to the theological path.

The deadlock of divorce (1530-1533)

Catherine and Henry's relationship deteriorated badly during this period. According to Antonia Fraser, this is partly Catherine's fault, as she descends to the role of a concierge wife, when she knew that with the King, flattery was the only way to get anything done. By December 1531 Anne Boleyn was openly berating the Queen and her Spanish courtiers. By 1530 the Queen's health had deteriorated considerably. Catherine was also mentally affected by the divorce proceedings, as she had believed that the King would come to see her, but time proved that this was not to be the case. She was plagued by fever attacks and her health was in serious crisis. The King's theological vision was bankrupt and the universities decided to take a political course. So an unspoken agreement was reached between the King and the Queen that the matter could really only be decided by the Pope. But the Pope delayed the decision and this only aggravated the situation. In January 1531, the Pope banned the King's second marriage and declared all children born of this new marriage illegitimate. The clergy voted to make Henry the head of the Church of England, although this was only a limited power, and Catherine was frightened that the Pope would soon be unable to protect her.

In July 1531, the King left Windsor without saying goodbye and never saw Catherine again. Several members of the nobility tried to persuade the queen to change her mind, but to no avail. Henry declared that he no longer considered the Pope to be the right person to make the decision, while Catherine steadfastly stuck to her earlier arguments. The king ordered the queen to move out of court and designated The More estate for her, but she was allowed to keep her court. Catherine did not stay long at the More estate. She moved first to Bishop's Hatfield and then to Hertford Castle. In 1533 she was moved to Ampthill.

Divorce from King Henry

The King, with the help of Thomas Cranmer, forced the church representatives to require the permission of the monarch for all church actions. On 15 May 1532, the clergy declared their obedience. After the death of Archbishop Warham, Henry appointed Cranmer head of the Church of England. Later that year, the king ordered Catherine to return the coronation jewels that had been due to the queen. The Queen obeyed the order and returned them. On 25 January 1533, Anne and Henry were married, which Catherine learned of in April. She was thus renamed Princess Dowager and her titles were restored to their former status. In addition, Catherine was again summoned by Cranmer to appear before the ecclesiastical court, where she failed to appear. The Duchess firmly rejected the possibility of the Emperor launching a war against England, although the Emperor showed no inclination to do so. On 23 May 1533, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer formally annulled the marriage of Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII.

His last years and death

On 11 July 1533, the Pope issued a bull declaring that Catherine and Henry's marriage was valid and not allowing the King to remarry. If he did, all children born of this union would be illegitimate. Catherine's situation did not improve. According to Antonia Fraser, the former Queen was ignorant of realpolitik and had no capacity for compromise on this issue. Her health deteriorated, but she stuck to her position to the end and expected to be addressed by her queen. With the birth of Elizabeth I on 7 September 1533, Catherine I and her daughter Mary lost their royal status for good. The Pope confirmed his earlier bull in March 1534. Before Elizabeth's birth, Catherine was transferred to Huntingdonshire. Catherine and her court were also required to swear an oath to the Act of Succession, which guaranteed Elizabeth's succession, but the former queen refused, and many of her court were dismissed. By this time, her health had deteriorated badly, and the King himself said in a letter to a French envoy that Catherine would not live much longer. Later that year Catherine and Mary were allowed to meet, as her daughter had fallen very ill and the King had given his permission. Catherine's closest supporters were continually executed and harassed by Henry for not swearing allegiance to the Act of Succession. By taking the oath of allegiance, Henry, albeit 'nominally', rallied public opinion behind him. He began huge building projects, which already bore the initials of Henry and Anne. The coat of arms and monogram of Queen Catherine were removed from several castles and palaces.


  1. Catherine of Aragon
  2. Aragóniai Katalin angol királyné
  3. a b c d e Antonia Fraser: VIII. Henrik hat felesége. Budapest, Európa Könyvkiadó, 1997. ISBN 963-07-6210-2 (eredeti kiadás: F., A.: The Six Wives of Henry VIII, London, Mandarin, 1993)
  4. A Pápai Állam állami iratainak lajstroma I. kötet 523. oldal IN Antonia Fraser: VIII. Henrik hat felesége. Budapest, Európa Könyvkiadó, 1997. ISBN 963-07-6210-2 (eredeti kiadás: F., A.: The Six Wives of Henry VIII, London, Mandarin, 1993)
  5. ^ Fraser 1995, s. 20.
  6. ^ Starkey 2004, s. 15–18.
  7. ^ "of a quality of mind and life which few queens have seriously rivalled." Scarisbrick 1972, s. 13.
  8. El respaldo de Catalina en cuanto a deletreos diferentes puede identificarse en numerosas cartas, firmando como «Katharine la reina» en una carta para Wolsey en 1513 y como «Katharine» en su última carta enviada a Enrique VIII datada en enero de 1536.
  9. Se usó una «K» en vez de una «C» porque las inscripciones en latín se empleaban en las estructuras, donde una «C» representaba el numeral 100. Se puso en práctica lo mismo durante la época de Enrique II y su esposa Catalina de Médici durante su entrada de Estado a París el 18 de junio de 1549.
  10. ^ Canon law took this verse out of context,[citation needed] and Deuteronomy 25:5–10 required levirate marriage.
  11. ^ Catherine's endorsement of different spellings can be identified in numerous letters, signing herself as 'Katharine the Quene' in a letter to Wolsey in 1513 and as 'Katharine' in her final letter to Henry VIII dating to Jan 1536.

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