Catherine of Aragon

Catherine of Aragon

Infobox British Royalty|majesty|consort
name =Catherine of Aragon
title =Queen consort of England

caption =Official portrait of Catherine as Queen of England
reign =11 June 1509 – 23 May 1533
coronation =24 June 1509
spouse =Arthur, Prince of Wales
Henry VIII
issue =Mary I
Henry, Duke of Cornwall
issue-link =Henry, Duke of Cornwall
issue-pipe =Among others...
titles =The Dowager Princess of Wales
"Her Majesty" The Queen
"Her Grace" The Queen
The Dowager Princess of Wales
The Princess of Wales
Infanta Catherine of Aragon and Castile
royal house =House of Tudor
House of Trastámara
father =Ferdinand II of Aragon
mother =Isabella I of Castille
date of birth =16 December 1485
place of birth =Laredo Palace, Alcala de Henares,Spain
date of death =7 January 1536 (aged 50)
place of death =Kimbolton Castle, Cambridgeshire|

Catherine of Aragon (16 December 1485 – 7 January 1536), also known as "Catharine", "Katherine" or "Katharine" (Castilian "Infanta Catalina de Aragón y Castilla") was the Queen of England as the first wife of Henry VIII of England. Henry's attempt to have their 24-year marriage annulled set in motion a chain of events that led to England's break with the Roman Catholic Church. Henry was dissatisfied with the marriage because all their sons had died in childhood, leaving only one of their six children, Princess Mary (later Queen Mary I) as heiress presumptive, at a time when there was no established precedent for a woman on the throne. When Pope Clement VII refused to annul the marriage, Henry defied him by progressively assuming supremacy over religious matters. This allowed him to marry Anne Boleyn on the judgment of clergy in England, without reference to the Pope. He was motivated by the hope of fathering a male heir to the Tudor dynasty.

Early life

Catherine was the youngest child of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. Her older siblings were Isabella, Princess of Asturias Queen of Portugal; John, Prince of Asturias; Joanna of Castile; and Maria of Castile and Aragon, Queen of Portugal. She was an aunt, among others, of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, John III of Portugal and their wives, Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor, Henry I of Portugal and Isabella, Queen Consort of Denmark. She was a granddaughter of both John II of Castile and John II of Aragon. She was of average height for a woman, Dubious|date=October 2008 with long auburn hair, almond shaped eyes and had a creamy/pale like complexion. She was descended from the English royal house through her great-grandmother Katherine of Lancaster and her great-great-grandmother Philippa of Lancaster, both daughters of John of Gaunt and granddaughters of Edward III of England. She was thus a third cousin of her father-in-law, Henry VII, and a fourth cousin of her mother-in-law Elizabeth of York. She was born at the Archbishop's Palace in Alcalá de Henares (convert|30|km|abbr=on|disp=s|sigfig=1 from Madrid) on the night of 16 December.

At an early age, she was identified as a suitable wife for Arthur, Prince of Wales, first son of Henry VII of England and heir to the throne. They were married by proxy, and corresponded in Latin until Arthur turned 15 and it was decided that the time had arrived for them to be married in person. She arrived in England in the autumn, with a retinue including George de Athequa, and the couple met at last on 4 November 1501, at Dogmersfield in Hampshire. Little is known about their first impressions of each other, but Arthur did write to his parents-in-law that he would be 'a true and loving husband' and he later told his parents that he was immensely happy to behold the face of his lovely bride. They found that they were unable to speak to each other since they had learned different pronunciations of Latin. Ten days later, on 14 November 1501, they were married at St. Paul's Cathedral.

Princess of Wales

which was sweeping the area. He died of it on 2 April 1502, and she nearly died; she recovered to find herself a widow.

At this point Henry VII was faced with the dilemma of how to avoid returning her dowry to her father. To avoid complications, it was agreed that she would marry the king's second son, Prince Henry, who was more than five years younger than her. The marriage was delayed until the prince was old enough, and the king procrastinated so much that it looked doubtful whether the marriage would ever take place. She lived, almost as prisoner, at Durham House in London. [Williams, p.15] Some of her letters to her father, complaining of her treatment, have survived. She had little money at the time and struggled to cope, as she had the well being of her ladies-in-waiting to maintain as well as her own, and it is certain that she would have been very unhappy at that time, complaining of periods of "low fever" which were probably a form of depression.

Marriage to Arthur's brother depended on the Pope granting a dispensation because of the close relationship. Catherine testified that her marriage to Arthur was never consummated. The matter was considered of minor importance at the time, as the Pope had the power to overrule any objections to the marriage, whether or not they were for religious reasons.

Queen of England

Some believe Henry VIII married Catherine in accordance to his dying father's last wishes, in order to keep her dowry, though evidence suggests that Henry loved her. She was still young and attractive, and her country of Spain would be a good alliance against the French. The wedding took place on 11 June 1509, seven weeks after the death of Henry VII. They were married at a private ceremony at Greenwich Church. Catherine was dressed in white, wearing her hair loose, customary for a virgin bride.


On Saturday 23 June the traditional eve-of-coronation procession to Westminster was greeted by an extremely large and very enthusiastic crowds. Catherine was acclaimed as she passed by in a litter "Borne on the backs of two white palfreys trapped in white cloth of gold, her person appareled in white satin embroidered, her hair hanging down her back, of a very great length, beautiful and good to behold, and on her head a coronal, set with many rich stones." Fact|date=October 2008 The crowds cried out "God save you!" to Catherine. Fact|date=October 2008

On the 24 June 1509, which was a Sunday, and also Midsummer's Day, Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon were crowned along side each other at a lavish ceremony at Westminster Abbey. Catherine and Henry passed through streets hung with tapestries and cloth of gold.The barons of the Cinq Ports held canopies over Catherine and Henry, and beneath their feet was striped cloth made of ray, which after they had entered the Abbey was immediately cut up by the crowd. They were both adorned with diamonds, rubies, and other precious stones. They were crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Wars of the Roses seemed to be no more than a fading memory. Thomas More wrote about the coronation "This day is the end of our slavery, the fount of our liberty; the end of sadness, the beginning of joy." Henry was almost 18 when crowned and Catherine was 24.

Struggle for a son

The marriage seems to have been a happy one until it started to seem likely that Henry would have no legitimate male heir. Catherine had six pregnancies altogether. In 1510, Catherine delivered a stillborn girl. In 1511, Catherine delivered a boy named Henry. But sadly, 52 days later, the boy died. In 1513, Catherine was pregnant again. Henry left her as Regent of England, as he left to fight a war in France. Scotland invaded, so she sent an army north to meet the Scots. The Scots failed, and Catherine sent Henry the bloodied coat of King James IV of Scotland as proof of her victory. Henry returned, but she delivered the baby, a boy, prematurely, and was stillborn or short-lived. At the end of 1514, she delivered another stillborn son. In 1516, Catherine delivered a healthy girl, who would later become Mary I of England. In 1518, Catherine fell pregnant for the last time. She gave birth to a stillborn daughter in November of that year.

Catherine's religious dedication increased with her age, as did her interest in academics. She continued to broaden her knowledge and provide training for her daughter. Education among women became fashionable, partly from Catherine's influence. She also donated large sums of money to several colleges. Henry considered a male heir essential. The Tudor dynasty was new, and its legitimacy might still be tested. A long civil war (1135–54) had been fought the last time a female, (Henry I of England's daughter, the Empress Matilda), had inherited the English throne. The disasters of civil war were still fresh in living memory from the Wars of the Roses (1455–85).

In 1520 Catherine's nephew Emperor Charles V paid a state visit to England, and she urged Henry to enter an alliance with Charles rather than with France. Immediately after his departure, 31 May 1520, she accompanied the king to France on the celebrated visit to Francis I, the so-called Field of the Cloth of Gold. Within two years, war was declared against France and the Emperor was once again made welcome in England, where plans were afoot to betroth him to Princess Mary.

Henry's annulment

In 1525, Henry VIII became enamoured with Anne Boleyn, a maid-of-honour to the Queen, and began his pursuit of her. [Scarisbrick, p.154.] By this time Catherine was not in a physical condition to undergo further pregnancies. Henry began to believe that his marriage was cursed and sought confirmation from the Bible, which says that if a man marries his brother's wife, the couple will be childless. [Leviticus 20:21] If she had lied when she said her marriage to Arthur had not been consummated, it meant that their marriage was wrong in the eyes of God. It is possible that the idea of annulment had suggested itself to the King much earlier than this, and it is highly probable that it was motivated by his desire for a male heir. Before Henry's father Henry VII ascended the throne, England had been beset by civil warfare over rival claims to the English crown, and Henry may have wanted to avoid a similar uncertainty over the succession. [Lacey, p.70.]

It soon became the one absorbing object of the King's desires to secure an annulment. [Brigden, p.114.] He set his hopes upon a direct appeal to the Holy See, acting independently of Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, to whom he at first communicated nothing of his plans. William Knight, the King's secretary, was sent to Pope Clement VII to sue for the annulment of the marriage, on the ground that the dispensing bull of Pope Julius II was obtained by false pretenses.

As the pope was at that time the prisoner of Catherine's nephew, Emperor Charles V, Knight had some difficulty in obtaining access to him. In the end the King's envoy had to return without accomplishing much. Henry had now no choice but to put his great matter into the hands of Thomas Wolsey, and Wolsey did all he could to secure a decision in the King's|"" in the 1913 "Catholic Encyclopedia"] How far the pope was influenced by Charles V in his resistance, it is difficult to say, but it is clear Henry saw that the Pope was unlikely to give him an annulment from the Emperor's aunt. [Morris, p.166.] The pope forbade Henry to proceed to a new marriage before a decision was given in Rome. Wolsey had failed and he was dismissed from public office in 1529. He then began a secret plot to have Boleyn forced into exile and he began communication with Catherine and the Pope, to that end. When this was discovered, Henry ordered Wolsey's arrest and, had it not been for his death from a terminal illness in 1530, he might have been executed for treason. [Haigh p.92f] A year later, Catherine was banished from court and her old rooms were given to Boleyn. When Archbishop of Canterbury William Warham died, the Boleyn family's chaplain, Thomas Cranmer, was appointed to the vacant|"" in the 1913 "Catholic Encyclopedia"] In November 1531, Catherine wrote to her nephew: "My tribulations are so great, my life so disturbed by the plans daily invented to further the King's wicked intention, the surprises which the King gives me, with certain persons of his council, are so mortal, and my treatment is what God knows, that it is enough to shorten ten lives, much more mine".

Later years

Upon returning to Dover in England, Henry and Boleyn went through a secret wedding service. [Starkey, pp. 462–464.] As was the custom with royalty, there was a second wedding service, which took place in London on 25 January 1533. Events now began to move at a quick pace. On 23 May 1533, Cranmer, sitting in judgment at a special court convened at Dunstable Priory to rule on the validity of the king's marriage to Catherine, declared that marriage null and void. Five days later, on 28 May 1533, Cranmer declared the marriage of Henry and Anne to be valid. [Williams, p.124.]

Until the end of her life Catherine would refer to herself as Henry's only lawfully-wedded wife and England's only rightful Queen Consort; her faithful servants continued to address her by that title. Henry refused her the right to any title but "Dowager Princess of Wales" (in recognition of her position as his brother's widow). In 1535 she was transferred to the decaying and remote Kimbolton Castle. Confining herself to one room, leaving it only to attend Mass, she prepared to meet her end. While she was permitted to receive occasional visitors, she was forbidden to see her daughter Mary. She was also forbidden to communicate with her, but discreet sympathizers ferried secret letters between mother and daughter. Henry offered them both better quarters and the company of one another if they would acknowledge Anne Boleyn as his new Queen. Neither did.

In late December 1535, sensing death was near, she made out her will, wrote to her nephew, the Emperor Charles V, asking him to protect her daughter. She then penned one final letter to Henry, "my most dear lord and husband" [Sharon Turner, "The History of England from the Earliest Period to the Death of Elizabeth" (Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green,1828)] :quote|My most dear lord, King and husband,

"The hour of my death now drawing on, the tender love I owe you forceth me, my case being such, to commend myself to you, and to put you in remembrance with a few words of the health and safeguard of your soul which you ought to prefer before all worldly matters, and before the care and pampering of your body, for the which you have cast me into many calamities and yourself into many troubles. For my part, I pardon you everything, and I wish to devoutly pray God that He will pardon you also. For the rest, I commend unto you our daughter Mary, beseeching you to be a good father unto her, as I have heretofore desired. I entreat you also, on behalf of my maids, to give them marriage portions, which is not much, they being but three. For all my other servants I solicit the wages due them, and a year more, lest they be unprovided for. Lastly, I make this vow, that mine eyes desire you above all things.

"Katharine the Quene."

She died at Kimbolton Castle, on 7 January 1536. The following day, news of her death reached the King. He and Queen Anne reportedly decked themselves in bright yellow clothing, a colour often seen by the English as signifying joy, but was also the Spanish colour of mourning. Henry and Anne showed no signs of mourning, however, and the former called for public displays of joy regarding her death. Rumours then circulated that she had been slowly poisoned by Anne or Henry. The rumours were born after the apparent discovery during her embalming that there was a black growth on her heart that might have been caused by poisoning. [Lofts, p.139.] Modern medical experts are in agreement that her heart's discolouration was due not to poisoning, but to cancer, something which was not understood at the time. [Fraser.] She was buried in Peterborough Cathedral with the ceremony due to a Princess Dowager of Wales, not a Queen. Henry did not attend the funeral, nor did he allow Princess Mary to do so.

Her tomb in Peterborough Cathedral can be seen and is frequently decorated with flowers. It bears the title "Katharine Queen of England". Peterborough is twinned with the Castilian city of Alcalá de Henares, her birthplace.


Catherine has remained a popular biographical subject to the present day. The American historian Garrett Mattingly was the author of a popular biography "Catherine of Aragon" in 1942. In 1966, Katherine and her many supporters at court were the subjects of "Catherine of Aragon and her Friends", a biography by John E. Paul. In 1967, Mary M. Luke wrote the first book of her Tudor trilogy, "Catherine the Queen" which portrayed her and the controversial era of English history through which she lived.

In recent years, the historian Alison Weir covered her life extensively in her biography "The Six Wives of Henry VIII", first published in 1991. Antonia Fraser did the same in her own 1992 biography of the same title; as did the British historian David Starkey in his 2003 book "Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII".

In 2008, author Charity Bishop released a novel entitled "Isabella's Daughter".

pelling of her name

"Catherine" is the most common modern English spelling of her name. Sixteenth century English spelled it "Katharine"; in Spanish, it had been "Catalina". ["Oxford Dictionary of National Biography", "Katharine of Aragon".] Loveknots built into his various palaces by her husband, Henry VIII, display the initials "H & K". Her tomb in Peterborough Cathedral is marked "Katharine Queen of England". Katharine herself signed her name with a "K".Fact|date=August 2008

Titles and styles

* 16 December 1485 – 14 November 1501: Infanta Catherine of Castile and Aragon
* 14 November 1501 – 2 April 1502: The Princess of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Countess of Chester As spouse of the Prince of Wales, Catherine held the titles of Princess of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, and Countess of Chester.]
* 2 April 1502 – 11 June 1509: The Dowager Princess of Wales Dowager Duchess of Cornwall, Dowager Countess of Chester As a widow, she was Dowager Princess of Wales, Dowager Duchess of Cornwall, and Dowager Countess of Chester.]
* 11 June 1509 – 23 May 1533: "Her Grace" The Queen of England
**c. 1519 – 23 May 1533: "Her Majesty" The Queen of England Around 1519 Henry VIII decided Majesty should become the style of the Kings and Queens of England. "Majesty", however, was not used exclusively; it arbitrarily alternated with both "Highness" and "Grace", even in official documents.]
* 23 May 1533 – 7 January 1536: The Dowager Princess of Wales, Dowager Duchess of Cornwall, Dowager Countess of Chester Since Catherine never acknowledged the annulment of her marriage, she styled herself as Queen until her death.]

Legacy in fiction, film and television

"Main article Catherine of Aragon in Popular Culture"

Although Catherine is often portrayed in film and on stage as having possessed the stereotypical Spanish traits of dark hair and an olive complexion, she in fact had gray or blue eyes and fair skin with reddish-blonde hair, not too unusual for many Spaniards such as those from her father's land of Aragon. Furthermore, she was part English, through her ancestors, Katherine of Lancaster (her namesake and also having red hair) and Philippa of Lancaster, who were both daughters of Prince John, Duke of Lancaster.

*She was first portrayed on the silver screen in 1911 by Violet Vanbrugh in a short film production of William Shakespeare's play "Henry VIII".
*Nine years later, the German actress Hedwig Pauly-Winterstein played her in the film "Anna Boleyn".
*Actress Rosalie Crutchley played her in "The Sword and the Rose" an account of Mary Tudor's romance with the Duke of Suffolk in 1515. Crutchley later played Henry's sixth queen Catherine Parr in "The Six Wives of Henry VIII."
*It was not until 1969, in Hal B. Wallis' acclaimed film "Anne of the Thousand Days" that she appeared again. This time she was played by the Greek actress Irene Papas.
*In a 90-minute television drama produced by the BBC, British actress Annette Crosbie played the most historically-accurate version of Katherine in a piece simply entitled "Catherine of Aragon" as part one in the channel's series "The Six Wives of Henry VIII". The drama began on the night she arrived in England and followed through until her early marriage to Henry VIII. It re-commenced almost a decade later, with Henry's manoeuvres to get an annulment in order to marry Anne Boleyn. The play, which co-starred the Australian actor Keith Michell as Henry VIII, Dame Dorothy Tutin as Anne Boleyn and Patrick Troughton as the Duke of Norfolk, then chronicled her life until her death in January 1536.
*In 1979 Claire Bloom played her in another adaptation of Shakespeare's play.
*In the 1973 film "Henry VIII and his Six Wives", Frances Cuka played her, and Keith Michell reprised his role as Henry VIII. A scene was incorporated between Frances Cuka and Charlotte Rampling (playing Anne Boleyn) to show their quiet, glacial enmity.
*It was not until 2001 that she again appeared on the screen. This time it was in Dr. David Starkey's documentary series on Henry's queens. She was portrayed by Annabelle Dowler.
*In 2003 she appeared twice on British television. In January, Spanish actress Yolanda Vasquez made a brief appearance as the character in "The Other Boleyn Girl," opposite Jared Harris as Henry VIII and Natascha McElhone as Mary Boleyn. In October, the ITV two-part television drama, "Henry VIII" starred Ray Winstone in the title role and Assumpta Serna as the Queen. Part 1 chronicled the king's life from the birth of his bastard son, Henry Fitzroy until the execution of Anne Boleyn (played by Helena Bonham Carter) in 1536. David Suchet co-starred as Cardinal Wolsey.
*Maria Doyle Kennedy portrays the role in the 2007 Showtime television series "The Tudors" opposite Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry and Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn.
*The 2007 film adaptation of the novel "The Other Boleyn Girl" by Philippa Gregory stars Ana Torrent as Katherine, with Eric Bana as Henry.
*There have also been several fictionalized versions of her story, including "Catharine of Aragon", by historical romance author Jean Plaidy, and "The Constant Princess", by Philippa Gregory.
*Catherine is the main character of the young adult novel "Patience, Princess Catherine" by Carolyn Meyer.
*In The Simpsons Episode Margical History Tour, Marge Simpson tells a story about Henry VIII where she is Catherine of Aragon


ee also

* List of English consorts
* Descendants of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon



* "Henry VIII and his Court" by Neville Williams (1971).
* "The Life and Times of Henry VIII" by Robert Lacey (1972).
* "Henry VIII" by J. J. Scarisbrick (1972) ISBN 978-0520011304.
* "Anne Boleyn" by N. Lofts (1979) ISBN 0-698-11005-6.
* "The Wives of Henry VIII" by Lady Antonia Fraser (1992) ISBN 067973001X.
* "English Reformations" by Christopher Haigh (1993).
* "Europe and England in the Sixteenth Century" by T. A. Morris (1998).
* "New Worlds, Lost Worlds" by Susan Brigden (2000).
* "Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII" by David Starkey (2003) ISBN 0060005505.

Further reading

* "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" by Alison Weir (1991) ISBN 0802136834.
* "Divorced Beheaded Survived: A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII" by Karen Lindsey (1995) ISBN 0201408236.
* "British Kings & Queens" by Mike Ashley (2002) ISBN 0-7867-1104-3.
* "Henry VIII: The King and His Court" by Alison Weir (2002) ISBN 034543708X.

External links

* [] - A good overview of her life, accompanied by an excellent portrait gallery
* [] - An in-depth look at her life and times
* [ A geo-biography] of the Six Wives of Henry the VIII on Google Earth
* [,,1930761,00.html Guardian unlimited] , letter from her to Pope Clement VII


NAME=Katherine of Aragon
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Catalina de Aragón
DATE OF BIRTH=birth date|df=yes|1485|12|16
PLACE OF BIRTH=Alcalá de Henares, Aragon (now Spain)
DATE OF DEATH=death date|df=yes|1536|1|7
PLACE OF DEATH=Kimbolton, England

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