Catherine of Aragon was the wife of Henry VIII of England. Queen for 24 years, first of six, she was no victim. She fought the powerful monarch, and though she lost the battle; she by no means lost the war.
Born December 16, 1485, she was the youngest child of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile, a descendent of Edward III of England.
Extensively educated, she spoke four languages fluently and was deeply religious. She was taught the arts of needlepoint, tatting and embroidery. She enjoyed music and dancing.
Because of her ancestry, Henry VII of England wanted her for his son, Arthur; Prince of Wales. Considered upstarts by other monarchies of Europe, he felt that Arthur’s marriage to Catherine would cement the Tudor’s claim to the throne. They were married by proxy May 9, 1499, but didn’t meet till months later. Arthur pleased by the blue-eyed, Auburn haired beauty, wed her November 14, 1501. The marriage was short. Arthur contracted a fever and died a few months later.
Henry proposed her marriage to his second son, Henry; Duke of York. Since he was only 12 , the marriage was postponed until he matured. They also required a dispensation from the Pope because it was against canon law for Henry to marry his brother’s widow. It was granted when Catherine testified her marriage to Arthur was never consummated.
They married June 11, 1509; he was 17, she 23. On June 24 they were crowned King Henry VIII and Queen Catherine at Westminster Abbey.
She began a series of pregnancies that ended with stillbirths or babies that only lived a short time. During her 3rd pregnancy, Henry appointed her regent while he was on campaign in France. James IV of Scotland invaded, she donned armor and rode north with her troops to battle. To show her victory, she had the King of Scots bloodied coat sent to her husband. That pregnancy ended with a stillborn son. Only her fifth child, Mary, lived.
Desperate for a male heir, Henry believed God was punishing him for marrying his brother’s widow. He’d met Anne Boleyn, one of his wife’s maids of honor and was smitten. He attempted to get Catherine’s agreement to an annulment which would have illegitimized their daughter. She refused, stating that she came to him a virgin and she was his true and rightful wife and Queen.
He petitioned the Pope, who was the ” guest ” of Catherine’s nephew; Emperor Charles V, who had conquered Rome. The Pope of course, refused. Among Catherine’s supporters were Thomas More, Henry’s sister, Mary Tudor, Queen of France and protestant reformist Martin Luther.
Henry resolved to leave the Catholic Church and form the Church of England, with himself as head. He banished Catherine from the court, granted his own annulment and married Anne in a secret ceremony.
Catherine maintained till the end of her life that she was Henry’s lawful wife and Queen. Henry referred to her as the Dowager Princess of Wales. He had her moved to Kimbolton Castle in 1535. She received few visitors and was forbidden to see her daughter. Friends smuggled letters back and forth between the two. Henry offered them better housing and contact with each other if they would recognize Anne as Queen. They refused.
Catherine died January 7, 1536. Had she lived a little longer, she would have witnessed the fall of Queen Anne. Her vindication was complete when Mary became Queen after the death of her brother, Edward VI; Henry’s son from Jane Seymour. But, that’s another story for another day.
Catherine of Aragon; Wikipedia