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Catherine of Aragon

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Catherine of Aragon

Catherine of Aragon
Portrait by Lucas Hornebolte
Queen consort of England
Tenure 11 June 1509 – 23 May 1533
Coronation 24 June 1509
Born 16 December 1485
Archbishop's Palace, Alcalá de Henares, Kingdom of Spain
Died 7 January 1536(1536-01-07) (aged 50)
Kimbolton Castle, Kimbolton, Cambridgeshire, Kingdom of England
Burial Peterborough Cathedral, Peterborough, Kingdom of England
Spouse Arthur, Prince of Wales
(m. 1501–02; his death)
Henry VIII of England
(m. 1509; ann. 1533)
among others...
Henry, Duke of Cornwall
Mary I of England
House House of Trastámara
Father Ferdinand II of Aragon
Mother Isabella I of Castile
Religion Roman Catholicism

Catherine of Aragon (Castilian: Catalina; also spelled Katherine of Aragon, 16 December 1485 – 7 January 1536) was the Queen of England from June 1509 until May 1533 as the first wife of King Henry VIII; she was previously Princess of Wales as the wife of Prince Arthur.

The daughter of Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, Catherine was three years old when she was betrothed to Prince Arthur, heir apparent to the English throne. They married in 1501, and Arthur died five months later. In 1507, she held the position of ambassador for the Spanish Court in England, becoming the first female ambassador in European history.[1] Catherine subsequently married Arthur's younger brother, the recently succeeded Henry VIII, in 1509. For six months in 1513, she served as regent of England while Henry VIII was in France. During that time the English won the Battle of Flodden, an event in which Catherine played an important part.[2]

By 1525, Henry VIII was infatuated with Anne Boleyn and dissatisfied that his marriage to Catherine had produced no surviving sons, leaving their daughter, the future Mary I of England, as heiress presumptive at a time when there was no established precedent for a woman on the throne. He sought to have their marriage annulled, setting in motion a chain of events that led to England's schism with the Catholic Church. When Pope Clement VII refused to annul the marriage, Henry defied him by assuming supremacy over religious matters. In 1533 their marriage was consequently declared invalid and Henry married Anne on the judgement of clergy in England, without reference to the Pope. Catherine refused to accept Henry as Supreme Head of the Church of England and considered herself the King's rightful wife and queen, attracting much popular sympathy.[3] Despite this, she was acknowledged only as Dowager Princess of Wales by Henry. After being banished from court, she lived out the remainder of her life at Kimbolton Castle, and died there on 7 January 1535/6. Catherine's English subjects held her in high esteem, and her death set off tremendous mourning among the English people.[4]

The controversial book The Education of Christian Women by Juan Luis Vives, which claimed women have the right to an education, was commissioned by and dedicated to her. Such was Catherine's impression on people that even her enemy, Thomas Cromwell, said of her, "If not for her sex, she could have defied all the heroes of History."[5] She successfully appealed for the lives of the rebels involved in the Evil May Day, for the sake of their families.[6] Catherine also won widespread admiration by starting an extensive programme for the relief of the poor.[7][6] She was a patron of Renaissance humanism, and a friend of the great scholars Erasmus of Rotterdam and Thomas More.[7]


  • Early life 1
  • As wife and widow of Arthur 2
  • Queen of England (1509–1533) 3
    • Wedding 3.1
    • Coronation 3.2
    • Pregnancies and children 3.3
    • Influence 3.4
  • The King's great matter 4
  • Banishment and death 5
  • Faith 6
  • Appearance 7
  • Legacy, memory, and historiography 8
    • Places and statues 8.1
    • Spelling of her name 8.2
  • In art and media 9
    • Music and rhymes 9.1
    • Books 9.2
    • Theatre, film, stage, and TV 9.3
  • Ancestry 10
  • See also 11
  • Footnotes 12
  • Sources 13
    • Book sources 13.1
    • Internet sources 13.2
  • Bibliography 14
  • External links 15

Early life

Portrait by Juan de Flandes thought to be of 11-year-old Catherine. She resembles her sister Joanna of Castile.

Catherine was born at the Archbishop's Palace in Alcalá de Henares near Madrid, on the night of 16 December 1485. She was the youngest surviving child of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile.[8] Catherine was quite short in stature[9] with long red hair, wide blue eyes, a round face, and a fair complexion.[10] She was descended, on her maternal side, from the English royal house; her great-grandmother Catherine of Lancaster, after whom she was named, and her great-great-grandmother Philippa of Lancaster were both daughters of John of Gaunt and granddaughters of Edward III of England. Consequently, she was third cousin of her father-in-law, Henry VII of England,[11] and fourth cousin of her mother-in-law Elizabeth of York.

Catherine was educated by a tutor, Alessandro Geraldini, who was a clerk in Holy Orders. She studied arithmetic, canon and civil law, classical literature, genealogy and heraldry, history, philosophy, religion, and theology. She had a strong religious upbringing and developed her Roman Catholic faith that would play a major role in later life.[12] She learned to speak, read and write in Spanish and Latin, and spoke French and Greek. She was also taught domestic skills, such as cooking, dancing, drawing, embroidery, good manner, lace-making, music, needlepoint, sewing, spinning, and weaving.[13] The great scholar Erasmus later said that Catherine "loved good literature which she had studied with success since childhood".[14]

At an early age, Catherine was considered a suitable wife for Arthur, Prince of Wales, heir apparent to the English throne, due to the English ancestry she inherited from her mother. By means of her mother, Catherine had a stronger legitimate claim to the English throne than King Henry VII himself through the first two wives of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster: Blanche of Lancaster and Constance of Castile. In contrast, Henry VII was the descendant of Gaunt's third marriage to Katherine Swynford, whose children were born out of wedlock and only legitimised after the death of Constance and the marriage of John to Katherine. The children of John and Katherine, while legitimised, were barred from ever inheriting the English throne, a stricture that was ignored in later generations. Because of Henry's descent through illegitimate children barred from succession to the English throne, the Tudor monarchy was not accepted by all European kingdoms. At the time, the House of Trastámara was the most prestigious in Europe,[11] due to the rule of the Catholic Monarchs, so the alliance of Catherine and Arthur validated the House of Tudor in the eyes of European royalty and also strengthened the Tudor claim to the English throne via Catherine of Aragon's ancestry. It would also have given a male heir an indisputable claim to the throne. The two were married by proxy on 19 May 1499 and corresponded in Latin until Arthur turned fifteen, when it was decided that they were old enough to be married.[15] When Catherine of Aragon travelled to London she brought a group of her African attendants with her, including one identified as the trumpeter John Blanke.[16] They are the first recorded Africans to arrive in London at the time, and were considered luxury servants. They caused a great impression about the princess and the power of her family.[17]

As wife and widow of Arthur

Arthur around the time of his marriage, circa 1501
Portrait of a princess, possibly Catherine of Aragon, circa 1502, by Michael Sittow. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.[18][19]

The couple met on 6 November 1501 at Dogmersfield in Hampshire.[20][21] 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 told his parents that he was immensely happy to "behold the face of his lovely bride". The couple had corresponded in Latin, but found that they could not understand each other, since they had learned different pronunciations.[22] Ten days later, on 14 November 1501, they were married at Old St. Paul's Cathedral.[11] A dowry of 200,000 crowns had been agreed, and half was paid shortly after the marriage.[23]

Once married, Arthur was sent to Ludlow Castle on the borders of Wales to preside over the Council of Wales and the Marches, as was his duty as Prince of Wales, and his bride accompanied him. The couple stayed at Castle Lodge, Ludlow. A few months later, they both became ill, possibly with the sweating sickness which was sweeping the area. Arthur died on 2 April 1502; Catherine recovered to find herself a widow.[24]

At this point, Henry VII faced the challenge of avoiding the obligation to return her dowry, half of which he had not yet received, to her father. To settle the matter, it was agreed that Catherine would marry Henry VII's second son, Henry, Duke of York, who was five years younger than she was. The death of Catherine's mother, however, meant that her "value" in the marriage market decreased. Castile was a much larger kingdom than Aragon, and it was inherited by Catherine's mentally unstable elder sister, Joanna. Ostensibly, the marriage was delayed until Henry was old enough, but Ferdinand II procrastinated so much over payment of the remainder of Catherine's dowry that it became doubtful that the marriage would take place. She lived as a virtual prisoner at Durham House in London.[25] Some of the letters she wrote to her father complaining of her treatment have survived. In one of these letters she tells him that "I choose what I believe, and say nothing. For I am not as simple as I may seem." She had little money and struggled to cope, as she had to support her ladies-in-waiting as well as herself. In 1507 she served as the Spanish ambassador to England, the first female ambassador in European history.[1] While Henry VII and his councillors expected her to be easily manipulated, Catherine went on to prove them wrong.[1]

Marriage to Arthur's brother depended on the Pope granting a dispensation because canon law forbade men to marry their brother's widow. Catherine testified that her marriage to Arthur was never consummated as, also according to canon law, a marriage was not valid until consummated.[26][27]

Queen of England (1509–1533)

16th century woodcut of the coronation of Henry VIII of England and Catherine of Aragon showing their heraldic badges, the Tudor Rose and the Pomegranate of Granada


Catherine's wedding took place on 11 June 1509,[28] seven years after Prince Arthur's death. She married Henry VIII, who had only just acceded to the throne, in a private ceremony at Greenwich Church. She was 23 years of age. The king was just days short of his 18th birthday.[29][28]


On Saturday 23 June 1509, the traditional eve-of-coronation procession to Westminster was greeted by a large and enthusiastic crowd. As was the custom, the couple spent the night before their coronation at the Tower of London. On Midsummer's Day, Sunday, 24 June 1509, Henry VIII and Catherine were anointed and crowned together by the Archbishop of Canterbury at a lavish ceremony at Westminster Abbey. The coronation was followed by a banquet in Westminster Hall. Many new Knights of the Bath were created in honour of the coronation.[28] In that month that followed, many social occasions presented the new Queen to the English public. She made a fine impression and was well received by the people of England.[24]

Pregnancies and children

Catherine watching Henry jousting in her honour after giving birth to a son. Henry's horse mantle is emblazoned with Catherine's initial letter, 'K.'

Catherine was pregnant six times altogether:[30][31]

  • In August 1509, just two months after the wedding, was announced the first pregnancy of Catherine; however, on 31 January 1510 she gave birth prematurely to a stillborn daughter.
  • Four months after the loss of her first child, in May 1510, Catherine announced her second pregnancy. A son, Henry, Duke of Cornwall, was born on 1 January 1510. In his honor, guns were fired from the Tower of London and the city bells were rung, beacons were lit and free wine was distributed to all the population. Five days after his birth, on 6 January 1510, the prince was christened at Richmond Palace, his godparents being the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Earl of Surrey and the Countess of Devon. On 22 February 1510, after only 52 days of life, the young prince died suddenly. The cause of his death was not recorded.
  • By 1512, Catherine was pregnant again.[32] On 30 June 1513, Catherine was left as regent in England when Henry VIII went to fight in France. In November 1513, she went into labour prematurely and gave birth a son, Henry, Duke of Cornwall. The child died shortly after birth and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
  • In Late 1513, Catherine announced her fourth pregnancy. On 8 January 1514, she gave birth a stillborn son, who was also named Henry, Duke of Cornwall.
  • In the summer of 1515, Catherine announced her fifth pregnancy; however, less hope was placed on an heir resulting her previous failed pregnancies. On 18 February 1515, Catherine delivered a healthy girl at 4 a.m. at Greenwich Palace, Kent.[33] She was named Mary and christened three days later (21 February) with great ceremony at the Church of Observant Friars. Despite his evident disappointment, Henry VIII saying that if it were a girl this time then surely boys would follow.
  • In February 1518, Catherine announced her sixth pregnancy. In March, she visited Merton College, Oxford and also made a pilgrimage to the shrine of St Frideswide, asking for a healthy son. On 10 November 1519, she gave birth to a daughter, but the child was weak and lived either only a few hours or at most a week.
Name Birth Death Notes
Unnamed daughter
31 January 1509[34]
Henry, Duke of Cornwall
1 January 1510
22 February 1510
Lived 52 days.
Henry, Duke of Cornwall
November 1513
Lived for a few hours.
Henry, Duke of Cornwall
8 January 1514
Mary I, Queen of England
18 February 1516
17 November 1558
Only surviving child.
Unnamed daughter
10 November 1519
17 November 1518
Lived for 7 days.


Portrait of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein the Younger circa 1540

On 11 June 1513, Henry appointed Catherine Regent or Governor of England while he went to France on a military campaign.[35] When Louis d'Orléans, Duke of Longueville, was captured at Thérouanne, Henry sent him to stay in Catherine's household. She wrote to Wolsey that she and her council would prefer the Duke to stay in the Tower of London as the Scots were "so busy as they now be" and she added her prayers for "God to sende us as good lukke against the Scotts, as the King hath ther."[36] The war with Scotland occupied her subjects, and she was "horrible busy with making standards, banners, and badges" at Richmond Palace. The Scots invaded and on 3 September 1513, she ordered Thomas Lovell to raise an army in the midland counties.[37]

Catherine rode north in full armour to address the troops, despite being heavily pregnant at the time. (She gave birth to a son in November.) Her fine speech was reported to the historian Peter Martyr d'Anghiera in Valladolid within a fortnight.[38] Although an Italian newsletter said she was 100 miles north of London when news of the victory at Battle of Flodden Field reached her, she was near Buckingham.[39] From Woburn Abbey she sent a letter to Henry along with a piece of the bloodied coat of King James IV of Scotland, who died in the battle, for Henry to use as a banner at the siege of Tournai.[40]

Catherine's religious dedication increased as she aged, as did her interest in academics. She continued to broaden her knowledge and provide training for her daughter. Education among women became fashionable, partly because of Catherine's influence. She also donated large sums of money to several colleges. Henry, however, still considered a male heir essential. The Tudor dynasty was new, and its legitimacy might still be tested.[41] A long civil war (1135–54) had been fought the last time a woman, (Empress Matilda), had inherited the throne. The disasters of civil war were still fresh in living memory from the Wars of the Roses.[42]

In 1520, Catherine's nephew Holy Roman Emperor Charles V[43] paid a state visit to England, and she urged Henry to enter an alliance with Charles rather than with France. Immediately after his departure, she accompanied Henry 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 welcome in England, where plans were afoot to betroth him to Catherine's daughter Mary.

The King's great matter

The Six Wives of
Henry VIII
Catherine of Aragon
Anne Boleyn
Jane Seymour
Anne of Cleves
Catherine Howard
Catherine Parr
Catherine pleading her case against divorce from Henry. Painting by Henry Nelson O'Neil

In 1525, Henry VIII became enamoured of Anne Boleyn, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine who was 9 years younger than Henry. Henry began pursuing her;[44] Catherine was no longer able to bear children by this time. Henry began to believe that his marriage was cursed and sought confirmation from the Bible, which he interpreted to say that if a man marries his brother's wife, the couple will be childless.[45][7] Even if her marriage to Arthur had not been consummated (and Catherine would insist to her dying day that she had come to Henry's bed a virgin), Henry's interpretation of that biblical passage meant that their marriage had been wrong in the eyes of God.[27] Whether the Pope at the time of Henry and Catherine's marriage had had the right to overrule Henry's claimed scriptural impediment would become a hot topic in Henry's campaign to wrest an annulment from the present Pope.[27] It is possible that the idea of annulment had been suggested to Henry much earlier than this, and is highly probable that it was motivated by his desire for a son. Before Henry's father ascended the throne, England was beset by civil warfare over rival claims to the English crown, and Henry may have wanted to avoid a similar uncertainty over the succession.[46]

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.

It soon became the one absorbing object of Henry's desires to secure an annulment.[47] Catherine was defiant when it was suggested that she quietly retire to a nunnery, saying, "God never called me to a nunnery. I am the King's true and legitimate wife".[48] He set his hopes upon an appeal to the Holy See, acting independently of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, whom he told nothing of his plans. William Knight, the King's secretary, was sent to Pope Clement VII to sue for an annulment, on the grounds that the dispensing bull of Pope Julius II was obtained by false pretences.

As the Pope was, at that time, the prisoner of Catherine's nephew, Emperor Charles V, following the Sack of Rome in May 1527, Knight had difficulty in obtaining access to him. In the end, Henry's envoy had to return without accomplishing much. Henry now had no choice but to put this great matter into the hands of Thomas Wolsey, and Wolsey did all he could to secure a decision in Henry's favour.[49]

Catherine and Henry's daughter The Lady Mary

Wolsey went so far as to convene an ecclesiastical court in England with a representative of the Pope presiding, and Henry and Catherine herself in attendance. The Pope had no intention of allowing a decision to be reached in England, and his legate was recalled. (How far the pope was influenced by Charles V is difficult to say, but it is clear Henry saw that the Pope was unlikely to annul his marriage to the Emperor's aunt.[50]) The Pope forbade Henry to marry again before a decision was given in Rome. Wolsey had failed and was dismissed from public office in 1529. Wolsey then began a secret plot to have Anne Boleyn forced into exile and began communicating with the Pope to that end. When this was discovered, Henry ordered Wolsey's arrest and, had he not been terminally ill and died in 1530, he might have been executed for treason.[51] A year later, Catherine was banished from court, and her old rooms were given to Anne Boleyn. When Archbishop of Canterbury William Warham died, the Boleyn family's chaplain, Thomas Cranmer, was appointed to the vacant position.[52]

When Henry decided to annul his marriage to Catherine,

Catherine of Aragon
Born: 16 December 1485 Died: 7 January 1536
English royalty
Title last held by
Elizabeth of York
Queen consort of England
Lady of Ireland

11 June 1509 – 23 May 1533
Title next held by
Anne Boleyn
  • Catherine of Aragon's divorce papers and other Tudor treasures online to mark the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII's accession
  • – An overview of her life, accompanied by a 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
  • Guardian unlimited, letter from her to Pope Clement VII
  • Katharine of – An Official Website For Her Cause

External links

  • John E. Paul (1966) Catherine of Aragon and Her Friends. Fordham University Press ISBN 978-0-8232-0685-8
  • Mattingly, Gareth (2005) Catherine of Aragon. Ams Pr Inc. ISBN 978-0-404-20169-2
  • J.O. Hand & M. Wolff, (1986) Early Netherlandish Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington (catalogue) ISBN 0-521-34016-0
  • Tremlett, Giles. (2010). Catherine of Aragon: The Spanish Queen of Henry VIII. Faber & Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-23512-4
  • Williams, Patrick. (2012). Catherine of Aragon. Amberley. ISBN 978-1-84868-325-9
  • Gardner, Laurien. (2008). The Spanish Bride: A Novel of Catherine of Aragon (Tudor Women Series).Berkley Trade. ISBN 0-425-21996-8
  • Prince, Alison. (2010). Catherine of Aragon (My Royal Story). Scholastic; 1 edition. ISBN 978-1-4071-2071-3
  • Froude, James Anthony. (2009). The Divorce of Catherine of Aragon. BiblioBazaar. ISBN 978-1-113-68865-1
  • Luke, Mary M. (1967). Catherine, The Queen, a biography of Catherine of Aragon, first wife to Henry VIII. Coward-McCann, Inc.
  • Lofts, Norah. (2008). The King's Pleasure: A Novel of Katharine of Aragon. Touchstone. ISBN 978-1-4165-9089-7
  • , vol. 5 (1774)John Leland's De rebus Britannicis collectaneaHearne, Thomas ed., pp. 356–373, festivities at Catherine's arrival in England
  • Yorke, Philip, ed., , vol.1 (1778)Miscellaneous State Papers pp. 1–20, instructions for her wedding to Arthur.
  • Lindsey, Karen. (1995). Divorced Beheaded Survived: A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII. ISBN 0-201-40823-6
  • Coates, Tim. (2001). Letters of Henry VIII 1526–29.Tim Coates Books. ISBN 978-0-11-702453-3
  • Ashley, Mike. (2002). British Kings & Queens. ISBN 0-7867-1104-3
  • Bernard, G.W. (2007). The King's Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church. ISBN 978-0-300-12271-8


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  • "Catherine of Aragon Biography".  
  • "John Blanke-A Trumpeter in the court of King Henry VIII". Blackpresence. 12 March 2009. Retrieved 17 March 2011.  (Broken link)
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Internet sources

  • Weir, Alison (1991). The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Grove press.  
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  • Lehman, H. Eugene (2011). Lives of England's Reigning and Consort Queens. AuthorHouse Publishing.  
  • Thomas B. Deutscher, Peter G. Bietenholz (1987). Contemporaries of Erasmus. University of Toronto Press.  
  • Wilkinson, Josephine (2009). Mary Boleyn: the True Story of Henry VIII's Favourite Mistress. Amberley Publishing.  
  • Sigman, Mitchell (2011). Steal This Sound. Hal Leonard.  
  • Goodwin, Stefan (2008). Africa in Europe: Antiquity into the Age of Global Exploration. Lexington Books.  
  • Ellis, Henry, ed. (1846). Original Letters Illustrative of English History, 3rd Series, vol.1. Richard Bentley. 
  • Frederick Sanders, Sir Sidney Low (1910). The dictionary of English history. 
  • Strickland, Agnes. Lives of the queens of England: from the Norman conquest, Volume 2. 
  • Chapuys, Eustace (Imperial Ambassador) (1533). Calendar of State Papers, Spanish IV. 
  • Froude, James Anthony (1891). The Divorce of Catherine of Aragon. NEW YORK, CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS. 
  • Maclagan, Michael (1999). Line of Succession: Heraldry of the Royal Families of Europe. Little, Brown & Co. 
  • Haigh, Christopher (1993). English Reformations. Oxford University Press.  
  • Rees, Fran (2006). William Tyndale: Bible Translator And Martyr. Compass Point Books.  
  • Dowling, Maria (1986). Humanism in the Age of Henry VIII. Other.  
  • Scarisbrick, J. J (1997). Yale English Monarchs - Henry VIII. Yale University Press.  
  • Lofts, Norah (1979). Anne Boleyn.  
  • Brecht, Martin (1994). Martin Luther: shaping and defining the Reformation, 1521–1532. Fortress Press.  
  • Brigden, Susan (2000). New Worlds, Lost Worlds The Rule of the Tudors, 1485–1603. Penguin (Non-Classics).  
  • Morris, T. A (1998). Europe and England in the Sixteenth Century. Routledge.  
  • Morton, Henry Vollam (1955). A stranger in Spain. Methuen.  
  • Eagles, Robin (2002). The Rough Guide History of England. Rough Guides.  
  • Rex, Richard (2003). The Theology of John Fisher. Cambridge University Press.  
  • Jestice, Phyllis G. (2004). Holy People of the World: A Cross-Cultural Encyclopedia, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO.  
  • Williams, Neville (1971). Henry VIII and His Court. Macmillan Pub Co.  
  • P.G. Bietenholz, Thomas B. Deutscher (2003). Contemporaries of Erasmus: A Biographical Register of the Renaissance and Reformation.  
  • Ibn Khaldun, Viguer María Jesús (1900). The Mediterranean in the 14th century : rise and fall of Empires. The Order of the Sash: From Alfonso XI to the House of Trastamara. 
  • Farquhar, Michael (2001). A Treasury of Royal Scandals: The Shocking True Stories History's Wickedest, Weirdest, Most Wanton Kings, Queens, Tsars, Popes, and Emperors. Penguin.  
  • Tremlett, Giles (2010). Catherine of Aragon: Henry's Spanish Queen. Faber and Faber.  

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  2. ^ Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England.
  3. ^ Catherine of Aragon (1485–1536).
  4. ^ Lehman 2011, p. 295.
  5. ^ a b Chapuys 1533, p. 737.
  6. ^ a b Deutscher & Bietenholz 1987, p. 283.
  7. ^ a b c Catherine of Aragon Biography.
  8. ^ Lehman 2011, p. 283.
  9. ^ a b Fraser 1992, p. 24.
  10. ^ Weir 1991, p. 15.
  11. ^ a b c Lehman 2011, p. 284.
  12. ^ Fraser 1992, p. 12.
  13. ^ Weir 1991, p. 20.
  14. ^ Dowling 1986, p. 17.
  15. ^ Sanders & Low 1910, p. 235.
  16. ^ John Blanke.
  17. ^ Goodwin 2008, p. 166.
  18. ^ "KHM Bilddatenbank — KHM Bilddatenbank". Retrieved 16 September 2013. 
  19. ^ "KHM Bilddatenbank — KHM Bilddatenbank". Retrieved 16 September 2013. 
  20. ^ Starkey 2003, pp. 45-46.
  21. ^ Tremlett 2010, p. 73.
  22. ^ Fraser 1992, p. 25.
  23. ^ "Catherine of Aragon Timeline". 15 October 2010. Retrieved 16 September 2013. 
  24. ^ a b Lehman 2011, p. 285.
  25. ^ Williams 1971, p. 15.
  26. ^ Weir 1991, p. 34.
  27. ^ a b c Lehman 2011, p. 290.
  28. ^ a b c Lehman 2011, p. 287.
  29. ^ Eagles 2002, p. 194.
  30. ^ Lehman 2011, p. 288.
  31. ^ in: historyonthenet.comThe Tudors - Catherine of Aragon Timeline [retrieved 5 July 2015].
  32. ^ Rymer 1741, p. 48.
  33. ^ Eagles 2002, p. 195.
  34. ^ "Catherine of Aragon".  
  35. ^ Rymer, Thomas, ed., Foedera, vol. 13 (1712), p. 370, Catherine was appointed "Rectrix" and "Gubernatrix" of England.
  36. ^ Ellis 1846, p. 152-154.
  37. ^ Rymer 1741, p. 49.
  38. ^ Letters & Papers vol. 1 (1920), no. 2299: Catherine was issued with banners at Richmond on 8 September, Letters & Papers, vol.1 (1920), no.2243
  39. ^ Letters & Papers Henry VIII vol. 1 (1920) no. 2278: Calendar State Papers Venice, vol.2, no. 340: Hall, Edward, Chronicle, (1809), 564.
  40. ^ Ellis 1846, p. 82-84, 88-89.
  41. ^ Lehman 2011, p. 288-289.
  42. ^ Wilkinson 2009, p. 70.
  43. ^ a b Lehman 2011, p. 291.
  44. ^ Scarisbrick 1997, p. 154.
  45. ^ Leviticus 20:21
  46. ^ Lacey 1972, p. 70.
  47. ^ Brigden 2000, p. 114.
  48. ^ Farquhar 2001, p. 61.
  49. ^ "Henry VIII" in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.
  50. ^ Morris 1998, p. 166.
  51. ^ Haigh 1993, p. 92.
  52. ^ "Clement VII" in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.
  53. ^ Jestice 2004, p. 277.
  54. ^ Rex 2003, p. 27.
  55. ^ Brecht 1994, p. 44.
  56. ^ Rees 2006, p. 77.
  57. ^ a b Lehman 2011, p. 292.
  58. ^ Starkey 2003, pp. 462-464.
  59. ^ Williams 1971, p. 124.
  60. ^ a b Lehman 2011, p. 293.
  61. ^ Sharon Turner, The History of England from the Earliest Period to the Death of Elizabeth (Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green,1828)
  62. ^ Eagles 2002, p. 202.
  63. ^ Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII, vol. X, no. 190
  64. ^ Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII, vol. X, no. 59
  65. ^ Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII, vol. X, no. 230
  66. ^ Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII, vol. X, no. 200
  67. ^ Warnicke 1991, p. 187.
  68. ^ Warnicke 1991, p. 188.
  69. ^ Lofts 1979, p. 139.
  70. ^ a b Lehman 2011, p. 294.
  71. ^ B. Deutscher & P.G. Bietenholz 2003, p. 284.
  72. ^ Bent, Samuel Arthur (1887). Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men (Sixth ed.). Boston: Ticknor & Co. Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  73. ^ a b c Davies, C. S. L.; Edwards, John (January 2008), "Katherine (1485–1536)",  
  74. ^ Fraser 1992, p. 95.
  75. ^ Viguer 1900, p. 68.
  76. ^ Weir 1991, p. 81.
  77. ^ Weir 1991, p. 104.
  78. ^ Strickland, p. 493.
  79. ^ a b Deutscher & Bietenholz, p. 283.
  80. ^ Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, vol. X, no. 212
  81. ^ Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, vol. X, no. 232
  82. ^ Froude 1891, p. 389.
  83. ^ cubamagica (18 January 2009). "Catalina de Aragon on Flickr – Photo Sharing!". Retrieved 16 September 2013. 
  84. ^ Starkey 2003, p. 1.
  85. ^ Weir 1991, p. 1.
  86. ^ Fraser 1992, p. 1.
  87. ^ 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.
  88. ^ As Latin inscriptions were used in structures, a "C" represented the numeral 100, so a "K" was used instead. The same was applied during the time of Henri II and his wife Catherine during her state entry in Paris in 18 June 1549.
  89. ^ Fraser 1992, pp. 57-58.
  90. ^ "Find A Grave". Find A Grave. 23 November 2002. Retrieved 16 September 2013. 
  91. ^ Maclagan 1999, p. 27.
  92. ^ Early Sixteenth Century Lyrics - Frederick Morgan Padelford - Google Books. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  93. ^ Weir 1991, p. 123.
  94. ^ Brown, Mark (24 January 2013). "National Portrait Gallery reunites Henry VIII with Catherine of Aragon".  
  95. ^ Weir 1991, p. 78.
  96. ^ Morton 1955, p. 35.
  97. ^ Sigman 2011, p. 135.
  98. ^ Boswell, James. Life of Samuel Johnson. May 1783.
  99. ^ She was the daughter John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster to his first wife Blanche of Lancaster, making her half-sister of Katherine of Aragon's maternal great-grandmother Katherine of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster to his second wife Constance of Castile.


See also


Catherine was portrayed by:

Theatre, film, stage, and TV

Catherine is a character in:

  • Katharine, The Virgin Widow, The Shadow of the Pomegranate, and The King's Secret Matter (later published in an omnibus Katharine of Aragon) by Jean Plaidy
  • My Catalina by Maureen Peters
  • The King's Pleasure, by Norah Lofts;
  • The Constant Princess, by Philippa Gregory (a novel about Catherine's younger years);
  • Patience, Princess Catherine by Carolyn Meyer (young adult novel);
  • Isabella's Daughter by Charity Bishop.
  • Catherine of Aragon/My Tudor Queen" by Alison Prince.

Catherine is the main character in:

Dame Ellen Terry as Catherine of Aragon


Music and rhymes

In January, 2013, the National Portrait Gallery in London revealed that its curators had recently discovered that a portrait at Lambeth Palace formerly believed to have been a portrait of Catherine Parr in fact shows Catherine of Aragon. The National Portrait Gallery announced that the painting, which had hung in a private sitting room of the Archbishop of Canterbury since at least the 19th century, would be paired with a portrait of Henry VIII already in the museum's collection, and would remain at the museum on loan.[94]

Catherine often is played with a Spanish accent. From most reports, this is accurate, as she never fully mastered the English language.

Although Catherine is often portrayed in film and on stage as having possessed stereotypically Spanish dark hair and eyes and olive complexion, existing portraits and contemporary descriptions depict her with blue eyes, fair skin, and reddish-blonde hair, not uncommon for Spaniards from the northern regions of Spain, including her father's land of Aragon. And she was part English, through her ancestresses Katherine of Lancaster and Philippa of Lancaster, who were daughters of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster.

Catherine of Aragon has been portrayed in film, television, plays, novels, songs, poems, and other creative forms many times, and as a result she has stayed very much in popular memory. There has never been a film or television series in which she is the main character, except, perhaps, the first episode of The Six Wives of Henry VIII, which is told from her point of view (and in which she is portrayed by Annette Crosbie). William Shakespeare's play Henry VIII succeeds in recreating with great accuracy Catherine's statement about the legitimacy of her marriage at the court in Blackfriars before King Henry, and Shakespeare's portrayal of Catherine is remarkably sympathetic; however, most of the rest of the play is an attempt to absolve many, especially Henry VIII, and the timing of key incidents (including Catherine's death) is changed and other events are avoided (the play makes Henry nearly an innocent pawn in the hands of a dastardly Cardinal Wolsey, and the play stops short of Anne Boleyn's execution).

Over the years, numerous artistic and cultural works have been dedicated to Catherine, have been written about her, or have mentioned her, including some by her husband Henry VIII, who wrote "Grene growth the holy"[92] about and for her, and Juan Luis Vives, who dedicated The Education of Christian Women to her.[93]

In art and media

Catherine of Aragon's arms while queen[91]

Her baptismal name was "Catalina", but "Katherine" was soon the accepted form in England after her marriage to Arthur (who later died of natural causes).[73] Catherine herself signed her name "Katherine", "Katherina", "Katharine" and sometimes "Katharina". In a letter to her, Arthur, her husband, addressed her as "Princess Katerine". Her daughter Queen Mary I called her "Quene Kateryn", in her will. Rarely were names, particularly first names, written in an exact manner during the sixteenth century and it is evident from Catherine's own letters that she endorsed different variations.[87] Loveknots built into his various palaces by her husband, Henry VIII, display the initials "H & K",[88] as do other items belonging to Henry and Catherine, including gold goblets, a gold salt cellar, basins of gold, and candlesticks. Her tomb in Peterborough Cathedral is marked "Katharine Queen of England".[89][90]

Spelling of her name

  • In Alcalá de Henares, the place of Catherine's birth, a statue of Catherine as a young woman holding a rose and a book can be seen in the Archbishop's Palace.
  • Peterborough is twinned with the Spanish city of Alcalá de Henares, located in the wider Community of Madrid. Children from schools in the two places have learned about each other as part of the twinning venture, and artists have even come over from Alcalá de Henares to paint Catherine's tombstone.
  • Aragon Road in Ampthill is named after Catherine, also in Ampthill there is a statue of a cross named "Queen Catherine's Cross" in her honour. During her exile from Henry's life, Catherine lived in one of the country manors in Ampthill Castle, near St. Albans.[43]

Places and statues

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.[84][85][86] Giles Tremlett's biography Catherine of Aragon: The Spanish Queen of Henry VIII came out in 2010, and Julia Fox's 2011 dual biography Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile.

Grave of Catherine of Aragon in Peterborough Cathedral.

Catherine has remained a popular biographical subject to the present day. The American historian Garrett Mattingly was the author of a popular biography Katherine of Aragon in 1942. In 1966, Catherine 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 the 20th century, Mary of Teck, had her grave upgraded and there are now banners there denoting Catherine as a Queen of England. Every year at Peterborough Cathedral there is a service in her memory. There are processions, prayers, and various events in the Cathedral including processions to Catherine's grave in which candles, pomegranates, flowers and other offerings are placed on her grave. On the service commemorating the 470th anniversary of her death, the Spanish Ambassador to the United Kingdom attended. During the 2010 service a rendition of Catherine of Aragon's speech before the Legatine court was read by Jane Lapotaire. There is a statue of her in her birthplace of Alcalá de Henares, as a young woman holding a book and a rose.[83]

Her tomb in Peterborough Cathedral[82] can be seen and there is hardly ever a time when it is not decorated with flowers or pomegranates, her heraldic symbol. It bears the title Katharine Queen of England.

In the reign of her daughter Mary I of England, her marriage to Henry VIII was declared "good and valid". Her daughter Queen Mary also had several portraits commissioned of Catherine, and it would not by any means be the last time she was painted. After her death, numerous portraits were painted of her, particularly of her speech at the Legatine Trial, a moment accurately rendered in Shakespeare's play about Henry VIII.

The controversial book "The Education of Christian Women" by Juan Luis Vives, which claimed women have the right to an education, was dedicated to and commissioned by her. Such was Catherine's impression on people, that even her enemy, Thomas Cromwell, said of her "If not for her sex, she could have defied all the heroes of History."[5] She successfully appealed for the lives of the rebels involved in the Evil May Day for the sake of their families.[79] Furthermore, Catherine won widespread admiration by starting an extensive programme for the relief of the poor.[79] She was also a patron of Renaissance humanism, and a friend of the great scholars Erasmus of Rotterdam and Saint Thomas More. Some saw her as a martyr.[80][81]

Statue of Catherine at Alcalá de Henares

Legacy, memory, and historiography

Catherine was of a very fair complexion, had blue eyes, and had a hair colour that was between reddish-blonde and auburn like her mother and sister Joanna.[75] During her lifetime she was described as "the most beautiful creature in the world"[76] and that there was "nothing lacking in her that the most beautiful girl should have."[9] Thomas More and Lord Herbert would reflect later in her lifetime that in regard to her appearance "there were few women who could compete with the Queen [Catherine] in her prime."[77][78]


In 1523 Alfonso de Villa Sancta, a learned friar of the Observant (reform) branch of the Friars Minor and friend of the king's old advisor Erasmus, dedicated to the queen his book De Liberio Arbitrio adversus Melanchthonem denouncing Philip Melanchthon, a supporter of Luther. Acting as her confessor, he was able to nominate her for the title of "Defender of the Faith" for denying Luther's arguments.[74]

The outward celebration of saints and holy relics formed no major part of her personal devotions,[73] which she rather expressed in the Mass, prayer, confession and penance. Privately, however, she was aware of what she identified as the shortcomings of the papacy and church officialdom.[73] Her doubts about Church improprieties certainly did not extend so far as to support the allegations of corruption made public by Martin Luther in Wittenberg in 1517, which were soon to have such far-reaching consequences in initiating the Protestant Reformation.

Catherine was a member of the Third Order of Saint Francis and she was punctilious in her religious obligations in the Order, integrating without demur her necessary duties as queen with her personal piety. After her divorce, she was quoted “I would rather be a poor beggar’s wife and be sure of heaven, than queen of all the world and stand in doubt thereof by reason of my own consent.”[72]

Michael Sittow, Mary Magdalene, probably using Catherine as model


Catherine was buried in Peterborough Cathedral with the ceremony due to a Dowager Princess of Wales, not a queen. Henry did not attend the funeral and forbade Mary to attend.[71][70]

Catherine died at Kimbolton Castle on 7 January 1536.[62] The following day, news of her death reached the king. At the time there were rumours that she was poisoned,[63][64][65] possibly by Gregory di Casale.[66] According to the chronicler Edward Hall, Anne Boleyn wore yellow for the mourning, which has been interpreted in various ways; Polydore Vergil interpreted this to mean that Anne did not mourn.[67] Chapuys reported that it was King Henry who decked himself in yellow, celebrating the news and making a great show of his and Anne's daughter, Elizabeth, to his courtiers.[68] This was seen as distasteful and vulgar by many. Another theory is that the dressing in yellow was out of respect for the late queen-princess dowager as yellow was said to be the Spanish colour of mourning. Certainly, later in the day it is reported that Henry and Anne both individually and privately wept for her death. On the day of Catherine's funeral, Anne Boleyn miscarried a son. Rumours then circulated that Catherine had been poisoned by Anne or Henry, or both, as Anne had threatened to murder both Catherine and Mary on several occasions. 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.[69] 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.[70]

In late December 1535, sensing her death was near, Catherine made her will, and wrote to her nephew, the Emperor Charles V, asking him to protect her daughter. She then penned one final letter to Henry, her "most dear lord and husband":[61]

Catherine went to live at The More castle in the winter of 1531/32.[60] In 1535 she was transferred to Kimbolton Castle. There, she confined herself to one room (which she left only to attend Mass), dressed only in the hair shirt of the Order of St. Francis, and fasted continuously. While she was permitted to receive occasional visitors, she was forbidden to see her daughter Mary. They were also forbidden to communicate in writing, but sympathizers discreetly ferried letters between the two. Henry offered both mother and daughter better quarters and permission to see each other if they would acknowledge Anne Boleyn as the new queen. Both refused.[60]

Until the end of her life, Catherine would refer to herself as Henry's only lawful wedded wife and England's only rightful queen, and her 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.[57]

Upon returning to Dover from a meeting with King Francis I of France in Calais, Henry married Anne Boleyn in a secret ceremony.[57] Some sources speculate that Anne was already pregnant at the time (and Henry did not want to risk a son being born illegitimate), but others testify that Anne (who had seen her sister Mary Boleyn taken up as the king's mistress and summarily cast aside) refused to sleep with Henry until they were married. Henry defended the legality of their union by pointing out that Catherine had previously been married. If she and Arthur had consummated their marriage, Henry by canon law had the right to remarry.[58]On 23 May 1533, Cranmer, sitting in judgement at a special court convened at Dunstable Priory to rule on the validity of Henry's marriage to Catherine, declared the marriage illegal, even though Catherine testified she and Arthur had never had physical relations. Cranmer ruled Henry and Anne's marriage valid five days later, on 28 May 1533.[59]

Aragonese, Valencian and Sicilian Royalty
House of Trastámara

Ferdinand I
   Alfonso V
   John II
   Eleanor, Queen of Portugal
Alfonso V
John II
   Charles IV of Navarre
   Blanche II of Navarre
   Eleanor I of Navarre
   Ferdinand II
   Joan, Queen of Naples
Ferdinand II
   Isabella, Queen of Portugal
   Joanna I, Queen of Aragon
   John, Prince of Asturias
   Mary, Queen of Portugal
   Catherine, Queen of England
Joanna I

Banishment and death

[56].William Tyndale and [55]Martin Luther and Protestant Reformers Pope Paul III, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, María de Salinas - though as a member of the Tudor family and of royal blood, she was safe from any punishment and execution - Mary Tudor, Queen of France, Henry's own sister Thomas More Other people who supported Catherine's case included [54][53]

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