CATALINA DE ARAGON

Queen of England

Born: 15 Dec 1485, Alcala de Henares, Madrid, Spain

Died: 7 Jan 1536, Kimbolton Castle, Hunts, England

Buried:  Peterborough Cathedral, England

Father: Fernando V "The Catholic" of Aragon (King of Spain)

Mother: Isabel "The Catholic" of Castile (Queen of Castile)

Married 1: Arthur TUDOR (Prince of Wales) 14 Nov 1501, St.Paul's Cathedral, London, England

Married 2: HENRY VIII TUDOR (King of England) 11 Jun 1509, Grey Friars Church, Greenwich, England ANNULMENT 1533

Children:

1. Dau. TUDOR (b. 31 Jan 1510)

2. Henry TUDOR (D. Cornwall)

3. Henry TUDOR (D. Cornwall) (b. Nov 1513)

4. Son TUDOR (b. Dec 1514)

5. MARY I TUDOR (Queen of England)

6. Dau. TUDOR (b. 10 Nov 1518)


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Catalina was the daughter of Fernando and Isabel of Spain, and had received an excellent education at their court. She had long red-gold hair and blue eyes, and in her youth was considered pretty.

As was common for princesses of the day, her parents almost immediately began looking for a political match for her. When she was three year old, she was betrothed to Arthur, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of Henry VII of England and his wife, Elizabeth of York. Arthur was not even quite two at the time.

When she was almost 16, in 1501, Catalina made the journey to England. It took her three months, and her ships weathered several storms, but she safely made landfall at Plymouth on Oct 2, 1501. Catalina and Arthur were married on 14 Nov 1501 in Old St. Paul's Cathedral, London. Catalina was escorted by the groom's younger brother, Henry.

Shortly after the wedding, Arthur and Catalina went to live in Wales, as was tradition for the heir to the throne. But, four months after the marriage began, it ended, with the death of Arthur Prince of Wales

A treaty was signed that would allow Catalina to marry the next heir to the throne - Prince Henry. Until then, Catalina's parents, Fernando and Isabel of Spain would send over 100,000 crowns worth of plate and gold as a wedding gift and Henry would pay the agreed upon dowry.

It was deemed necessary for a papal dispensation to be issued allowing Henry to marry Catalina, as she was his dead brother's wife, and this marriage was prohibited in Leviticus. At the time, and throughout her life, Catalina denied that her marriage to Arthur had even been consummated (and given the boy's health, that is most likely the case) so no dispensation was needed. However, both the parties in Spain and England wanted to be sure of the legitimacy of the marriage, so permission from the Pope was sought and received. This issue would be very important during the Divorce and the Break with Rome.

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Young Catalina by Michel Sittow
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

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The coronation of Catalina and Henry VIII
Cambridge University Library

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Catalina de Aragon watching Henry VIII joust
College of Arms

 

As a young man Henry enjoyed dancing, gambling, hunting, hawking, horseback riding, jousting, tennis, archery, wrestling, writing and composing music, dancing, masques and pageants. Catalina was five years older and much more sedate. She was interested in politics and Henry often turned to her for advice. In 1513 she ruled as regent while Henry was campaigning in France.

Although Catalina was pregnant many times, only one of her children, Princess Mary, survived. Henry was a doting father and didn't seem to blame Catalina for her failure to bear healthy sons. Henry is only known to have had two mistresses during his marriage to Catalina, which made him a reasonably faithful husband by the standards of the time. Catalina knew of his affairs but kept silent.

Henry was growing frustrated by his lack of a male heir, but he remained a devoted husband. He had at least two mistresses that we know of: Bessie Blount and Mary Boleyn. By 1526 though, he had begun to separate from Catalina because he had fallen in love with one of her ladies (and sister of one of his mistresses): Anne Boleyn.

It is here that the lives of Henry's first and second wives begin to interweave. By the time his interest in Anne became common knowledge, Catalina was 42 years old and was no longer able to conceive. Henry's main goal now was to get a male heir, which his wife was not able to provide. Somewhere along the way, Henry began to look at the texts of Leviticus which says that if a man takes his brother's wife, they shall be childless. As evidenced above, Catalina and Henry were far from childless, and still had one living child. But, that child was a girl, and didn't count in Henry's mind. The King began to petition the Pope for an annulment.

At first, Catalina was kept in the dark about Henry's plans for their annulment. When the news got to Catalina, she was very upset. She was also at a great disadvantage since the court that would decide the case was far from impartial. Catalina then appealed directly to the Pope, which she felt would listen to her case since her nephew was Carlos V, the Holy Roman Emperor.

The political and legal debate continued for six years. Catalina was adamant in saying that she and Arthur, her first husband and Henry's brother, did not consummate their marriage and therefore were not truly husband and wife. Catalina sought not only to retain her position, but also that of her daughter Mary.

Things came to a head in 1533 when Anne Boleyn became pregnant. Henry had to act, and his solution was to reject the power of the Pope in England and to have Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury grant the annulment. Catalina was to renounce the title of Queen and would be known as the Princess Dowager of Wales, something she refused to acknowledge through to the end of her life.

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Catalina at 40years

by Lucas Hornebolte

In the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry KT

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Catalina and her daughter were separated and she was forced to leave court. She lived for the next three years in several dank and unhealthy castles and manors with just a few servants. However, she seldom complained of her treatment and spent a great deal of time at prayer.

On 7 Jan 1536, Catalina died at Kimbolton Castle in the arms of Maria de Salinas, lady Willoughby, her devoted friend who was there against the King orders; and was buried at Peterborough Abbey with the ceremony due for her position as Princess Dowager, not as a Queen of England.

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