CATHERINE OF ARAGON

Henry VIII's first wife, Catherine of Aragon, is known to history as the wife the King pushed aside in favour of Anne Boleyn. Catherine was a pious Catholic woman, adored by the English people. Yet her inability to deliver Henry a male heir overshadowed her virtuous qualities.

catherine of aragon

CATHERINE'S EARLY LIFE

Daughter to Ferdinand II of Spain and Isabella I of Castile, Catherine was trained from birth as a future Queen. Although her parents' marriage was political, Isabella sincerely loved Ferdinand, providing a template for Catherine's later relationships with Prince Arthur and his younger brother Henry VIII. There was no mistaking Catherine as a princess, but her common touch, charity work, and devotion to the Catholic faith would win over the hearts of the English people. Not to mention that according to Sir Thomas More - one of Henry VIII's closet councillors - in her youth, few women could compare for looks, 

MARRIAGE TO PRINCE ARTHUR

Although she is best known for her marriage to Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon was first married to his younger brother Arthur. The marriage was intended to strengthen ties between England and Spain who shared the common enemy of France. Catherine and Arthur married in 1501, only a year before the young prince's death. Upon Arthur's death, Catherine was somewhat cast out amongst the English court. However, eager to receive payment for the marriage from Ferdinand II, Henry VII looked to his remaining son.

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CATHERINE MARRIES HENRY VIII

In 1509, the same year that Henry VIII became king, he married Catherine of Aragon. Whilst the pair's relationship is commonly depicted as strained and resentful, this wasn't always the case. In fact, Catherine and Henry shared many passionate and loving years. Henry was recorded as kissing and caressing Catherine in public, inviting onlookers to admire the Queen's beauty. The King had an immense respect for Catherine, even deferring matters of state to her before making a decision.  

THE BATTLE OF FLODDEN

One of Catherine's most overlooked achievements as Queen was in 1513 with The Battle of Flodden. Whilst Henry was away campaigning against the French, taking most of his army with him, the Scots saw this as an opportunity to invade the north of England. Not one to sit idle, Catherine took decisive action, using her royal powers to gather troops and march against the Scots. The English triumphantly repelled the Scots, killing the King of Scotland himself in battle. Catherine went so far as to manage peace negotiations between the two nations.

the battle of flodden
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PRINCESS MARY IS BORN

Between 1510 to 1518, Catherine birthed six children, two of whom were male. Whilst one of the boys survived for 26 days, the rest of her children didn't make it, with the exception of one daughter: Princess Mary I who would eventually become the Queen of England. At first, Henry is said to have comforted Catherine for the loss of their children, caring more for her well-being than his desire for a male heir. Of course, this goodwill of his didn't last. 

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CATHERINE OF ARAGON VS. ANNE BOLEYN

After growing frustrated with Catherine's inability to deliver him a male heir, Henry set his sights on one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting: Anne Boleyn. Young and clever with an unconventional beauty, Henry quickly became infatuated. When Anne refused to be his mistress, Henry petitioned the Pope to grant him a divorce so that he may marry Anne Boleyn. Catherine of Aragon, however, proved difficult opposition with papal and public support.

anne boleyn portrait
catherine aragon portrait

LIFE AFTER DIVORCE

Henry VIII's marriage with Catherine was officially annulled in 1533 after making himself the head of the Church of England and sparking the English Reformation. Catherine, however, remained true to the King, continuing to profess her devotion to him. Henry offered her no kindness and she was forced to live the rest of her days in isolation. The King even forbade her from contacting their daughter, Princess Mary. Catherine died in 1536, likely of cancer. Henry celebrated her death with a great feast. It was a sad end to a once formidable woman.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

HOW DID CATHERINE OF ARAGON DIE?

Catherine died aged 50 on January 7th 1536, likely due to cancer. She died in isolation confined to one room in Kimbolton castle where she left only to attend mass.

HOW OLD WAS CATHERINE OF ARAGON WHEN SHE MARRIED HENRY?

Catherine was 23 when she married the then 17 Henry VIII. The pair had known each other for many years prior to their marriage and had developed a strong affection for one another.

WHAT DID CATHERINE OF ARAGON LOOK LIKE?

Whilst Sir Thomas More said that few women compared to her looks in her youth, accounts of her appearance soured with age. One Venetian diplomat described her as "ugly and deformed"; another, "35 and not handsome". However, these accounts were likely politically influenced. 

WHERE DID HENRY VIII LIVE WITH CATHERINE OF ARAGON?

Whilst married to Henry, Catherine lived at court. In her later years, after the King divorced her, Catherine resided at Kimbolton castle until her final moments.

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