Monday, January 12, 2015

The Death of Catherine of Aragon

On January 7, 1536 Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII and mother to Mary I, died at Kimbolton Castle. Catherine was the Queen of England from 1509-1533, when she was deposed by Anne Boleyn. Prior to her marriage to Henry, Catherine was styled Princes off Wales, as she was the wife of Prince Arthur, heir to the throne. 

Catherine was the daughter of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, she was betrothed at age three to Arthur. In 1501 she was sent to England to marry the heir, he died less than six months later. Henry was elevated to the position of heir and Catherine's parents quickly began negotiations to have Catherine married to him. The two married in 1509 and remained together for many years, despite having no surviving sons. In 1516 Mary, their sole living child and heir, was born. 
In the 1520s Henry's interest in his once beautiful wife declined drastically and he began taking mistresses. In June 1519, Henry's acknowledged bastard son, Henry Fitzroy, was born. He carried on a known liaison with Mary Carey, sister to Anne Boleyn, as well. By 1527 Henry was actively seeking an annulment of his marriage on religious grounds with Wolsey and his other advisers pleaing with the Vatican for an intervention.

When the Pope, intimidated by Catherine's vast, powerful family, declined to give him an annulment despite years of negotiations Henry set into motion a break from Papal authority that would have enormous religious implications. Henry declared himself head of the Church in England and with the help of Thomas Cromwell, granted himself a divorce. The actions broke Catherine's heart and she spent the remainder of her life continuing to insist that she was Henry's true wife. She endured a great amount of suffering including being kept from her daughter and being stripped of her many titles. She was banished from court and lived out her life at Kimbolton. Her situation garnered a lot of sympathy from her supporters around the kingdom. Even her enemies admired her; Thomas Cromwell himself said "If not for her sex, she could have defied all the heroes of history. She was a scholar, a friend and patron of famous humanists. She was loved by her people for her programs to help eradicate poverty and educate women. Catherine died alone. claiming her right to the queenship until the very end. It was a sad end to her great life.

4 comments:

  1. Was anyone with her when she died? How sad...

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    1. Hello Tina,
      Some of her ladies were with her when she passed away. Unfortunately, her daughter Mary was not.

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  2. I think the portrayal of KofA as the victim is really inaccurate. Do you ever plan to write about her lying and manipulating the Papal Court? She was not a virgin when she married Henry; even the Pope knew that. Look at the primary sources. The dispensation makes it pretty clear.

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    1. I appreciate your knowledge regarding the wording of the Papal dispensation, which does imply that Katherine was not a virgin. The purpose of the post was to show the great life that she lived as Queen, not to condemn her based on whether or not she was truthful regarding her virginity. That being said, I would consider writing about Katherine and her interactions with the Papal legate. If I find time to research it thoroughly it will be posted here. Check back!

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