Katherine D'Aragon Queen Of England 1485-1536

In honor of Queen Katharine's birthday, I am focussing on her life with her husband, King of England, Henry VIII instead of the traditional biography life summary.

Katherine served as Queen of England from 1509-1533 when on 11 June 1509 she married Henry VIII
in a private ceremony at Greenwich Church. She was 23 years of age. The king was just days short of his 18th birthday.

Her coronation took place on Saturday 23 June, the traditional eve-of-coronation procession to Westminster and was greeted by a large and enthusiastic crowd. As was the custom, they spent the night before their coronation at the Tower of London. On Midsummer's Day, Sunday, 24 June 1509, Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon 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.

On 31 January 1510, Katherine gave birth prematurely to a stillborn daughter. A son, Henry, Duke of Cornwall, was born on New Year's Day 1511. He lived for only 52 days. In 1513, Katherine was pregnant again. Henry appointed her regent when he went to France on a military campaign. When the Scots invaded, they were defeated at the Battle of Flodden Field, with Katherine addressing the army, and riding north in full armour with some of the troops, despite being heavily pregnant at the time. She sent a letter to Henry along with the bloodied coat of the King of Scots, James IV, who died in the battle.

Katherine had lost another son when Henry returned from France. He was either stillborn or died shortly after birth. In December 1514, she had another son, Prince Henry. On 18 February 1516, Katherine delivered a healthy girl. She was named Mary and christened three days later with great ceremony at the Church of Observant Friars. In 1518, Katherine became pregnant for the last time. She gave birth to a daughter on 10 November, but the child was weak and lived either only a few hours or at most a week. Katherine was pregnant six times altogether.

Katherine'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 Katherine'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. A long civil war (1135–54) had been fought the last time a woman, (Henry I of England's daughter, Empress Matilda), had inherited the throne. The disasters of civil war were still fresh in living memory from the Wars of the Roses.

In 1520, Katherine's nephew Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, 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 Katherine's daughter Mary.

In 1525, Henry VIII became enamoured of Anne Boleyn, a maid-of-honour to Queen Katherine who was between 10 and 17 years younger than Henry (Anne's exact year of birth is unknown). Henry began pursuing her. By this time Katherine was no longer able to bear children. 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. Even if her marriage to Arthur had not been consummated (and Katherine 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. Whether the Pope at the time of Henry and Katherine's marriage had had the right to overrule Henry's claimed scriptural impediment would become a hot point in Henry's campaign to wrest an annulment from the present Pope. 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, Henry VII, 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.

It soon became the one absorbing object of Henry's desires to secure an annulment. Katherine 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". 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 Katherine'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 his great matter into the hands of Thomas Wolsey, and Wolsey did all he could to secure a decision in Henry's favour. Wolsey went so far as to convene an ecclesiastical court in England, with a representative of the Pope presiding, and Henry and Katherine herself in attendance. The Pope had no intention of allowing a decision to be reached in England, and his legate was recalled. 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. 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. A year later, Katherine 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.

Henry married Anne Boleyn in a secret ceremony. On 23 May 1533, Cranmer, sitting in judgment at a special court convened at Dunstable Priory to rule on the validity of Henry's marriage to Katherine, declared the marriage illegal, even though Katherine testified she and Arthur had never had physical relations. Cranmer ruled Henry and Anne's marriage valid five days later, on 28 May 1533.

Until the end of her life, Katherine 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. However, Henry refused her the right to any title but "Dowager Princess of Wales", in recognition of her position as his brother's widow.

In 1535 she was transferred to the decaying and remote 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 his new Queen. Both refused.

In late December 1535, sensing her death was near, Katherine 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":

The hour of my death now drawing on, the tender love I ouge [owe] thou forceth me, my case being such, to commend myselv to thou, and to put thou in remembrance with a few words of the healthe and safeguard of thine allm [soul] which thou ougte to preferce before all worldley matters, and before the care and pampering of thy body, for the which thoust have cast me into many calamities and thineselv into many troubles. For my part, I pardon thou everything, and I desire to devoutly pray God that He will pardon thou also. For the rest, I commend unto thou our doughtere Mary, beseeching thou to be a good father unto her, as I have heretofore desired. I entreat thou also, on behalve of my maides, to give them marriage portions, which is not much, they being but three. For all mine other servants I solicit the wages due them, and a year more, lest they be unprovided for. Lastly, I makest this vouge [vow], that mine eyes desire thou aboufe all things.

Katharine the Quene

Katherine Of Aragon died at Kimbolton Castle, on 7 January 1536. The following day, news of her death reached the King. 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. However, Chapuys reported that it was actually 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. 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 Katherine's funeral, Anne Boleyn miscarried a son, which led to her execution a few months later. Rumours then circulated that Katherine had been poisoned by Anne or Henry, or both, as Anne had threatened to murder both Katherine 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. 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.

Katherine 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 refused to allow Mary to attend either.


Anonymous said…
I truly admired Katherine, she carried herself with much dignity even until her dying day...what courage that woman had!
Kimberly Eve said…
Thanks Anonymous! I couldn't agree with you more!