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3 <meta name="content" content="Katharine Catherine Katherine of Aragon first wife of Henry VIII">
4 <meta name="page_topic" content="Katharine Catherine Katherine of Aragon first wife of Henry VIII mother of Queen Mary I">
5 <meta name="author" content="Marilee Mongello">
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9 <meta http-equiv="Content-Language" content="en-us"><title>Katharine / Katherine / Catherine of Aragon: Biography, Portraits, Primary Sources</title>
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14<body alink="#0000ff" link="#0000ff" vlink="#0000ff">
15<table border="0" cellpadding="3" height="674" width="100%">
16 <tbody>
17 <tr>
18 <td height="39" width="25%"><br>
19 </td>
20 <td height="39" valign="top" width="50%">
21 <p align="center"><font size="4"><br>'In this world I will confess
22myself to be the king's true wife, and in the next they will know how
23unreasonably I am afflicted.'</font><b><font size="4"> </font> <br>
24 </b><i><font size="-1">Katharine of Aragon, 1532</font></i> </p>
25 </td>
26 <td height="39" width="25%"><br>
27 </td>
28 </tr>
29 <tr>
30 <td height="1" width="25%"><br>
31 </td>
32 <td height="1" width="50%">
33 <p align="center"></p>
34 &nbsp;</td>
35 <td height="1" width="25%"><br>
36 </td>
37 </tr>
38 <tr>
39 <td height="610" width="25%"><br>
40 </td>
41 <td height="610" valign="top" width="50%">
42 <p align="center">
43 <img src="aragon_files/aragoncardinal.gif" alt="Katharine of Aragon" border="0" height="114" width="443"></p>
44 <p align="center">
45 <img src="aragon_files/aragonsittow1.jpg" alt="portrait of Katharine of Aragon by Michael Sittow, c1502" border="2" height="541" width="351"></p>
46 <p align="center"> <i><font size="2">portrait of Katharine of Aragon by
47 Michael Sittow, c1502</font></i></p>
48 <p align="left"> <b><br>The youngest surviving child of
49the 'Catholic Kings' of Spain, Katharine was born on 16 December 1485,
50the same year that Henry VII established the Tudor dynasty.&nbsp; At
51the age of three, she was betrothed to his infant son, Prince
52Arthur.&nbsp; In 1501, shortly before her sixteenth birthday, Katharine
53sailed to England.&nbsp; But her marriage to Arthur lasted less than
54six months and was supposedly never consummated.&nbsp; Katharine was
55then betrothed to Arthur's younger brother, Prince Henry.&nbsp; When he
56became king in 1509, at the age of eighteen, he promptly married
57Katharine and they lived together happily for many years.&nbsp; But
58their marriage produced just one living child, a daughter called Mary,
59and Henry was desperate for a male heir.&nbsp; He also fell deeply in
60love with another woman.&nbsp; Cast aside, Katharine fought against
61great odds to deny Henry an annulment.&nbsp; But the king would not be
62denied and when the Catholic church would not grant the annulment, he
63declared himself head of a new English church.&nbsp; Katharine was
64banished from court and died on 7 January 1536, broken-hearted but
65still defiant.</b> </p>
66 <p align="left"> &nbsp;</p>
67 <blockquote>
68 <blockquote>
69 <p><a href="#Biography">
70 <font size="4">Read the biography of Katharine of Aragon.</font></a></p>
71 </blockquote>
72 <blockquote>
73 <p><b><br>
74Primary Sources</b> <br>
75Read <a href="">letters
76written by Katharine</a> and <a href="">an account of her
77coronation</a> at Westminster Abbey.&nbsp; <br>
78 <br>
79 <b>Secondary Sources<br></b>Read JA Froude's 1891 work <i>
80 <a href="">The Divorce
81 of Catherine of Aragon</a></i>.</p>
82 <p><br>Visit <a href="">Tudor England:
83Images</a> to view portraits of Katharine.<br>
84Visit the <a href="">Queen
85Mary I site</a> to learn more about Katharine's daughter.</p>
86 <p><font size="2"><b><br>
88 </b>Meet other Six Wives enthusiasts at <a href="">Ladies All: A Fanlisting for
89the Six Wives of Henry VIII</a>.<br>
90 <a href=""> Tudor Talk
91 </a>&nbsp;This email discussion list is sponsored by<br>
93 <a href="">Reign of
94the Tudors</a>&nbsp; This is a role-playing game set in 16th century
95England.&nbsp; If you would like to 'play' Jane Grey or Anne Boleyn or
96other Tudors, click the link to join.</font></p>
97 </blockquote>
98 <p align="left"> &nbsp;</p>
99 </blockquote>
100 </td>
101 <td height="610" width="25%"><br>
102 </td>
103 </tr>
104 </tbody>
107 <blockquote>
108 <blockquote>
109 <blockquote>
110 <p>&nbsp;</p>
111 <p><a name="Biography"><br>
112 </a><font size="4">'My tribulations are so great, my life so
113disturbed by the plans daily invented to further the king's wicked
114intention, the surprises which the king gives me, with certain persons
115of his council, are so mortal, and my treatment is what God knows, that
116it is enough to shorten ten lives, much more mine.'&nbsp;&nbsp; </font><i>
117 <font size="-1">Katharine of Aragon to Charles V, November 1531</font></i></p>
118 <p>&nbsp;</p>
119 </blockquote>
120 </blockquote>
121 <p><b>Biography</b> <br>
122Katharine was born on 16 December 1485 at Alcala de Henares, in the
123archbishop of Toledo's palace.&nbsp; Her early life promised a future
124of splendor and success, if not personal happiness.&nbsp; Her parents,
125Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, were legends throughout
126Europe.&nbsp; Their marriage had united the kingdom of Spain and
127together they had driven the Moors from Granada.&nbsp; Katharine's
128mother was deeply pious and very intelligent.&nbsp; Her children, even
129the daughters, received excellent educations.&nbsp; Katharine's brother
130Juan and sister Joanna were married off into the powerful Hapsburg
131family and two other sisters, Isabella and Maria, would each marry the
132king of Portugal.&nbsp; Katharine was promised to England; the
133betrothal contract was finalized before her fourth birthday.&nbsp; The
134island nation, so long torn between Plantagenet cousins vying for the
135throne, was now ruled by Henry Tudor.&nbsp; He had married the daughter
136of the former Plantagenet king, Edward IV, and in 1486 had a male heir
137and a desire to establish the stability and validity of his new
138dynasty.&nbsp; A match with a Spanish princess would give him
139both.&nbsp; And so Katharine, proud and solemn and accompanied by a
140vast dowry, came to England in 1501.&nbsp; </p>
141 <p> She
142wed Prince Arthur within a few weeks of her arrival.&nbsp; It was a
143grand celebration; all of London rejoiced and there was every
144expectation of a glorious future for both husband and wife.&nbsp; They
145left for Ludlow Castle, the government seat of the Prince of Wales, and
146within six months Arthur was dead.&nbsp; It was the dreaded sweating
147sickness.&nbsp; The news devastated his parents.&nbsp; Katharine
148returned to London but was not sent home.&nbsp; Henry VII was already
149writing to her parents about another marriage.&nbsp; </p>
150 <p>Katharine was now promised to Arthur's younger brother,
151Henry.&nbsp; Born 28 June 1491, he was almost six years younger than
152Katharine.&nbsp; But he was robust and healthy, and already regarded as
153a precocious intellect.&nbsp; Before his brother's death, he had been
154destined for the church and educated accordingly.&nbsp; But now he was
155the future king and as such he needed a future wife.&nbsp; Henry VII
156betrothed young Henry to his brother's widow, a plan which required a
157papal dispensation.&nbsp; Ferdinand, at odds with France, was anxious
158to please his English ally; Isabella's piety may have ruined the plan
159but she was dying and did not protest.&nbsp; Katharine and her duenna,
160Dona Elvira, both wrote that her marriage to Arthur had never been
161consummated.&nbsp; Pope Julius II granted the dispensation.&nbsp; </p>
162 <p>The new betrothal may have been spurred by Henry VII's legendary
163avarice.&nbsp; Katharine had brought half of her dowry with her upon
164marriage to Arthur; if she returned home, her marriage contract
165required that the dowry be returned.&nbsp; Also, her inheritance as
166dowager Princess of Wales was substantial.&nbsp; If she left England,
167so would that steady income.&nbsp; </p>
168 <p>Katharine herself <a href="">wrote to her father</a>
169that she had no wish to remain in England but she would obey his
170decision.&nbsp; Perhaps she had already learned enough of Henry VII's
171character to know she would be shabbily treated.&nbsp; Despite her
172royal position, she lived in poverty.&nbsp; The Spanish ambassador was
173forced to buy her necessities and she was unable to pay her
174attendants.&nbsp; And soon enough Henry VII was implying that he would
175break the Spanish betrothal.&nbsp; Katharine spent the next seven years
176in a state of political limbo.&nbsp; And when he turned fourteen, Henry
177VII had his son publicly repudiate the betrothal, claiming that the
178marriage contract was made without his knowledge or consent.&nbsp; Yet
179Katharine remained in England.&nbsp; </p>
180 <p>In 1509, the situation was resolved with startling speed.&nbsp;
181Henry VII died and his eighteen year old son became king.&nbsp;
182Handsome, proud, and imbued with the romantic spirit of chivalry, he
183promptly married Katharine.&nbsp; Did he marry her out of a sense of
184obligation?&nbsp; Was it because, as he later claimed, he wished to
185respect his father's last wish?&nbsp; Were political councilors
186encouraging the Spanish alliance?&nbsp; Or did he love the dignified
187and lovely young princess?&nbsp; It is impossible to know.&nbsp; But
188they certainly acted like a loving and affectionate couple, far beyond
189typical royal marriages.&nbsp; There were public displays of affection,
190declarations of love and respect, and for a long while she was also a
191close political adviser.&nbsp; </p>
192 <p>Henry VIII's court was full of gaiety and celebration.&nbsp; It
193was a welcome change from the austerity of his father's rule.&nbsp;
194Katharine proved herself to be the perfect consort, even when politics
195led her father to humiliate and betray Henry.&nbsp; Katharine
196recognized that she must choose between unwavering support of her
197father and loyalty to her husband.&nbsp; She chose Henry, though his
198Lord Chancellor, <a href="">Cardinal
199Wolsey</a>, never trusted her and instead favored an Anglo-French
200alliance.&nbsp; His influence, and Henry's own suspicions, led the king
201to disregard her political advice.&nbsp; </p>
202 <p>Katharine's primary duty was both personal and political - to
203bear children, as many as possible and preferably sons.&nbsp; This was
204especially important in England since Henry VIII was the sole surviving
205son of his father.&nbsp; Katharine was far from barren and did her
206best; in the first nine years of their marriage, she conceived at least
207six times.&nbsp; She miscarried twice, once delivered a stillborn
208daughter, and two sons died within weeks.&nbsp; The only surviving
209child was a daughter, Princess Mary, born in 1516.&nbsp; Katharine's
210last recorded pregnancy was in 1518, when she was thirty-three years
211old.&nbsp; </p>
212 <p>Henry was not unhappy with the birth of Mary; he assured
213ambassadors that if it were a daughter this time, a son would surely
214follow.&nbsp; But it was soon clear there would be no sons.&nbsp; The
215age difference between he and Katharine was now more noticeable.&nbsp;
216The queen, struggling with frequent pregnancies and constant stress,
217looked older than her years.&nbsp; Henry was a far more prudent king
218than most; he had just two serious affairs during his marriage to
219Katharine.&nbsp; But one of his mistresses, Elizabeth Blount, bore him
220a son.&nbsp; It was clear he could have sons, but the queen could
221not.&nbsp; </p>
222 <p>By 1527, the question of the succession was the most pressing
223issue facing the king.&nbsp; Two years before, he had titled his
224illegitimate son the duke of Richmond and granted him vast estates.&nbsp;
225Many, Katharine included, believed this was a preliminary step to
226naming him heir to the throne.&nbsp; This never occurred and Richmond
227would die in 1536, but - until then - it was a possibility.&nbsp; Henry
228sent Princess Mary to Ludlow Castle as Princess of Wales and his
229official heir, but even that did not stop the rumors or her mother's
230concerns.&nbsp; Katharine confronted Henry; he responded angrily and
231dismissed several of her beloved Spanish attendants.&nbsp; </p>
232 <p>The king by now had hopes of a legitimate heir.&nbsp; He had
233fallen in love the year previously with a young Englishwoman, <a href="boleyn.html">Anne Boleyn</a>.&nbsp;
234She was the sister of a former mistress and refused to take that
235position herself.&nbsp; Henry, who was also deeply pious and a student
236of theology, now took a closer look at his marriage to Katharine.&nbsp;
237In particular, he looked at the text in Leviticus which seemed to
238directly reference his own life - 'If a man shall take his brother's
239wife it is an unclean thing..... they shall be childless.'(Leviticus,
240XX, 21)&nbsp; </p>
241 <p>Of course, they were not childless but a daughter was not the
242heir he needed.&nbsp; No woman had attempted to rule England since the
243disastrous Matilda centuries<img src="aragon_files/aragonhorenbout1.jpg" alt="miniature portrait of Katharine of Aragon by Lucas Horenbout" align="right" border="0" height="324" width="329"> before.&nbsp; Henry now firmly believed
244that his incestuous marriage had been doomed from the start.&nbsp; </p>
245 <p>But how could he annul the marriage?&nbsp; He needed to convince
246the current pope, Clement VII, that the dispensation of his predecessor
247was inadequate.&nbsp; It directly contradicted the Bible and had no
248merit.&nbsp; This should have been a simple enough matter.&nbsp; Royal
249marriages had been annulled for far less.&nbsp; But Katharine's nephew,
250Charles V, was the Holy Roman Emperor and he had no intention of
251allowing his aunt to be cast off.&nbsp; This was not out of personal
252love or loyalty, but a purely political stance.&nbsp; And after the
2531527 'sack of Rome', Charles controlled the pope.&nbsp; </p>
254 <p>Henry was soon thwarted, despite extensive work by Wolsey and
255other advisers.&nbsp; For her part, Katharine was kept in the dark for
256as long as the king could manage it.&nbsp; But she was no fool.&nbsp;
257She knew of the romance between her husband and Mistress Boleyn; she
258knew Henry avoided her company, though he was scrupulous about
259attending official functions with her.&nbsp; He had always respected
260her unassailable dignity and eloquence.&nbsp; He did not wish to fight
261Katharine; he wanted an amicable end to their union and he was prepared
262to be generous.&nbsp; </p>
263 <p>When news of his intentions became official, she was given
264counsel but only that chosen by the king.&nbsp; She turned to the
265Spanish ambassador and close friends at court for support.&nbsp; Anne
266Boleyn was not popular and Katharine was a respected and beloved
267queen.&nbsp; The king soon came under popular scorn for his
268plans.&nbsp; </p>
269 <p>But Henry was as firmly convinced of the righteousness of his
270cause as Katharine was of hers.&nbsp; He had read the Bible; he had
271debated the issue with prominent theologians; he even sponsored
272hearings of the case at European universities.&nbsp; Both king and pope
273knew there was a valid basis for the annulment, and a pressing national
274need for it.&nbsp; Clement could have granted it without troubling his
275conscience.&nbsp; And with the spread of Lutheranism in the German
276states, Clement had no wish to antagonize the loyal and devoted king of
277England.&nbsp; </p>
278 <p>But the English king could not be helped at the Holy Roman Emperor's
279 expense.&nbsp; This was soon made abundantly clear.</p>
280 <p>The pope prevaricated; he could do little else.&nbsp; And for
281several years, the 'King's Great Matter' consumed England and
282fascinated Europe.&nbsp; </p>
283 <p>Henry inevitably tired of the endless parade of papal legates
284and repetitious hearings.&nbsp; He was growing older and Anne was
285growing impatient.&nbsp; Her youth was being wasted to no purpose, she
286told the king.&nbsp; Meanwhile, Katharine encouraged Mary to be
287obstinate in protecting her rights as princess.&nbsp; Mary lost her
288father's favor and was forbidden to visit her mother.&nbsp; </p>
289 <p>Finally, in 1533, Henry did the only thing he could to end the
290marriage - he rejected the authority of the Holy See and declared
291himself Supreme Head of a new Church of England.&nbsp; His archbishop
292of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, issued the long-awaited decree of
293nullity.&nbsp; Katharine was no longer queen of England but 'Princess
294dowager of Wales'.&nbsp; Princess Mary was now illegitimate, and rumors
295spread that Anne Boleyn had finally succumbed to the king and was
296pregnant.&nbsp; </p>
297 <p> Katharine was exiled from court and to a
298succession of damp and unpleasant castles.&nbsp; She had but a handful
299of servants for few would call her queen and she refused to be called
300princess.&nbsp; It was a mark of her early education that she was meek,
301deeply pious and believed in obedience to her husband - but she was
302also a proud and intelligent princess of Spain.&nbsp; She would never
303allow her dignity, or that of her daughter, to be destroyed.&nbsp; In
304the end, this stubborn spirit did both her and Mary far more harm than
305good.&nbsp; Katharine was undoubtedly truthful when she declared her
306marriage to Arthur unconsummated but the truth was cold comfort in the
307last years of her life.&nbsp; </p>
308 <p>Her final years were lonely and sad; the Spanish ambassador kept
309her informed of outside events and smuggled letters to her daughter,
310but she was often ill and at prayer.&nbsp; The wrongs she had suffered
311from Henry filled her with sadness rather than anger.&nbsp; Perhaps she
312was inspired by her motto, Humble and Loyal, for that is how she
314 <p>She died at Kimbolton Castle on 7 January 1536, three weeks
315after her fiftieth birthday.&nbsp; There were rumors that she had been
316poisoned.&nbsp; But if Henry had been so inclined, he would have
317attempted it years before and spared himself much trouble.&nbsp; A
318lingering illness and the psychological effects of her exile were the
319obvious causes.&nbsp; She was buried at Peterborough Abbey with all the
320ceremony befitting the widow of the prince of Wales.&nbsp; Henry did
321not attend the funeral; we do not know if he read Katharine's <a href="">last letter</a> to
322him.&nbsp; It was a love letter and she signed it 'Katherine the
323Queen'.&nbsp; </p>
324 <p>The tragedy of their annulment was that both he and Katharine
325were equally convinced of their causes.&nbsp; For the modern reader,
326both arguments are persuasive.&nbsp; It is an ironic footnote to her
327life story that Katharine, such a devoted and pious Catholic,
328unintentionally brought the Reformation to England.&nbsp; <br>
330 </blockquote>
331 <center>
332 <p><font size="-1"><a href="">to the Six
333Wives main page</a></font> <br>
334 <font size="-1"><a href="">to
335Tudor England</a></font></p>
336 <p><font size="-1"><a href=""> to Primary Sources</a></font></p>
337 </center>
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