Katherine of Aragon,
1st wife of King Henry VIII
16 December 1485, daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, in Madrid
- 14 November 1501, Prince Arthur of England, at (old) St. Paul’s Cathedral, London
- 11 June 1509, Henry VIII, at the Franciscan church in Greenwich
24 June 1509 at Westminster Abbey, London
7 January 1536 at Kimbolton Castle, Huntingdonshire
atherine, daughter of Spain’s “Most Catholic Monarchs,” was a prestigious bride for the new Tudor dynasty. Less than five months after she married Henry VII’s heir, however, Prince Arthur died.
Not wishing to lose the match (or her dowry), Henry proposed that Katherine marry his second son who was six years younger. Katherine spent years in semi-poverty and isolation waiting for young Henry to reach adulthood.
Six weeks after his father’s death, Henry VIII happily married his beautifully vulnerable former sister-in-law. There were frequent pregnancies but, after a series of miscarriages and stillbirths, only Princess Mary survived.
Katherine remained serene. Her mother had been an independent monarch, working successfully in tandem with her equally regal husband. To Henry, however, a daughter as heir was not acceptable.
Henry made his first moves to annul the marriage in 1527, finding a Biblical prohibition against relations with a brother’s wife which, he claimed, no papal dispensation could overcome. Henry had also found new hope for a son and new love with Anne Boleyn, one of Katherine’s ladies.
Katherine fought back fiercely and with unrelenting determination. She insisted that her marriage with Arthur had not been consummated, and refused to deny the validity of her marriage to Henry or damage the status of her daughter. Matters escalated and Katherine was sent away from court in 1531. Henry eventually married Anne, having obtained a “local divorce” from the English church, newly-independent from the pope, but definitely not independent from the king!
Katherine died in isolation in 1536, protesting her continuing love for her husband and concern for their daughter Mary. Katherine, respected for her piety, generosity, strength, intelligence and steadfastness, was deeply loved by the English people. A supporter of Oxford and Cambridge, she was a strong patron of education, taking great care that her own daughter, Mary, be well-educated.
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