Katherine of Aragon

Likely portrait of Catherine of Aragon by Michael Sittow (c. 1502). Image Credit: WikiCommons.

By Johanna Strong

Katherine of Aragon was born on 16 December 1485 at the Archiepiscopal Palace of Alcalá de Henares in Castile to Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. In 1499, she was married by proxy to Arthur Tudor, eldest son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, and she arrived in England to marry Arthur in 1501. Six months later, Arthur was dead. Katherine remained in England until Henry VII died in 1509, at which point she and Henry VIII were married.

Katherine and Henry were crowned together at Westminster Abbey on 24 June 1509. She soon became pregnant and though she was pregnant 6 times, the only child who survived infancy was Mary, born in 1516. Katherine, however, was much more than simply a wife to a king. Henry appointed her regent multiple times throughout his reign when he was away fighting wars, trusting her with the affairs of the realm.

Unfortunately for Katherine, Henry VIII was in search of a son and heir. When Katherine became too old to conceive and Henry’s hopes for a son with her were dashed, Henry started looking for a way out of their marriage, his eye eventually settling on Anne Boleyn. By 1533, Henry and Anne were married, and his marriage to Katherine was annulled. Katherine was now officially referred to as the Dowager Princess of Wales, the title due to her as Arthur’s widow, but she publicly refused to concede her title and standing as queen. Henry and Katherine had been married for 24 years.

She died on 7 January 1536 without her daughter at her side and unable to even send her a letter or a note. Katherine of Aragon is buried at Peterborough Cathedral, where she is often left flowers and pomegranates, her symbol as queen.

Portrait of Catherine of Aragon. Image Credit: National Portrait Gallery, London.

Recommended Reading

Amy Licence, Catherine of Aragon: The Intimate Life of Henry VIII’s True Wife (Stroud: Amberley, 2017)

Giles Tremlett, Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen (London: Faber & Faber, 2011)

Michelle L. Beer, Queenship at the Renaissance Courts of Britain: Catherine of Aragon and Margaret Tudor (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2018).

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