Katherine of Aragon

Her Early Life

Katherine of Aragon came to England from Spain in 1501 as the bride of Arthur, Prince of Wales. She was the daughter of Isabella of Castille and Ferdinan of Spain. Arthur and Katherine were married in November of 1501 at St. Paul's Cathedral. Sadly, Arthur died six months after his marriage to Katherine . Until Katherine was married to Henry in 1509, she lived a very unhappy life in England, far away from her home country and her family. She was dependent on Henry VII for money to live on during the years between Arthur's death and her remarriage, and Henry VII was not very generous in handing over that money. She had to sell off her own jewelry and plate in order to feed and clothe herself and her Spanish servants. But after Henry VII died, his son wasted no time in marrying the Princess. They were wed on June 11, 1509 near Greenwich Palace. From there she went to the Tower of London to prepare for the coronation of both herself and her husband. Katherine was twenty three and Henry seventeen at the time of the wedding, but despite the age difference and the differences between their upbringing, they made a good match. The two seemed to genuinely love each other. In fact, when Henry VIII left England to go to war against France, he made Katherine Governor of the Realm and Captain-General of the forces that would stay in England. Almost as soon as Henry VIII left for France, England was attacked by Scotland. It was Katherine who had to organize what little troops remained to defend the country, and she lead the English to victory over the Scots.

The Birth of A Little Princess

Queen Katherine lost her first child in May 1510 when a daughter was born still-born. She became pregnant again and gave birth to a baby boy who was christened Henry on New year's Day 1511. The nation mourned when the little prince died after only seven weeks. Her next pregnancy, in 1513, ended with another stillborn baby boy. In 1516, Katherine gave birth to a healthy little girl that her parents named Mary. By 1526, Henry VIII had publically recognized Mary as his heir, a sign that, at 41, Katherine would have no more children.
As daughter of one the most infamous Queens in history, Katherine apparently had no problem with the idea of a woman ruling England, and brought her daughter up to be prepared for that goal. The idea of teaching girls was fairly new, having developed during the Renaissance, and was strongly advocated by Sir Thomas More, who had four daughters of his own. Katherine became an advocate of More's ideas through her instruction of Mary, and the Queen in fact set a new standard for the instruction of girls.

Dark Days for Queen Katherine

As far as historians can see from what information we have left of the time, Henry VIII started having second thoughts about his marriage to Katherine around 1525, sixteen years after their marriage. (3,53) By December 1526, he had decided that the reason he and Katherine had only produced one living child during their marriage was because God was unhappy with the marriage. (3,54). Because Katherine had been married, however briefly, to Henry's brother Arthur, special permission from the Pope had to be obtained in order to allow Henry and Katherine's marriage to be valid. (2,28) Now Henry was doubting that the Pope had been right to give that permission in the first place.
In 1527, Henry VIII finally told Katherine that he wanted their marriage annulled. Katherine broke down in tears, which was very uncharacteristic for this strong woman who had already been through so much. She quickly made it clear to Henry that she would fight against his efforts every step of the way (2,51). She rejected the suggestion that she give in quietly and go to a nunnery. (2,52)
Believing that God was showing his divine displeasure at their marriage, Henry asked the Pope for an annulment of his marriage to Katherine. The Pope refused. In 1532, Henry VII took matters into his own hands by declaring the church in England seperate from the church in Rome, effectively taking power away from Vatican. Free of Rome, Henry had his own clergy renounce his marriage to Katherine. He and Anne were married in 1533, with Anne already pregnant with Henry's longed for heir. Katherine died 7 January 1536.


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