Catherine of Aragon – A true and loyal wife (Part two)

Maria Doyle Kennedy as Catherine of Aragon in The Tudors (Screenshot/Fair use)

Read part one here.

On 11 June 1509, Catherine finally became Queen of England, as the wife of King Henry VIII.1 Preparations immediately began for a joint coronation, and they were crowned on 24 June 1509 in Westminster Abbey.2 It was a happy match and Catherine was soon pregnant with her first child.  On the evening of 30 January, she went into premature labour and gave birth to a stillborn daughter. The swelling in her stomach remained, and so the surgeon surmised she had been carrying twins.3March, April and May passed by, but there was no child.4 It wouldn’t take long for her to conceive again and on Wednesday 1 January 1511, Catherine gave birth to a healthy boy. Catherine must have been over the moon.5 Unfortunately, the young Prince died on 22 February 1511.6

In 1513, Henry had begun to plan a French invasion, and he left behind a pregnant Catherine as regent of England.7 It was a huge risk for Henry, leaving while there was no direct heir to the Kingdom. The Scots immediately took Henry’s absence from England as an excuse to invade. When the armies finally engaged in September, the Scottish King James IV, who also happened to be married to Catherine’s sister-in-law Margaret, was killed during the battle. She proudly wrote to Henry and sent him the King’s coat. Her luck was overshadowed by the loss of her third child sometime in October.8 In either December 1514 or January 1515, Catherine lost her fourth child.9 She did not give up, however, and she was pregnant again around four months later. At last, she would give birth to a child who would survive; the only disappointment was the gender. On 18 February 1516, just before dawn, Catherine gave birth the future Queen Mary I. An optimistic Henry commented, “if it was a daughter this time, by the grace of God, the sons would follow.” 10 Around this time, Catherine’s father Ferdinand died, and the news was kept from her until her ordeal was over.11 The death of her father was followed by the death of her sister Maria in 1517. Catherine and Joanna were now the only surviving children of Isabella and Ferdinand.

Catherine would conceive twice more, but Mary would remain their only surviving child. In June 1519, Bessie Blount gave birth to the King’s illegitimate son, Henry FitzRoy. Perhaps this made Henry realise that the problem may not be with him, but with Catherine.12 Soon, life would begin to change. Anne Boleyn, the woman to whom her name would be linked throughout history, made her first appearance on the international stage at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in the retinue of Queen Claude of France. Henry had also had an affair with Anne’s sister Mary, and Mary’s first child Catherine may have been fathered by Henry. By 1525, Henry had begun to question why his marriage had not been blessed with children (sons), and he had been confiding in Cardinal Wolsey about the doubts of his marriage.13Things were soon to fall apart, and it was all due to Catherine’s lady-in-waiting, Anne.

(public domain)

Catherine would have to fight for her marriage and the rights of her daughter Mary. Douts were raised about the validity of Catherine’s first marriage to Arthur. A passage from Leviticus was used to justify the validity of Catherine’s marriage to Henry. ‘If a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing: he has uncovered his brother’s nakedness. They shall be childless.’ For Henry, having just a daughter was as good as childlessness.14 In June 1529, she made perhaps her most famous speech as she knelt before Henry at The Blackfriars Court.

Sir, I beseech you for all the love that hath been between us, and for the love of God, let me have justice. Take of me some pity and compassion, for I am a poor woman, and a stranger born out of your dominion. I have here no assured friends, and much less impartial counsel. Alas! Sir, wherein have I offended you, or what occasion of displeasure have I deserved? I have been to you a true, humble and obedient wife, ever comfortable to your will and pleasure, that never said or did any thing to the contrary thereof, being always well pleased and contented with all things wherein you had any delight or dalliance, whether it were in little or much. I never grudged in word or countenance, or showed a visage or spark of discontent. I loved all those whom ye loved, only for your sake, whether I had cause or no, and whether they were my friends or enemies. This twenty years or more I have been your true wife and by me ye have had divers children, although it hath pleased God to call them out of this world, which hath been no default in me. And when ye had me at first, I take God to my judge, I was a true maid, without touch of man, and whether it be true or no, I put it to your conscience. If there be any just cause by the law that ye can allege against me either of dishonesty or any other impediment to banish and put me from you, I am well content to depart to my great shame and dishonour and if there be none, then here, I most lowly beseech you, let me remain in my former estate and receive justice at your hands. The King your father … and my father, Ferdinand, King of Spain … thought then the marriage between you and me good and lawful. Therefore, it is a wonder to hear what new inventions are now invented against me, that never intended by honesty … I most humbly require you, in the way of charity and for the love of God, who is the just judge, to spare me the extremity of this new court, until I may be advised what way and order my friends in Spain will advise me to take. And if ye will not extend to me so much impartial favour, your pleasure then be fulfilled, and to God I commit my cause!15

After her speech, she stood up and left the courtroom. The court was suspended for the summer, which may have been a small victory for Catherine.16 The question was referred back to Rome and the pope but the pope was not on Henry’s side, and so he needed a way around the pope. Catherine was in a state of despair and depression, and her treatment went from bad to worse.17 Her health had begun to deteriorate, and she was kept from her daughter.18

In July 1531, Henry and Anne left on a hunting trip, and Catherine was left behind. She did not know it yet, but she would never see Henry again.19 Catherine tried to contact Henry, but he rebuffed all her attempts at contact.20 Around this time, she also saw her daughter for the very last time. Henry would never permit them to be together again.21 In May 1532, Catherine was ordered to move to Hatfield.22 Anne and Henry were probably married in secret in November 1532, upon their return from France. Catherine learned of Anne’s pregnancy as she was being moved to Ampthill Castle.23 Finally, things began to speed up. Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, fulfilled his King’s expectations and pronounced that Henry’s first marriage was null and void, making Anne his first legitimate wife. Catherine was no longer allowed to call herself Queen and would instead be known as the Dowager Princess of Wales.24 Catherine never gave up the title of Queen and insisted that she be addressed as such.25 Even Mary defied Anne when Anne visited the household of Princess Elizabeth, who was born in September 1533. She told Anne, “she knew of no Queen in England except her mother, but if Madame Anne Boleyn would speak to her father on her behalf, she would be much obliged.” [notePorter, Linda (2009) Mary Tudor. The First Queen[/note]

After Catherine’s disobedience, her household was reduced, and she was moved to Buckden House.26 In March 1534, a new Act of Succession was passed, making Princess Mary illegitimate. It was Catherine’s worst fear come true. Catherine was moved a final time to Kimbolton Castle, and by the end of 1535, her health was declining rapidly. She began to prepare for death, and she wrote a final letter to Henry, although there is some debate about its authenticity.

My most dear lord, king and husband, The hour of my death now drawing on, the tender love I owe you forceth me, my case being such, to commend myself to you, and to put you in remembrance with a few words of the health and safeguard of your soul which you ought to prefer before all worldly matters, and before the care and pampering of your body, for the which you have cast me into many miseries and yourself into many troubles. For my part, I pardon you everything, and I wish to devoutly pray God that He will pardon you also. For the rest, I commend unto you our daughter Mary, beseeching you to be a good father unto her, as I have heretofore desired. I entreat you also, on behalf of my maids, to give them marriage portions, which is not much, they being but three. For all my other servants I solicit the wages due them, and a year more, lest they be unprovided for. Lastly, I make this vow, that mine eyes desire you above all things.27

Catherine died at 2 pm on 7 January 1536. An autopsy was performed, and all the organs were normal, except for the heart, which was black.28 She was buried in Peterborough Cathedral as a Princess dowager on 29 January 1536.29

  1. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.195
  2. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.198-202
  3. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.217
  4. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.219
  5. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.224-225
  6. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.227
  7. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.234-235
  8. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.240-241
  9. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.249
  10. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.2551
  11. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.256
  12. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.281
  13. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.324
  14. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.337-338
  15. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.370-371
  16. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.377-378
  17. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.397
  18. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.413
  19. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.426
  20. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.434
  21. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.435
  22. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.444
  23. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.451
  24. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.453
  25. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.459
  26. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.460
  27. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.494-495
  28. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.496
  29. Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon p.501

About Moniek Bloks 2728 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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