Catherine of Aragon (1485 - 1536)

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Katherine of Aragon: (to Anne and Mary)
"I am Katherine, Queen of England, the King's one true wife and mother of the heir to the throne. Beloved of the people, and beloved of a King you have bewitched."

Katherine of Aragon: (to Anne)
"Let me tell you this. You want me to lie before God, and admit my first marriage was consummated? Well, it was not. You want me to retire, and withdraw my daughter's claim as sole rightful heir to the throne? Well, I shall not. Not in a thousand years. Not if you rack me within an inch of my life. So, I hope you have the belly for a fight, Anne Boleyn, because I'll fight you, every inch of the way."

Her Life
Catherine of Aragon was born into a family of kings and queens and was destined to become one herself. She was betrothed since she was about four years old to the future king of England. She fulfilled this destiny, but became victim of Henry VIII's inability to produce a male heir. For this reason, she was removed from her throne and her marriage annulled. Although, maybe not the most memorable of Henry VIII's wives, she certainly had left a mark on history.

Catherine of Aragon had anything but a typical childhood. Catherine of Aragon was born on December 16, 1485 in Alcala de Henares, Spain. She was the daughter of Queen Isabella of Castile and mighty King Ferdinand of Aragon. Catherine was the youngest of five children, the others being Isabella, Juan, Juana, and Maria. Catherine's childhood experiences were quite fascinating. She witnessed the surrender of the Moors in Granada and Columbus' first voyage to the New World. Also Catherine was able to choose her own badge, which consisted of a pomegranate. This ends up being quite appropriate, because the fruit is hard on the outside, which symbolized Catherine's tough attitude and was soft on the inside, which symbolized fertility.

Catherine received an education typical of women in the fifteenth century. She was taught religion, housewife skills, and literacy in Spanish and Latin. She was a well-read child and she watched her parents deal with diplomatic and militaristic issues. In 1489, arrangements were made between Spain and England that betrothed Catherine of Aragon to Arthur, Prince of Wales, who was next in line to receive the English crown. This betrothal was made in order to keep the peace between two of the most powerful nations of Europe.

Tragedy struck the family in 1498 when Catherine's sister, Isabella, Queen of Portugal, died in childbirth. Although this tragedy hurt the royal family of Spain, in 1501, Catherine left Spain for England to marry Prince Arthur. They were married on November 14, 1501. The marriage was short because Arthur had died on April 2, 1502.

Her first marriage created much debate on whether or not it was consummated, because Catherine agreed to a second marriage to Arthur's brother, Henry VIII. Financial matters dealing with Catherine's dowry and King Henry VII kept the two from marrying until the king's death on April 21, 1509. Catherine and Henry VIII were married on June 11th, 1509. Henry was then crowned on June 24th, which made Catherine, Queen of England.

Catherine was very much an ideal queen. She was supportive of her husband, and like him, she enjoyed music and dance. As queen, Catherine managed the royal household, cared for Henry's linen and wardrobe, ran her own estates, and often supervised in royal business. She also took time and effort to provide the poor with money, clothes, food, and fuel in the winter. She was the only person Henry could confide to in the first few years of their marriage. For the first five years of their marriage, Catherine acted as the Spanish ambassador to England quite successfully on her own. She held off a Scottish rebellion in England while King Henry was off to war in France.

Queen Catherine bore six children, only one of whom had survived. This was Princess Mary, who would later become Queen Mary I of England also known as "Bloody Mary". The birth of her daughter, was a time of joy for Catherine, but her father, King Ferdinand of Spain had passed soon after. Henry was obsessed with producing a male heir to the throne in order to continue the Tudor dynasty. It became evident to Henry that Catherine would not be able to give him a son. Consequently, Henry tried to secure an annulment of his marriage with Catherine from Pope Clement VII. Catherine was initially given the opportunity to leave Henry VIII peacefully by living out her years in a nunnery. She chose to fight it out in the courts, which ruled against her. Had Catherine acted differently, the religious reformation would have been delayed or might not have come to England at all. The pope would not agree to the annulment so Henry decided to resolve his dilemma by having the archbishop of Canterbury declare his marriage with Catherine null and void on March 30, 1534. Henry then took Anne Boleyn as his new queen. Henry VIII had split away from the Catholic Church and formed the Church of England, and put himself as the head of the church.

Catherine lived out her life at Kimbolton, secluded from Henry and her daughter, Mary. Catherine died on January 7, 1536, at the age of fifty.

Catherine of Aragon had changed the course of history. Had it not been for her, the Protestant Reformation might not have occurred in England. Although, many might think that it was unfortunate for Catherine that Henry had their marriage annulled, it was lucky for her that she did not suffer the same fate as Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard. And her daughter Mary, did become Queen of England.

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