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The Wives of King Henry VIII: Catherine of Aragon
As Long as We Both Shall Live...
...Or at least until I dispose of you. I must admit I have always been fascinated by the wives of the infamous King Henry VII. According to history he had 6 "wives", depending on your definition of the term, and countless mistresses (we'll go into why they weren't considered wives by some later). You've probably seen their pictures and maybe even know their names, but who were these women? They were human beings like you and me who had dreams, ambitions, and hopes. I suppose we'll never really know them in the intimate way we know the living and breathing people around us, but we can take the briefest glimpse into their lives. Perhaps one day when I'm no longer around I can sit down and have a nice chat with each one of them. (Sorry for the morbid thought, but it would be fascinating!)
I've decided to devote a hub to each woman, because each of them had full lives. This is the first hub of six, dedicated to Queen Catherine, first of Henry VII's wives.
Catherine of Aragon: Life
The first of Henry VIII's six wives, Catherine of Aragon was also the most royal. As the daughter of Ferdinand II and Isabella of Castile, Catherine was a princess in her own right, even before her marriage to King Henry. Catherine was actually married to Henry's older brother Arthur, who was slated to be King after his father Henry VII passed. Arthur and Catherine were betrothed as children, and connected with each other through letters. At 15 Arthur decided he wanted to meet his bride, and she arrived on the shores of England to marry him in person. Not much is known about their private lives, but he is said to have desired to be a good husband to her, and to make her happy. Unfortunately, when Arthur went to preside over the council of Wales and Marches on the border of Wale, both he and his bride caught the sweating sickness, which was endemic at the time. No one really knows the true etiology of the disease now, it is still quite the mystery. Arthur perished from the disease, but Catherine recovered, only to find herself a widow.
In order to avoid sending back Catherine's dowry to her father, Henry VII decided to marry Catherine to his younger son, Henry VII, who was more than 5 years younger than Catherine. The marriage was allowed by the papacy because Catherine vowed that her marriage to Arthur had never been consummated. Her marriage to Henry however was put off for a very long time, during which she was kept a virtual prisoner at Durham House in London. Finally, in 1509, several weeks after Henry VIII's death, she was married to Henry VIII, and crowned Queen of England. She was said to be immensely popular, and even ruled the country during Henry's absence.
Unfortunately for Catherine, both of her male children died in infancy. She suffered several miscarriages and only one of her children, Mary, survived. Henry had been relatively happy with Catherine, but her failure to produce a male heir made him worried. At the time there was no precedence for female heirs. This worry coupled with an attractive young woman named Anne Boleyn made Henry obsessed with divorcing Catherine.
Catherine of Aragon: Downfall and Death
Henry was convinced that his marriage was cursed because he had married the wife of his brother, and he believed that the marriage had in fact been consummated. He tried utilizing his friend Cardinal Thomas Wolsey to convince the Pope to grant him an annulment, but Wolsey failed and was demoted from his post. Wolsey then began a plot to have Anne Boleyn forced into exile. He was discovered and charged with treason, and would have been executed had he not died from a terminal illness.
This failure ultimately led to the separation of England from the Catholic church. Henry's desire was so immense that he formed the Church of England, and had the new Archbishop of Canterbury (who was a relative of Boleyn's) grant him a divorce. Though the Catholics of the country harbored much hatred for Anne Boleyn because of this, the Protestants saw her as a sort of savior.
Catherine was promptly removed from her rooms at court and banished to the rundown Kimbolton castle. Anne Boleyn moved into the Queen's old rooms. At Kimbolton, Catherine stayed in one room and only left to attend mass. She was not allowed contact with her daughter, and had only three maids. In 1535 she felt the hand of death upon her and wrote a final letter to Henry, proclaiming her love and beseeching him to take care of their daughter and their servants. Upon embalming Catherine was found to have a black lesion on her heart, which the doctors of the day thought indicated that she was poisoned. Researchers now believe it was cancer, something the people of the 16th century knew nothing about. When Catherine died Henry and Anne dressed in yellow and held a celebration.
She was the only one of Henry's wives to see her 50th birthday.