Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Catherine of Aragon - 1st wife of King Henry VIII

Henry the VIII and his wives. 

By Hans Holbein the Younger - Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Public Domain,

Catherine of Aragon was the youngest child of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Monarchs of Spain. She was blessed with blue eyes, red hair and a fair complexion. At age three negotiations were already in the works for a betrothal to Arthur, Henry's older brother.  

Catherine at age 11
By Juan de Flandes - The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202., Public Domain,
Growing up, she was well educated in several languages. She could read and speak in Latin and Spanish and spoke French and Greek. She studied math, the canon and civil law, genealogy, religion, and theology just to name a few. Along with those core subjects she also learned some of the finer domestic skills like cooking, embroidery, sewing and the list truly could go on and on. Catherine of Aragon was a well rounded young lady when she finished her studies. 

At the young age of 16 she married Arthur, Prince of Wales, 15, but the marriage was short lived and one year later he died from an unknown cause. Catherine stood firm that the marriage had never been consummated. She was a deeply religious woman, holding firm to the Catholic Church. I suppose some of that profound faith was due to her studies in the canon law, religion and theology. At the age of 24 she married Henry, now King of England. 

She and Henry were a good match as she was intelligent and a competent Regent when Henry was gone. Catherine successfully oversaw a battle with the Scots while Henry busied himself waging war against France. Though there are many speculations out there why Henry married Catherine, the romance writer in me latches on to every word I read that suggest it could have been plain and simple romance. Henry was young and Catherine was around and would have been someone he could regularly talk to. An older woman, six years his senior, I believe he fell in love with her.
                             By Lucas Horenbout -, Public Domain,

To support that theory, the two shared a coronation day. This was unusual for the time because if they'd gone with tradition, Catherine would have had to bear him an heir before she could share in the extravagant carriages, clothes, and celebration of coronation day. But Henry loved her and threw tradition to the wind and shared  coronation day. Henry wasn't alone in his love for Catherine. She returned the affections given to her from Henry.

And one of the things she wanted most was to give Henry the heir he much desired. Just 2 months after the wedding the first pregnancy was announced. She gave birth to a stillborn girl in January 1510. Her second child, a boy was born January 1511. He died 52 days later. September of 1513 she gave birth prematurely to a boy who did not survive. November of 1514 she gave birth to yet another son who died shortly after birth. February 18th, 1516 Catherine had a healthy baby girl she named Mary. In November of 1518 she gave birth to another girl one month early and the baby did not survive. There is some thoughts that she may have had 3 more unsuccessful pregnancies. As much as Catherine wanted to please her king with a male heir, that was not to be. 

Mary, daughter of Catherine and Henry
By Master John (floruit 1544-1545) - Scanned from the book The National Portrait Gallery History of the Kings and Queens of England by David Williamson, ISBN 1855142287., Public Domain,
The couple's early life had been a happy one but as the years went on without that heir, Henry's eye wandered as he desired something that his wife was unable to give him. Eighteen years after his marriage to Catherine, Henry chose to divorce her. However the Catholic church was not in agreement with Henry's wishes and would not grant him his divorce. Henry desired Anne Boleyn, but she was not willing to be just his mistress for she had her eye on the throne. Henry had to get rid of his wife so he could marry Anne. When the Pope refused to annual the marriage and Henry had exhausted all efforts for a divorce, he went and married Anne, he then made himself head of the Church of England as well as annulled his marriage to Catherine, freeing himself to devote himself to Anne.

Catherine refused to recognize Anne as queen and always believed she was the rightful wife and queen. Catherine spent her later years, choosing to confine herself to one room and leaving only for mass. She died at Kimbolton Castle at the age of fifty. 

Debbie Lynne Costello is the author of Sword of Forgiveness, Amazon's #1 seller for Historical Christian Romance. She has enjoyed writing stories since she was eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina with their 5 horses, 3 dogs, cat and miniature donkey.

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  1. Thank you for telling Catherine's story. I think it's amazing how this story could be set in modern times with nearly the same outcomes.

    1. Wow, Connie, I hadn't thought about that but you are so right! I plan to go through each of the wives of Henry. So stay tuned for next month!

  2. Thanks, Debbie. I can't believe I didn't know/remember that about King Henry's wives. I appreciate you sharing what sounds like will be an interesting series. :)

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, Michelle. It really is sad. Many of the stories of Henry's wives are sad. One would think a woman would run as far from Henry as possible as he continued to discard women, but they didn't.