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Catherine of Aragon

(1485-1536) Queen of England and first wife of Henry VIII, fourth daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, King and Queen of Castille and Aragon.

Catherine of Aragon
Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII.

Catherine of Aragon holds a prominent place in England's history, due to the fact her matrimonial relation with Henry was a factor in the English reformation. In pursuance of foreign policy, Henry VII. negotiated a marriage between his son Arthur, Prince of Wales and Catherine. Catherine went to England in 1501, and in November, following the public betrothel, the marriage was celebrated. Prince Arthur died April 1502, and a few months following, a second marriage was projected for Catherine by her father-in-law, with his second son, Henry, who was only 12 years of age. Through papal dispensation, in 1504 permission for such near relatives to marry was granted. The marriage took place in June 1509, upon Henry's accession to the throne as Henry VIII.

The marriage failed because Catherine bore only one daughter, Mary, and no son that survived.

From 1527, Henry worked to secure nullification of his marriage with Catherine, and to arrange marriage to Anne Boleyn, that might bring him a male heir to succeed him. Despite Henry VIII.'s doubts about the legality of the marriage contract, the Pope refused to act. In defiance, Henry married Anne Boleyn in secret, January 25, 1533. On May 23rd, Archbishop Cranmer declared the marriage with Catherine void, and on March 23, 1534 Pope Clement prounounced it valid, resulting in Henry's alienation.

Catherine of Aragon in Court
Trial of Catherine of Aragon before the papal representatives in 1529, to decide if the marriage were legal between her and Henry VIII. (watching from the background).

Catherine was closely guarded at Ampthill, in Bedfordshire, afterward at Buckden and then at Kimbolton Castle, Huntingdonshire. During this time she displayed courage and refused the King and his agents to sign away her royal rights, or those of her daughter Mary. Catherine died at Kimbolton, after dictating a letter of forgiveness to King Henry.

References

  • Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedia, ©1950