Saturday, March 2, 2013

#Tudor Troubles: #Queen Catherine of Aragon pt.2

Catherine of Aragon
Public Domain

February 28

Tudor Troubles:
Catherine of Aragon pt. 2

Princess Catherine of Aragon had much to celebrate a few months after the death of King Henry VII. King Henry VIII never forgot his father's dying wish. He married the twenty-three year Catherine of Aragon in a small, private ceremony at Greenwich Church on June 11, 1509. He was just a few days shy of his eighteenth birthday. King Henry VIII was quite a catch for the Spanish princess. One current account of him stated in the Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 2, 614 says:

“The King tilted against many, stoutly and valorously. According to their own observation and the report of others, King Henry was not only very expert in arms and of great valour, and most eminent for his personal endowments, but so gifted and adorned with mental accomplishments, that they believed him to have few equals in the world. He spoke English, French, and Latin, understood Italian well, played on almost every instrument, sang and composed fairly, was prudent, sage, and free from every vice, and so good and affectionate a friend to the Signory, that no ultramontane sovereign ever surpassed him in that respect.”

Catherine of Aragon's beauty had refined through the years and she was very stunning to anyone who set their eyes upon her. The couple seemed perfect for one another. You can read their marital vows and descriptions of the king from those who were alive at the time at

Queen Catherine of England

Two weeks into their marriage, the happy couple were paraded through the richly decorated streets of London towards Westminster Abbey where they were coronated as King and Queen of England by the Archbishop of Canterbury at Westminster Abbey. Catherine, although being a Spanish princess, adapted to the English customs. She was carried in a litter draped with white curtains surrounded by horses draped in white as well while Henry rode beside her dressed in red. She wore a gown of white satin with her hair loosly falling past her shoulders. Upon her head she wore a coronet of pearls. 

The couple were coronated the following day and was celebrated with a lavish party that lasted well into the next day. Henry and Catherine did not disappoint their guests, proving that the eighteen year old king could present himself with all that is expected of a king despite his youthfulness. Henry had envisioned his reign to be as great as King Arthur. He was not about to continue his father's tyrannical reign over the English people. 

The month following the party was a very busy time for Queen Catherine as she was presented to the people in a variety of special occasions. The English were not fond of outsiders yet they quickly fell in love with their new queen. She was a devote Catholic, intelligent and had a heart for her husband's people. She would prove to them that she was their ideal queen. 

Blissful Marriage
Henry and Catherine were very much in love which was unheard of noble weddings. They broke all royal conventions with their public acts of affection. It was uncommon to see the king and queen holding hands, kissing, or embraced in each other's arms. There were even declarations of love. Henry trusted her with all of his affairs, confiding in her the most. She was very supportive of Henry and deeply devoted to her husband. She managed his household, ran his estates, supervised his royal business and cared for Henry's linen and wardrobe.  Catherine took the time to provide for the poor with clothes, money, food, and fuel in the winter. She remained the Spanish Ambassador for the first five years of her marriage until her father had humiliated and betrayed Henry. Catherine chose to remain devoted to her husband ,instead of her father, and abandoned all things Spanish. Faithful and eternally devoted to Henry, Catherine accepted her main duty to provide Henry with an heir to the throne. This was important because Slavic Law forbade a woman from ruling on the English throne. Thus Henry's sisters could not rule in his stead should something tragic befall upon the king. The couple took this duty very seriously and they conceived within a year of their marriage. 

Catherine gave birth to a stillborn daughter on January 31, 1510. The couple tried again and on January 1, 1511 Catherine gave birth to a son at Greenwich Castle. He was christened Henry, Duke of Cornwall but was affectionately known as "Little Prince Hal" or "New Year's Boy." His godparents were  William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Savoy. Henry celebrated the event by hosting a large jousting tournament at Westminster Abbey where he carried his wife's favor, further declaring his love and devotion for her. The court had fallen deeply in love with their new prince. Everything thing was perfect until February 23, 1511 when Henry, Duke of Cornwall died unexpectedly. 

Tapesty depicting the tournament honoring "Little Prince Hal's" birth.
Public Domain
Despite his love for his beloved wife, Henry was unfaithful to her in 1510 with Anne Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon. Anne was the sister of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham and the wife of George Hastings, 1st Earl of Huntingdon. When George learned of the affair from his enraged brother-in-law he sent her to a convent, where she could no longer continue her affairs with the king.

Catherine conceived again in 1513. Henry had renewed his father's friendship with the French king, Louis XII of France in 1510. Shortly afterwards, he signed a pact with Catherine's father against the French. The alliances placed England between two opposing forces. The problem as to whose pact to honor wasn't solved until Pope Julius II created the Holy League the following year. Henry sided with the anti-French alliance and supported his father-in-law's campaign. Once the French left Italy, Henry convinced the emperor to join the Holy League. The pope had declared he would title Henry with "Most High Christian King of France" and coronate him himself if Henry would defeat King Louis XII. Henry agreed. Henry left his pregnant wife with his troops for France in June of 1513 yet before he did so he entrusted her as "Governor of England." Catherine proved to be a wise ruler in his stead. The Scottish king, King James VI, tried to take advantage of Henry's absence in September of that year when he ordered his men to invade England. Catherine acted quickly upon learning of the news. She ordered Sir Thomas Lovell to raise an army in midland countries. Catherine, now very pregnant, dressed in armour and rode north to Buckingham while Thomas led their 26,000 soldiers to battle. The English defeated the Scots at Battle of Flodden with only 1,500 casualties. The Scottish suffered between 5,000 - 17,000 casualties including the death of their king. Catherine wrote a letter to her husband about the success and included the bloody coat of King James VI for Henry to use as a banner. The following month, Catherine gave birth to a stillborn son. 

Henry returned to England and the couple tried again. The queen delivered Henry another son on December 1514 who died the same month. Frustrated, Henry sought for answers as to why his queen could not deliver strong, healthy male heirs. The Tudor dynasty was new and Henry needed to solidify their families claim to the throne through a male heir. 

Catherine delivered Henry a strong and healthy daughter on February 18, 1516 at the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, London. She was baptised, Mary Tudor, three days later in the Catholic faith at the Church of the Observant Friars in Greenwich. Mary Tudor would grow up to become Queen Mary of England more commonly known as Bloody Mary. Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury sponsored her confirmation, which occurred right after Mary's baptism. Henry wasn't unhappy that Catherine had given him a daughter. He told his advisors that a son would come in time.

Catherine gave Henry another daughter on November 10, 1518 who lived for only a week. Henry was unfaithful to Catherine while she was pregnant. He had fallen for his wife's maid-of-honor, Elizabeth Blount. The teenager gave birth to Henry's son, Henry FitRoy, on June 15, 1519 proving that the king could sire a healthy, strong son and that the queen was solely to blame for creating weak sons. Henry acknowledge his illegitimate son but did not name him his heir. He did ordered his son to be named after him and his surname to be FitzRoy so everyone knew the boy was his son. The boy had been raised in the royal nursery, had contact with his father and was often seen at court. 

Henry stopped having relations with Catherine in 1524. On June 18, 1525, he titled his seven year old illegitimate son, Duke of Richmond and Somerset. Henry had planned to marry his daughter, Mary to Henry FitzRoy in order to legitimate his son's claim to the throne. He sent Mary and Henry to the Ludlow Castle despite Catherine's pleas. The king retaliated by dismissing most of his wife's attendants. 

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