On This Day in History – 11 June


Event– Marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon
Year– 1509
Location– Greenwich Palace, England

Katherine of Aragon c.1502 by Michael Sittow.
Katherine of Aragon c.1502 by Michael Sittow.

The wedding of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon isn’t as well-known as their very public divorce. Katherine was the widow of Henry’s older brother, Arthur, who had died in 1502. Henry would later allege that this was an impediment from which the Pope couldn’t dispense.

Katherine and Henry had been betrothed for 6 years by the time that they married, and it wasn’t certain that they would marry even after the betrothal. When Katherine’s mother, Isabella of Castile, died Katherine was seen as less valuable on the marriage market as she was no longer the product of a united Spain. Henry VII began to look elsewhere for a bride for his son.

When Henry VII died in 1509 Katherine’s fortunes changed overnight and the marriage negotiations were successfully brought to an end in May 1509. The marriage licence was issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Warham, on 8 June 1509.

The marriage was a private ceremony in the queen’s closet at Greenwich Palace on 11 June 1509 with just a couple of witnesses in attendance. Katherine was aged 23 and Henry just 18 – she was beautiful still and he was in his prime. The marriage wasn’t only a love match (it was rumoured that Henry wanted Katherine when she was married to Arthur), but a political one as well.

As soon as the wedding itself was over, preparations were made for their joint coronation which happened just a couple of weeks later.

Further Reading
Amy Licence, Catherine of Aragon: an Intimate Life of Henry VIII’s True Wife (2016)
Garrett Mattingley, Catherine of Aragon (1960)
David Starkey, Six Wives: the Queens of Henry VIII (2004)
Giles Tremlett, Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen (2011)
Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1991)

Timetable of Tudor Events


Royal Badge of England, including the Tudor Rose.
Royal Badge of England, including the Tudor Rose.
1457 28 January Birth of Henry VII
1466 11 February Birth of Elizabeth of York
1485 22 August Henry VII defeats Richard III at Battle of Bosworth
16 September Birth of Katherine of Aragon
30 October Coronation of Henry VII
1486 18 January Marriage of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York
20 September Birth of Prince Arthur
1487 17 June Defeat of Lambert Simnel at Battle of Stoke
1489 28 November Birth of Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland
1491 28 June Birth of Henry VIII
1496 18 March Birth of Mary Tudor, Queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk
1499 28 November Execution of Edward, Earl of Warwick
1501 14 November Marriage of Katherine of Aragon and Prince Arthur
1502 2 April Death of Prince Arthur
1503 11 February Death of Elizabeth of York
8 August Marriage of Margaret Tudor and James IV of Scotland
1509 21 April Death of Henry VII and accession of Henry VIII
11 June Marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon
24 June Coronation of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon
29 June Death of Margaret Beaufort
1511 1 January Birth of Henry, Duke of Cornwall
1513 16 August Battle of the Spurs
9 September Defeat of James IV of Scotland at Battle of Flodden
1515 22 September Birth of Anne of Cleves
1516 18 February Birth of Mary I
1519 15 June Birth of Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy
1520 7 June Beginning of the Field of the Cloth of Gold
24 June End of the Field of the Cloth of Gold
1521 17 May Execution of Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham
17 October Pope grants Henry VIII title ‘Defender of the Faith’
1533 25 January Marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn
1 June Coronation of Anne Boleyn
7 September Birth of Elizabeth I
1534 20 April Execution of Elizabeth Barton, Nun of Kent
1535 6 July Execution of Thomas More
1536 7 January Death of Katherine of Aragon
19 May Execution of Anne Boleyn
30 May Marriage of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour
23 July Death of Henry Fitzroy
2 October Beginning of the Lincolnshire Rising / Pilgrimage of Grace
1537 12 October Birth of Edward VI
24 October Death of Jane Seymour
1540 6 January Marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves
9 July Annulment of marriage between Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves
28 July Marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine Howard, execution of Thomas Cromwell
1541 27 May Execution of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury
1542 13 February Execution of Katherine Howard
1543 12 July Marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine Parr
1545 19 July Sinking of the Mary Rose
1546 16 July Execution of Anne Askew
1547 19 January Execution of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
28 January Death of Henry VIII and accession of Edward VI
10 September Battle of Pinkie Cleugh
1548 5 September Death of Katherine Parr
1549 20 March Execution of Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour
1552 22 January Execution of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset
1553 6 July Death of Edward VI
10 July Proclamation of Jane Grey as queen
19 July Overthrow of Jane Grey and accession of Mary I
22 August Execution of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland
1 October Coronation of Mary I
1554 12 February Execution of Jane Grey
25 July Marriage of Mary I and Philip II of Spain
1555 16 October Execution of Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London
1556 21 March Execution of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury
1557 16 July Death of Anne of Cleves
1558 17 November Death of Mary I and accession of Elizabeth I
1559 15 January Coronation of Elizabeth I
1587 8 February Execution of Mary Queen of Scots
1588 19 July First sighting of the Spanish Armada off the English coast
29 July Battle of Gravelines and defeat of Spanish Armada
1601 25 February Execution of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex
1603 24 March Death of Elizabeth I and accession of James I

Continue reading

Heraldry Badges and Emblems of the Tudors


Royal Badge of England, including the Tudor Rose.
Royal Badge of England, including the Tudor Rose.

Henry VII

Portcullis, greyhound, crowned Tudor rose, crowned hawthorn bush, red dragon

The portcullis is currently the symbol for parliament, an institution of justice and law, which Henry VII did revolutionise during his reign. The portcullis was also representative of his royal blood through his mother, Margaret Beaufort, as it was the symbol of her house.

Red is typically the colour that represents both military strength and magnanimity. The dragon represents valour and protection, and appears on the Welsh flag. This is possibly to demonstrate Henry’s Welsh roots (he was born in Wales, and the Tudor name is Welsh).

The greyhound represents courage, loyalty and vigilance. Henry VII courageously took the crown on the battlefield, and was vigilant for anyone looking to take it away from him. He appears to have been loyal to his wife, and we don’t know for sure of any illegitimate children he may have had, or even any mistresses. Continue reading

Book Review – ‘Katherine of Aragon: the True Queen’ by Alison Weir


Alison Weir 'Katherine of Aragon the True Queen'
Alison Weir’s “Katherine of Aragon: the True Queen”, the first in her ‘Six Tudor Queens’ series (2016)

Genre/s: Historical / Drama / Romance

Setting: London, Kimbolton, Buckden (England)

Characters: Henry VIII / Katherine of Aragon / Prince Arthur / Mary I / Anne Boleyn / Eustache Chapuys / Charles V / Henry VII / Maria de Salinas / Elizabeth Darrell / Jane Seymour / Maud Parr / Isabella I of Castile / Ferdinand II of Aragon

Storyline: Katherine of Aragon came to England as a 15-year old princess to marry the heir to the English throne, Arthur Tudor. Arthur died just 6 months into their marriage and Katherine went on to marry Arthur’s younger brother, Henry VIII. The question of whether her first marriage was consummated would dominate English politics for the late 1520s and early 1530s, with Katherine shunted into involuntary exile.

Point of View: Katherine of Aragon – this is what makes this series so unique. It is the stories of the six wives of Henry VIII, one told from the point of view of each wife. The stories overlap, but you only get one point of view per story. Continue reading

Discussion Questions – “Katherine of Aragon: the True Queen” by Alison Weir


  • Throughout the book, Alison Weir shows how Katherine was raised to confirm to contemporary cultural and religious norms, and how this influenced her thinking and her actions. What impression did this make on you, and did it aid your understanding of her dilemmas and conflicts? Did this take on her story allow you to empathise more closely with Katherine’s choices?
Alison Weir
Alison Weir

I think that the standards and norms of 16th century England were very different to today. People believed very strongly in God and in the existence of heaven and hell and purgatory. They saw their lives on earth as a prelude to the afterlife. I think my background in history really helps me to understand the cultural and religious norms of the 16th century. I think that the understanding of the dilemmas and conflicts that Katherine faces in the novel depend on the contemporary culture and standards. You can’t understand Katherine’s motivations and feelings without understanding the context of the 16th century. I think that the emphasis on her religious devotions and the wellbeing of her soul were the central considerations for Katherine and understanding this made me understand more about what drove her to make the choices she did – she wasn’t being stubborn on purpose, she really believed she was saving her soul, and that of her husband. Continue reading

Who’s Who of Tudor History


Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte
Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte

Aragon, Katherine of = First Queen to Henry VIII, marriage annulled 1533, died 1536.

Ashley, Kat = Governess and close friend to Elizabeth I from her childhood. Died 1565.

Aske, Robert = One of the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536. Executed 1537.

Beaufort, Margaret = Mother to Henry VII. Outlived her son and saw the accession of her grandson, Henry VIII.

Blount, Bessie = Henry VIII’s mistress, and the only one to give him an acknowledged illegitimate child – Henry Fitzroy.

Boleyn, Anne = Second Queen to Henry VIII, executed 1536 for adultery and incest.

Boleyn, George = Brother to Henry VIII’s second Queen. Accused of adultery and incest with his sister. Executed 1536.

Boleyn, Mary = Sister of Henry VIII’s second Queen. Mistress of Henry VIII. Died 1543.

Brandon, Charles  Duke of Suffolk and best friend to Henry VIII. Married Henry VIII’s sister, Mary. Died 1546. Continue reading

Historical Errors in ‘The Tudors’ Series 2


Episode 1 “Everything is Beautiful”

Henry Cavill as Charles Brandon in 'The Tudors' 2007-2010
Henry Cavill as Charles Brandon in ‘The Tudors’ 2007-2010

Charles Brandon and his ward – Charles Brandon married his ward, Katherine Brooke, but in reality she was Katherine Willoughby. On TV, Charles married Katherine in 1532, but in reality they didn’t marry until after Anne Boleyn’s coronation, in 1534.

Assassination attempt – According to the TV show, Pope Paul III organised an assassination attempt against Anne Boleyn before her coronation. In reality he wasn’t even elected until after her coronation, and there is no evidence for an assassination attempt.

Episode 2 “Tears of Blood”

Margaret More – Margaret More is shown to be in her mid-twenties when Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn, but at this point she was actually in her early thirties. Continue reading

Book Review – ‘Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen’ by Giles Tremlett


Giles Tremlett 'Catherine of Aragon' (2010)
Giles Tremlett ‘Catherine of Aragon’ (2010)

Giles Tremlett, Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen (London: Faber and Faber Ltd, 2010), Paperback, ISBN 978-0-571-23512-4

Title: The book is exactly what the title suggests – a biography of Katherine of Aragon, who was Henry VIII’s first wife, and the only one who was Spanish. It was this Spanish connection which made it so difficult for Henry to divorce Katherine, because Katherine’s nephew was Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, the most powerful man in the world at  that time.

Preface: The preface pens with the thing that everyone knows about Tudor England – Henry VIII’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon so he can marry Anne Boleyn. Tremlett then moves on and looks at the changing political scene, the religious divisions due to the Reformation and the rise of Lutheranism, and Katherine’s popularity as Queen, compared to Anne Boleyn’s lack of popularity as Queen. Continue reading

Historical Errors in ‘The Tudors’ Series One


Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII in 'The Tudors (2007-2010).
Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII in ‘The Tudors (2007-2010).

Episode 1 “In Cold Blood”
Assassination of the Duke of Urbino – Henry VIII had no uncle at this time, and so the scene that was included was completely made up.
Charles Brandon and the daughter of the Duke of Buckingham – there is no evidence of Brandon having an affair with any daughter of Buckingham.
Richard Pace – Pace was never accused of spying and was never imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Thomas Tallis – there is no record of Tallis being at court until 1543, not as early as is portrayed in ‘The Tudors’.
Katherine of Aragon’s first son – in the television show, Katherine of Aragon says that he lived for four weeks, but it was actually seven and a half weeks.
Marriage of Bessie Blount – in the television show, Bessie Blount is already married during her affair with the king, but in reality she didn’t marry until 1522.
Thomas Boleyn’s family – Buckingham refers to Boleyn’s family as “old” but in reality his grandfather was Mayor of London, and before that the family was rather obscure. Boleyn only had noble connections because his wife was the sister of the Duke of Norfolk. Continue reading

How Far was Henry VIII Justified in Getting Rid of Four of His Wives?


Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte
Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte

Katherine of Aragon

The reasons for the divorce of Katherine of Aragon have been much debated, both at the time and in the hundreds of years since. It seems that the primary reason for Henry’s wish to be rid of Katherine was that she hadn’t presented him with the male heir. She only had a daughter, Mary. Henry VIII wanted a son to follow him and secure the dynasty.

The second reason, which was used as an excuse to end the marriage, was that Katherine had been married to Henry’s brother, Arthur. There was debate over whether Katherine’s first marriage was consummated, because if so, then the passage in Leviticus could apply. You shouldn’t marry your brother’s widow or you’ll be childless. To Henry, no son was as good as being childless. Continue reading