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