Catharine of Aragon
First Wife of Henry VIII, of England
Catharine of Aragon, fourth daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, king and queen of Castile and Aragon, was born December 15, 1485. Married in 1501, when scarcely sixteen, to Arthur, Prince of Wales, son of Henry VII, she was left a widow on April 2, 1502. On June 25 of that same year she was betrothed to her brother-in-law, Henry, then only eleven years old. The pope’s dispensation enabling such near relatives to marry was obtained in 1504, and the marriage took place in June, 1509, seven weeks after Henry’s accession to the crown as Henry VIII.
The queen, by her manners, good sense, and superior endowments, contrived to retain the affection of this fickle and capricious king for nearly twenty years. She was devoted to literature and was the patroness of literary men. She bore several children, but all of them, excepting a daughter, afterwards Queen Mary, died in their infancy. Scruples, real or pretended, at length arose in the mind of Henry concerning the legality of their union, and they were powerfully enforced by his passion for Anne Boleyn.
In 1527, he resolved to obtain a divorce from Catharine on the grounds of the nullity of their marriage, as contrary to Divine laws. Pope Clement VII seemed at first disposed to listen to Henry’s application, but overawed by Charles V., emperor of Germany and nephew of Catharine, he cause the negotiations to be so prolonged that Henry became very impatient. Catharine conducted herself with gentleness, yet firmness, in this trying ordeal.
Being tired of waiting, Henry soon threw off his submission to the court of Rome and declared himself the head of the Church of England. As head of the Church, he had his marriage formally annulled by Archbishop Cranmer in 1532.
Catharine took up her residency at Ampthill in Bedfordshire, and afterwards at Kimbolton Castle, in Huntingdonshire. She employed herself chiefly in religious duties, bearing her lot in life with silent resignation and dignity. She died in January, 1536.