Catherine of Aragon
First Wife of Henry VIII. of England
1485 – 1536 A.D.
Catherine 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, and on the 25th of June 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, converted to retain the affection of this fickle and capricious monarch for nearly twenty years. She was devoted to literature and was the patroness of literary men. She bore several children, but all of the, 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 Catherine on the grounds of the nullity of their marriage, as contrary to the Divine laws. Pope Clement VII. seemed at first disposed to listen to his application, but overawed by Charles V., emperor of Germany and nephew to Catherine, he caused the negotiations to be so protracted that Henry became very impatient. Catherine conducted herself with gentleness, yet firmness, in this trying emergency.
Being cited before the papal legates, Wolsey and Campeggio, who had opened their court at London, in May, 1529, to try the validity of the king’s marriage, she arose and, kneeling before her husband, reminded him, in a pathetic yet resolute speech of her lonely and unprotected state, and of her constant devotion to him, on proof of which she appealed to his own heart; then, protesting against the proceedings of the court, she rose and withdrew, nor could she ever be induced to appear again.
Henry, soon after, threw off his submission to the court of Rome, declared himself the head of the Church of England, had his marriage formally annulled by the Archbishop Crammer, and in 1532 married Anne Boleyn.
Catherine took up her abode at Ampthill in Bedfordshire, and afterwards at Kimbolton Castle, in Huntingdonshire. She employed herself chiefly in religious duties, bearing her lot with resignation. She died in January, 1536.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.