CATHERINE OF ARAGON
Catherine Of Aragon
Born: 16 December 1485
Catherine of Aragon was Henry VIII’s first wife. Henry, however, was not Catherine’s first husband. She was first married to Henry’s big brother, Prince Arthur. Arthur was heir to the throne, being Henry VII’s eldest son, and was just fifteen at the time of the marriage. Catherine was also just fifteen. The two teenagers were married in the summer of 1501, Catherine being escorted up the aisle by ten year old Henry, and then they went to live in Ludlow Castle. But less than six months later, Prince Arthur fell ill and died. For the next few years, Catherine’s future was uncertain. There was talk of her marrying Prince Henry, as her family was keen for her to be Queen of England, but the fact that she was Henry’s brother’s widow complicated things. Henry was a Catholic, as was Catherine, and marrying a brother’s widow was forbidden in the Bible. The only way Catherine and Henry could marry was with the Pope’s permission. This was granted through a Papal Dispensation, which annulled Catherine’s marriage to Arthur on the grounds that the couple had never consummated their union, and the two were finally married when Henry became king in 1509.
The marriage, at least in the beginning, was a happy one. Catherine was a devoted wife, loyal and dutiful, and Henry was a very different man to the moody, obese, tyrant he later became. He was charming, athletic, clever and brave, and, at least by the royal standards of the day, was a good husband. Had Catherine borne him a son, a prince to one day rule, then Henry would never have considered replacing her. But Catherine did not bear him a son. The only child of theirs to survive infancy was a daughter, the future Mary I. Henry felt he was failing in his duty if he did not provide the country with a male heir. England had just emerged from the Wars of the Roses, a dynastic squabble for the crown that had lasted years and claimed many lives, and without a male heir, Henry feared his only legacy would be civil war. For years he had prayed for a son, hoping with all his heart that God would bless him with a healthy boy, but his prayer was not answered. Deeply religious, like most people of the time, Henry feared this meant he had offended God. His offence? Marrying his brother’s widow!