What did Catherine of Aragon die of?

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Although it was rumoured that Catherine of Aragon had been poisoned by Anne Boleyn, or even Henry, because of a black patch on her heart, it is now thought that she died of cancer, a disease that was not understood at the time. Another theory is that she died of depression and a broken heart. Catherine was aged 50 at her death.

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22 Responses to “What did Catherine of Aragon die of?”

  1. TudorRose says:

    I feel that even though Anne and Catherine were enemies I do not feel that she would have poisened her or King Henry,I doubt neither would have ordered her to be poisened.I beleive she died of cancer.

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  2. Amber says:

    Do we know the age difference between Catherine and Henry? It seems that since she was previously married to his older brother that she might be older than him. But then again, women were married at such young ages. Queen Catherine certainly looks older than King Henry in “The Tudors” (sorry Maria Doyle Kennedy) but was that merely casting or somewhat acurate portrayal?

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    Carole Reply:

    Catherine was older by a few years. She was about 15 when first bought to England to marry Arthur but the marriage was never consumated and Arthur died. She lived in what was near poverty (for royals) for a few years before the King died and Henry asked her to marry him which was his father’s wish. It is thought that Henry really did love Catherine for the first years of their marriage but with a few pregnancies and miscarriages she aged fast and he soon started to look elsewhere for sexual pleasures and the supposed need for a son.

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    Omaira Reply:

    i think they were six years apart not sure where I heard that though

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  3. Claire says:

    Hi Amber,
    Catherine was born on 16th December 1485 and Henry was born on 28th June 1491 so Catherine was 5 and a half years older than him which I suppose was quite a lot in days when the average age of death was 35. I would have thought that Catherine would have actually looked much older than Henry after all her pregnancies and the toll they took on her body, whereas Henry was a fit, sporty man until his jousting accident. Interestingly, Maria Doyle Kennedy is nearly 13 years older than Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

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  4. Kaatje says:

    I believe Catherine died of cancer, too. I doubt Anne would have had Catherine poisoned, because as long as she was alive, it pretty much guaranteed that Henry would stay with Anne, not wanting to go back to Catherine if he wanted to be rid of Anne. Anne most likely knew this.

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    Saxon Meinard Reply:

    I doubt Ann knew Henry might leave if Catherine died. She more than likely wanted the throne for herself and secure her families interest. Being only his second wife and Henry ripped the country apart and destroyed his alliances with his strongest allies it’s also likely that Ann wasn’t so innocent to be executed along with her family after only three years and still young with plenty of time to have a son. It’s likely Katherine dies of natural causes but I also think its likely the Boylens were involved with the annulment not working out preventing Ann from marrying Henry and as she would see securing her interest with him especially when she would be able to produce a legit heir. She would of had no way of knowing Henry might loose interest she wouldn’t produce a son though she only had a few years to try. I suspect Henry started to regret his decisions he made to be with her and resented her especially after the execution of Moore and loosing the alliance with the Holy Roman Empire. However she couldn’t have known this or suspect after all Henry risked he might move on. She had every reason to eliminate Catherine who had a right to the throne in her own right as Henry could cave and take her back leaving Ann to be cast off.

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  5. Briony Coote says:

    I subscribe to the cancer theory, but I believe the emotional and psychological trauma that Catherine went through after being dumped by Henry and forcibly separated from Mary would have played a huge role in her illness, perhaps even physically manifesting itself as the cancer. It is widely accepted that there is a huge correlation between emotional pain and physical illness.

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  6. Sally says:

    I suspect that she died of metastatic melanoma, one of the few cancer that metastisizes to the heart, and because the tumor found on her heart was described as being black, classic for melanoma.

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    Derek Reply:

    What is your source for the black patch on her heart? I can’t even begin to imagine that any form of an autopsy would have been performed – especially on a former Queen. Also, I find it just a bit lazy to say that she died of depression and a broken heart. She was a strong woman, full of her faith to the very end which certainly would have sustained Katherine (though I do not doubt she was quite pained at the trials she had to endure, namely not seeing her daughter.)

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  7. David says:

    I go with the Cancer theory also. It goes without saying that there was tension between Anne and Catherine, after all they were fighting for the same man, and that can get pretty sticky when both sides have their claws out, however, I do not think Anne would or even thought of knocking Catherine off with poison. I think she knew she was winning the game and well, that was not a necessary option to think about. 50 was old in those days, but when you think about all of us getting old one usually starts to think about the two most common reasons for death now a days, heart attack or some terminal form of cancer. So why not in Catherine’s case. Added to that fact though, I can not even begin to doubt that she was one sad and depressed lady, tired out from the constant fighting and tension not only with Anne but with her husband, Henry. Why should the love game be any different then to now. Depression is a killer also and when added to heart attack or cancer, Catherine did not have a chance so to speak…who would have needed poison….?

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    Saxon Meinard Reply:

    Aside from political pressure on Henry to remain with Katherine. It’s not about personal choice with Nobility , it’s about politics. Threat of invasion, excommunication , ect are all reasons Henry could go back to his wife regardless of his personal feelings. There are poisons that cause cancer and slow acting and Katherine was receiving food donated to her. All she had to do was say the word and Henry could of been forced back with her or be over thrown.

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  8. Carolyn says:

    I don’t believe Anne had anything to do with Katharine’s death. If anyone would gain from her death, it would have been Henry. Not that I think he did, just pointing out that who had motives was murkier than we often suppose. If Henry wanted Anne’s marriage to him recognized, Katharine’s death would free him to do so by making him a widower in the eyes of the Papists. If he wanted out of his marriage to Anne, Katharine’s death opened up the possibility of Anne dying, too, which would make him indisputably single.

    I think Katharine’s death was by natural causes, probably cancer, but it could have been exacerbated by her years of enormous stress, poor living conditions, her separation from Mary, etc.

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    Abigail Reply:

    I believe that she died of a broken heart because he divorced. of course all women are upset when they get divorced, so anne of aragon has died of a broken heart.

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  9. The Grand Duchess says:

    Queen Anne may have been an enemy of Catharine of Aragonbut I have no doubts she would have killed her. I believe she died of Cancer just as Mary I died of cancer.

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  10. Sebastian says:

    I also go by the idea that she had cancer, and I heard that Anne Boleyn grieved for her.

    Supposedly she openly celebrated when news got to her that Catherine was dead, but later on the King and Queen separately broke into tears once they had privacy.

    There is also the story about the two of them wearing yellow. Some say that it was the Spanish color of mourning and therefore the two Were grieving over her death, while other say that their wearing yellow was symbolizing their hap pines and celebration in her death.

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  11. Siobhan says:

    Its an interesting point Sebastian makes that her daughter, Mary I also died of cancer around the same age (maybe 5 years younger or less?). The cancer was different; uterean or ovarian cancer, does anyone know if there is a genetic link to those kinds of cancers? If the cancer metastisized to the heart does that mean it came from elsewhere? Sorry about raising more questions than giving opinions or answers but I am interested :D

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    Omaira Reply:

    lets see mary was seventeen years older than Elizabeth and Elizabeth was 25 when she ascended the throne which makes Mary 42 when she died, so 8 years younger than her mother. And while the two types of cancer may not be strictly genetically related, both mother and daughter were not in the best health generally.

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  12. Olivia says:

    Hi Carole Queen Katherine of Aragon ( real name Catalina)! of Marrige to Auther was actually consummated but was kept a secret by her so she could go on and Marry King Henry Viii ( real name Harry) through history this secret was actually called the great lie. Also Katherine of Aragon her name actually starts with a “K” not a “C” if you go back through history King Henry VIII actually had commissioned banners and badges of H and K entwined for his great joust whe he declared himself as ” Sir Loyal Heart” the restoration of his devotion to and love for Queen Katherine.

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  13. Baroness Von Reis says:

    Claire,I think she died of cancer,as Mary 1 died of cancer aswell. Thx Baroness

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  14. sloan says:

    siobhon…ive often wondered if mary may have contracted hpv at some point in her life and whether or not that may have played a part in her feminine troubles/cancer. i have read that hpv has been around for centuries and i know it causes/increases risk of cervical cancers and contributes to others. mary is not a person i have studied much though she does crop up often through the others i do study heavily. also, a little known (seemingly) and silent killer is primary peritoneal cancer which affects the gut lining which also covers the utereus. it goes undiagnosed until late stage when even today there is nothing you can do but marks days off on the calendar out of your last months. until late stage there is usually no sign or ill feelings to the victim. it also looks and acts like ovarian cancer. in late stage it would cause the abdomen to swell like crazy because of the extra fluid it produces into the persons body cavity. enough swelling to make even an old woman who is small or thin look pregnant. this can come and go some, but when symptoms get bad and become very apparent, death is not far off. also, back to the hpv thought, most peoples immune systems would have fought that off with little or more likely, no, discomfort, except for people with poorer immune systems, and by all accounts mary was never blooming with health. i cant offer much past that, but the peritoneal cancer seems pretty likely to me given what i know of it and what i know of mary, which granted isnt huge as ive never set out to atudy only her. hope this ideas help somebody.

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  15. Josbits2 says:

    I personally think Catherine of Aregon Princess of Wales, Queen of England died from loneliness and a lack of honour, (even though she was never honour-less) she grew up with parents of kings and queens at war, and she learnt how to direct an army and a war the hard way!! tbh I do believe her marriage to Arthur was consummated and I do believe he was her great love, How she became betrothed to Prince Henry VIII is down to his father Henry VII, but she fought for England, to honour her husband and prove herself brave and loyal in the face of an enemy and she succeeded!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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