11 June 1509 – Henry VIII marries for the first time

henry_and_catherine by TimOn this day in history, 11th June 1509, just under two months after his accession to the throne of England, seventeen-year-old King Henry VIII married twenty-three-year-old Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, and the widow of Henry’s brother, Arthur, Prince of Wales.

The couple got married in the Queen’s Closet at Greenwich Palace in a private and low key ceremony, due to the fact that their lavish joint coronation was scheduled to take place on 24th June, the Feast of St John and Midsummer’s Day. Only two people stood as witnesses to the wedding ceremony: George Talbot, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury and Lord Steward of the King’s Household, and William Thomas, a groom of the Privy Chamber.

Little did Henry VIII know that this was to be the first of six weddings for him!

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2 thoughts on “11 June 1509 – Henry VIII marries for the first time”
    1. Hello Miladyblue, I understand the sentiment, but I don’t see Henry as a twit, just desperate for a son and heir. He may seem selfish and stupid and obstinate and a bit love struck to us, but the story of Katherine and Henry and the breakdown of their marriage is much more complex, the issue is a constitutional one, a personal one, and very tragic when you consider the loss of six children. Henry and Katherine were both convinced that they had a water tight case, both cases could be backed by the Hebrew Bible, both sides had a legal and clerical team which produced complicated briefs that were debated in courts, universities, the Curia (a special commission of experts set up to decide on complex dogma, theological and canon law) in Rome, the council, Parliament, Convocation and so on, both believed that they were right, that God had ordained the marriage or would disapprove of the marriage, neither could or would back down. Due to warfare and political and international complications outside of either parties control, the fact that the Pope was a hostage of the Emperor and the power of Spain and the Emperor growing in the invaded Papal territories, the annulment almost became an impossibility, the case was never going to be settled. Henry was duped after the Court of Blackfriars in 1529 was adjourned, never to sit again as the Popes representative had secret orders to ensure that the court did not decide on the matter, the entire thing failed as Katherine appealed to Rome, Pope Clement took far too long to make a decision, Henry gave up, found his own solutions. Katherine on the other hand, believed sincerely that the marriage was valid, for she argued that as her marriage to Arthur was not consummated, that any objection to the marriage was not admissible. The two parties did not know that anything was wrong with the marriage as they were granted a special dispensation to marry. The Church could make good a questionable marriage if the discrepancy was innocently discovered after the passage of time and the children could be protected. This was also something Katherine hoped in as well as marriage being her calling. For Katherine, the rights of her child, her faith and her dignity as queen made any divorce or annulment impossible. Henry Viii had a more pressing need, he had fallen in love with a woman who he believed could give him a son and he sincerely believed that the marriage was invalid as he had sinned when he married his brother’s wife. In sixteenth century canon law there was no such thing as a sister in law as we know this, Katherine was seen as his sister, so marrying her was incest. As a devoted Catholic, a religious King, this was a terrible thing. Henry also made efforts to end his marriage amicably by asking Katherine to go to retire voluntarily into a convent. Katherine could not, because marriage was her calling. This was the tragic conundrum of their last seven years of marriage. In the end, Henry could wait no longer and made his own way out of the marriage, fell passionately for Anne Boleyn and broke from Rome. He committed bigamy, had his marriage ended by his own Archbishop and legislation. The tragedy was to continue into his second marriage, but were Henry blotted his copy book was the way he treated Katherine and then Anne. Here he was cruel, obsessed and bitter, as the years had changed him.

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