16 interesting facts about Catherine of Aragon

Posted By on March 28, 2021

Catherine of Aragon was the first wife of King Henry VIII, the mother of Queen Mary I and the aunt of Emperor Charles V, but there are lots more interesting facts about this Tudor woman.

In this talk, I share 16 interesting facts about this Tudor queen consort. How many of them do you already know?

Today is the anniversary of the death of John Skip, Bishop of Hereford, on 28th March 1552.

In this video, I talk about Skip’s time serving Queen Anne Boleyn as chaplain and almoner, and a controversial sermon he preached just a month before Anne’s fall.

Today is also Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week and a day which commemorates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. As it is still marked here in Spain in the same way that it was marked in England in medieval and Tudor times, I thought I’d share some footage of the Palm Sunday procession from my nearest town, Tijola, a couple of years ago. I hope you enjoy it.

10 thoughts on “16 interesting facts about Catherine of Aragon”

  1. Christine says:

    Although Catherine was treated disgracefully by Henry V111 and she had a sad and lonely death, she was the most successful of all his wives, she was married to him the longest and because of her high status as princess of Spain he dared not harm a hair on her head, the deaths of her babies are a mystery and in the end sounded the death knell on her marriage, it was only a daughter, Mary that survived, when she was born her future seemed golden, her parents were the powerful rulers Isabella and Ferdinand, and King Henry V11 and his Queen Elizabeth of York were eager for a marriage between their eldest son Arthur, and the youngest daughter of the Spanish royal family, as happened in the old royalty negotiations begun when both parties were very young, and when she was a teenager she arrived in England to marry Arthur, however life does not always pan out as you expect, and Arthur succumbed to some wasting disease not long after their wedding, leaving his young bride a widow and bereft and lonely, wether Katherine loved Arthur we do not know, perhaps her grief was more to do with worry over her future, they had not the chance to get to know each other, and yet if history had been different, they could have had a successful marriage and been blessed with children, she herself may have pondered on that as she sat in her lonely castle years later, being stripped of her title of Queen of England, banished from court and without her daughter for company, although rejected by her husband her subjects still loved her, and revered her memory long after she had gone to her grave, she lies in Peterborough Cathedral and today visitors leave relics near her tomb, the pomegranate her national symbol amongst them, hundreds of years later another Queen consort,Mary Of Teck wife of George V, honoured her tomb with the title Katherine Queen Of England in gold lettering above it, the wretched queen would have been content indeed.

  2. Banditqueen says:

    Catalina of Aragon had a much better claim to the throne than Henry Viii, through the legitimate line from John of Gaunt, not the illegitimate Beaufort line. Both claims were actually via a female which is interesting as Katharine was via Constance of Lancaster and Henry via Margaret Beaufort. It’s a great pity that this warrior Queen, daughter of warrior monarchs didn’t rally the people of England against Henry and depose him instead of putting up with his insults after he abandoned her in 1531. She would have had no problems with the people of England supporting her and the Emperor supporting her as well. After all Isabella the Fair deposed the useless Edward ii in favour of her son, Edward iii and I think people would have accepted Mary as Queen. Yes Henry Viii was popular but people were fed up with his dangling Anne Boleyn around the place and his wanting to divorce Katharine. She should have taken the offers of support and gotten rid of him, put Mary on the throne and reigned supreme in the background.

    1. Christine says:

      Yes she knew that most of the people would have supported her, and she was a very brave and courageous woman, like her mother the legendary Isabella of Castile, so she could have taken on the might of Henry V111 and his clergy and won, yet sadly for Katherine, she was still very much in love with him and she abhorred discord at any cost, to have taken up arms against her husband went against her strict moral code, as she herself declared Henry was her husband she was bound to him faithfully and devotedly, Isabella on the other hand hated her ineffectual husband, and was said to be enamoured of Roger Mortimer, they were certainly working together and they succeeded in deposing Edward 11 and placing her son on the throne, who as we know grew up to be that mighty King Edward 111, however Edwards subjects were dissatisfied with his rule as he leant on his favourites too much, the Despencers who it was rumoured, were the real power behind the throne, his old favourite Galveston had been murdered for strutting about like a king insulting the other courtiers and he angered the barons, he was slain by Guy de Beauchamp, now with Henry V111 yes he was still a very popular monarch, it would have been somewhat harder to depose him, and I believe when Katherine looked at him, instead of seeing the rather red angry face of her husband who was trying to rid himself of her, she saw instead the young golden haired prince who had danced with her at her wedding to Arthur, and who had loved her for very many years, it is difficult to be harsh to someone when they possess your heart, yes she did have a claim to the English throne, it was like Henry’s parents, his mother Elizabeth of York people saw as the true queen instead of Henry V11 as the true king, she was the daughter of the very popular Edward 1V and Henry had a very weak claim if you could call it that, through his mother Margaret Beaufort, interestingly they were both descended from Joan of Gaunt Henry V111 by his much loved mistress Katherine Swynford, and Katherine through his second wife, she even looked more English than Spanish, for she had inherited her pink skin and golden red tresses, from her English ancestry, not the coal black eyes and hair and olive skin from her Spanish ancestry, I wonder if Katherine ever reminded her husband that she was legitimately descended from John of Gaunt, whereas he was not? I can see the angry sparks in his narrow blue eyes, but I doubt if she ever did, she never wished to humble or demean her husband and as she said to him, she obeys him in all things and where he goes she goes, her blind adoration is something we in this age find it hard to understand, she even continued to sew his shirts until Anne Boleyn found out and saw red, she even sent him a New Years gift which Henry refused to accept, would any other wife have done the same with her husband flaunting his mistress under her very nose, especially not even a high born woman but a mere knights daughter, and one of her own ladies? In fact she looked on Anne with more reverence for being chosen by the king, until she discovered he was trying to replace her with Anne, he had been unfaithful to her with Elizabeth Blount ‘Bessy’ as she was known as, said be blonde haired and beautiful and a very good dancer, their love affair lasted for about three years, before that he had had several affairs but was very discreet unlike most kings, early on in their marriage Katherine had discovered his infidelity, and she had been so upset that Henry made sure she never found out about any others, he had a hunting lodge where he took his latest conquests and if Katherine knew, she turned a blind eye to it, however Bessy fell pregnant and Wolsey sent her of to the country during her confinement, she gave birth to a boy and Henry was overjoyed, yet his happiness was tinged with disappointment that he was not legitimate, he flaunted his son at court and what must have seemed like bitter gall to Katherine, had the royal titles of Richmond and Somerset bestowed upon him, her own son Henry Prince of Wales had died and countless others she had miscarried, and yet his mistress gave him a son that thrived, her self control was great and we do not know if she rebuked Henry but to soothe her he sent their daughter Mary to Wales in preparation for when she became Princess of Wales, Henry still respected Katherine he still had affection for her, but when she approached the menopause he possibly had fallen out of love with her by then, she had grown rather fat to, you can see the difference in her face that was painted when she was older to the sweet faced girl in her youth, she has a bullish look and her once round face is hung with heavy jowls, she had grown ever more pious and had taken to wearing a hair shirt under her shift, as she settled into comfortable middle and the menopause aged Henry five years her senior continued to enjoy himself with the ladies of his court, by now both king and queen knew that she would never be able to have another child, and it concerned Henry greatly and he impressed his fears to his council, Wolsey was in favour of a French marriage and the king was not averse to this, he had stopped sleeping with his queen but they were still husband and wife, still king and consort, they dined together they still appeared together at court functions, sadly Henry V111 had no fault with Katherine, and he was the first to admit she had been a most exemplary queen, she had valiantly defended his country against invaders when he had been in France, he knew that she was a remarkable woman in all but one, she had failed to give him a son, he must have known as he prepared to discuss an end to their marriage with her, that she would be heartbroken, he had been sleeping with a certain Mary Boleyn one of her ladies and we have no knowledge when it started or when it handed, but then her younger sister arrived at court and all plans of a French marriage or indeed any other marriage went out the window, Henry could think of nothing else he was like a man possessed, sadly for Katherine such was the extent of his obsession with Anne Boleyn that he was blind to all reason, his annulment from his first queen set him on the course for his venture into five more some ill suited marriages, Katherine endured many years of banishment for her stance against her husband, and most cruelly she was separated from her beloved daughter, she endured hardships as she was moved from one draughty castle to another, she had to suffer losing her title as queen and being replaced with Dowager Princess of Wales, she even had to suffer the humiliation of Anne Boleyn requesting her christening robe for her baby, which was Katherines own sacred possession she had brought from Spain, hardly surprising she downright refused and she was not forced into parting with it, I think this was a very mean gesture on Anne’s part and makes her look unnecessarily cruel and insensitive, Katherine own babies had been wrapped in this robe, and i just hope Henry V111 was not aware of this, she also had to hand over her jewels but some she kept as they were her own like the robe, Henry V111 really was lucky in his first queen, because had she been not so noble but more fiery and reckless like her ancestor Isabella, she could well have induced her nephew the Emperor Charles to invade England on her behalf, but as she said she never wanted to be the cause of strife in the kingdom, she had been queen for over twenty years, she did not want bloodshed to be spilled on her behalf, she was thinking of those people who lined the streets for her as she ride by, those who cheered her who doffed their hats and bowed and curtsied, they who called her queen still and she loved them for it, she did not wish them to suffer the consequences of war, a most noble lady and a most noble and dignified queen indeed.

  3. Banditqueen says:

    If Anne didn’t give her blessings to this sermon, then John Skip took a huge risk as he was arrested afterwards and questioned about his attack on the Royal policies concerning the dissolution of the monasteries. Its perhaps the fact that it was a sanctioned sermon, as many of them were, which saved him from imprisonment. Henry had already arrested and executed members of the clergy so benefit of clergy would not have saved him. Only royal patronage, in this case, the Queen, could protect him. Oh to be a fly on the wall and see men like Cromwell twitch nervously during the sermon and to hear the answers this brave man gave his interrogators in order to walk free. Anne, herself was being bold here, because this was questioning her husband’s policies, something she shouldn’t have been messing with. However, Anne was always bold and by hiding her meaning in a sermon from the Old Testament, the story of Queen Esther, maybe she calculated it was more acceptable and easier to get away with, rather than challenging Henry directly. Perhaps Anne blamed Cromwell and not her husband. She had already had a go at Cromwell over his handling of the financial gains from the sale of monastic land. However, Cromwell wasn’t bothered because he was high in Henry’s favour. Here Anne was sending the First Minister a warning. She is still able to influence the King even if Cromwell thinks otherwise. Its not entirely clear why this sermon was preached but Anne did have different ideas about how to use money from the closure of religious houses than the King and Cromwell and everyone knew it. She may have heard that Cromwell through his new Bill was allowing courtiers to take over monastic land for a bribe and do with it as they pleased. Despite having similar aims in reform, even helping the poor, it seems Cromwell was more aligned to the King who didn’t care how the money was spent as long as he became rich as a result. Anne was obviously drawing attention to the folly of such a policy and blaming Cromwell for leading the King astray. She was trying to criticise Cromwell without criticism of Henry and preaching a sermon was a good way of doing it. Henry must have gotten the message as the poor cleric was interrogated. Skip was released but the King continued on his path to destroy the monasteries. As for Thomas Cromwell, well, like an elephant, he never forgot.

  4. Christine says:

    Yes Skip was Anne’s almoner and Chaplain, he was later replaced as chaplain by Matthew Parker, I saw an enactment of this sermon in the documentary about Anne’s fall, and it showed Henry V111 looking intently at Skip, Anne beside him smirking as she gazed at Cromwell who was squirming in his seat with fury, Skip looked at him more than the others in the congregation, and you could just see it how it must have been, Cromwell knew it really was a direct attack on him, by now both Cromwell and Anne were in a kind of power struggle, it is to her credit that knowing how much she disrespected Katherine and Mary, she tried to look after the poor who did suffer when the monasteries were dissolved, maybe she did think it was Cromwells doing as he did have influence and that is what she feared, Cromwell on the other hand feared her and yet the king was beside him in this, Henry had been a rather wasteful king unlike his parsimonious father, and he had squandered millions, hardly surprising he must have been gleaming with satisfaction at the thought of the money that would fill up his coffers, for now the queen once his sworn friend was now his sworn enemy, she had sent him a direct message via this sermon, you are correct it was clever how she did it, yet she was brave to set herself up against Cromwell, for she was only useful to the king if she gave him a son, and how much he still loved and adored her, where as Cromwell was useful for his abilities to make things happen, he was not for nothing the kings chief lawman and solicitor.

  5. Kathryn Matlack says:

    Your video about Catalina of Aragon came at just the right moment. I’ve been reading about her–on her own and without the other wives–as well as the rest of her very interesting family. In fact, I’m here at one of my favorite places to be searching for some good–NOT historical romances–biographies about this unique woman whose life and death were such sorrows. Without wandering too far into the weeds and my beloved 16th century I’m also looking for some good books and information about Isabella of Castile. So thank you Claire so many times over for this site, your YouTube channel, your books–I have four so far–and your continuing research and interest in this fascinating subject.

    1. HELEN D says:

      For fiction for Isabella I recommend Norah Lofts Crown of Aloes.

      Nonfiction I recommend Isabella the Warrior Queen by Kirsten Downey

  6. Banditqueen says:

    Personally I think Cromwell was quite aware that he was on the same page as Henry regarding the use of money from the monasteries and his own attitude to the poor was a pro social one. If Cromwell approved the misuse of lands and profits from the sale of monastic lands it was because the King favoured this policy. He might have quarreled with Queen Anne, but there was much more to it than this sermon. I think the problem Cromwell had with Anne was over foreign policy not the monasteries. Henry would give him a severe dressing down on 18th April over his self promotion of foreign policy and Cromwell went off to plan Anne’s downfall. Yes, he may well have done so at the initiation of the King, but one thing and then another was causing bad blood between Anne and Cromwell, who began to see her as dangerous. Cromwell was only too ready to engineer her end on the King’s behalf.

    1. Christine says:

      I also read that it was Cromwells foreign policy that caused friction between him and Anne, although the monasteries was another issue that irked her, really there were several factors that caused her fall, chief of these was Henry was enamoured of Jane Seymour and desperate to get a son on her, he had given up on Anne ever giving him a son, she had had two miscarriage’s and yet was still of childbearing age, but Henry was disillusioned and growing impatient, to have ones wife killed at just thirty six years old because he believed she would never be able to give him a son, shows how desperate Henry was growing, yes Henry did give Cromwell a right dressing down in front of the court, in the documentary about her fall, it showed the king berating him most harshly in front of other gentleman of the court, very humiliating because he was not particularly popular, being disliked amongst other things for his lowly birth, and he stomped of glowering back to his house, lying low till the kings anger had abated, he feigned sickness yet in reality was plotting the queens downfall, as he himself sickeningly declared after his victims were lying cold in their graves, he had ‘ thought the whole thing up’, it says a lot about this mans character, that he could so cold bloodily share this shocking piece of information with others, with careless disregard of what they thought of him.

      1. Banditqueen says:

        At the end of the day one factor alone was decisive in the downfall of Anne Boleyn, the fact that Henry wanted a new wife quickly. He couldn’t have another Katherine of Aragon lurking around the place and saying no every time he mentioned an annulment. Anne too had been crowned and this time she also wore the crown of Saint Edward, the male crown for Kings and that made her a true wife and Queen. Henry had spent years saying his first marriage to Katherine wasn’t valid and this was his true marriage. He couldn’t now say he had made another mistake and this marriage wasn’t valid either, he would look foolish. Henry had changed the religious and political landscape of England to have Anne Boleyn, made men and women take sacred oaths that he was the Supreme Head of the Church and passed legislation saying his marriage to Anne and the Succession were yhe real deal. How was he to now say that wasn’t so? He couldn’t. He and Cromwell had consulted with Canon Law experts since February and not acted on whatever advice they had given them. Henry was desperately seeking a way forward, a way out of his second marriage which left him free to remarry and didn’t show him up as a fool. Cromwell had plenty of antagonism towards Anne, which was growing stronger by early April 1536 and the Sermon by John Skip showed that feeling was mutual. It didn’t matter how much they had in common with reform, Anne had made threats regarding Cromwell a few times. However, Cromwell was carrying out the King’s policy on the issue of monastic land and he had gained from it. Anne didn’t stand a chance in changing his mind. Cromwell, however, had joined the Seymour faction around Princess Mary in March and had an agenda to support Jane Seymour as a new Queen. Anne was a potential threat to his foreign policy, one which wasn’t entirely supported by Henry. Cromwell had worked on a plan for weeks with the Kings approval but it had gone wrong when Chapuys had put the ideas to Henry. He had told Henry how to deal with his daughter whom the Emperor wished to see back in the Succession. That wasn’t in the King’s Agenda and it certainly wouldn’t have been backed by Anne Boleyn. Cromwell was on the receiving end of a public dressing down and it seems to a number of historians that he now plotted to get rid of Anne after this.

        This may be a bit of an exaggeration. It was Henry who wanted a new wife so whatever Cromwell did it was Henry who gave him the nod and his blessing. Cromwell certainly saw this as an opportunity and made certain he had a case he could bring to Henry. Whether or not it was his idea or whether he took his cue from the King who told him to find a permanent solution to end his unwanted marriage is hotly debated. A set of legal actions were set up, the legal apparatuses for criminal prosecution for high crimes, including treason were set up and Cromwell quickly started an investigation into alleged rumours about the Queens behaviour. Henry must have been fully aware of all this and there was a strong push from the Seymour lot to get this done. Jane was taken out of the picture and sent to stay with her family and was prepared for marriage, which suggests that everything was done deliberately to find Anne guilty and set up a foregone conclusion. What genuine bits of evidence fell into Cromwell’s hands were a bonus, as was the confession by Mark Smeaton and the incriminating talk between Anne and Henry Norris. The atmosphere of fear and suspicion forced people to act carelessly under stress and tension. The rest Cromwell made up. Regardless of whether or not Cromwell literally planned Anne’s fall and went to Henry with a plot all ready for his authority or whether he just acted on the Kings initial instructions, Thomas Cromwell came up with the goods and has to bear his share of the guilt in sending a Queen and five innocent men to their deaths. The ultimate responsibility has to lay with Henry, however, because at the end of the day, he wished and desired an end to his marriage and I doubt he really cared how it was achieved.

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