Catherine of AragonA special legatine court had been set up at Blackfriars on 31st May 1529 by Cardinal Wolsey and Cardinal Campeggio, the papal legate, to examine Henry VIII’s case for the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Both Henry and Catherine had been summoned to appear before the Cardinals on 18th June but only Catherine appeared in person, Henry VIII sent a proxy.

Catherine’s biographer, Garrett Mattingly, describes how Catherine appeared at the court “flanked by four bishops” to lodge her appeal. Her grounds for appeal were:

  • That the place was hostile
  • That the judges were prejudiced
  • That the court proceedings should not be taking place while the case was still pending at Rome.

Although Catherine was worried that she was “alone and friendless in England… a helpless and ignorant woman”, her appeal was well thought out and Mattingly comments that Catherine “was quite as capable of getting up a case at canon law as her husband, and everything indicates that she, herself, was in full charge of her own defence.”

Notes and Sources

  • Mattingly, Garrett (1944). Catherine of Aragon, p229-230

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6 thoughts on “18 June 1529 – Proceedings Begin at the Legatine Court”
  1. Katherine must have had to steady herself for this one. Although she was popular, perhaps even more popular than Henry, as the article states the place inside was hostile towards her. The judges were in the King’s pocket and the case was loaded to make it easier for Henry. The general public had been allowed in and had to listen to lude references to her wedding night with Prince Author and to her status as a virgin or not when she came to King Henry. It was important as it would hinge on this as to whether her first marriage was consummated and thus her second marriage lawful or not. There were grooms of the chamber who testified that Author had said that he had ‘been in the midst of Spain’ on the night in question and it was taken to mean that he and Katherine had marital sex. In the Tudors it was stated that they still had the blood stained bed sheets. I do not think this was possible and there are no records of such an item being produced. It may not have been the custom in England as it was in Spain to display them after the wedding night.

    In any event there was a question over whether such a young Prince could have consumated the match. The couple were not in the same household for part of the early days of their marriage and it is doubtful that they had sex on their wedding night. In any event if Author had the wine that was claimed he would have been unable to perform on the wedding night. Both he and Katherine would be exhausted and the feasting went on for four days. When they were packed off to Wales to Ludlow on the Marches border, they were both too ill to have any contact. This makes the case more in favour of Katherine. Katherine had also sworn to her confessor that she was a virgin when she married Henry and Campeggio had her leave to repeat this to the court. She would not lie in the confessional. Her immortal soul meant a lot to Katherine and she would not put it in danger.

    Despite all of this, the judges and the high clerics would have been prejudiced against her and Henry himself had made a good case. But the people in the Hall; the ordinary people were on Katherine’s side and so was Bishop John Fisher who protested that he did not support the King’s petition when his name was forged. Katherine stealed herself and realised that she had one hope: Henry.

    It was a very brave and valient speech by Katherine who appealled to Henry and put to his conscience if she was a virgin when they married or not. She spoke of her love for him and their shared love of others, about the sad loss of their children and that she had ‘few friends and very little counsel’. She fled to her husband as the head of justice in England. Henry was both embarrassed and moved, as was everyone in the great hall. She was to be disappointed, however as she realised that Henry could and would not help her. She felt abandoned and rose and left. As she was recalled she turned and declared that she committed her cause to God and to the Holy Father. Katherine startled everyone by appealling directly to Rome. That meant that the case here in England had to be adjourned and looked at in Rome. Henry would have to wait another four years for his divorce and he was furious.

    One thing that Katherine did achieve at this time was the support of most of the people in the audiance and Cardianl Thomas Wolsey knew that it would be difficult now to gain a solution in Blackfriars. The case was sent to Rome and for the Cardianl it was a disaster, the begginning of the end. It was soon after this that the man who had single handed controlled the Government of England and Henry’s domestic and foreign policy, and been his close friend and advisor fell from grace. A sad day all around.

    Katherine did not return to the court. It was no use to her. She had appealled to Rome and she was confident of victory from the Curia. But it was also a fatal mistake. The case dragged on that long in Rome that Henry more or less got fed up and divorced England from Rome. He then went ahead and obtained his own divorce from Katherine in April 1533, a few days after the Curia decided for Katherine. Now all was very confused.

      1. When Katherine met with Cardinals Campeggio and Wolsey on 26th October 1528, she concluded the discussion by insisting that she speak to Campeggio alone under the seal of confession. Wolsey was thereby excluded from their conversation. But she explicitly waived the seal in respect of the Pope.

        Campeggio was therefore able to write to Pope Clement and relay what Katherine had said. This included the information that ‘she had not slept in the same bed with (Arthur) more than seven nights and she remained as intact and uncorrupted as the day that she left her mother’s womb’ (Giles Tremlett, ‘Catherine of Aragon’).

      2. Can I ask BanditQueen which book/s you got your information from regarding Arthur, as I would like to read just about him too, especially regarding his short marriage to Katherine.
        Although I am not disagreeing with your views on the couples relationship, I do have some different ideas on the little I have read.

        There seems to be conflicting ideas with historians as to whether Arthur was a ‘sickly’ young man at all, and as far as I can make out there seems to be no strong evidence on this. And I would have thought that when Arthur was betrothed to Katherine it would have been spoken of, or noticed by Spanish representation through time, if he seemed frail.

        With Arthur being the heir to the throne, even though they had a ‘spare’ I would have thought that all the Grooming and education placed on Arthur to be King, so would there be great care taken in his well being, to the extent that if there would be any risk to his health by his marriage, and what was expected of him, then being sent to the damp unhealthy conditions in Wales this would have been postponed for his protection, and not placed in any danger that could effect his health.

        Arthur was of an acceptable age at that time to be able to consummate his marriage, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason why he couldn’t, whether he was too drunk to be able to on the actual wedding night we will never know, that doesn’t erase the possibility of consummation in the next 5 months. The naivety of the young couple on sexual matters may have presented problems, who knows the level of sex education young ones got in these times, particularly females, Their youthful fumbles may not of resulted in full intercourse, but to my mind I can’t see it would not be for the want of trying in the 5 months they were together.

        You mention separate house holds, it was the norm to have their own group of servants/households but I presume they lived in the same Castle, and saw each other daily, so it was possible for Arthur to go to his wife’s bedroom at any night, and for them to get to know each other.

        From what I have read both Katherine and Arthur seemed to be in good health when they went to Ludlow, and that they were both struck suddenly with sickness in the following April, with symptom’s similar to ‘Flu’, which in those days the survival rate was pretty low, poor Arthur succumbed, and Katherine survived.

        I agree with Rowan, how do we know what Katherine said in the confessional. But we do know that all sins are forgiven, whether Katherine told a ‘fib’ about her marriage to Arthur will always be debatable,

        I personally cannot decide 100% either way, but there are questions that ‘niggle’. There was an awful lot of politics regarding this Great Matter, which seemed to over rule any ‘spiritual’ matters in many cases. Do we know without question how Katherine had been advised, at this time, as a young widow, then as a bride to be to Henry?.
        And mostly she had a daughter to fight for, she would be made a Bastard, and consequently be the brunt of all the humiliation and reduction of status, no great marriage etc.. What mother wouldn’t do what she could to protect her child/children from that fall out, even at the peril of her own soul….as I said all sins are forgiven if you do the allotted penance, and I may be wrong here, but didn’t Katherine start to continually wear Hair shirts at this time, this could be said it was because of her deep religious conviction, but could it have been self punishment because she was forced to ‘fib’ wholly to protect her daughter. She had been know to ‘fib’ before.

        I would just like to say that my views are based purely on things I have heard, books I have read, of different quality of content, not on books specifically about Arthur, as I said I haven’t got one, but mainly my own perspective of this event. And NOT to put a slur on Katherine of Aragon. She was in between a rock and a hard place, and should not be judged unkindly.

        1. If any of this is true, then why didn’t Henry swear under oath that he believed Katherine was NOT a virgin on their wedding night? He never took such an oath. If “all sins can be forgiven,” why didn’t Henry fib? Part of the answer is Henry’s dislike of sacerdotalism. But for Katherine the answer is easy: to lie in the confessional would be the gravest of sins. Btw, there is evidence for the ill health of Arthur; it is entirely possible he had tuberculosis by late 1501. And Katherine’s own brother Juan had died trying to impregnate Margaret of Austria. Physicians believed sexual over-exertion was a real thing.

  2. I’ve been reading Norah Lofts’s The Concubine, and by coincidence it was the 18th when I the part about Catherine’s appearance at this court. Henry was there in her version, which might make a better story.

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