On 2nd January 1536, Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, arrived at the dying Catherine of Aragon’s bedside in Kimbolton Castle. He wrote to Emperor Charles V on 9th January of his four-day visit to Catherine:
“As I stated in my despatch of the 30th of December ult°., almost immediately after closing it I mounted my horse in order to repair in all possible haste to the Queen’s residence, followed by a numerous suite of my own servants and friends. Arrived at Kimbolton, the Queen sent immediately for me; and lest people should imagine that her illness was a feint, and also for fear of a friend of Cromwell’s whom that secretary had sent to accompany me, or rather to act as a spy on my movements and report what I might say or do during my visit, she (the Queen) was of opinion – as I also was – that the said guide, as well as the principal officers of her household, such as her own chamberlain, who had not seen her for more than a year, and many others, should witness the interview. After making my reverence, and kissing the Queen’s hand, she was pleased, out of sheer kindness and benevolence, and without any occasion or merit it on my part, to thank me for the many services which, she said, I had rendered her on former occasions, as well as the trouble I had taken in coming down to visit her, at a time too when, if it should please God to take her to Himself, it would at least be a consolation to die as it were in my arms, and not all alone like a beast.
I failed not to give her on this occasion all possible hope of a speedy recovery, as well as of the prospect there was of her being shortly removed to other quarters, since the King, of his own accord, had recently offered to let her choose among various royal manors of his own that he named to me, and likewise to pay certain arrears of pension due to her, adding for her greater consolation that the King had been very sorry to hear of her illness.
After this I entreated her to take courage, and do her best to get well. If not entirely for her own sake, I said she ought at least to consider that on her recovery and life depended in a great measure the union, peace, and welfare of Christendom, To enforce which, I made use of several arguments. as previously preconcerted between her and myself, through the intermediary of a third person, all this being said aloud that the guide I have alluded to, and several others present at the interview, might, if necessary, report our conversation, and my words be the cause of greater care being taken to preserve her life.
After some more conversation on the above topics the Queen bade me retire and rest after the fatigues of my journey. She herself longed for some, as she had not slept two hours for the last six days. Not long after this she again sent for me, and we talked together for two long hours; and I must say that although, for fear of overtiring her, I made several attempts to get up and leave the room, she would not hear of it, saying that I afforded her great pleasure and consolation by remaining where I was.”
You can read the rest of Chapuys’ letter in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, on the British History Online website. Chapuys visited Catherine every afternoon for two hours over four days and left for London on 6th January 1536, believing her to be on the mend.
Catherine of Aragon died on 7th January 1536 and you can read more about her last days in my article The Death of Catherine of Aragon.
Notes and Sources
- ‘Spain: January 1536, 1-20’, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 5 Part 2, 1536-1538, ed. Pascual de Gayangos (London, 1888), pp. 1-10 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol5/no2/pp1-10 [accessed 1 January 2016].