Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, were crowned king and queen at a joint ceremony at Westminster Abbey on 24th June 1509, the feast of St John the Baptist.

It was also Midsummer’s Day, a day associated with fairies and magic, and it was traditional for fires to be burned on Midsummer’s Eve to give the sun strength. David Starkey writes of how the new king and queen “seemed indeed to be another Oberon and Titania: their magic spell would knit up old wounds and end ancient hatreds, and all, all would live happily ever after.” Thomas More, in his “Coronation Ode of King Henry VIII”, wrote of how “This day is the end of our slavery, the fount of our liberty; the end of sadness, the beginning of joy… Such a King will wipe the tears from every eye and put joy in the place of our long distress”. More went on to describe the seventeen year-old King:

“Among a thousand noble companions he stands out taller
than any. And he has strength worthy of his regal
His hand, too, is as skilled as his heart is brave, whether
there is an issue to be settled by the naked sword,
or an eager charge with leveled lances, or an arrow
aimed to strike a target.
There is fiery power in his eyes, [Venus] in his face, and
such color in his cheeks as is typical of twin roses.
In fact, that face, admirable for its animated strength,
could belong to either a young girl or a man.”

and his bride, the Queen:

“She it is who could vanquish the ancient Sabine women
in devotion, and in dignity the holy, half-divine
heroines of Greece.
She could equal the unselfish love of Alcestis or, in her
unfailing judgment, outdo Tanaquil.
In her expression, in her countenance, there is a remark-
able beauty uniquely appropriate for one so great and
The well-spoken Cornelia would yield to her in elo-
quence; she is like Penelope in loyalty to a husband.”

Click here to read more about the coronation and click here to read about the coronation procession which had taken place the previous day.

If you want to read more about the Feast of St John the Baptist then click here to read my post on the Tudor Society’s website.

Related Post

18 thoughts on “24 June 1509 – Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon crowned at Westminster Abbey”
  1. So much promise in those early days with that beautiful golden couple (I don’t know why the Tudors had KofA as a brunette as contemporary sources have her with red-gold hair like Henry’s!). And how ironic that More of all people, writer of that Coronation Ode, bore part of the brunt when it all went wrong.

    KofA was a very well educated and wise older woman, with all the steel inherited from her mother Isabella of Castile and a good deal of the wiliness of her father Ferdinand of Aragon. This would have seemed ideal to Henry the teenage monarch, who would be content to be steered by his wife whilst he was being a teenager. I think the problems came when he matured and began to question Katherine’s influence, coupled with the lack of a son. I feel that they might have come to the parting of the ways even if Anne had not come along.

    1. It’s not just The Tudors. Catherine has been portrayed as dark-haired for a long time because of the stereotypical Mediterranean type. There are a few exceptions were she’s portrayed with light hair, but not many. It’s the same with her daughter.

        1. Roland H., your comments are so stereotypical Mediterranean it’s almost funny. Queen Isabella of Castile and King Ferdinand were both very light skinned. In fact, even today Spaniards from northern Spain are light skinned, with either blue or green eyes. Queen Catherine and her daughter did not have dark hair. Why painters and reproductions of paintings portray them thus is unknown.

        2. Just to clarify, Roland was saying that Catherine in the movie “Anne of the Thousand Days” was dark-haired, not that the real Catherine was. He even linked to a photo of an actress who did look like the real Catherine, i.e. fair skinned and red-headed.

        3. He was talking about the actress. Roland is an art historian and is well-versed in Tudor history and knows that Catherine didn’t have typical Spanish dark looks, he’s talking about depictions of her.

        4. I understood you Roland, and I liked that actress as well. The part was written respectfully and she did a great job.

      1. Please, people, learn to read! As Claire pointed out, he said that the actress who portrayed Catherine in “Anne of the Thousand Days” was dark-haired, which is the truth.

        I did not know the name of the actress in “Henry VIII and His Six Wives”, but that’s who I thought of when I said there were a few exceptions!

        1. I think sometimes people are a bit rushed and see what they want to see.

          Yes, there have been exceptions but the recent Wolf Hall series also failed. Although Joanne Whalley has red hair, it looked very dark in the series and she has dark eyes.

        2. I always thought it was funny that Joanne Whalley portrayed Catherine in Wolf Hall, because she appeared as Mary in The Virgin Queen. Both times with dark hair, though. I don’t know what it is. Sometimes I feel like they want to depict both Catherine and Anne as dark because Jane is blond and light, even though Anne’s hair color is still up for debate.

  2. Annette Crosbie (“Six Wives of Henry VIII” miniseries, with Keith Michell) was one of the few actresses that had the red hair and fair skin of the real Katherine of Aragon.

  3. The royals married with themselves, so how the ordinary Spaniards looked like, was not essential.

    Like Henry, Katherine was a descendant of John of Gaunt. Both had redhead.

    John married Infanta Constance of Castile hoping to get the crown of Castile because she had a claim on it as a daughter of King of Castile. That never succeeded but their daughter became Queen of Castile by marrying its current king.

    In the movies and TV-series, it is important that the characters did not look alike but one can easily know who is who. For that reason a fair woman and a dark women are a good pair, although on the had it has often a disadvantage of stereotype fair = good, dark = bad.

    As Anne was and is usually presented dark, it is a bit odd that Katherine is not more often presented fair which would suit her character, unlike the stereotypical character of the redhead.

  4. I hunk it is no error that Katherine is depicted as dark haired as it points to a prejudice that she was “other” and “foreign” to go along with the Catholic as other and non English. You can see it in the different spellings of her name as well. “C” is from Catalina, the Spanish spelling and “K” makes her English, which she firmly said she was after separating herself from the actions of her wily and tricky father.

    I am not saying anyone here has that bias, but that these portrayals of both Katherine and her daughter have their roots in obvious political and religious biases. The odd one out looks wise in Henry’s court was the glamorous and witty dark haired Anne Boleyn with her slightly foreign and exotic flair. Pitching her againstt a pale red head would be very visually striking and it is a shame when they miss that opportunity.

  5. What a wonderful time, a beautiful vision, a new age being envisioned, More’s poetry, although full of polemical mythology, I think sums up the hopes of all who saw Henry and his golden queen very well. Glory to Henry and Katherine on Midsummer Day.

  6. I know a Spanish girl who is light skinned and fair haired also and her eyes are blue green just like Mia Bello said most northen Spanish people are.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *