27 September 1501 – Catherine of Aragon Leaves Spain

Catherine of Aragon by Juan de Flandres.At 5pm on 27th September 1501, fifteen year-old Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, set sail from the port of Laredo in Spain. Her ship was headed for England and she was due to marry the heir to the English throne, Arthur, Prince of Wales.

It was the party’s second attempt at sailing from Spain to England. A storm in the Bay of Biscay had forced the fleet to abandon their voyage in August from A Coruña and take refuge in the port of Laredo. This second attempt was also affected by a violent storm, this time off the coast of Brittany, but the party managed to survive it and landed at Plymouth on 2nd October.

Catherine’s journey had started four months earlier when she left her home, Granada’s beautiful Alhambra Palace in southern Spain, on 21st May 1501. It was 500 miles from Granada to A Coruña and must have been an arduous journey for a girl who had just recovered from a fever. This journey today takes over ten hours by car today, so I can only imagine what it would have been like in the height of summer on horseback. Poor girl!

Catherine married Arthur, Prince of Wales, on 14th November 1501 at St Paul’s Cathedral. You can read all about the wedding in my article A Tale of Two Weddings.

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5 thoughts on “27 September 1501 – Catherine of Aragon Leaves Spain”
  1. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be a woman in those days. Traded like livestock for political gains – with the sole purpose of having a “male” child, only to possibly die during or after childbirth.

  2. What a terrible journey for a 14 or 15 year old girl to have to make to be married off to a stranger. And the typical storms must have made her even more worried and afraid and she must not have been very well; especially as she had just recovered from a fever, It is a long trip by car today; but we take it for granted that she just trotted down to the nearest port and three days later landed in England no problem. It was not like that at all; it was a journey that was hard, hot, tiring with all that stuff and people to transport and the port had to be a suitable one. She had to abort the first attempt, go back and start again. Then I assume 3-5 days on board a rocking ship; not a grand passanger liner that she may have found today; with stable platforms and comfortable suits and so on; and then the arrival in England itself. She had to stop and rest before going on to London; only to be woken up in the middle of the night with the arrival of her father in law who had his nobles with him and wanted to inspect the bride! What was that phrase that the French Ambassador said to Henry VIII when he was lookinfg for a fourth wife: they are not to be paraded around and inspected like hackneys (cart horses). Dynastic marriages certainly did not come with romance. James VI of Scotland was so concerned for his bride from Denmark and her ordeal travelling overland that he went to Denmark and married her there and brought her home in his own ship. And yes, you have guessed it; they were hit by a storm! English Channel and North Sea not very good for romantic crossing!

  3. Just Imagine if it had been arranged that Catherine leave a year later, in 1502 instead, by which time Arthur would have been dead. What would have her parents done? Waited 4 years until Henry turned 14 (the legal age of male consent) Would they really wait all those years, while Catherine turned into an “old maid” or looked for an alternative marriage? The what if’s are tantalizing!

    1. Catherine had been quite ill just before she left Granada to travel up through Spain and on to England so her parents could have put the journey off and the marriage may never have taken place. How different things would have been. I think they would have looked elsewhere.

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