On 29th January 1536, Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife, was buried at Peterborough Abbey, now Peterborough Cathedral.

The annulment of her marriage to Henry VIII in 1533 had led to her being denied the denied of Queen and being given the title of Dowager Princess of Wales, referring to her first marriage to Henry’s older brother, Arthur. Henry VIII ordered that she be buried as Dowager Princess, and not queen. We know of his instructions regarding Catherine’s burial from Ralph Sadler’s report to Cromwell:

“This morning I declared to the King all things contained in my memorial. He answered that for any hearse to be had at Paul’s it should be more charge than was either requisite or needful. When I said that his sister [Mary, Queen of France] had one, he replied that she was a Queen, and as the princess Dowager is to be buried at Peterborough with so great solemnization, and the Emperor’s ambassador was to be there present, there was no need of a hearse at Paul’s.”1

Julia Fox, author of “Sister Queens”, writes:

“There was to be no elaborate tomb. Thus, she was afforded a solid, respectful interment in the abbey church at Peterborough. There were candles, there were banners with the various royal arms of England and Spain and her pomegranate emblem.”2

Frances Brandon, eldest daughter of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and the late Mary Tudor, Queen of France, acted as chief mourner and the funeral was also attended by Catherine’s former lady-in-waiting and great friend, Maria de Salinas, and her daughter, Catherine Willoughby, who had married Charles Brandon.

Catherine was buried as Dowager Princess but today is recognised as Queen, the railings behind the stone slab marking her resting place being decorated with the words “Katharine Queen of England”. According to her biographer, Giles Tremlett,3 an appeal in the 19th century to women in England named Catherine/Katherine raised enough money to replace the stone slab and in 1986 a wooden plaque reading “A queen cherished by the English people for her loyalty, piety, courage and compassion” was added. Each year, the anniversary of Catherine’s funeral is commemorated by a special service at the Cathedral, attended by the present Spanish ambassador, and her tomb is decorated with flowers and pomegranates. An itinerary of Tudor-themed events is also planned each year and has become known as the “Katharine of Aragon festival”.4 Henry VIII may have put her aside, but Catherine is still cherished and remembered today.

Notes and Sources

  1. LP x. 76
  2. Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile, Julia Fox, Hardback US Version (Ballantine Books), p349
  3. Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen, Giles Tremlett, Faber & Faber
  4. Katharine of Aragon Festival

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19 thoughts on “29 January 1536 – The Burial of Catherine of Aragon”
    1. Yes, Queen Mary of Teck, consort to King George V arranged for Katherine’s tomb to be upgraded and banners to be hung, as well as the marker “KATHARINE QVEEN OF ENGLAND” to be placed there.

      1. Thanks Lisa. I had a feeling that I heard that somewhere. It’s nice to think that 400 years after her death another royal consort would remember Katherine in this way.

  1. Ambassador Chapuys wrote: “And I am told that the said Cromwell could not help saying that it was impossible for a human creature to have given utterance to a more wise or courageous answer than that which the Queen made… and that God and nature had done great injury to the said queen in not making her a man, for she might have surpassed in glory and fame all the princes whose heroic deeds are recorded in history.”

    ^^ Couldn’t agree more! She was a remarkable woman, like all of Henry’s wives.

  2. I was wondering. I know Mary Tudor wasn’t allowed any communication with her mother before she died, but was she allowed to be at the funeral?

    1. I believe I read somewhere (though I can’t remember exactly where) that Henry forbid Mary to go to her mother’s funeral.

  3. I wish I had known about the service for her – every year I shall go to it, she was a remarkable woman and it is a fitting tribute RIP xx

    1. Put it on your calendar for next year as it’s an annual event and they also do various Tudor themed activities on the days leading up to it. It’s lovely that she’s remembered in this way.

      1. Katherine of Aragon, was indeed a very smart, and deeply religious i can’t wait till i have enough money to go see all these places and tombs. I love this sight because i feel deeply connected to it
        And i love all things tudor. Katherine of Aragon was the first wife of Henry viii. Even though he was in love with Anne at this point, i now that i read somewhere he received a letter from Katherine right after she passed away. I know he didn’t have the nervous breakdown over this like he had done with Jane. But there have been rumors in regards to Katherine being poisoned Anyone know anymore about that? And how long did Henry not see her daughter (Mary Tudor)

  4. Poor Catherine.

    At this times I get very angry with Henry. By God’s sake! He couldn’t even be genourous and recongnize her as a queen ? I can’t imagine what was happening in that mind.
    Anyway Catherine was a great person and also great queen.

    1. I often wonder what Henry felt in his heart, when the love of his youth passed from this life. She had been in his life since he was 10 years old! No matter what he felt or didn’t feel for Anne or felt for Jane by that time, I wonder if he felt that a piece of his golden youth has passed with Katherine.

      But no matter what he experienced inside, acknowledging her as anything but Dowager Princess was tantamount to saying that everything he had done in marrying Anne, declaring Elizabeth his heir, and gaining Supremacy over the English church was wrong. And Henry was never wrong. If he had backtracked that far, he would have been the laughingstock of Europe, the king who made a decade-long “mistake.”

      Can you imagine the humiliation the Pope would have inflicted on him when he resubmitted to the See of Rome? The last King of England who had to backtrack and submit to Rome in such a big way was King John, who had to declare England a kingdom belonging to Rome that he held as vassal to the Pope! Henry would never have submitted to that to make amends with a woman who was already dead.

      Sadly, the King had to rule over the young husband of the Spanish Infanta.

      1. Indeed,

        I’ve never though why he had done the things in that way.
        Recognize her as queen would be a great problem. A political and religius problem, I mean.

        But honestly ? He was a king. He was changing everything. He really could marry Anne again by the new church. Henry never feared the Pope and was not carrying about the others opinions. Unfortunately I still believe that he was acting badly with Catherine. And I also think that recognize her as queen would bring him some advantages in the relations with Spain and France etc. Maybe in this way Anne would be accepted.

        Well well these are only opinions ;D

        But yes, you gave me a great explanation. So thanks!

  5. It was Katherine’s indomtable courage in adversity that sustained me when I was being divorced against my will: today is the execution of Charles Ist but he was out of step with the spirit of the times–whereas Katherine really stood up for wives.

  6. She may have had brutally harsh restrictions placed on who visited her in ‘exile’, but the Lady has no shortage of vistors now, bless her.
    It is good that she has now been given the respect she deserves, and her life celebrated.

  7. Hello, I went to St Peterborough and looked at the grave from Queen Catherine / Wife of King Henry the VIII. Sadly in the 1700 her than grave was opend and her remains burned. Nobody knows anymore for sure where her grave was so that is why they put that stone down. It is sad to know that the Kind forbid their daughter to go to her moms funeral. Sad that at around the same time his than second wife Anne Boleyn lost her child. ( he would have been a boy.

  8. A great lady, there is no doubt about that. And separated from her child for such a long time before she died. What a cruel turn of events. And it did not have to be that way, except for Henrys’ stubborn, domineering pride and his power.

  9. All of Henry’s wives had some kind of strengths. It is ironic, however, that for the very reason he annulled his marriage to Catherine (wanted a son and she couldn’t produce any), the same thing happened to Anne. It was a cruel Karma (I believe) intended for Henry, but Anne suffered a great injustice and was just as much a victim of Henry as Catherine was.

    Anne didn’t stand a chance, really. She was a commoner and Henry could have never beheaded Catherine of Aragon and got away with it,. There would have been grave consequences for him had he tried. But he could Anne. Sadly, that was her big disadvantage. Everything was riding on her having a son. Sad story.

    Anne of Cleves was perhaps the smartest of all of them, as far as surviving Henry goes. He gave her a great title, a good deal of money, and she became good friends with him. Well played Anne. That’s exactly what I would have done, knowing my survival instincts.

    Anne Boleyn was brave though. And it was not in vain, because she lives on and her daughter, well, she gave us Elizabeth 1, the greatest queen ever to rule England. Had things not happened the way they did, England might not have had the pleasure of her majesty.

    The entire story is so darn interesting I could go on and on!! 🙂

  10. A very good book about Katherine is “The King’s Pleasure” by Norah Lofts. A work of fiction but fairly historically accurate.

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