3 July 1533 – Catherine of Aragon Told to Stop Calling Herself Queen

Catherine of AragonOn Wednesday 3rd July 1533, Catherine of Aragon’s chamberlain William Blount, Lord Mountjoy, was instructed to inform his mistress that she was to recognise her new title of “Princess Dowager” and to refrain from referring to herself as “Queen”. The annulment of Catherine’s marriage to Henry VIII had been declared by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer on 23rd May 1533, following Convocation’s ruling, and Anne Boleyn was now Henry’s wife and queen.

Mountjoy’s instructions were sent in a letter written by Thomas Cromwell on behalf of the King’s council:

“As the King cannot have two wives he cannot permit the Dowager to persist in calling herself by the name of Queen, especially considering how benignantly and honorably she has been treated in the realm. She is to satisfy herself with the name of Dowager, as prescribed by the Act of Parliament, and must beware of the danger if she attempt to contravene it, which will only irritate the feelings of the people against her. If she be not persuaded by these arguments to avoid the King’s indignation, and relent from her vehement arrogancy, the King will be compelled to punish her servants, and withdraw her affection from his daughter. Finally, that as the marriage is irrevocable, and has passed the consent of Parliament, nothing that she can do will annul it, and she will only incur the displeasure of Almighty God and of the King.”1

Lord Mountjoy, Sir Robert Dymok, John Tyrell, Gryffith Richards and Thomas Vaulx delivered the instructions to Catherine at Ampthill and then reported back to Cromwell:

“To the effect that on Thursday, 3 July, they found her lying on a pallet, as she had pricked her foot with a pin, and could not stand, and was also sore annoyed with a cough. On our declaring that our instructions were to her as Princess Dowager, she took exception to the name, persisting that she was the King’s true wife, and her children were legitimate, which she would claim to be true during her life. To our assertion that the marriage with Anne Boleyn had been adjudged lawful by the universities, the Lords and Commons, she said the King might do in his realm by his royal power what he would ; that the cause was not theirs but the Pope’s to judge, as she had already answered the duke of Norfolk. To other arguments, that she might damage her daughter and servants, she replied she would not damn her own soul on any consideration, or for any promises the King might make her. She did not defend her cause upon obstinacy, nor to create any dissension in the realm, but to save her own rights; and as for the withdrawing of the King’s affection from her, she would daily pray for the preservation of his estate ; but as she sues by his licence, she trusts in so doing to lose no part of his favor. In fine, she will not abandon the title till such time as a sentence is given to the contrary by the Pope. She asked for a copy of these instructions, which she would translate into Spanish, and send to Rome.”2

The words “Princess Dowager” in the report were obliterated by Catherine, who did not agree with the title being used and refused to accept it. Catherine did not accept the annulment of her marriage and believed that she was still Henry VIII’s true wife and queen in God’s eyes. She never did accept the ‘demotion’ and she felt that Henry was endangering his soul by his actions.

Notes and Sources

  1. LP vi. 759
  2. Ibid., 760

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9 thoughts on “3 July 1533 – Catherine of Aragon Told to Stop Calling Herself Queen”
  1. “as the king cannot have two wives..blah, blah, blah”… “irritate the feelings of the people..blah, blah, blah”. and the threats against her relationship with mary, and mary’s position: the topper! i don’t know if cromwell really took catherine for a fool or simply saw it as his job to persuade her away from her stand and do it as firmly as he could – probably both; who knows? she saw through it all, and kept her faith. poor catherine? nope! actually, in the end it was poor cromwell…

    1. Indeed. And hoisted by his own petard! Did his best to get Anne to become queen. Supported her until they argued, trumped up charges against her and very cleverly managed to accuse and therefore destroy his main opponents who were close friends of the king at the same time. As far as Catherine goes. What an amazing lady. Truly Isabella and Ferdinand’s daughter!! She had been Henry’s wife for a long time and initially totally relied on her for support and advise. If her son had lived history would have been very different. But also if her reaction to the annulment would have been different history would be very different. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

  2. I used to resent Catherine for not throwing in the towel and giving in to Henry & Anne.
    Can you imagine having your husband’s lackey come to you and tell you
    “Oh by & by you have been living a lie for more than 20 years. Your husband is not your husband, you daughter is not a Princess she is a bastard and you are not Queen!”
    Wow, I think I would have fainted! I believe that all the wives were strong, incredible women. Regardless of how very different each women was,they had in common, amazing personal strength. Catherine lived and died a Queen. She came from royal blood ( the infanta), she married a King, she was anointed and reigned more than 20 years. I give her a lot of credit for wakling her walk and talking her talk! Long live the Queen!

  3. Harry VIII had to tread carefully with Catherine who had powerful supporters on the continent. Poor Anne was not so fortunate.

  4. Having recently returned from a long stay in Ludlow, where Katherine as wife to Prince Arthor and as her few months as Princess of Wales came to an end sadly, spent their time together, again sadly both were ill for most of that time; I feel a real connection to her in those early days. Both were 15 when they were received at Ludlow, in the royal apartments, in December 1501, and they must have had high hopes of meeting and ruling here with the help of the council of the marches and getting to know each other, and may-be of the conception of a child that would have given them and England and Wales so much hope. But alas it was not to be and in April 1502 Arthor was to die here; his heart being embalmed and buried in the chancle of Saint Leonard, the huge parish church before his body was taken three days later, in stages to be buried in state in Worchester Cathedral, where he was baptised.

    Poor Katherine a widow before she was 16 and no heir being conceived to give her comfort. The poor lady herself was very ill during this time, and could not attend the funeral of her late husband. A lovely memorial is placed in brass and gold to recall his death in the place his heart was buried. Buried in Worchester in state Arthur has a beautiful and grand chantry chaple that was actually meant for his father, and sent up from Westminster, constructed and cut to fit the space. All of the regalia of a King are on it and it is clearly the chaple meant for a King. And I think that this peaceful and charming Prince would have made a good King. Henry was charming, but he was also a much more variable man and it was partly this that led to his insecurity later on. Poor Katherine was left alone and afraid and must have asked what now?

    Katherine spent the next seven years in obscurity, not able to return to Spain and not able to move forward in England. Henry Tudor would not pay her dowry and demanded more and more payments from Spain. Katherine had to write to her father to give her some money and comfort. In June 1509 it must have seemed as if Henry VIII had riden too the rescue like a kinight in shining armour when she was crowned with him in a joint coronation on mid Summer Day 1509. How could she and Henry have known the sadness that followed? Now in 1533 a sick and abandoned Queen Katherine, sent away by the husband she clearly adored and was devoted to, is told that she can no longer call herself Queen. Together she and Henry had shared joy and tragedy; the loss of six children, the courtships and the feastings; the tournaments and the wars in France and Scotland and had faced the breakdown of a 28 year marriage as well as the fact that Henry had no son to follow him.

    I think this was made more complicated by his affection and passion for Anne Boleyn, the woman who promised him that son and who he had just married in that hope. Yet it was clear that she too was going to have problems with producing a living child, again other than Elizabeth and Henry would make sure that he brought this to an end with false charges and a set up to bring her down. Henry callously abandoned a loyal and honest and faithful wife because she refused to give him a divorce, because she stood up to him and because she loved him. Henry may have been able to walk away from Katherine but she would not give up her rights and good for her. Henry for a number of years had been her devoted husband and had been her gracious Lord and husband; he had called her My Lady and all he did was to please her; and then he found he could no longer believe in the marriage as Katherine was first the wife of his brother. Henry believed his marriage to Katherine was not blessed by God and he wanted a new start, but Katherine believed her calling was as his Queen. It was a shock to her even now, alone and in a reduced household, in poor health that she shoulc be asked to renounce the title. For a second time she was bereaved and alone. Poor Katherine; why was she denied the happiness she deserved?

    1. Totally agree. She was a very strong lady and very proud and totally committed to her heritage and her daughter. She didn’t deserve this treatment. She totally loved and revered henry. Part of me wonders if she could have seen what her actions did to her beloved daughter mary , if she would have compromised and struck a bargain and retired gracefully from the scene on the understanding that mary be recognised as the heir after any male offspring which is what actually happened. When one looks at Henry’s treatment of Anne of Cleves Katherine probably could have struck a good deal. But I suspect not. Katherine was a truly amazing queen. From the day she landed in England a truly beloved queen.

  5. Katherine was not a typical wife in a typical situation. She had obligations which go beyond the usual. She was to link the fortunes of Spain and England, partly by providing children, mainly sons. That was the mission. When she failed, through no fault of her own, to provide the sons, she still had the obligation of assisting in allying Spain and England. She made a deliberate choice to subvert the relationship to keep her Crown, and not only did she lose the Crown anyway, her actions resulted in the loss of papal authority in England, and years of poor relations between the two powers.Spectacular fail, thousands dead, and a complete mess for decades.

    She was a brave and proud woman. Her actions, on a human level, are perfectly understandable. She had been fortunate in her marriage, for though it was a marriage of state, it was also for many years a marriage of affection, respect, and love.

    When the crisis came Katherine reacted like a hausfrau, not a princess. She blamed the other woman, fought the divorce tooth and nail, with great strategic ability, but without any
    understanding of the man she had lived with for twenty years, or the impact on the political situation. It was all about her personal sense of right and wrong.

    She never seems to have acknowledged in any way that she had failed in her prime responsibility as a royal wife, and that this, in itself, justified Henry in looking to remarry. Nor did she show any willingness to accept his scruples of conscience as being valid, dismissing them with arguments she could see he would not accept. When Campeggio gave her a dignified way out, she refused it.

    All this said, she was a remarkable woman, if very unfortunate.

  6. CATHERINE of Aragón was consistent and allways faithful to her strong religious convictions/ her principles/ her respect for the Kingdom of England and for the King himself – also her love for him and her daugther – she cannot be judged bu present day standards – in this century she would have been given money to accept her new situation with no trouble at all – but at that time she would never have accepted having her daughter declared a bastard and her marriage invalid – what courage ! Admirable !

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