On 7th January 1536, at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, Henry VIII’s first wife, fifty year-old Catherine of Aragon, died at Kimbolton Castle, in Cambridgeshire, where she had been residing since April 1534.
Catherine had been battling ill-health for a few months but had started to go down hill at Christmas 1535. Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador and Catherine’s good friend, arrived at the dying Catherine’s bedside on 2nd January 1536. He visited with her every afternoon for two hours over four days and left for London on 6th January 1536, believing her to be on the mend. On 6th January Catherine’s oldest and dearest friend Maria de Salinas arrived at the castle. She was not supposed to be there, her visit having been forbidden by the king, but Maria had courageously ignored the king and put her friend first. You can read all about her visit, and just how she managed to get to see Catherine, in Kyra Kramer’s article “Maria de Salinas and Katherina of Aragon – The Depth and Breadth of Friendship” – click here to read that now.
By the night of 6th January, Catherine’s health had taken another turn for the worse and in the early hours of the 7th she asked to take communion. Jorge de Athequa, Catherine’s confessor and Bishop of Llandaff, administered communion and listened to her confession. Catherine then spent her last hours in prayer.
You can read more about her final days in my article The Death of Catherine of Aragon.
Catherine of Aragon was laid to rest on 29th January 1536 at Peterborough Abbey, now Peterborough Cathedral. She had requested in her will to be buried in a Chapel of her beloved order, The Observant Friars, but this was impossible, the recent dissolution of the monasteries meant that there were none left. She was buried as the Dowager Princess of Wales, the title she had always refused to accept, but her grave is now marked “Katharine Queen of England”. Peterborough Cathedral commemorate her death and burial, and celebrate her life on an annual basis with a special programme of events known as the “Katharine of Aragon Festival”. Here is the programme for this year’s festival:
- Thursday 28th January – 5.30pm, Sung Eucharist in commemoration of Katharine of Aragon, with music from the Tudor period, sung by Peterborough Cathedral Choir.
- Friday 29th January – 8.30am, Mass at Peterborough Cathedral.
- Friday 29th January – 10.15am, Civic dignitaries and schoolchildren proceed from Peterborough Museum to the Cathedral, accompanied by the period musicians of Hautbois. 10.30am, Service of Commemoration at Peterborough Cathedral, during which wreaths will be laid on Katherine’s tomb. The service is followed by a Tudor history day for schools, in the Cathedral.
- Friday 29th January – 2.00pm, Guided tour of Peterborough Cathedral.
- Friday 29th January – 6.00pm, A Tudor-style Pottage and Ale Supper in the Becket Chapel, within the Cathedral Precincts.
- Friday 29th January – 7.30pm, Festival Lecture: Dr Jonathan Foyle on “The Forgotten Origins of the Tudor Rose”.
- Saturday 30th January – 10.00am–5.00pm: At Home with the Tudors at Peterborough Museum.
- Saturday 30th January – 2pm Guided Tour of the Cathedral.
- Saturday 30th January – 5.30pm, Choral Evensong at Peterborough Cathedral.
- Sunday 31st January – 10.00am–5.00pm, At home with the Tudors at Peterborough Museum.
- Sunday 31st January – 2.00pm, Tudor Peterborough Walk starting at Peterborough Museum.
- Sunday 31st January – 3.30pm, Choral Evensong at Peterborough Cathedral.
See http://www.peterborough-cathedral.org.uk/home/katharine-2016.aspx for more details and to buy tickets.
Tudor Society members can read an article on the Tudor Society website “Catherine of Aragon’s Black Heart and Poison: The Primary Sources” – see https://www.tudorsociety.com/catherine-of-aragons-black-heart-and-poison-the-primary-sources-by-claire-ridgway/.