7 January 1536 – Death of Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII
Posted By Claire on January 7, 2018
On this day in history, 7th January 1536, at two o’clock in the afternoon, Catherine of Aragon, first wife of King Henry VIII and the daughter of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, the renowned Catholic Reyes (monarchs) died at Kimbolton Castle.
Catherine had been ill for several months, but had felt worse after drinking a draught of Welsh beer in December 1535 and this, combined with the embalmer’s report that all of her organs were healthy apart from her heart, “which was quit black and hideous to look at”, gave rise to rumours that Catherine had been poisoned.
6 thoughts on “7 January 1536 – Death of Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII”
Poor Katherine, born a princess of mighty Spain, surrounded by a loving family and whose destiny was to be the bride of Prince Arthur, married to his enigmatic brother Henry, being a most gracious queen for over twenty years then being discarded by her husband because she couldn’t give him a healthy son, her lonely death symbolises the unfairness of life, she quite possibly did die from cancer of the heart, the autopsy report does sound like she did have a tumour, her illness could well have been brought on by her miserable existence depression over her circumstances etc, like most people on deaths door she rallied a few days before she died, it’s as if nature gives the person a sudden burst of life, the cheeks bloom with unexpected colour, there is vigour in the dying body, the person can appear quite animated, then death overcomes them, her demise aroused sincere mourning in the English who had held her in high esteem and great affection, Henry and Anne received the news joyfully yet Marie Louise Bruce notes that when she was in her chambers Anne wept, Bruce says quite possibly because her death came to late to assist her, or was there still some sentimental feeling for the woman who had once been a most gracious mistress to her, in the far of days when she was just her lady’s maid?, there are conflicting reports about who dressed in yellow but Henry held a ball and paraded joyfully around the court cradling the baby Elizabeth in his arms, whilst her ex husband and his queen and their followers celebrated, the rest of England wept behind their closed windows, and prayed for her who had been their queen for two decades, poor Mary herself Katherines daughter was beside herself with grief, being denied the chance to be with her mother on her deathbed, most cruelly Henry had not allowed them to meet for several years, even when Mary had been quite ill, they were to pay for their disobedience, now as Henry celebrated being free from the threat of war what did he in his heart of hearts really feel, he had come to hate her for her obstinacy in the divorce,he believed she had lied to him about sleeping with his brother Arthur, yet he had shared great affection and love with her for many years, they had a shared bond in Mary and all the other children who tragically died, she had kept his country safe for him when the Scots had invaded and proved she was a firm capable regent, her only failure had not being able to provide her husband with a male heir, great medical advances made over the last five hundred years have shown that it’s the father who determines the sex of his child but in those distant days it was thought to be the mother who was culpable for bearing her husband a son or daughter, after the news broke of her death the whisper of poison echoed round the court, it was well known that Anne Boleyn hated her rival and wished her dead, yet as we have seen, her death did her no favour’s, Katherines wish was to be buried in the Monastrey Of The Observant Friars yet it had suffered in the sacking and it was not possible so her hearse was taken to Peterborough, several decades later it was joined by Mary Queen Of Scots, another tragic queen, RIP Queen Katherine Of England, you were sorely missed on your death and many women have rallied to your cause ever since!
With Henry’s increasing neglect and keeping her isolated and not allowing her to see her daughter and moving her into worse and worse living conditions she may have welcomed death as a respite. I am glad that her friends Eustice Chapuy and Maria de Salinas were able to come and see her and that she did not have to die alone. If that letter that she had written to Henry is real and I know it’s suspect it really shows what an amazing caring wonderful person she was. Certainly England’s loss when she passed. R.I.P. QUEEN Catherine.
Chapyus himself said that she was rigid minded and too slow to realise that others were not like her, it’s true that people who are honest and sincere make the mistake of believing that others are like them, they see the good in people, she was a remarkable woman, very brave and resilient the daughter of Isabella Of Castile would hardly be otherwise, looking back at the path she chose for herself it’s easy to be critical for a lot of her suffering she bought on herself, it was a lonely path but a woman of her nature would not could not back down, she also quite possibly believed that Henry was in a sense bewitched by Anne and she tried to save him from purgatory, his soul was at stake and that of England, her noble stance now in our age we would call quite possibly unreasonable and somewhat ridiculous, but we can still five hundred years on admire this queen who fought so hard for her marriage, her very position as queen and her daughters birthright.
I tried posting yesterday but it vanished into cyberspace, never to be seen again, a glich I assume with the connection. I think I can recall most so here is take two.
Katherine was for me a true Queen, the true wife and her death was contributed to by the separation from her daughter and husband and movement from place to place, some of which were luxurious, yes, but also run down and damp. The Moore probably wasn’t too bad as it was a spacious palace, almost as grand as Hampton Court, not a small manor with a garden as in the Tudors. However, some of the homes in the Midlands had not been used for some time and one in particular, Buckden Towers was very damp and Katherine wanted to leave here, but not to the King’s chosen place by force. She was harassed and refused contact with her daughter and her servants were reduced and arrested. Her health deteriorated over the three years after the end of her marriage and ironically she still loved the King.
It is little wonder that Chapuys believed that Katherine had been poisoned because it was after taking a broth that she became ill and then deteriorated. Henry had boiled a cook to death for poisoning Bishop Fisher and his guests, four of whom had died, but it may only have been bad food. Anne Boleyn and her family were blamed, although there is little evidence that they had anything to do with that unfortunate event. An enbalmer had passed the information, because embalming was not done by medical men as it was not a medical practice but done for preservation. Candle makers were among those who did this because of access to wax and other ingredients used in embalming. We are not talking about a post mortem, which may have shown secondary cancer, so the blackness around the heart was interpreted as ” having the appearance of poison “. Poison was the big fear in power and Elizabeth I fell ill after food, leading to her totally innocent Italian doctor, cook and others to be hung, drawn and quartered for an imaginary plot. Henrietta Anne, Duchess of Orleans, wife of Philippe, the brother of Louis Xiv died of intestinal disease, but her brother, Charles Ii claimed she was poisoned. Poison of course was rife at the Court of Paris at the time. Chapuys of course amended his views as more information confirmed it was not poison.
It was good to know that at the end Maria de Salinas had come to Kimbolton to be with her beloved friend and mistress and was at her side when she died. Katherine was not alone. Chapuys had been there a couple of days earlier, she still had servants and attention and spiritual comfort. She died in grace and is a Queen in Heaven. Katherine wrote a last letter to her husband, commending her daughter to him and desiring to see him only with her eyes once more. She was buried with proper honours as a Princess, not Queen in Peterborough Cathedral and her resting place is still a place of pilgrimage today. In January there is a festival to mark her funeral and honour her. The Victorians put railings which are quite beautiful with the title Katherine the Quene, mirroring how she signed her last letter to Henry. There are also plaques with the royal arms of Spain and England to commemorate her.
Rest in peace, dear Queen Katherine of Aragon, mother to Queen Mary and true wife of Henry Viii. Amen.