7 January 1536 – Death of Catherine of Aragon, First Wife of Henry VIII

Posted By on January 7, 2014

Katherine_of_AragonOn 7th January 1536, at two o’clock in the afternoon, Catherine of Aragon died at Kimbolton Castle. She had been ill for a few months, but felt worse after drinking a draught of Welsh ale in December 1535. This, combined with the embalmer’s report that all of her organs were healthy apart from her heart, “which was quite black and hideous”,1 gave rise to rumours that Catherine had been poisoned. However, the embalmer, who was a chandler and not a medical expert, also found a black body attached to Catherine’s heart, and it is likely that this was a tumour.

You can read all about her last days and death in my article The Death of Catherine of Aragon. You may also be interested in my article Catherine of Aragon – The Boring One?

In Letters and Papers, there is a record of Catherine of Aragon’s will:

“Desires the King to let her have the goods she holds of him in gold and silver and the money due to her in time past; that her body may be buried in a convent of Observant Friars; that 500 masses be said for her soul; that some personage go to our Lady of Walsingham on pilgrimage and distribute 20 nobles on the way. Bequests: to Mrs. Darel 200l. for her marriage. To my daughter, the collar of gold which I brought out of Spain. To Mrs. Blanche 100l. To Mrs. Margery and Mrs. [Whyller] 40l. each. To Mrs. Mary, my physicians [wife, and] Mrs. Isabel, daughter to Mr. Ma[rguerite], 40l. each. To my physician the year’s coming [wages]. To Francisco Philippo all that I owe him, and 40l. besides. To Master John, my apothecary, [a year’s wages] and all that is due to him besides. That Mr. Whiller be paid expenses about the making of my gown, and 20l. besides. To Philip, Anthony, and Bastian, 20l. each. To the little maidens 10l. each. That my goldsmith be paid his wages for the year coming and all that is due to him besides. That my lavander be paid what is due to her and her wages for the year coming. To Isabel of Vergas 20l. To my ghostly father his wages for the year coming. That ornaments be made of my gowns for the convent where I shall be [buried] “and the furs of the same I give to my daughter.”2

As you can see, Catherine had requested to be buried in a Chapel of her beloved order, The Observant Friars, but the recent dissolution of the monasteries meant that there were none left. She was laid to rest on the 29th January 1536 at Peterborough Abbey, which still stands today and is now known as Peterborough Cathedral. Although she was buried as the Dowager Princess of Wales, the Cathedral have marked her grave “Katharine Queen of England” and commemorate her death and burial, and celebrate her life, with a special programme of events known as the Katharine of Aragon Festival. This always takes place at the end of January and this year’s festival runs from 31st January to 2nd February and includes:

  • 31st January – 10.30am Service of Commemoration, 5.30pm Sung vespers.
  • 31st January – 7.30pm Tudor Music and Ale Evening, the Becket Chapel.
  • 1st February – 10.30am Tudor Peterborough Walk, starts at Peterborough Museum.
  • 1st February – 2pm, Katharine of Aragon Tudor Authors Talk, John Clare Theatre (Peterborough Central Library). Two bestselling historical novelists, Vanora Bennett and Elizabeth Fremantle, will give a talk about Katharine of Aragon and her impact on British history.
  • 2nd February – 10am-4pm, Tudor Family Day at Peterborough Museum.

See http://www.vivacity-peterborough.com/event/katherine-of-aragon-festival-2014 for more information and details on how to buy tickets.

Notes and Sources

  1. LP x. 141
  2. LP x. 40

25 thoughts on “7 January 1536 – Death of Catherine of Aragon, First Wife of Henry VIII”

  1. Joan says:

    Hi Claire, what or who was Catherine referring to when she wrote “To my ghostly father his wages….”, thanks, J

    1. SUSAN WOOD says:

      I might be wrong but this would imply her wages to the church , her gifts of monies .

  2. Diane Wilshere says:

    Her ghostly father was her confessor

    1. Joan says:

      Many thanks for that Diane, cheers, J

  3. I thought you might be interested to know that I am descended from Elizabeth Blount better known as Bessie Blount, the mother of the Duke of Richmond.

    1. Christine says:

      That’s interesting your famous ancestor features in my family tree but I don’t think she’s a blood relation married one of my relatives.

  4. Val Longmore says:

    the embalmer seems to have had a good old rummage around – was this amount of invasion normal in those days for those who presumably could afford to be ’embalmed’ sounds hideous to be honest.

  5. Dawn 1st says:

    Poor Katherine to be born in such splendour in Spain, to have died so forlorn and cast down in England. Even the big in the middle seemed always to be touched with tragedy with the loss of all her babes.

    1. Dawn 1st says:

      Ooops! typo- should read ‘bit’, not big! silly me….

  6. Tudor Addict says:

    It’s so tragic that Catherine suffered emotionally and physically in her last years. She died of a broken heart both figuratively and literally. May she rest in eternal peace. 🙁

  7. Mary Heneghan says:

    What is a lavander? Would it have something to do with washing?

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, that’s right, it comes from the French and means “washerwoman”.

  8. BanditQueen says:

    One of the most moving visits in recent years was to the tomb of Queen Katherine of Aragon, which although simple and elegant is very lovely. At the time of our visit, the arms of Spain and royal family of England were either side on the walls, with special dedications and a special exhibition. At least Henry had the good sense to see that she had a decent funeral with representatives from the family there in the person of Eleanor Brandon for one thing. I have also heard stories that on the death of Queen Anne in May that year of 1536 that the candles at Katherine’s tomb lit by themselves. Is this true?

    Another story, and one that I would love to know the truth about, but unless they open Katherine’s tomb at some point we will never solve this mystery, written in an old history of Katherine Willougby Duchess of Suffolk, was that her dearest friend, Maria des Salanas unable to bear to be apart from her mistress and friend had her own body laid in the same tomb of Katherine and is meant to be there to this day. It is the older of the two published accounts in A Tudor Lady written in the 30’s; but I am sure it is about elsewhere as well.

    Katherine made provision for all those that had served her and she loved and even showed concern for her husband’s eternal soull. She is thinking of her former family as well; and she is keen that Henry should provide livings and husbands for her ladies when she is gone. What a wonderful lady. I think that Katherine should have been made a saint.

    1. Miranda says:

      What is a saint mean?

      1. BanditQueen says:

        Hello Miranda: thanks for your question what does saint mean? It literally means friend of God; but in the Catholic tradition we have a process called canonization which means that some people who are considered special friends of God or very holy are declared a saint and their name is written in the cannon of saints: they have a special day dedicated to them and they also we believe intercede for us with God. It is a process that recongises a person’s special relationship and allows people to pray through the saint and to honour them. It is an old practice that has developed into a very long and complex process today; someone has to look into the life of the person, someone argues for and someone against; they also look if any special deeds or miracles are said to have been attributed to the saint or person. The original process was very simple and cults of certain people have been set up locally by groups of people who were devouted to them in life or afterwards. This process came under the control of Rome after many centuries and has remained so today. There are of course people who are saints who will never officially be made so; but they are recognised by many people as good people, holy or who have suffered a lot on behalf of other people. The first saints were the people who died for the Christian faith or who lived apart from others in caves and were said to be specially enlightened and wise. There are many other ways in which someone may be regarded as a saint: for example if they have been persecuted for the truth or held prisoner for the truth and so on. The Church also teaches that all Christians are saints as we are all friends of God; but that certain individuals are chosen or blessed to have a more closer or holier relationship with God on our behalf and these people are regarded in a seperate way of sainthood. These people are regarded as being especially holy and have a place that we can aspire to.

        Hope that explains what I think is a difficult process, but basically it is someone who is holy and great and has a specially close relationship with God or has been through special sufferings.

    2. MrsFiennes says:

      Interesting info Bandit Queen!I wonder if that’s true as well about the candles and about Maria des Salanas.Is that in a biography of Kathrine Willougby Duchess of Suffolk?

      1. BanditQueen says:

        Yes, it is in an old biograthy. I will find the title tomorrow,

      2. BanditQueen says:

        Sorry for the delay in getting you the title of the book about Katherine Willoughby. It was published in 1930 so it may be hard to find a title: it is called A Woman of the Tudor Age by Cecili Goff and she mentions the opening of the grave of Queen Katherine in the late 19th century on page 45 when she is talking about the funeral arrangements for Queen Katherine and that there were two skeletons, one was said to be that of Lady Willoughby who was with Katherine in her last few days, but died in 1540. The author also mentions the story again in connection with how she came to be in the grave but admits that she has no details of how this came about. The author also admits that she has no verification for the story, so unfortunately it remains just that a story, but one that shows the devotion of a woman to her mistress, Queen Katherine.

        Maria de Salanas was willing to walk in the cold December days to the Castle at Kimbolton some miles away, through deep snow, blistering winds and frosty cold, and somehow convince those there to let her in to see her dying mistress. She had no pass or permission and what she did was very dangerous to her health and a risk as she could have been arrested. Maria then stayed with her dying mistress and friend and was there at the end; helping and comforting Queen Katherine. It would not surprise me if there was some truth in the story, but that is now a mystery.



        1. MrsFiennes says:

          Thank you so much to take the time to reply.It is appreciated.Yes,that does seem a little old.But I may have some luck in finding it.I’ll have to check around.It seems impossible that she would be allowed to be buried with Catherine.I imagine opening a tomb would cause quite a disturbance but maybe people were bribed or some such to put her in?What a strange story.

  9. Mary Schnibben says:

    I think that poor Catherine got such a raw deal in her earthly life, what with the loss of so many babies, the infidelities and ultimately, rejection from her husband Henry and the humiliation and loneliness suffered during her final years. It seems so fitting to at last have her life celebrated with this festival. Always faithful to her church, friends, family and husband, even to the end. I hope she finally found the peace that eluded her in life.

  10. Miranda says:

    Hi BanditQueem. Thank you for answering my question and telling me what a saint was I really do appreciate that. I never new that Saint meant a friend of God. Did i get right? I hope you have a very good week and weekend. God Bless

    1. BanditQueen says:

      Thank you.

  11. Selina says:

    I am glad that her grave is marked “Katharine Queen of England”. Although my focus lies on Anne, I shall never forget that this admirable woman was a well-loved Princess of Spain and Queen of England who all through her suffering stayed strong and never gave up.

  12. Susan says:

    So very sad how Catherine was treated ! But I can’t help thinking if she had given Henry what he wanted for a fee her last days would have been more comfortable but she would not give her title up queen !! So Henry punished her she cut off her nose to spite her face .Catherine still loved Henry but he didn’t love her anymore she made life so hard for herself . I know she was a very proud lady and strong willed but why make your life more miserable through pride .Henry always got what he wanted and didn’t give a fig who he hurt as long as he was happy !!

  13. Christine says:

    I think Katherine was the most beloved of all Henry V111s wives by his people, and I think it was a very nice gesture of Queen Mary to have the plaque put up with Queen Of England inscribed on it, because whatever Henry thought or did, by her very actions alone, of dignity, her quite forbearance of his behaviour towards her, her quiet patience and generous spirit, her respectful behaviour towards anyone rich or poor, she deserves that title.

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