On 7th January 1536, Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, died at Kimbolton Castle, where she had resided since April 1534.

Catherine had defied the king by refusing to accept the annulment of their marriage and her new title of Dowager Princess of Wales. She had actively fought against the annulment proceedings and had been a thorn in Henry’s side. The king was relieved at her passing and on hearing the news of her death from a messenger, Henry VIII cried out “God be praised that we are free from all suspicion of war!”.

On Sunday 8th January 1536, according to Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, “the King was clad all over in yellow, from top to toe, except the white feather he had in his bonnet, and the Little Bastard [Elizabeth] was conducted to mass with trumpets and other great triumphs.”

Chapuys makes no mention of Queen Anne Boleyn dressing in yellow, but what do the other sources say? I discuss this in my article from 2015 – click here to read it now.

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11 thoughts on “8 January 1536 – Henry VIII celebrates the news of Catherine of Aragon’s death”
  1. I agree with Henry being joyous over the fact that there was no longer a chance of war with Spain. I just find his outward show of joy to be very callous. Even for Henry thi seemed awfully cold. But then again I’m looking at it with 21st century eyes.

    1. Besides taking threat of war off the table, it also added a measure of reinforcement to the legitimacy of the child Anne Boleyn was carrying.

  2. The shadow of war with Spain was forever hanging over England during the years when Henry was trying to shake of his matrimonial chains with Katherine, and as Gail mentions it also gave Annes unborn child a more legitimate chance as Henrys heir, the problem was with his ex queen alive there were many who still thought Henry was a bigamist and those who thought of his second marriage as not valid, since he had married when Katherine was still alive and before the pope gave his ruling on the anullment Henry wanted, it made such a mess of everything and as mentioned before Elizabeths legitimacy was called into question all her life, now with her rival dead Anne must have felt joyous indeed as there was no shadowy queen in the background, she was sole queen now and England was safe, but to be honest I think Spain could have invaded anytime she wanted to as Chapyus was forever sending reports back to his master of how shabbily Katherine and Mary were being treated, there was also the threat of poison which made his heart quake as he believed the concubine was capable of even that, but Spain did not declare war on England though she did years later, but Katherine did not want bloodshed on her behalf, England was her adopted country and graciously she wanted no blood spilt on her behalf, to celebrate the death of her who had been a revered queen for many years was I agree very cold hearted, and shameful but then Henry did not believe she had been his wife, still a sense of mourning should have been conducted, Anne and Henry could have celebrated in quiet, Chapyus was devastated at her death as he had seen her only recently before she died, when one is ill and ailing for quite a time death is in a sense expected, but it is still a shock when it comes, and can leave a sense of bewilderment and loss for a long time afterwards.

  3. The Kings Joy will be short-lived. Very soon Anne will lose the child she is carrying and in just over 5 months Henry will destroy her and her family and many others on trumped up charges.

  4. Both Anne and Henry took the news with joy and relief. Henry was glad he didn’t have the threat of war, because he faced it from both Spain and France, although to be honest they were too busy fighting each other. Henry had been under threat of Excommunication since 1533, but it was not enforced until 1538, after the Suppression of the Monasteries, the reprisals against the rebels during the Pilgrimage of Grace and several high profile martyrdoms.

    Anne had declared that now she was truly Queen and I believe they probably both wore yellow. Elizabeth was also paraded around and showed of and they were clearly acting inappropriately. However, Henry did show proper mourning afterwards and had Masses said for her soul and sent Lady Eleanor Brandon as his representative at her funeral. Her body lay in state, she had several services and a proper funeral. It was not badly done as Chapuys said. He was still upset about losing the Queen to whom he was devoted for several years. The sad thing was that Mary was not allowed to attend, but received her mother’s fur collar and a farewell letter.

    Anne Boleyn was unfortunately to speak too soon, for although she was carrying a son, she tragically lost her unborn son and was from that time vulnerable to plots by her enemies. She was tragically to be set up for adultery and treason, with the blessing of Henry and under the control of Thomas Cromwell, was to be executed with give gentlemen five months after Katherine.

    1. Yes they would put on a united front on many an occasion but Henry was tired of her constant nagging and had taken a fancy to one of her ladies, the demure and unobtrusive Jane Seymour, linked by blood they were yet that was all they had in common, Chapyus would often pour scorn on anything the King arranged, Annes coronation was a brilliant affair yet he called it meagre and cold, as you say Katherine’s funeral was a good one but only befitting for a dowager Princess of Wales, as he insisted she should be called but it was conducted well, on the day she was laid to rest Anne went into premature labour and lost tragically what appeared to be a son, she was now treading on quicksand, in the space of just four months two of Henrys wives were dead, one murdured and she brought down five men and her whole family with her.

  5. Katherine’s death made her more vulnerable as well in another way, because Henry could only go back to Katherine while she lived, but with her death, he could also be free from Anne and Katherine, without having to return to either. I know it may sound ironic but after losing a son and Henry tiring, it was safer for Anne while Katherine lived because it was because of Katherine’s failure to provide him with a living son that had led to his marriage to Anne in the first place. Had he not stood by Anne it made his intentions a lie and his second marriage also a lie and he couldn’t lose face like that. With Katherine dead, it didn’t matter any more, as he was now free to marry whom he wished. If Anne also failed to give him a son, he no longer had a reason to remain with her, if he so chose. Henry was openly committed to Anne until the end of April 1536, but he looked at the possibility of an annulment in February when he consulted an expert in canon law, Stephen Vaughan. Anne felt safe, but her miscarriage changed everything. Henry was also going to begin the change in his personality which may have contributed to him hating Anne and choosing her judicial death instead. He probably was tired of her nagging, but that alone didn’t equal her death. Something went wrong, an investigation led to false confession, false assumptions, false accusations and a right stitch up following a false trial. We see Henry demanding the Emperor to apologise and recognise Anne as Queen one day and her arrest being ordered a few days later. Within a few short months Henry had rid himself of two strong women and two worthy Queens. His people must have wondered what next?

  6. It was very strange that he was supporting his wife as queen one minute then as you say, ordering her arrest a few days later, it doesn’t make sense, what was the truth behind her fall? One historian said it was just a load of gossip that exploded over several days into a scandal about the queen that Henry found so convenient to believe, and that he was so shocked by it that he had no choice but to act otherwise, others that Cromwell rigged it with the blessing of the King, and twisted innocently made remarks and looks into immoral and salacious behaviour, certainly Annes own conversation with Norris about dead men’s shoes did not help either, but as you say, he expected the Emperor to recognise her as queen only days before her arrest so what was going on? Henrys head injuries could have been responsible for his erratic behaviour here, if he was thinking as early as February for a way to have his marriage ended, and quite possibly the reason could have been when he and Anne had just lost their baby son, I believe he must have despaired of ever having a son with her then, as he did in fact say so, why then why was he still showing every intention of supporting her right upto May when all hell broke loose over her alleged adultery/ conspiracy to murder and incest/ treason charge, it is something Weir mentions herself in her book ‘The Lady In The Tower’ we will never know the truth of Annes fall and who was really behind it, wether Henry and Cromwell were in cahoots together, wether it was just Cromwells own work and he sprung it on a disbelieving King, yet he himself said he thought it all up, did he really say that, I find it hard to believe that someone as cunning as Cromwell would have admitted that he was the mastermind behind innocent blood being spilt, and surely Henry himself would not have wanted him to admit to it as it made himself appear weak, he fell for his secretary’s lies about his own wife, a crowned and anointed queen, but then Weir did say also that Henry was very suggestible, his behaviour throughout that fatal may of 1536 certainly bears that out.

  7. Just finished reading The King’s Curse, The Three Sisters, Three Queens, The Last Tudor…I read them all at the same time…rather interesting way to read them… catching up with each story via each book…I received Six Tudor Queens – Katherine of Aragon The True Queen for xmas…and am about half way thru (my curse is that I read far too fast and finish books too quickly…I hate actually finishing books sometimes because the stories are too fascinating and I don’t want them to end!)…I understand I am dealing with two different writers with these books…but I appreciate both, and can’t wait to pick up the next book from either!…

  8. I have been dying to say this ever since seeing this picture and the more I look st it it tickles me. Yes, of course it’s a Victorian piece of dramatic art but I can’t help thinking over and over, if he did wear yellow, please tell me he didn’t wear breaches or shorts like those in the picture, hardly flattering. Henry looks more like one of our football team during the 1986 season, when they had a kit just that style and colour lol. Sorry couldn’t resist.

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