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9 April 1533 – From Queen to Dowager Princess of Wales

Posted By on April 9, 2014

Catherine of AragonOn 9th April 1533, Catherine of Aragon, first wife of King Henry VIII, received a visit from members of the King’s Council, headed by Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. The purpose of their visit was to inform Catherine that Henry VIII was now married to Anne Boleyn and that Catherine was no longer queen. The delegation gave her the news about Henry’s second marriage, but left it to Catherine’s chamberlain, Sir William Blount, 4th Baron Mountjoy, to break the news that she had been demoted from Queen to Dowager Princess of Wales.

Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial ambassador and a friend of Catherine’s, reported news of the visit to his master, Emperor Charles V, on the 10th April:

“…he is fully resolved, as he has told many, and those of his Council publish, that immediately after Easter he will solemnize his marriage and the coronation of the Lady. The better to prepare the way, he sent yesterday the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, the marquis and the earl of Ausburg (?) to the Queen, to tell her that she must not trouble herself any more, nor attempt to return to him, seeing that he is married, and that henceforth she abstain from the title of Queen, and assume the title of duchess (princess), leaving her the entire enjoyment of the goods she formerly had, and offering her more, if she needed more. The Queen would not fail to advertise me of the interview. I know not whether they are in any doubt as to the Queen’s willingness to dislodge or not; but about eight days ago, the King’s council commanded my lord Mountjoy to rejoin her with all diligence, and keep watch upon her, and not leave her.”1

Catherine had been married to Henry VIII for nearly 24 years and saw herself as his rightful queen; she therefore refused to acknowledge her new title and carried on referring to herself as Queen. On 3rd July 1533, Lord Mountjoy was instructed to inform Catherine that she was to stop referring to herself as ‘Queen’ and to recognise her title of Princess Dowager. The instructions came in the form of a letter from Thomas Cromwell delivered by members 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.”2

The Council members reported back to the King that Catherine “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”. Regarding the King’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, which the Council told her “had been adjudged lawful by the universities, the Lords and Commons”, Catherine replied that “the cause was not theirs but the Pope’s to judge”. She went on to say that “She did not defend her cause upon obstinacy, nor to create any dissension in the realm, but to save her own rights” and that she prayed daily for the King. She also requested a copy of the Council’s instructions to her so that she could send it to Rome.3 So incensed was Catherine with being demoted from Queen to Princess Dowager that she obliterated those words in the report. She would not submit and accept the annulment however much the King bullied her.

Notes and Sources

  1. LP vi. 324
  2. Ibid., 759
  3. Ibid., 760

18 thoughts on “9 April 1533 – From Queen to Dowager Princess of Wales”

  1. Elrine says:

    Sounds like the valiant Queen who did battle victoriously at Flodden Field, sending the conquered James’ bloodied garment to Henry…

  2. Ingrid says:

    After all these years I still feel very irritated over all the situations that passed. The way the king managed the life of all the women made me very angry.
    Poor Catherine, who truly believed that the Pope and her nephew would do something on her cause…
    I can only be a little proud and joy her bravey decisions.

  3. Linda Joyce says:

    How typical of Henry to blackmail Catherine by threatening to ‘withdraw his affection’ from his daughter Mary.

    Was Sir William Blount (Lord Mountjoy) related to Bessie Blount?

    1. Catalina Monti di Oro says:

      I do not think so.

  4. Mary the Quene says:

    Henry VIII can’t be judged by modern standards, and I’m aware of that, but still!!!

    What a d*ck.

    1. Miladyblue says:

      Even by the standards of the day, Henry was considered a huge jerk in his treatment of first Katharine, then Anne, then…

      I seem to recall Henry’s series of marriages was looked upon with derision or horror when it came time to seek bride #4. Makes me wonder what made Duke Wilhelm, the brother of Anne of Cleves, so desperate as to risk sending his sister to such a jerk.

      Imagine how much BETTER things would have gone had he used some of the chivalry he was supposedly steeped in. It is my theory that had he approached Katharine differently, things might have been better, for example:

      “My dearest Katharine, though we have tried and tried, we have not been able to have a son. Were it not for my fear of a civil war over marriage rights to our beautiful daughter, and my need to continue my family line, I would not be asking this of you: A divorce, that I might have the son I need so greatly for the good of this realm. You will be honorably treated as a cherished lady of my realm, and Mary, our beloved daughter. I do this ONLY for England, and not from any disrespect for you, my dearest wife.”

      No need to try to convince her that God thought their marriage shameful – something NO ONE could do, anyway – and no need to threaten and bully her into submission to what she considered sacrilege or blasphemy. A simple, heartfelt appeal for the need for a son. Also, no need to rub her nose in the fact that he had fallen in love with another woman.

      Sadly, I lack the poetic capabilities of the people of the Tudor era.

  5. BanditQueen says:

    Katherine was a lot braver I think than the men chosen to inform her that she was no longer queen. Even Norfolk and Suffolk could not bring themselves to inform her that she had lost royal title: they nominated a third party. Do you think they cast lots? I could just imagine the conversation on the way over as they decided who would give the true Queen the bad news.

    She was a valient woman and very formidable and brave, not even the threats to take his love from her daughter pushed Katherine to give up her rights, put her soul in danger and that of the man she saw as her husband. And how can any father withdraw his love from his child who he has raised, has been the centre of his world for so many years, legitimate or not? Mary was still Henry’s child even if she had been demoted in the succession, and there was no way he should have been able to say he did not love her. Love is not something that you just shut on and off like a tap; it is a real emotion and love for a child pulls deep at the heart strings and is the greatest love of all. How can a parent; any parent, deny that emotion?

    I know he wanted Mary and Katherine to co-operate with him, but Henry went about the entire thing the wrong way. He should have been aware that Katherine was stubborn and that Mary was like both of them; also stubborn. Norfolk and Suffolk and Mountjoy had served Katherine as Queen for more than 20 plus years; it must have been a difficult task to have to inform her that she was no longer entitled to hold that right. Good on Katherine for standing up to them. Good on her for defending the rights of her daughter, for fighting as a mother as well as a wife and Queen; and good on her for giving Henry a right old headache for the next six yeers! It is sad that it also took a toll on her life and her health, but good on her for fighting back. For that alone Katheine is to be very much admired.

    1. Diane says:

      Love can be emotional, but is not an emotion. Love in action is charity. Let’s not lower love to the level of emotional feelings.

  6. Lynn Donovan says:

    Catherine was a valiant lady to the end! Queen she was and Queen she would be!

    1. Sarah says:

      Couldn’t agree more Lynn Donovan. Henry was very wary of going to far in upsetting Catherine, she did have supporters and was from a royal family. Were as poor old Anne and her followers (except for Anne of Cleaves) didn’t stand a chance. I believe that even Catherine Parr was almost headed towards the chop. They weren’t powerful enough nor their families being English and totally under Henry’s power.

  7. Karen Gordon says:

    I believe that catherine fought the fight til the end. She was a queen in her own right. I believe that king henrytheeight was a bully and got what he wanted. He got an annulment from catherine cause he want anne boylen. Then he got jane seymore and she died sfter giving birth to her son, king henry was heart broken , he loved her very much. It goes on. Im doing my family tree I need to know if we have nobles in my family. My husband does back in the day, long story.

  8. James Hess says:

    Henry VIII was a monstrous tyrant. He should have been deposed, castrated, and then beheaded.

    If only Charles V and Francis I had stopped their bickering and united against a common enemy. Henry would have been in their custody after one united invasion, and the Pilgrimage of Grace should have been their call to do what was their duty under the thinking of that time.

  9. Gail Marion says:

    Would Henry’s vile treatment Katherine of Aragon and later wives originate with the whispered rumours of his decreasing sexual potency? Perhaps Anne did have an affair, he admittedly was unable to consummate his marriage to Anne of Cleves, and Catherine Howard confessed to her adultery. Indeed, a monstrous man.

    1. Katherine Howard confessed to having sexual activity with Manox and intercourse with Dereham BEFORE she married Henry, which, as she was a single girl, was not adultery.

      1. shelby says:

        I believe she is talking about Thomas culpepper in the adultery confession

        1. There wasn’t an adultery confession. Katherine confessed to having sex with Francis Dereham over a three month period up to a year before she met Henry VIII, so was not adultery. Neither she nor Culpeper would confess to sex after her marriage, which would have been adultery, only to having met secretly. He said their only physical contact was when he touched her hand, but he thought that eventually they might have become lovers, but had not been so already. I doubt it would have made any difference if they had confessed, as Henry expected a guilty verdict and the, often spurious, evidence against Katherine was manipulated accordingly.

        2. Claire says:

          Yes, when Catherine was questioned about Culpeper she admitted to secret assignations on the back stairs, to calling him her “little sweet fool” and giving him a cap and a ring; however, she denied a sexual relationship. Culpeper confessed that “he intended and meant to do ill with the Queen and that in like wise the Queen so minded to do with him” but did not confess to sleeping with Catherine.

        3. Gail Marion says:

          I stand corrected, there was no adultery confession.

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