Catherine of Aragon – Right to fight?

Posted By on January 29, 2016

catherine_boxing Today is the anniversary of Catherine of Aragon’s burial at Peterborough Abbey in 1536, so I just wanted to pose a question: “Was Catherine of Aragon right in fighting for her marriage and not accepting the annulment?” I’d love to hear your views on this so please do leave a comment. Allow me first to ramble…

Catherine had experienced her last pregnancy in 1518 and it had ended in the birth of a stillborn daughter. Out of at least six pregnancies, Catherine had experienced four stillbirths, the birth of a son who had died at 52 days old and the birth of a surviving daughter, Mary. This catalogue of obstetric disasters had led her husband to believe that their marriage was wrong in the eyes of God and that he should never have married his brother’s widow, thereby breaking the law laid out in Leviticus: “And if a man shall take his brother’s wife, it [is] an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.” A Hebrew scholar, Robert Wakefield, had told Henry VIII that the original Hebrew of that law in Leviticus was that the marriage would be without “sons”, rather than being “childless”, so Henry was convinced that he and Catherine had sinned and that the Pope’s dispensation for their marriage should never have been issued.1 Catherine did not agree. She argued that her marriage to Arthur had never been consummated and so there was no impediment to their marriage or anything wrong with it. Henry was not convinced, he felt that the tragedies of their lost children were proof.

It wasn’t as if annulments were out of the ordinary. In his TV series “Sex and the Church”, Diarmaid MacCulloch looked at the Church’s involvement in marriage and talked about the case of Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland, and his wife Maude in the 11th century. At the time, Church law was that no-one could marry within seven degrees of consanguinity. This made it difficult for the Normans in England because it meant that everyone they knew was out-of-bounds. Robert and Maude were Normans and were distant cousins affected by this law so they got a dispensation for their marriage. The marriage turned sour within two years due to Robert rebelling against the king and being branded a traitor. Maude wanted out of the marriage and so appealed to the Pope for an annulment, alleging that as they were cousins that their marriage was against Church law and so should be annulled. She was granted an annulment and then went on to apply for another dispensation to marry another of her cousins, Nigel d’Aubigny. Maude was unable to provide Nigel with an heir so he promptly argued for an annulment so that he could remarry. More recently, Louis XII had had his marriage to his first wife Joan annulled by the Pope so that he could marry Charles VIII’s widow, Anne of Brittany. So, Henry’s request for an annulment actually wasn’t that unusual and the Pope would have granted it if Catherine hadn’t opposed it.

The Pope was caught between a rock and a hard place, wanting to keep Henry VIII on side but also not wanting to upset Emperor Charles V, Catherine’s nephew, so when papal legate, Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio, arrived in England in 1528 ready to hear the case for the annulment, he met with Catherine and advised her to join a convent, something which would allow the marriage to be annulled easily. However, Catherine believed that she was Henry’s true wife and queen, and would not agree to taking the veil.

If only Catherine had accepted the annulment and gone to a convent, how history would have been different! Her daughter probably would not have been made illegitimate, the marriage having been made in good faith, and Mary would not have gone through the stress of having to defy her father, which included being threatened by members of her father’s council. Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, was so worried at one point about Mary’s safety that he advised her to submit to her father, reassuring her that “God looked more into the intentions than into the deeds of men.”2 The stress that Mary experienced seems to have had a major impact on her health and must have also had an impact on her as a person, her personality, the woman she would become later.

Of course, Henry’s quest for an annulment, due to Catherine’s opposition, led to him breaking with Rome and becoming the supreme head of the Church of England. This, in turn, led to the execution of those who would not sign the oath of supremacy (including the Carthusian monks, Bishop Fisher and Thomas More), reformers (those who Catherine viewed as heretics) influencing the king, and the dissolution of the monasteries. Catherine defying her husband had far-reaching consequences, something she could never have predicted. But Catherine was in an impossible situation. If she obeyed her husband then she would be compromising her faith. She had made vows to her husband before God and she was bound to her husband for life. As Garrett Mattingly puts it, “she was Henry’s wife; it would have been a sin to deny it”, but, “would it not also have been a sin to rebel against her husband?”3 Her conscience, her Christian soul, would not let her abandon her marriage because it put her soul, and that of her husband, into mortal peril.

Catherine’s decision, and what it led to, the consequences it had for her husband, her daughter and England as a whole, haunted Catherine in her final days. Eustace Chapuys, a man who had become a good friend to Catherine and Mary, visited Catherine in her final illness, reporting back to the Emperor:

“Out of the four days I staid at Kimbolton not one passed without my paying her an equally long visit, the whole of her commendations and charges being reduced to this: her personal concerns and will; the state of Your Majesty’s affairs abroad; complaints of her own misfortunes and those of the Princess, her daughter, as well as of the delay in the proposed remedy, which delay, she said, was the cause of infinite evil among all honest and worthy people of this country, of great damage to their persons and property, and of great danger to their souls.”

Chapuys assured her that what had happened in England “could in nowise be imputed to her” and was relieved that “This speech of mine made the Queen happy and contented, whereas formerly she had certain conscientious fears as to whether the evils and heresies of this country might not have been principally caused by the divorce affair.”4

In her final days, Catherine wrote a letter to Henry VIII. It no longer exists and it is not known for sure whether the transcripts which appear in later sources, like Nicholas Sander’s De Origine ac Progressu schismatis Anglicani and Nicholas Harpsfield’s A Treatise on the Pretended Divorce Between Henry VIII. and Catharine of Aragon is authentic.5 The words ring true, though, when we consider Chapuys’ reports of their conversations in those last days:

“My most dear lord, king and husband,

The hour of my death now drawing on, the tender love I owe you forceth me, my case being such, to commend myself to you, and to put you in remembrance with a few words of the health and safeguard of your soul which you ought to prefer before all worldly matters, and before the care and pampering of your body, for the which you have cast me into many calamities and yourself into many troubles. For my part I pardon you everything and I wish to devoutly pray to God that He will pardon you also. For the rest, I commend unto you our daughter Mary, beseeching you to be a good father unto her, as I have heretofore desired. I entreat you also, on behalf of my maids, to give them marriage portions, which is not much, they being but three. For all my other servants, I solicit the wages due to them, and a year or more, lest they be unprovided for. Lastly, I make this vow, that mine eyes desire you above all things.”6

It is a moving letter. Even if it’s fictional, it does appear that Catherine never stopped loving Henry VIII and she always saw herself as his true wife and queen. To her dying day, she wanted to save Henry from himself.

Now this article doesn’t go into all the points, but I hope that it’s provoked you to think about Catherine. Could she have done anything differently? Should she have acted differently? Was she in an impossible situation? Could she have reconciled her faith and the annulment? Should she have put her country and her daughter before her feelings or would that have been putting her soul at peril? Was she disobedient and defiant? Should she have submitted to her husband and king? Please share what you think about this issue….

Notes and Sources

  1. Loades, David (2009) The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Amberley, p. 45, quoting BL Cotton MS Otho C X, f. 185. The Divorce Tracts of Henry VIII, eds. J. Surtz and V Murphy, xiii.
  2. Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 5 Part 2: 1536-1538, 70.
  3. Mattingly, Garrett (1942) Catherine of Aragon, Jonathan Cape, p. 306.
  4. Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 5 Part 2, 1536-1538, 3.
  5. Sander, Nicholas (1877) Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism (De Origine ac Progressu schismatis Anglicani), Burns and Oates, p. 131, originally published in 1586. Harpsfield, Nicholas (1878) A Treatise on the Pretended Divorce Between Henry VIII. and Catharine of Aragon, Camden Society, p. 199-200, written in the 16th century.
  6. This transcript from Mattingly, p. 308.

141 thoughts on “Catherine of Aragon – Right to fight?”

  1. Hannahr says:

    I think she was right, Henry was asking her to do something she felt would cause her shame and he wanted her to recognize her daughter as illegitimate and say that Mary had no right to the English throne. I’m not sure why Henry thought she’d comply, he’d been married to her for 20 years and he ought to have known how stubborn she was. Henry was asking the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella to say she had lied to God and the Pope and say she was living in sin. There was no way she’d accept.

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, you’d think that Henry could have predicted Catherine’s reaction!

      1. Paul Marat says:

        He just wanted to get rid of her. She was younger than Catherine and not of a royal house born. catherine guarded her soul very carefully and would never lie to the pope. Henry on the other hand would say whatever to get whatever. Catherine did love Henry. He just wanted a son and threw aside his wife in the eyes of God. How ironic both daughters sat on the throne and are entombed side-by-side.

  2. Karen Reams says:

    I think Catherine was right in sticking to her guns. She was such a devout Catholic and marriage is a Sacrament. The vow is until death do we part, one does not retire from being a wife. I don’t think Mary would have remained in the succession necessarily, Anne and Henry were pretty serious about putting their children first and I don’t think Catherine had anything to gain by slinking off to a nunnery.

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, Catherine definitely feared for Henry’s mortal soul because of hs actions and she would have feared for hers if she had abandoned her marriage vows.

  3. Deena Nardi says:

    My views, which have held true for me,through everything I have read so far, and over the years, that is quite a lot: Katherine was born and raised in the Spanish court , with two very strong and controlling parents—she left for England as the betrothed wife of Arthur.. with expectations of being queen of England, with certain obligations to her parents, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella (they ruled over their own kingdoms of Spain, even though the marriage officially joined the two). Isabella kept her control and sovereignty over Castile, so she represented to Katherine a strong role model of a woman monarch who never let go. Her mom and dad were second cousins and married after a papal dispensation. So she was of course aware of the church’s acceptance of and ruling on these things. I read that in her early days she was an unofficial co-ruler with Henry, advising and educating him on rulings, etc. She just would not let this go. She wanted to be like her mother, who did not correspond with her regularly, and when she did, as I understand it, let her know quite clearly that she was disappointed in her. So Katherine stubbornly hung on to her status as queen of England, using the “one true wife” and “I am worried about Henry’s immortal soul” as her only reason for doing so. The selfishness of her stance hurt her, hurt Henry and hurt the country as a whole. Her selfishness was relentless and astonishing.

    1. Deborah Mccaffer says:

      I agree that Katherine was wrong and perhaps if she could have foreseen the end result, she would have followed a different course. A loss which hasn’t been mentioned is the destruction of countless building and works of art, many of which would still exist today, if the English Reformation hadn’t occurred.

      1. Claire says:

        With hindsight we obviously know what Catherine’s actions led to, but she had no way of knowing that. I’m sure that she felt that Henry would “come round” and realise the error of his ways. I think she was in an impossible position: she believed that her marriage vows were sacred and for life, but she also was a woman who should submit to her husband. I don’t think it was about her being stubborn, I think it was about her faith and her commitment to her husband.

      2. S. Plantagenet says:

        I agree with you both on this — that Katherine’s stubborn and ceaseleess defiance to the annulment of her marriage to King Henry VIII was wrong and irredeemable. Because the King was both her husband and her sovereign, Katherine owed allegiance and unfettered loyalty to him, under both God’s law and by the laws of the land. Her unrelenting defiance and opposition to the King’s wishes ran afoul of her duty as his wife as well as her loyalty as his subject. In all reality, I have always been rather surprised that the King never bought attainder against Katherine of Aragon for her wilful and blatant disobedience.

    2. Tom m. says:

      When it comes to rampant selfishness, Henry takes the Christmas pudding every time. Catherine was fighting for her husband, daughter, throne and faith of her heritage. She may even have been fighting for her life at some point. Catherine paid for her intransigence; but she was no more selfish or self righteous than HenryThe monasteries were already doomed by Cromwell. Catherine’s possible role as Mother Superior would have been short lived, I fear. Henry’s greed was far too strong.

      1. Claire says:

        I thnk Henry’s desire for reform started out as being about making things better and ridding the Church of corruption, but obviously the dissolution of the monasteries showed him that there was also something to be gained from it and greed did set in at that point, I think.

    3. Tidus Jecht says:

      I could not agree more. Her selfishness also hurt Mary. She did more harm to Mary than anyone else.

      1. Tidus Jecht says:

        I mean she did more harm to Mary herself than Henry or anyone else did to Mary.

        1. Paul Marat says:

          She agreed to go to a nunnery if Henry would go to a monastery. Reginald Pole cound have come back and be king. He wanted catherine to disappear while he could preen and strut with the humiliation of the daughter of the catholic kings.

    4. Dee says:

      Deena, disagree with you completely. I don’t think your comment shows any understanding of her deep faith and piety, the massive insult and cruelty shown to her by Henry after over twenty years of devoted marriage and queenship, and most of all the fact that, given he wanted her to deny that marriage and call it wrong, was to de-legitimise her daughter and the memory of all those dead children she had birthed. His behaviour in his lust for Anne Boleyn controlled his every action, it was the ultimate in selfish, egotistical, man driven by his sexual urges, behaviour. The fact he tired of Anne so fast proves that! Classic case of, he’d had what he wanted, time to move on. Henry used the lack of a son with Katherine as a convenient weapon, nothing to do with having genuine belief that his marriage was biblically wrong. Katherine was a victim of the man who would become Britain’s greatest Tyrant King.

  4. Christine says:

    Five hundred years on it’s easy to still feel sympathy for this woman who inspired such devotion in her contemporaries and the English people, as the article says annulment wasn’t that rare and it did happen so men could choose younger more fertile wives, for Catherine to have to agree to the annulment she would be admitting that instead of being Henrys wife for twenty years, she would just have been his mistress and her dead children merely bastards, that was a lot to expect from a proud Spanish Princess, and I think Henry was asking too much of her, the warrior spirit from her mother Isabella asserted itself then and she was prepared to fight to the death, from a modern viewpoint however I do think she was being a bit unreasonable as Henry desperately wanted an heir, that came before anything, even his lust for Anne Boleyn but he shouldn’t have used the Leviticus line, maybe he could see no other way out of his marriage but neither he nor Catherine were prepared to meet half way, she simply could not accept that her marriage was over and it was all the more heartbreaking as she still loved Henry, to expect Catherine to accept that she’d been living in sin was an insult to some one of her nature and for a proud Princess to it was intolerable, this in fact was what happened to Elizabeth Woodville when Richard 111 announced her marriage to Edward 1V invalid as he had allegedly been married before, thus making her children bastards, this is what Catherine was prepared to fight for as Mary was then deemed illegitimate also, thus she was not in line to the succession but there was a clause that had Catherine accepted this Mary would still be in the succession and likely Queen one day, I think here was a case of her pride being slighted by Henrys continued flaunting of Anne Boleyn which really would have made a much less controlled woman than Catherine want to pull her hair out, the fact that he gave Anne precedence over her and let her lord it over everyone was really rubbing her nose in it, they had had a long history together and between them had buried many children, they could well have partied like old friends but the fact that he wanted to supplant her with one of her maids was galling to Catherine, here was a woman who was of inferior status and was making her husband look like a besotted fool, from her point of view of course she was going to fight the annulment, she wasn’t ready to let her husband of twenty years fall into the arms of some arrogant little strumpet and possibly she was hoping that he’d weary of her like he had his other mistresses, of course it never happened till after she died, but she could not have forseen that her rival would end up on the scaffold, I think she could have agreed to let Henry go but I can understand why she didn’t.

    1. Gina says:

      I feel sorry for Anne. She never wanted to marry Henry. Henry forced her to, and she was put in the middle of the whole mess with everyone blaming her instead of HENRY!!!!

      1. Christine says:

        Gina, you are so wrong about Anne Boleyn not wanting to be Queen, she was a very ambitious lady and after Henry promised to marry her she fought tooth and nail to be Queen, it was her goal, her driving ambition, Henry certainly never forced her to marry him how could he do that? And as for Catherine being proud vain and a liar she was a Princess born of a powerful country to powerful parents, she was destined to be Queen of England from an early age, she was moulded in that fashion and was told it was her duty, she was very much in love with Henry and had been a good Queen for more than twenty years, as for her lying about not sleeping with Arthur, personally I don’t think she was they were a couple of fourteen year old children and Arthur was sickly, they probably had a mug of ale and sweetmeats and went to sleep, I doubt either of them wanted to have sex, I know at fourteen I didn’t, Catherine was a woman of integrity, intelligence and courage and was known to be very kind she certainly was not a saint she never professed to be, and just because she was very religious doesn’t mean she would want to go to a nunnery, after her lonely death the people mourned her very deeply, she was a woman to be admired, not derided.

        1. Linda says:

          Sorry but you’re way off based. The Spaniards were cruel bargaining people. They demanded the head of poor edward plantagenet before even considering letting Katherine marry Arthur, so her position of queen would be secured. Now Arthur did not fall ill until after the marriage and Katherine would have been determined to consumate her marriage for the same security reasons. Her parents would never agree to her marrying a sick weak prince. Even one of her Spanish maids testified that the marriage was consumated after the wedding night and during the annulment trial. She would never return to Spain as a failure and would do or say anything to achieve what she has been groomed to believe was her ‘destiny’.
          Now failing to provide an heir may have been due to the damage she would have caused to her fertility by the constant fasting and starving herself all the time.
          By the time her marriage was over she neglected her daughter for years refusing to see her even when sick because her ‘rightful place’ was by Henry’s side. She was willing to allow her child’s life to be threatened and I’ll treated, was willing to allow her best friends and loyal supporters to go under the axe because she wouldn’t let it go with dignity. She loved a crown more than real people. Her daughters life was ruined and yet again the Spanish made her murder a kid before philip would sail to marry her for a secure throne. Yes very admirable.

        2. Alejandra Bibriesca says:

          I love what you wrote thank you!!! I admire Catherine so much it saddens me she does not get the credit she deserves.

    2. Claire says:

      “I think she could have agreed to let Henry go but I can understand why she didn’t.” that’s such a good point. I think the Pope offered her a way out of her marriage, by Campeggio offering her the nunnery alternative, so she could have taken the veil knowing that the Pope, who she saw a God’s representative on Earth, gave his blessing, but I can understand why she fought the way she did. I’m sure she thought that Henry’s idea was just a passing “fancy” at first.

      1. Christine says:

        Yes it was unusual for Henry to become so besotted with another woman at court, Anne seemed to have some hold over him, no wonder he said years later that he had been bewitched, most men if they can’t get you into bed soon lose interest and find another more willing partner, and he had an entire court to choose from, there’s also a story of how he was out hunting one day and came upon a man with his lady and he just took her back to one of his secret palaces, wether she went willingly isn’t known but he never resorted to rape, whatever anyone says about Henry he was very chivalrous and never forced himself on any woman and certainly not Anne who he just adored, yet he could well have and not called to answer for it as he was all omnipotent, so I really think Catherine was just biding her time and hoping that Henry would lose interest in Anne and then normality would be restored, she was not wrong in thinking that but unfortunately for her that never happened and instead of Henry losing interest he just grew more besotted, no wonder at the end he turned so viciously towards her as what can happen when you fall out of love with an ex, you look at them one day and think ‘ what on earth did I ever see in you’, and then he could see what he had actually done to make Anne his, overturned his realm murdered imminent men who were his friends, changed the religion of his country and caused immeasurable distress to his wife of twenty years and child, risked civil war and all for what? For an ageing shrew and another in his eyes useless daughter, he must have thought ‘I did all that for her, she promised but never delivered’, he was very unusual that a King did that to marry his mistress it was unheard of, mistresses were kept in the background and they were content to be so it was enough they had the privilege of being a mistress of the King, they had favours bestowed on them, titles rich presents from their royal lovers fine jewels, palaces and clothes, if there were any children they were often acknowledged as such like Henrys son the Duke of Richmond, Diane De Poitours was an exception in that she was also the French Kings confidant and he bestowed on her the Crown Jewels which were the Queens by right, after he died Catherine De Medici had them returned to her but mistresses throughout history have been loved more than their wives as a rule as they were chosen where wives were a bargaining tool and the couple were usually betrothed at a young age by each their parents as in Catherine’s and Arthur’s case, it was a highly unusual set of affairs that a King would attempt to have his marriage annulled just to marry his mistress and no wonder Catherine thought he’d soon get fed up with her, so yes Catherine I believe was just biding her time.

  5. Henry Di Carlo says:

    He should have waited. She was soon going to be dead anyway. There would have been no schism and he could have married anyone whom he wanted.

    1. Claire says:

      Hmmm… If we think that it may have been as early as 1524 that Henry started investigating how to get out of the marriage, and Catherine didn’t die until 1536, that’s a long wait and he had no way of knowing that she’d die in 1536 anyway.

  6. Gina says:

    I don’t feel sorry for Catherine at ALL!

    She was married to Arthur and married Henry in order to remain Queen of England instead of going back to Spain. She most likely lied about her marriage to Arthur not being consummated. Despite her piety, she had enormous ego and pride that was her downfall. I don’t understand why some people seem to think her incapable of sin and error just because Henry let her go.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it was horrible. But she chose to marry him in the first place knowing that he was not groomed to be King as she was groomed to be King.

    When it did happen, she was incredibly stupid for not accepting Henry’s offer to take the veil and get an annulment. He was going to displace her whether she accepted it or not.
    Henry was going to do whatever he wanted anyway. But instead of just complying, she ending up losing her fortune, her dignity, her comfort and her daughter and for what? To say that she “was right” and “was Queen”? She was incredibly religious and the convent would have suited her. She could have remained with her daughter, Mary, until the end of her days. She may not have died as soon. And had she continued to live, it is entirely possible that Henry might have even taken her back after the fall of Anne Boleyn.

    Anne of Cleves was smart. She understood that there was no stopping Henry. You could either do what he said, and have his favor and enjoy your life. Or resist him, have the bad things happen anyway and lose everything in the process.

    Catherine of Aragon was not the Saint that people pretend her to be. She was prideful, vain liar who made the choice to preserve her own ideas rather than spare her daughter all the shame, humiliation, and pain she would continue to suffer long after her mother’s death. Sure, it must have been awful. But she should have considered her daughter, and she didn’t. And it did not even matter anyway. She wasn’t Queen anymore, and it made no difference at all to Henry. He did not care about her suffering or Mary’s suffering or what they thought was “right”.
    Catherine could have lived her life out happy, healthy, comfortable and surrounded by her daughter and friends. But she chose to remain miserable for NO reason at all.

    1. bruno says:

      I am sorry Gina but it is the very first time I read such things about Catherine’s temper . I am very fond of Anne Boleyn’s character (what a special charm she must have possessed to get a rupture between England and the “popsih church”. But, no, it is pretty obvious that Catherine of Aragon did not lie saying she was still virgin after her first wedding . She was certainly raised as a staunch catholic, as well a proud princess-born you are right . But what fate could have expected her only daughter after her sort of repudiation ? And we are all – but you seemingly – aware the King H would never have taken her back after the (by then unpredictable) fall of Anne Boleyn . On the contrary, the execution of his second queen shows that Henry was himself possessed by the age of fathering a son and heir – especially after the premature death of his only – though illegitimate – son, young duke of Richmond

      1. Esther says:

        Some points. First, according to Scarisbrick’s analysis of canon law, it didn’t matter to the validity of the dispensation if the marriage to Arthur had been consummated. Furthermore, her reliance on the dispensation was stronger if it had been consummated because there was another defect (called “public honesty”) which was not explicitly covered — and would only be impliedly covered if the marriage to Arthur had been consummated. Second, Katherine told Henry that she “put it to your conscious” (sp) if she was a virgin, he did not give her the lie. Third, I don’t see how she could be blamed for not taking the veil — the offer was made in the late 1520’s, long before Henry was claiming supremacy, breaking with the church, etc. Since up to that date, Henry still was ruthless (killing father’s ministers), there was nothing to show that he would break with the church, let alone bastardize Mary.

        1. bruno says:

          Thank you so much Esther for your very precise and accurate explanations.
          I just did not know about Scarisbrick’s analysis.
          We all knew that K H, (influenced by his grandmother, Margaret Beaufort), saw himself as a theologian – so, he did certainly not feel very quiet in these turns.
          You make it clear that, whatever queen Catherine might have answered to such proposal, it would not have change anything

    2. Claire says:

      I think we can see Catherine as obstinate and stupid, with hindsight and knowing what happened, but I think that Catherine thought that henry would come round and abandon the idea of annulling the marriage if she opposed it. She seems to have been convinced that she was doing the right thing. Anne of Cleves had the knowledge and advantage of what had happened to Catherine and Anne Boleyn.

      Regarding Catherine being a liar, that’s a tricky one. The witnesses at the court at Zaragoza, regarding the annulment, had very different stories to those in England, so she may well have been entirely honest regarding her marriage with Arthur. It’s impossible to say who was lying really.

    3. BanditQueen says:

      I am sorry but on what evidence is Katherine a vain liar? No-body knows if the marriage was consumated or not, but she swore on her immortal soul under the seal of confession that she came to Henry as a maid. She then gave permission for her confessor to use this information in public. As a devout Roman Catholic making such a confession and it not being true would have been like a death sentence to her. Katherine was raised in the fear and love of the Lord and it would have been terrible for her to have sworn such a thing and it not been true.

      There is no evidence that she did not care about the suffering of Mary, she did all she could to get to see her daughter and it was Henry who chose to inflict suffering on his daughter and wife by keeping them seperated and from his presence as well. Yes she was given a way out and could have chosen to enter the convent but to her marriage was her chosen path, her calling in life. Marriage was not the secular thing it is today, it was a sacrament and to many it still is sacred. To Katherine this was her path, chosen for her by God. When she married Henry, who chose her as well, she did not have it in mind that twenty years later it would go wrong and he would be wanting to marry someone else. Both Henry and Katherine wanted to marry each other and they had a long and devoted marriage before he met Anne Boleyn and when she promised him sons, he now wanted out ot his marriage. Henry needed a son, but it was not that simple for Katherine; she had given Henry children; she had given him an heir, Mary, who was his heir. Mary was recognised as Henry’s heir and was Princess of Wales. She moved to Ludlow to take her place as Princess of Wales and to rule as such. She had a council and authority and she was seen as Henry’s heir. We don’t have a salic law in England; there was nothing to prevent Mary from being Queen, only Henry’s obsession.

      It is debatable as to whether or not Katherine should have taken the veil, but we can look back with hindsight. Katherine could have retired honourably and maybe she could have been spared much of the misable life she later had, but she did not choose that life; Henry inflicted it on her as she would not give in to him. Both Katherine and Henry believed that they were right and that was the problem; they were evenly matched; they were both proud and stubborn, they were both righteous and they both had a good case; they were the perfect couple.. That is the most ironic thing of all. I doubt Katherine was a saint, but she was not a liar either.

    4. Sandra says:

      I don’t think that Katherine lied about her marriage to Arthur not being consummated at all. Arthur was 15 plus a few days and “was afflicted with a weak constitution.” After their marriage he became more ill with something that seemed “consumptive.” It is quite possible that the marriage was never consummated because Arthur was very unwell.

      Personally, I think that Katherine of Aragon was absolutely raked over the coals by Henry. He was so concerned about the church law as stated in Leviticus that marrying his brother’s widow was a sin, but executing people right and left and having numerous mistresses wasn’t? He loved Anne Boleyn so much but had her beheaded for crimes she most likely never committed. The day she died he became betrothed to another.

      Katherine was well-liked by the people and after over twenty years of marriage to the king and being queen of England she was just supposed to enter a nunnery and forget about ever being queen and Henry’s wife? She was certainly pious, but if she had wanted to enter a nunnery she would have. It wasn’t a slap in the face to a wife and queen of all those years to be presented by Henry the idea of ending their marriage mainly because he wanted to marry Anne Boleyn, younger, maybe prettier and taking her place as queen. I admire Katherine for fighting back. She loved her husband, wanted her marriage intact and still wanted to be queen instead of giving it all up to a younger woman who might bear Henry a son but in the end didn’t. Who can blame her?

    5. Tidus says:

      Gina, Your post is spot on. Thank you for stating how I feel
      about Catherine myself. She was selfish and as you say stupid. Had she
      just given in her life and Mary’s would have been better. I don’t believe for
      a minute she was doing any of this for Mary. It was for herself. I may be alone in
      this part but I also believe that after all the problems she gave Henry in trying
      to end the marriage, Henry wasn’t about to go through it again with Anne Boleyn.
      That’s why he had her executed. Catherine got her revenge against Anne.
      Catherine with her supposed piety. I would think a truely pious person would
      not marry 2 brothers. She was spoiled and selfish to the core.
      I’d have respected her had she just told Henry fine have your
      divorce I deserve better than to be with a man who doesn’t want
      me. This was in no way for Mary’s sake. Catherine cared
      for herself and her position as Queen above all else. And sadly
      a lot of innocent people had to suffer for it. And for the record I
      don’t believe that after 5 months of marriage to Arthur that she was
      still virgin, If she had been then why was nothing ever said untill
      years later when Henry was trying to divorce her.

  7. Carla says:

    It would have inconceivable for Catherine of Aragon not to have fought for her marriage. She was protecting her heritage and that of her daughter Mary’s. Throughout these volatile times her faith was absolute even though politics were key to so much that went on. Some may believe that Catherine was exceptionally stubborn. She was also exceptionally brave to stand up against Henry VIII. Having read somewhere that even on her deathbed she still loved Henry, still believed in her marriage and Mary’s rights I find that incredibly moving especially after all the hardship she had gone through in her later years. I have much sympathy for her but I feel so much more for Anne Boleyn.
    Claire, you are simply wonderful. and provide such fascinating and amazingly good reads. We’re so lucky to have access to them. Wishing you, Tim and all, all the very best.

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, if that letter is authentic then it really is a very moving letter. No matter how badly Henry had treated her and Mary, Catherine still loved him. So sad.

      Thanks Carla!

  8. Lisa H says:

    Had the Emperor not been threatening the Pope none of this would even have been an issue. Louis XII’s 1st queen Joan of Navarre had fought for her rights furiously but her marriage was still annulled because the need for a male heir for France was deemed more important. While England had no Salic law, the need for a male heir was deemed just as crucial; it wasn’t that the Pope didn’t get it, but in his position with the Emperor breathing down his neck, His Holiness didn’t have a lot of choice. If not for this wrinkle, Henry and Catherine’s marriage would likely have been done and dusted within a year.

    There were options offered that would have left Catherine’s honor intact but she refused them or they were discarded before really being explored. (I imagine she did not feel they were honorable.) The offer to retire to a nunnery would have taken away her title as queen but having married in good faith it would have kept her daughter’s title intact, kept Mary in line of succession, and allowed her to make a royal marriage and have a happier life. At one point the idea of granting dispensation for Henry to take a second wife while keeping Catherine married but in retirement was broached – if the Pope could grant dispensation for Catherine to marry her brother-in-law he could grant dispensation for two wives, and again Mary’s position would not have been changed. There was talk of seeking dispensation to marry Mary to Henry Fitzroy and legitimize him, giving King Henry a male heir of his own body AND Catherine’s daughter would still have become Queen of England – not ideal genetically, but an interesting solution politically.

    None of these solutions were ideal to either Henry or Catherine, but might have been better than having no male heir or England breaking from Rome. I don’t think Catherine ever truly thought Henry would go that far, or would stick with it. But neither do I think she was considering what was best for the country and the monarchy. I don’t think that she truly understood why Henry, the child of the War of the Roses, whose very existence United Lancaster and York, was obsessed with having a male heir. One of the reasons the line of Lancaster was accepted by many over the elder line of Clarence from which York descended was that the Clarence line of direct male heirs had died out and Lancaster was the next direct male line from Edward III. I don’t think people pay enough attention to how important this history was to Henry VIII, and I don’t think Catherine with her example of her mother as a capable female ruler always before her understood it either. Anne Boleyn or no Anne Boleyn, I think Henry would have pursued in his quest for a male heir.

    Still, though I think she should have taken one of the options offered to her, likely retirement to a nunnery, I think in her position with her own history and upbringing, I likely would have done the same if I were in her shoes.

    1. Lisa H says:

      Oops, “pursued” should be “persevered.” Never post before coffee!

    2. Jillian says:

      The main reason that Louis XII managed to get an annulment was papal politics, although he certainly had a far better case than Henry to have his marriage dissolved.

      He had married Joan, or Jeanne, of France (not Joan of Navarre, who was the second wife of Henry IV of England), at the age of 14. She was the daughter of King Louis XI, who forced the marriage through against the protests of the groom, whom he threatened with being put in a sack and thrown in the Seine! The couple barely lived together and there are doubts as to whether the marriage was ever consummated – Joan said that it had been whereas Louis denied it. Regardless of who was telling the truth about that, the lack of consent with Louis both protesting and being underage should have been enough for an annulment.

      However, it was the desire of Pope Alexander VI to gain a rich French bride and military backing for his son Cesare Borgia which eventually won the day for King Louis. Joan retired to a convent but led such a good and charitable life that she was eventually made a Saint as St. Jeanne de France – so perhaps she got the best of the deal after all!

      Turning to Queen Catherine, it was inevitable given her upbringing that she would refuse to be set aside. Her parents had certainly drummed into her that she was destined for a marriage alliance in her country’s best interests, and her elder sister Isabella had been refused permission to become a nun after the death of her first husband. She believed that Mary was capable of being a regnant queen, as her own mother had been, and would not have trusted Henry, far less Anne, to preserve her daughter’s place in the succession if she agreed to an annulment. On a purely human level, she was being dumped for a woman who was, in her eyes, of inferior birth, dubious reputation and of no great beauty – she may well have hoped that Henry would get fed up if she put up a fight.

      Would Catherine have acted differently if she and Henry had had no surviving children? Perhaps…

      1. Lisa H says:

        Thanks for the correction. I was reading on Henry IV last night, which must have caused my brain fart.

        1. Jillian says:

          That’s understandable – there were a lot of Jeannes, Janes and Joans around at the time!

          One was Jeanne d’Albret, the niece of Henry’s old enemy Francis the First, who became Queen of French Navarre in 1555. Navarre had a number of female rulers during the medieval and early modern periods, including aunts and cousins of Catherine of Aragon. It wasn’t just her mother’s example that influenced her belief that Mary should be Queen, which I believe was the major reason why she resisted the annulment.

        2. lorraine says:

          What confuses me is Catherine knew as a wife and queen she was to provide an heir it was her duty and Arthur’s they were married for months and being obedient it was her duty so. Was she honest or confused ad to being consummated saying it want because she didn’t get pregnant. I think she was wring to defy Henry because it cost so much by her refusal to annual her marriage

    3. bruno says:

      I agree with you Lisa and you are right to make a comparison with what happened in France – but Louis XII’s first wife was Joan of Valois and, on the other hand, it was not a real matter of salic law : Louis XII was to never get a son from his next two weddings . In fact, this king was born an enemy to the reigning Louis XI whose aim was to weed out the line of Orleans by marrying his sterile – barred ? – and much deformed daughter Joan to his rebel cousin, Louis of Valois(only son and heir of the duke of Orleans). The bride and groom were 11 and 13 by then and the wedding was annulled after 22 years . So, even if there was an obvious lack of consent from the newly-wed, this wedding had been consummated . Joan told the truth when, overruling her own shyness, she declared herself the whole wife of the new king (after her brother’s death, ie the only legitimate son of late king Louis XI) . In Catherine’s case, you are right, there was already an heiress (if no living son) . But Joan, born royal princess of France is a most touching character indeed

      1. Claire says:

        Yes, if Catherine hadn’t been related to Charles V and the Pope hadn’t feared the Emperor then I’m sure things would have been very different. Catherine would have opposed the annulment but I expect that the Pope would have ruled in the King’s favour. It makes you wonder “what if?” If Henry had been able to marry Anne Boleyn in 1528/29 then they would not have had to wait until late 1532 for her to get pregnant. She doesn’t seem to have had fertility issues so she probably would have got pregnant straight away. I’m sure she would have had a son given time and Henry VIII wouldn’t have felt that he’d wasted time waiting for Anne.

        1. bruno says:

          Thank you so much Claire for this answer and for your wonderfuls posts – and explanations .
          I like to “come and see”, now and then – this, even if my level in english is too low, that meaning that I don’t get all of it.
          Nevertheless, I admire you and your co-workers for finding new facts, new keys for events, so much debated on in times, as well as still fascinating .
          Rise of Anne Boleyn of course not being the least of these events.
          I learn so much thanks to your work…
          Miscarriages and birth of still-borns was such a common thing indeed.
          Charles V was not threatening directly K H, but the pope himself .
          In 1527- that is, if I am not mistaken, the date when his relation with pretty and young Anne Boleyn was now so official, he was longing to get rid off his elderly queen, and have further progeny by the beloved woman and made anyone, this including ambassadors, know about his plan), Rome was invaded by imperial forces – they, german and swiss soldiers, slaughtered so many people, committing utmost atrocities, rapes and tortures, spreading fear for such a long time (there are many written evidences of the fact).
          The pope cried for help, but did not find – so even if I say he was much “influenced” by Charles V, I am aware it is not the right word to depict his frightfulness .
          I take for sure you are perfectly right, K H was a very impatient man.
          Maybe fearing he would deserve God’s wrath (it is a commonplace I know, but I tend to think his education had prepared him to be faith-obedient ?
          Obsessed with producing a son and in the same time seeming to put the blame on any of his wives ?

        2. Tidus says:

          This is an excellent point Claire. This is what I’m
          getting at when I say that inadvertently, COA helped
          towards Anne Boleyn’s execution. Jane Seymour aldo
          helped with in though hers wasn’t inadvertently.

        3. Tidus says:

          Helped with ‘it” not in.

  9. Kimberly says:

    If consenting to wear the veil would have made for an easier time for her daughter Mary, then one would think Catherine would have swallowed her pride and done so. Henry wanted one thing in life: a son and heir. After 20 years of trying, Catherine was not able to give him his heart’s desire. An annulment is not the same as a divorce in the eyes of the church. I have an aunt who is a strong Catholic; she was able to obtain an annulment rather than a divorce from the church because her husband was an abusive alcoholic, so that she can remarry in the church had she chosen to do so. I think Henry was truly convinced they had done wrong by getting married; he didn’t want the annulment just so he could marry Anne. If he really wanted to, he could have arranged to marry Anne the way he arranged to marry Jane Seymour: get rid of the current wife by trumping up charges.

    1. Crystal Dawn Espinoza says:

      I don’t see Henry could so easily have trumped up charges to rid of Catherine of Argon who was royal and who everyone loved. Even to come up with made up evidence against Catherine would have been near impossible to present since Catherine was wise and mindful of her conduct and disposition as queen. Catherines mother Isabella of Spain was very concerned with Catherine’s upbringing. The importance of outward appearance and being conscience of her royal reputation would have made it difficult for Henry to catch “her slipping” as well as finding willing participants who would so easy disrespect and scandalize who was for many years as their God annotated, righteous and true noble queen. Not to mention I believe Henry really did on some level love Catherine, I don’t think he ever really experiences a love of fiery passion for her. I think Catherines and Henrys identity could have in a small part intertwined throughout the years of their marriage. Henry, when losing her also lost a bit of self-confidence and a large source of comfort that her existence that he was unaware she brought to him. I think Ann stirred up a lust and passion that he had yet to experience with any other, Her unique sophistication probably fascinated him in a way he never anticipated a women could. If Ann was, in fact, a maiden then I don’t really believe she was so wise in the way of men that she intentionally ran a game on him she was also feelings things for the first time never. She was also experiencing a high from flattery from the kings overwhelming desire to pursue her. Once she fully recognized her capability as a woman and her ability to possess the king she was perceptive enough to understand what cards to play in the game of love. She may had been a woman who had the foresight at understanding what it takes to keep a man’s interest but did not anticipate by contemplating means to maintain a relationship that concerns the interest but did not account for “the higher one rises, the harder one may be subject to fall”. I think the infatuation and distraction from issues Henry might have been feeling with hiss own mortality and gave him a sense of renewed hope. I think deep down Henry knew his marriage to Catherine was legitimate and all questions otherwise were an excuse to abandon the marriage to fulfill the will of Ann so he could continue to fulfill his addiction n to her. I think he probably wanted to believe that is marriage to Catherine was not legitimate as it was the only way he could bring himself to betray her as he did. He knew her devotion to him was genuine and after he betrayed her it probably desensitized him and may have unknowingly played a factor in his ability to coldly disengage himself so easily in his subsequent relationship with others. I never found any accounts of anything bad said of the king before him betraying Catherine, but after, it seemed to be all downhill easier and easier to become the tyrant for which he would become.

      1. BanditQueen says:

        I agree, Henry could not simply arrest Katherine and try her for treason, with trumped up charges or real ones; Katherine technically was not his subject. As his Queen and his wife she was bound to honour and obey him, legally that bound her to him, but she was a Princess of Spain and not an Engish subject as Anne was. Katherine as you have pointed out had too much support. There was also a danger from abroad as well as rebellion at home; Katherine had support amongst the gentry and the nobility. Henry was not daft. He could not afford war with the European powers. Besides, Katherine did not behave in a manner which could be turned into suspician; such charges as were laid against Anne partly came about because she was flirting and had a number of enemies, who could make something out of nothing. Henry and Cromwell appear to have had their own reasons to get rid of Anne; it did not take much for a slowly growing paranoid King to be turned against her. With Katherine things were much different. There is evidence that Henry would have been content to remain married to her had their children lived; with Anne their relationship was torrid. Anne could not adapt to moving from royal mistress to Queen; her role was never going to be the same as with Katherine; Henry, I believe was fed up for other reasons with Anne. He may not have wanted to execute her, but the ridiculous set of circumstances which enfolded around her in May 1536 led to Cromwell and others takng advantage of loose talk and building a case which could be used to prove Anne guilty. Anne had too many enemies to be able to get out of her ordeal and Henry was easily persuaded of her guilt. He was content to have her found guilty and to have her killed, because he could; because he would not have two wives living again and competing with each other for legitimacy. It was cleaner and sharper than another divorce. With Katherine, Henry could only force her into retirement, if he had have executed her, even for not swearing that he was head of the church, he risked war at home and abroad. That was not what he wanted. Henry needed legitimacy and stability; bringing any sort of charges against Katherine would have jeapardized all of that.

    2. Claire says:

      I really wish Catherine had taken the veil. How different things would have been.

      1. Tom M says:

        Taking the veil would have had no effect on the validity / invalidity of the marriage. In fact, Katherine wouldn’t have been free to take vows, or Henry to (re)marry until the sacramentality of their union was settled. It’s not a simple missed opportunity.

        1. Claire says:

          You’re right that Catherine entering a convent would not have meant the automatic end to her marriage but it would have removed her opposition to it and allowed Campeggio and Wolsey to rule in Henry VIII’s favour at the legalise court, which was why Campeggio had been told to advise Catherine I’m that way.

  10. Anne Barnhill says:

    Poor Catherine–definitely, she found herself between a rock and a hard place. A deeply pious Catholic woman, she was bound by the Pope’s decisions. Her dispensation was legal and all she needed to make sure her marriage was right in the eyes of God. She could not have taken on the role as royal mistress; she was Henry’s wife and had been for two decades. To say otherwise was to impugn her honor and dignity as a woman and as a queen. She had no choice but to fight for her own life story and the future story of her daughter. Had she accepted and meekly gone off to e convent, where would that have left Mary? What sort of example would she be setting for her daughter? No, she had to fight. She came from a warrior mother; she followed a righteous God. Given her character, she could do nothing other than what she did. Her case is heart-breaking, though she is not one of my favorite wives.

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, I think she felt that she was in an impossible situation.

  11. Tammy Lee Monroe says:

    Everything happens for a reason. If Katharine wouldn’t have been so conniving in trying to gain sympathy from England using every wrong of Henry, her lost children and then Anne as a weapon her situation would not have evoked so much thought. If she would have given him the annulment she and her daughter would not have found themselves in such sad circumstances. If she had not fought Henry would not have broken with Rome and we quite possibly would not have access to personal Bibles. (Thank you Anne & Henry). If Mary had not witnessed all she did and suffered all she did she would not have been so set against heretics as a queen. If Mary’s reputation was not so bad as queen, Elizabeth may never have been accepted as her successor with such high hopes from the people. Then we would have lost that Golden Era. So even though I think she fought only for her title and not for any love of Henry or even considering her impact on Mary, and she probably was not a virgin and used her religion as a weapon it had to go the way it did to get what we have now.

    1. Claire says:

      Do you really think that Catherine was “conniving”? What makes you think that? I’m not arguing, I’m just interested in that view of her.

      1. Tidus says:

        I don’t see a reply to your question so I will reply with why I also think she was
        conniving. I believe she consummated her marriage to Arthur. Also that
        she got her nephew involved in it. Those are just 2 example’s.

    2. Tidus says:

      Tammy Lee Monroe,
      Excellent post. I totally agree.

  12. Suzanne says:

    I think Catherine had every right to hand on to you status as Queen. No matter how the facts are played out and by whomever historian….Anne Boleyn was the “other woman”. I do believe that if she had born a living son who survived, the world be quite different than it is today, especially in England. If she had NOT fought, would Henry have relented to his daughter Mary? Who knows. But I do believe she was the true Queen until her death. Being a Christian myself I would have made the same decision so can’t be a hypocrite about it. lol

    1. Claire says:

      I think Catherine had to do what she felt was right but I do think that the Pope gave her a way out and that she could have taken it and still have been true to her faith. I don’t envy her, it must have been an impossible situation.

  13. Anira says:

    I think she was wrong. Her strong pride and rather fanatical faith kept her from seeing and accepting the real need Henry had for a male heir. It wasn’t for her to decide that a female heir would be just as good, notwithstanding her mother’s example. She should have swallowed her pride and let Henry remarry.

    1. Ali says:

      well fanatical faiths don’t come much more fanatic then Henry’s murder of so many innocents in the Pilgrimage of Grace. I think she was one brave lady.

      1. Anira says:

        Henry’s actions during and after the Pilgrimage of Grace was brutal, but caused by politics, not faith.

        1. Claire says:

          It’s a tough one. I don’t think that her opposition to Henry is necessarily pride or fanaticism, as Catherine would have believed that the vows she made before God were binding until death. She would have worried about the fate of her mortal soul, and that wasn’t being a religious fanatic, that was in keeping with the beliefs and morals of that time and many people today would agree with her regarding her marriage bows too. However, I do think that the Pope gave her a way out, with the advice regarding going to a nunnery, and that she could have chosen that knowing that God’s representative on Earth had given her that way out.

  14. I feel she was right to fight to remain Queen, but by the way Henry treated her, I ask if it was worth it. It struck me as excessively cruel that he deprived her of seeing Mary, her only living child. I think a weaker woman would have given him his divorce and let him do as he wished ( which he did anyway). He was such a mean-spirited, selfish man that I pity any woman he set his eyes on. It’s such a shame that he changed so much in his lifetime.

    1. Claire says:

      Henry started out as a generous, charming, intelligent and handsome man, and it is little wonder that Catherine and Anne Boleyn loved him as they did. I think we have to remember that, when considering Henry VIII. He wasn’t always a monster.
      He was so cruel to Catherine and Mary and I do wonder what Catherine would have done if she’d known what would happen.

  15. Julie Branan says:

    Yes, Catherine had the right to fight. She and Henry received a dispensation from the Pope for consanguinity. Henry was also very choosey in his application of Scripture. The verses he used were regarding a man who committed adultery with his LIVING brother’s wife. The God of Israel had set up an arrangement called brother-in-law marriage designed specifically for circumstances like Catherine’s. A male relative, preferably the DEAD man’s BROTHER, was to marry the widow and have children with her in the name of his brother.(Gen 38:8, Deut 25:5) She was definitely Henry’s true wife, biblically speaking even if her marriage to Arthur had been consummated. She had every right to fight for what was legitimately hers.

    1. Claire says:

      Henry actually sought advice from Hebrew scholars regarding the scriptures and their meanings, so it wasn’t necessarly him being choosy or being convenient about which he believed. It does appear from his quest for an annulment that he was really troubled by the situation, particularly after Wakefield, a Hebrew scholar, told him that the true meaning of Leviticus was “without sons” rather than “childless”. His lack of living sons became proof that his marriage was wrong.

  16. Nannette says:

    She was also fighting for her daughter’s right as Henry’s heir. I think if Henry had not declared Mary illegitimate, Kathryn may have compromised.

    1. Claire says:

      I don’t think she had to fight for Mary, necessarily, as Mary could have stayed legitimate and in the line of succession due to the marriage having been undertaken in good faith, but she may have feared for Mary’s rights.

  17. Ann Roehrs says:

    She made a mistake. She actually had some power here and failed to use it…problably due to very poor advice that she was receiving from Eustace Chapuys. For her daughter’s sake (and her own) she could have negotiated with Henry and allowed Henry to divorce her as long as she could maintain favor and property, freedom and most of all, her dauighter’s standing.

    1. Kristi De says:

      Exactly! She wanted Mary to be next in line and that was never going to happen. She should have negotiated to have Mary remain legitimate and in the chain of succession after Anne and Henry’s children. She should have gone to the convent. She caused undue hardship on her own daughter and shortened both of their lives. As it turned out, Mary ended up in her proper spot in line for the throne. What a waste of time, energy and life!

      1. Sarah says:

        I totally agree, it’s really easy to say with hindsight but I think that Henry’s treatment of Katherine and Mary would have been much better if Katherine had backed down, you only need to look at his later treatment of Anne of Cleeves to see how Henry rewarded compliance. Also by fighting so hard she forced the break from Rome, reconciliation was out of the question, Henry was never going to go back to her, if she had consented to the divorce Henry would not have needed to make himself head of the church. She also sealed Anne’s fate, I am convinced that the main reason for the plot against Anne was to avoid another messy divorce and so that there would not be an ex-wife hidden away in the shadows that people could rally behind or use to call into question the validity of any future marriage.

        1. bruno says:

          Sarah, I am sorry, but I don’t understand your comparison with Anne of Cleves.
          The latter was a protestant princess and her royal husband never even had sex with her … !
          She was lacking of arguments (and – but I venture to go on psychological sides – it was not a long-lasting, loving relation) as well as lacking of a child whose rights had to be fought for .
          The case happened in France with Philippe August’s 2d wedding – to swedish princess Ingeborg with whom he said was impossible to have sex .
          He was soon excommunicated by the pope when re-marrying with another princess Agnès (with whom he was to have further children). It was only when the latter died – he, being about 50 year old and certainly less demanding in sexual terms – that he took his swedish wife back (she had been his prisoner for nearly 20 years ) .
          With a protestant princess, after enduring the pope’s hatred, K H could not fear these consequences

          I entirely disagree with you, seemingly forgetting K H’s attitude towards english church.
          Since his own coronation – and on the contrary of his own father – he had been fighting against the priests’ power – and wealth (his constant need of money, I guess, is a key to understand his reign)..
          Very instrumental in that way had been John Colet – we have to remember that K H had firmly protected such a man, very officially hostile to the popish church.
          Since then, king H was determined to settle his own power AGAINST priesthood.
          And which is more, it was 20 years before the matter of annulment.
          No doubt, the real problem was to make the pope back down – the pope and not Catherine, she and their daughter were nothing to him, they were his past after his encounter of Anne Boleyn .
          Who could dare say Mary had nothing to fear about after Anne’s coronation ?
          The pope was much influenced by Charles V – he would never had gone as far as permitting this repudiation without condemning the english king.
          If Cardinal Wolsey would not have dared face the established Church anger – for obvious reasons -, that was not the case with Cromwell .
          This one had nothing to lose – on the contrary; it was a way to grab all benefits from priesthood .
          Excuse my poor english, it doesn’t allow me to express exactly my meaning .
          I don’t understand either how Catherine’s courageous behaviour would have sealed Anne’s fate . This one could be killed with ridiculous charges, just becoz’ she could not expect any international support.
          Nor inner if I am well infomed about the english opinion by then .
          Anglicanism is not only produced by – what I read very incerdulously, I have to admit – the uncompromisingness of a “stubborn queen” .
          I have much admiration with worthy women in the past.
          They show us that they can be sth else than tools in powerful (manly) hands.
          This courage of Queen Catherine made her even more valuable for her english subjects – so I am pretty sure that her virtues had also a political sound .

    2. Claire says:

      I think the perfect way out for her would have been to enter a convent, as advised by the Pope, seeing as that was sanctioned by God’s representative on Earth. Perhaps by that point she felt that she’d gone too far and couldn’t back down, I don’t know.

  18. Miladyblue says:

    I am rather conflicted by what Katharine went through.

    She was raised to be a good, obedient servant of God and His church on Earth. As such, everything she did was according to her instructions in her faith, and she did so wholeheartedly, out of love for God and Church. She didn’t just believe, her piety was reflexive and utterly sincere.

    Having fallen so deeply in love with Henry, that entering into marriage, a sacrament, with him, must have been the most joyously obeyed command Katharine ever followed. I don’t think she gave it a second thought – Henry, handsome, charming, glorious Henry, who was rescuing her from years of shameful treatment and poverty, was hers FOREVER, and it was sanctioned by God.

    With that as her life’s beliefs, it is small wonder she fought tooth and nail for her marriage, and to protect and preserve Henry’s soul from the siren call of the wicked temptress, Anne Boleyn.

    But at some point, considering the cruel way Henry was treating not only her, but other people of strong conscience and faith, including their own daughter, I would have to wonder why she didn’t realize this, and divorce him for being a cruel, faithless, and soulless blackguard.

    In modern times, considering the way she was treated, she could have gotten him for abuse, neglect, slander, abandonment, mental and emotional cruelty, and certainly child abuse/unfit parent, for the awful way Mary was treated. The mind boggles at how much she could have gotten for a divorce settlement, had she found the right argument in court – considering her education and her eloquence, she would probably have represented herself brilliantly.

    Unfortunately for her, though Henry was a Prince who had turned into a Toad, Katharine had lost her heart to him.

    1. Claire says:

      I’m conflicted too. I think when she first opposed him that she had no idea what Henry would do and that people would end up being persecuted and killed because of his quest for the annulment. It appears to have been something that haunted her for the rest of her life, her feeling of responsibility for what Henry did.

  19. James Harris says:

    Henry VIII certainly had valid reasons to worry about the succession from 1526 onwards, but it’s worth pointing out that Henry also had alternative options to annulment of his marriage. These alternatives were discussed at the time, but Henry was never willing to consider them.

    He could have easily secured a Papal dispensation for Princess Mary to marry Henry’s nephew and Mary’s first cousin James V of Scotland, who was (after Mary herself) the next most senior person in the Tudor line of succession, and then named them joint heirs to the Crown.

    Another alternative still more frequently discussed at the time was to marry Mary to one of her Yorkist cousins in the Pole family, the sons of Margaret Countess of Salisbury. If, in either case, Mary had married at 16 (in 1532) rather than at 38 (in 1554), there might have been a perfectly reasonable prospect of Mary providing her father with a healthy grandson or two to ensure the succession.

    The oft-repeated claim that Henry had no way of acquiring a male heir except by annulling his marriage is therefore not entirely accurate. Alternatives did exist, and any monarch more conventional in his thinking than Henry would probably have tried them in preference to plunging his kingdom into lasting diplomatic and religious turmoil. Granted these alternatives were not without potential issues, but then neither (to put it mildly!) was the course that Henry ended up following.

    Quite apart from her own pride and her daughter’s status, I would therefore suggest that Catherine may have had a clearer appreciation than her husband of the most sensible options, both for the dynasty and for England. It probably bears mentioning, after all, that Henry’s plan to ensure his line of descent ultimately *failed*. Partly, at least, because of the way that Henry had messed up his marriages and the lives of his children.

    1. Claire says:

      I think Henry was obsessed with having a son and I also think that he was truly convinced that his marriage to Catherine was wrong. He’d come to believe that if he moved on to another woman that God would bless the Tudors with a healthy son and all would be right with the world.

  20. Rubyrosebuds says:

    What happens when two stubborn and strong people lock horns? When one is the King of England, the result does not bode well for the second person in the battle. Surely Catherine must have realized this about her husband, for she knew him since his tender childhood when he was a spoiled and over-indulged boy thirsting for the limelight.

    Compare Henry’s treatment of her with that of Anne of Cleves. True, Anne of Cleves and Henry never had such an lengthy and intimate history, she never bore him a child, and if Henry’s word can be believe, Anne and he never had sexual relations and he found her repulsive (probably not true but a lie to save face on his part). But Anne of Cleves was probably the most canny of all his wives; she legitimately feared for her safety when she learnt Henry wanted nothing to do with her. She gave in to his demands and was rewarded with kind treatment and financial prosperity – a good life in exchange for a quick divorce – a win/win situation for all.

    While hindsight is 20/20, I don’t think that Catherine of Aragon would have backed down one bit in this combat. In her mind, she was right and Henry was wrong. She was his legitimate wife and nothing could ever make her deny this.

    Was she right to do so? In my opinion, no she was not. There are times when you are right but you must swallow your pride for the greater good. Because of her stubbornness, there was a great deal of suffering that could have been avoided had she agreed to retire to a convent and live a holy life. Catherine was a very pious woman, and I am not certain that an annulment would have been required if she willingly took the veil to become the Bride of Christ. This would have saved her pride (her leaving her worldy husband for a heavenly groom) and given Henry what he wanted – which was a male heir – but never got through Anne Boleyn.

    Ah yes, pride does go before a fall. Still we admire Catherine of Aragon as the wife sadly grown dowdy through service to her husband and then, cast aside without a thought for a younger model.

    1. Claire says:

      I like your point about two stubborn people locking horns! Yes, I think Henry and Catherine were both convinced that they were right and that they had to fight for what was right.
      The more I think about Catherine, the more I think that she should have gone with the Pope’s advice and gone to a nunnery. I think that would have suited her pious nature, it was something that was sanctioned by the Pope, it would have protected Mary’s rights and her relationship with her father, and Henry would have been happy with her. I can understand her not agreeing to it, but it was a way out without losing face or compromising her faith.

  21. Osana Rodriguez says:

    I think she was right in fighting for her marriage. Henry the VIII wanted to get rid of her with false evidence just so he could marry Anne Boleyn and finally have the long awaited heir he needed. It’s sad that in those days women didn’t really have much rights as we do today. I am definitely team Catherine of Aragon.

    1. Claire says:

      I don’t think we can say that it was “false evidence” as we don’t know who was telling the truth about Catherine’s marriage to Arthur and it appears that Henry VIII was genuinely convinced that his marriage to Catherine was not right in God’s eyes, and he felt that their lack of sons was solid proof of that. However, i can completely understand Catherien fighting for the vows she’d made in front of God.
      I’m not team anyone, I find all these characters fascinating.

  22. Ali says:

    of course she should have fought, why not, she was courageous and had been his loyal wife for a long time and it wasn’t her fault so many of her babies died. She will always be my favourite wife, good for her for fighting and refusing to back down one thing i like about Catherine, Anne Bolyen and Catherine Parr especially is the strength of those women.

    1. bruno says:

      Ali, I entirely agree with your chosen “favourites” . When faced with so much lies, the only way is to show your strong will. I see by what happened to anyone “embarrassing” to KH there is no place for negociation . Anne after Catherine, Cromwell after Anne (this man was just a tool in the king’s hands and he was always plainly his devoted servant, so what matter of dissatisfaction could he bring to his royal master – this one just let him die to please Katherine Howard) . What reliability with such a man ?

    2. Claire says:

      Yes, they’re all fascinating and strong women. Catherine definitely showed real strength of character.

  23. Marion says:

    Poor Katherine! She had no luck with the Tudors! Widowed early, she was relegated to the position of poverty stricken dependent and she a princess of Spain! She was pushed to dark thoughts of suicide in those years. Did thst experience affect her later decisions? Was her Mary to be the inconvenient royal with no real status by right at te court of Anne Boleyn?

    The marriage was not childless, of course. There was Mary and all those fruitless pregnancies. That Mary was female was God’s will and no barrier to sovereignty as Isabella proved. Catherine herself ruled for Henry and fought the Scots. So when Henry bleated his need for a son, she must have thought ‘stuff and nonsense.’

    Katherine had known humiliation at the hands of Henry’s father then the sun had shone again when Henry rescued her. Did she ever lose the illusion that he was her chivalric knight, that they were one another’s destiny? But he too humiliated her by his elevation of, from Katherine’s viewpoint, a pushy ambitious nobody like Anne Boleyn. I don’t think she ever believed that Anne would be more than a passing fancy.

    She had a papal dispensation to marry – something a Spanish Catholic woul take very seriously else what was the point of a pope? Marriage was a holy sacramentn- she really
    believed that. And there was Mary. Where was her glittering marriage? What would Mary’s future be?

    In the end, when all the politicking had failed, she was left to fall back on doing what was right and paying no mind to Henry’s flexible conscience and paying no mind to Boleyn insolence. She had been an obedient and modest wife with all the mediaeval virtues which were no competition for brilliant elegant Anne, who had all the Renaissance virtues. That was Katherine’s tragedy. That it turned out that Henry actually wanted a submissive non argumentative wife on the medieval model was Anne’s.

    1. Claire says:

      I really feel for Catherine and particularly the way she was haunted by the consequences of her actions. She was certainly not rewarded for being a loyal wife and a good queen, and it’s so sad how she was treated.
      Yes, the problem with Henry is that he really didn’t know what he wanted in a wife. I think he had the image of a perfect wife in his head, perhaps from the way that he was brought up in a household of women, and nobody could actually match that/live up to it.

  24. Esther says:

    IMO, there was nothing that would indicate to Katherine that Henry would go to extreme lengths to get the annulment; by the time he revealed how cruel he would be to get his way, it was too late. I wonder what would have happened if the Pope had ruled immediately in her favor.

    Furthermore, Henry’s request must have struck Katherine as hypocritical in the extreme. There was debate over whether a man could marry his brother’s widow when there were no children (Leviticus vs. Deuteronomy); there was no exception to the Levitical prohibition against marrying (the church said “sleeping with”) both a woman and her sister. So the argument that Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn was invalid (due to Henry sleeping with Mary) was much stronger than the argument that his marriage to Katherine was invalid.

    Also, when Matilda was fighting Stephen for the throne, there had never been a European queen showing that women could rule; by the time Henry wanted to annul his marriage, plenty of successful female regents plus Isabella of Castile all proved women could lead. However, recent British history showed great danger in child monarchs. So, what does Henry do, despite his claimed “concern” about the succession? He replaces the nearly adult Mary with the infant Elizabeth — if he died at any time prior to the birth of Edward, the only thing that would have prevented invasion and civil war was that no one would lift a finger to fight for the infant.

    Finally, as James Harris pointed out, Henry did have alternatives. If he was truly concerned with the succession, protecting Mary’s legitimacy and marrying her to James of Scotland or to Reginald Pole would have given two chances of securing a male heir — either to a son, since Henry could still seek a subsequent marriage after an annulment (or Katherine’s death), or to a grandson. Leaving the country prey to foreign invasion and civil war by leaving the throne to an infant, or to no one at all (after Anne’s death) is not something showing care for the succession!

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, there’s no way that Catherine could have had any inkling at all of what her opposition would lead to. I’m sure that she thought that henry would back down and forget the silliness after a while.
      It is fascinating to “what if” and I expect that Catherien would have been treated like Anne of Cleves had she accepted things and Mary, of course, would not have had to endure all the cruelty she did. I do think that the cruelty she suffered affected her health and shaped her.

  25. Amy Barkman says:

    Even though I am a fan of Anne Boleyn, I do not see how Catherine could have done any differently. She not only believed herself truly married to Henry but her daughter’s legitimacy was at stake. Any mother, especially one whose daughter could potentially (and did) become Queen, would have done the same.

    1. Claire says:

      I think her marriage vows were what made her fight.

  26. Cathy says:

    I certainly understand why she fought the annulment but honestly she could have made life so much easier for herself and more importantly her daughter. Her fight against his wishes put her daughter in grave danger not just herself. I would have submitted to his will for the sake of my child knowing what a willful powerful man Henry was. Mothers, never put your pride before the safety of your children and never expect a child to put their life in danger for your desires

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, if only! I think it was more her faith, though, than pride, which meant that she had to fight and I don’t think she had any idea that Henry would be so cruel to Mary.

  27. Brenda frantz says:

    She fought for her true self.right or wrong!!!!!!

  28. Rhonda says:

    I suspect Catherine was a proud and stubborn woman. She had become accustomed to her husband having mistresses. But, she couldn’t tolerate being deserted and stripped of her titles when she had been a good and loving wife for years. It must have seemed very unjust to her, especially as the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabel, a princess in her own right who was used to being treated with regal respect. She just couldn’t back down. it was not in her nature.

    1. Claire says:

      I think she had pride and that she was a very determined woman, but I think it was the fate of her mortal soul that she was worried about. If her letter to Henry is authentic, then it shows just how worried she was about Henry’s soul because of his actions. I think she felt that marriage was until death, and that was that.

  29. Cynthia says:

    I think Catherine remained true to herself and her faith. I think she was in an impossible position with an impossible man who would do what he wanted, regardless of consequences. Which is exactly what Henry VIII did. There is no guarantee that had she submitted to Henry’s will that eventually he would not have acted out somewhere over some other issue.

    1. Claire says:

      “an impossible position with an impossible man” – yes, definitely!

  30. Nikki says:

    Catherine had been brought up to be a queen. She was sent to England very young solely for the purpose of marrying the next king of England. It was her vocation. There is evidence she also loved Henry. It was not a brief marriage (I am a fan of Anne but I do think Henry’s behaviour nowadays would be describe as a mid-life crisis) and it seems she had been a good wife to Henry. I think it would have been very difficult for her to react any other way and how she reacted was probably what would have been expected of her. I dont think we can compare her to Anne of Cleaves who and a very brief marriage and did not know Henry at all really.
    The consequences of her actions did had far reaching effects especially how her daughter ruled when queen. She is not the only woman who has behaved emotionally rather than logically when going through a divorce.
    This is even before considering how important religion was back then.

    1. Claire says:

      It was a long and mostly happy marriage, and I think that Catherine must have been appalled and devastated at what Henry wanted to do. I think she felt that Henry would see sense and I think that she also felt that her marriage should only end with the death of one of them. I don’t think that it was down to a midlife crisis, as Henry was worrying about the validity of the marriage before he met Anne, I think Anne was just there at the right (or perhaps wrong) time. I think that Henry had become convinced that the marriage was wrong and that he had to get out of it to ensure the succession.

  31. BanditQueen says:

    Yes, Katherine was entirely right to fight for the right of her daughter. In her eyes,she was lawfully married, her first marriage to Arthur was not consumated and as the marriage had passed for a number of years without either party being aware that anything was wrong, the marriage under canon law was honest and could be made good. Fisher argued that the church provides and that as Henry and Katherine had entered into the marriage honestly and had not been aware that there could be a problem as they were granted a dispensation, that the answer was to appeal for confirmation and a better dispensation, not to dissolve the marriage.

    In Katherine’s eyes she had not failed in her duty to provide Henry with an heir, he had a perfectly good heir in their daughter. Katherine of Aragon saw nothing wrong in a strong woman ruling, in fact she had come from a heritage of female rulers, her own mother had seized the crown of Castile from her own inept half brother and then chosen her own husband to help her to keep it, unting with Aragon to form the kingdom of Spain. She then went on a crusade to regain the rest of the country still in Muslim hands, ending in the conquest of Granada in 1492. Her mother was not the only Castilian Queen to rule in her own right. In Burgundy and other duchies independent of France, female rule was nothing new either; it was France that had an outmoded Salic Law, not the duchies of Spanish kingdoms. There was no Salic Law in England, either, and Scotland also had female kings. To Katherine Mary was Henry’s heir, she was brought up to rule and it was her right to rule. Katherine was stubborn because she was the daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand, the ferocious Sovereigns of Spain and a growing Empire. She was brought up to stand up for herself, she was a devout Catholic and she saw matrimony as her calling.

    Marriage is a sacrament. You cannot wave a magic wand and dissolve it just because you fancy someone else. Henry may have believed that he needed a male heir but he did nothing about it until promised a son by Anne Boleyn. That was in 1527. Yes, he was insecure, he knew his father had taken over a kingdom which 16 years earlier had been racked by civil wars. He knew his father was not entirely secure on the throne and he was unsure how things would be in the future if Mary ruled. Would she be accepted as a woman? It was a fair question, as Matilda, daughter of Henry I had been regected by large parts of the country, including being forced to abandon her own coronation in London, as the mob were not too keen on her attitude and tax demands. She had to fight with her cousin King Stephen, who was crowned over the throne, her son succeeding instead in 1154. Henry II then had the opposit problem with too many sons. But that is a different tale. Henry assumed and feared that this may be the case again. He did not bank on Mary herself and her personal popularity.

    Having said all of this, Mary was still raised to be Queen. She was educated by the best scholars, she was made Princess of Wales and sent to Ludlow to rule there with her own council when she was eleven, remaining there until her parents separation. Mary was treated as the heir by Henry and Katherine for many years; he was still writing to her affectionately and he was still treating her very much as a beloved daughter. Things changed when she returned from Ludlow after her father married Anne Boleyn, with whom she did not have a great relationship and refused to recongise no other Queen but her mother, and who can blame her. Mother and child were separated and this is what makes Katherine’s decision difficult. Would she and Mary really have been treated any different had she agreed to the divorce?

    Katherine, as a wife believed it her duty to fight for the holiness and the rightness of that marriage, which she believed in with her whole heart. Her many scholars had also persuaded her that the marriage was good and she could counter Henry’s arguments. As a mother she was a tigress fighting for her child, she was protecting the rights of her child, that was her belief and it was her right to do so. However, there was a way in which she could have protected both. Retirement to a religious house would have given Katherine statur and provision, would have given her an income and would also have allowed Mary to remain legally legitimate. It would also have allowed Henry to settle a number of houses on her and Mary to remain at court or in her own establishment in state. Just what sort of role she would have played is not certain, but she would not be a nun but a lay person taking religious vows, retirement rather than total withdrawal from the world. This was proposed to Katherine and she refused. She did not see this as he calling. I do believe, however, this would have been a better way for all parties, one that would allow Katherine to be comfprtable in her old age and Mary to remain in the household in state. She would also have seen her daughter instead of being forced to be seperated from her.

    What eventrually happened to Katherine, however, was not because she refused to accept the divorce. It was the fault of her husband. Henry did not need to treat either his ex wife or his daughter in the way he did. Yes, Katherine had to retire from court but he would have given her a setlement and told her she would live at those houses she chose in the settlement, allowed visits, under a watchful eye of course and let them live in peace. He became obsessed with his new title as head of the church, which is what he needed them as his subjects to swear to and to accept his new marriage to Anne. He did not need to force them to do this. Once in retirement, Katherine was declared not to be queen anyway, even if it was unlawful, Henry could have allowed her to retire in peace and comfort. Henry could have accepted that Mary would never befriend Anne and still treat her with honour as his daughter. If she had her own household and lived there in peace, what was his problem? Had he not broken from Rome and made himself the English Pope de facto then many of the problems he created with Katherine and Mary would not have followed. All of this complicated his divorce and his ultimate and less than generous treatment of Katherine and Mary. May-be Katherine could have come to an agreement with Henry, but they were both stubborn and hot headed, the perfect power couple; they knew each other too well; they were never going to agree. Katherine had every reason to defend her marriage; Henry in his eyes, legitimately had an equally good argument and belief that his marriage was not valid and desire for a son. Henry and Katherine were equally matched. Their divorce was always going to reflect that.

    1. Claire says:

      They both believed they had right and God’s laws on their side. It really was an impossible situation. As I’ve said in earlier comments, I think that the Pope did offer her a way out that would have safe-guarded Mary’s position and that would not have been contrary to Catherine’s faith, being sanctioned/advised by the Pope, but perhaps Catherine had gone too far by that point to submit to Henry.

      1. BanditQueen says:

        I agree, Claire, Henry and Katherine both believed they had the right on their side, both had the Torah to back them up and both had legal advisors who backed them; but the political goings on in Italy and Spain and France, I think stopped the Pope from making up his mind. I can see why Katherine fought on though, even when offered a way out; but I can also see why in the end compromise would have been better. Of course, we have the hindsight of history, they only had their faith and experience. Divorce was rare, but it did happen, if you got the right Pope at the right time. Henry and Katherine had gone too far, as you say, to back down. It could not have been an easy situation for either of them.

  32. michell says:

    I thought I had read that one of the reasons Katherine fought against an annulment was it would have made Mary illegitemate. I find it interesting that you say it would not have done so. I also had read some theories of Katherine having actually lied when she said her marriage to Arthur had not been consumated and this was part of her reason for fighting so hard to save her marriage. I understand her faith was strong but it was a cardinal as the messenger of the pope who was asking her to enter a convent so surely those two people could have put her fears to rest in regards to her soul. As to being the strong daughter of Isabella, her mother went into battle and Katherine certainly did not want to do that. I actually think she should have entered a convent it would have been dignified, respectable and it would have saved her daughter from heartache. She could have continued to have a relationship with Mary. I don’t think Henry really had any idea that Katherine would stand against him. All of their married life Katherine had let Henry’s will be her own. I think Katherine believed that once the pope ruled in her favor Henry would be compelled to go back to her. I suppose she just couldn’t believe she would be put aside for a commoner.

    1. Claire says:

      It would not have necessarily have affected Mary’s legitimacy as the marriage would have been seen to have been entered into in good faith and therefore seen as valid by the bride and groom at that point.
      I agree, I don’t think Henry had any idea that Catherine would oppose the annulment the way she did and I also think that Catherine had no idea that Henry would carry on with the idea. I think she thought he’d see sense and that if the Pope didn’t agree that he’d back down.

  33. Gene Hays says:

    I think that Catherine did exactly what was right for her for that time. It’s hard to make judgments from a period of time that is so foreign to us over 500 years later. As for Henry, his two main interests at the time were to produce a male heir and to seduce as many women as possible. It’s interesting that he didn’t afford Ann Boleyn the same out that he offered Catherine, but then he had no reason to doubt the fidelity of Catherine. The aborted birth of a male heir and his deformity, I believe, sent Henry over the edge. In the Showtime series “The Tudors,” the producers and actors captured this very dark time in England’s history that had a profound effect of sadness and sorrow in me.

    1. Claire says:

      I think Catherine followed her conscience with no inkling of what her opposition would lead to.
      Regarding Anne, I think that Henry saw what a quest for an annulment could lead to and what a thorn in his side an ex could be, so he wasn’t giving Anne that opportunity.
      By the way, the deformed foetus idea is not backed up by contemporary sources, the story comes from the work of Nicholas Sander, a Catholic recusant writing in Elizabeth I’s reign and a man who also wrote of Anne having six fingers and a projecting tooth.
      Yes, I think “The Tudors” was very good in capturing that darkness and the horror of those times.

  34. Jillian says:

    For me, the key to understanding why Catherine behaved as she did is the position of Princess Mary.

    As Claire said in her original article, annulments were granted by the papacy in medieval and renaissance times. Curiously enough, one of Catherine’s ancestors, the regnant Queen Urraca of Castile, had her marriage annulled in the twelfth century. Her union with Alfonso of Aragon, known as ‘the Battler’, turned out to be a disaster, with frequent arguments, and allegations of physical violence by the King and adultery by the Queen. Alfonso’s habit of sleeping in his armour probably didn’t help either! But the main bone of contention were their political differences: they sought an annulment by mutual consent and the Pope granted it.

    However, the marriage was childless, like the two examples cited by Claire, so its dissolution did not affect the succession (Urraca’s son by her previous marriage became King on her death). Henry and Catherine of course had a surviving child, and the fact that this child was female did not disbar her from ruling in the Queen’s eyes. In this, she was more ‘modern’ and European in her thinking than the insular Henry, and there were options for future marriages which would have shored up Mary’s position, as James pointed out in his post. Yes, Catherine was convinced that her marriage to Henry was valid and sanctioned by God and the Pope but it it would be wrong to see her objections to an annulment as purely the result of her pride, hurt feelings or religious beliefs.

    Catherine was an experienced and canny politician who knew that any taint on her marriage could wreck Mary’s chances of succeeding her father, quite apart from the fact that any male child would supplant her. Henry could promise all he liked about preserving Mary’s rights, but how could she trust him? And she certainly couldn’t trust Anne if the latter became Queen. But if she fought his plans, perhaps he would revert to being the good man she thought she knew and shake off the influence of the ‘bad woman’ who was leading him astray. In this, she was clearly mistaken but hindsight is a wonderful thing and Catherine could no more have predicted how things would turn out than Henry could. And once they had both dug in their heels, it was very difficult to draw back.

    1. Claire says:

      I’m not so sure as I do think that Mary’s position would have been safe had Catherine accepted the annulment when it was first asked for. I think the fact that the marriage had been entered into in good faith with a dispensation, which was assumed to be valid at that time, would have protected her legitimacy. However, a second marriage may well have led to Henry having as son and that would, of course, have affected Mary’s place in the line of succession.

      Yes, I think they both dug their heels in, both believing that they were in the right.

  35. Laura says:

    I think it should all depend on whether she consummated her first marriage. If she did, she shouldn’t have lied and should have submitted to her husband, who was greatly wounded and upset about this. Women at the time were expected to be submissive to their husbands. If she didn’t consummate it, Henry should not have divorced her and they would have continued their married life together. She could have continued as Queen and wife, which is what she probroberly had wanted once she married Arthur and then Henry.

    1. Claire says:

      I wish we knew what really happened between Catherine and Arthur. I can’t make up my mind about it. On the one hand, Catherine stated that she had not slept with Arthur and the trial at Zaragoza backed her up, but on the other hand it seems very strange that they wouldn’t have consummated it knowing that consummation was needed for it to be valid and knowing how important the succession was.

  36. Carrie says:

    Whew! I’m tuckered from reading all this info. Katherine had the upper hand. Henry was willing to do anything to be able to annul his marriage. Katherine could have bargained with just about anything and I think Henry would have given it to her. The bone of contention of course was Mary. I think I would have swallowed my pride and allowed any son by Anne to succeed Henry as long as my daughter remained in the succession. Then I would have negotiated myself a nice castle, servants and income, grabbed my daughter and tell my erstwhile hubby to have a nice life with his “goggle eyed whore” and split. Ahhh it would have made such better reading.

    1. Claire says:

      Me too! Anne of Cleves definitely did well out of her annulment!

  37. Pamela says:

    I am a protestant fan of Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth, but I have always admired Catherine of Aragon. She kept her marriage vows and did her best to protect her child’s legitimacy. She was the daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand; she could not allow Henry’s whims to destroy her lineage. I have always believed her when she said she came to the marriage a virgin – and please remember – Henry never contradicted her assertion under oath. Instead, he sent in men who offered gossip and dirty jokes about Arthur and Catherine’s wedding night.
    Curiously, when Shakespeare wrote Henry VIII, or All is True, he too saw Catherine as the most noble character in this drama. She has the greatest speeches in the play defending herself and her marriage.

    1. bruno says:

      Thank you, Pamela – to be so sincere, it is no common lot.
      Being french, I feared to be accused of being (secretly 😉 ) catholic.
      I am fan of queen Anne and of her daughter, Elizabeth (reigning on the same realm as her father, I guess she rather took after her mother’s temper and that helped her reign to be a success ).
      You are right, people -even these born from royal parents – are true when they are faced with horrible accusations and day-to-day tormentslike was the case for queen Catherine and her daughter.
      Catherine of Aragon – as well as Anne Boleyn – are two very noble characters.
      Both were victims of a very brutal power.
      My admiration for the first does not make see the second queen as an intriguer.
      She – for sure – WANTED to become queen of England .
      It was not the first time for a non-royal woman to marry a king of England -a fact of which
      K H was very well aware, Elizabeth Woodville, just a daughter of lord Rivers being his grandmother (we don’t speak of his great-grandfather, lover of a widowed queen) .
      So, it was not a mark of perversity or sth .
      Just, she was clever and attracted the king’s attention not only by her physical charms (well, it helped in her case, of course), but her brilliant mind as well.
      She certainly appeared to him as his “soul-mate” (he, being not aware he was just being bored with his aging queen ).
      In that way, she might have been the last step for K H to create a new church in England

    2. Claire says:

      Yes, she’s definitely a woman to admire, such a strong lady and she was a good queen consort ot Henry, which makes it all the more awful how she was treated.

  38. Terrie Ferguson says:

    Catherine was being true to herself and her people in her faith and her concious, which is a high standard expected of royalty to show faith, strength, loyalty and grace above all else this is what she was born into and she believed in it. Anne was ambitious and trying to survive and provide for her family in a world where a woman’s life and desires were largely second to the marrying up for political and/or financial security. I have no doubt that there were women who desired power but the getting of it was a lot more deceptive in its nature then than today as her life depended on not getting caught or falling out of favour, both women were great in their own way and incredibally brave but unfortunately it was easy to be burned or beheaded at the whims of men back then, Henry had a desire for smart bold and strong as well as physical attraction but he had week genes and no son upset his insecure masculinity which ultimately made him stupid but back then I don’t think it was known that the man chooses the sex of the baby and the church was still blaming women for mans sins you have to give high profile women credit for bravery back then

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, views of women were very strange. You had the Virgin Mary but then you also had the temptress Eve. You’re right, Catherine was extraordinarily brave.
      I don’t think that Henry blamed Catherine personally for the deaths of their babies, I think it was more to do with believing that the marriage was not right and the lack of sons was proof of that, and I do think he expected Catherine to submit to him and agree to the annulment. Her opposition must have been a real shock!

  39. Jane says:

    Whether she was right or wrong to stick up for her rights, historians have made the point that the way Katharine of Aragon went about her politics amounted to both high and petty treason. In the early days of her marriage when Henry was a young lad she was forever discussing with ambassadors and with Ferdinand how to manipulate him for the good of Spain. When the marriage went downhill there was the implicit threat of invasion. Ironically you would not have had to make anything up to put her on trial, but she did have some rather powerful relatives. I used to think she was a good and pious woman until I read more deeply into it. Just trying to remember which of the sources it was where I first saw the suggestion that Katharine was guilty of treason, am at work so no access to the books.

    1. bruno says:

      Hello Jane – if I clearly understand your meaning, Catherine would have rather not “discussed with ambassadors” ?
      I find this has not much to do with the debate but I notice that on the one hand your sources seem to be “historians” (a very big word when not backed up with some evidences ), on the other, you admit just having seen a “suggestion” .
      Not the same thing or…?
      We French, have tried a queen , ie Marie-Antoinette, born austrian princess .
      She, of course, was accused of treason – and yes, she sometimes wrote to her mother and then (more rarely) to her siblings – two of them emperors …
      It is pretty sure that, when retained prisoner, she might have often felt like being tempted to find some help – but, in the time she was suspected of treason, her letters were intercepted and read.
      And they don’t prove anything
      I see that accusing of treason is no more than the easiest way to get rid of political adversaries .
      What is your blame for queen Catherine : to have powerful relatives ?
      For her sake, I guess – I mean it certainly helped save her life . Her royal husband could break with the established church, but not with the very little world of european sovereigns .
      I don’t either believe – for the same reasons – in what you call a threat of invasion.
      Casi belli did exist – but “discussing with ambassadors” was a good way to prevent them .
      Even Charles V did not fight against England after his aunt being divorced against her own will and treated like a plain prisoner .
      People by then were not stupid – engaging in wars needed sturdy reasons.
      Ah I was forgetting – discussing with ambassadors was just a normal queen’s job.
      In these – difficult – times, queens were not just dolls posing for painters and in Catherine’s case, she was certainly influenced by her formidable mother indeed.
      K H trusted her very much for that (when he went abroad in order to fight against France, he chose to name her regent of the realm, chief of english forces) .
      She was not only his wife, a woman who was supposed to produce sons, but expected to be a good partner on numerous matters.
      Ambassadors happened to favour their “boss” of course, but if they acted as spies, surelythey would be quickly sent abroad and never received again .
      Anyone was very conscious of these rules .
      The interesting evidence in Catherine’s case- in my opinion – is given by Chapuys .
      Catherine was recluse twice in her life – when K H ill-treated her to get her consent (when forced, an written acceptance could by denied with another written defeasance, it was not just “jungle’s law”) and sooner, when her father-in-law and her “powerful relatives”, ie Isabel and Ferdinand were unable to better her condition (she was a hostage for King H VII by then, expecting her dowry to be paid out)

      1. Jane says:

        Bruno, I don’t like your tone to be honest. I clearly said that I was at work and did not have access to my books and I am again today. I resent the way that you appear to be accusing me of lying just because I don’t take all my books to work with me and am posting in my lunch hour. An apology would be nice.

        I have a law degree and there are letters in existence and writings by the assorted ambassadors (not just Chapuys) indicating that Katharine viewed everything from the Spanish viewpoint and how to keep England as more or less a vassal of Spain. And when Henry was a young lad he was quite content to seek Katharine’s counsel “The Queen must hear this…”. However, as he got older, and other counsellors and considerations intervened, it is quite possible that Henry realised that he was being manipulated, and even that Katharine was actively working against him. Which technically, she was. High Treason is conspiring against a lawful sovereign/government, Petty Treason against what was then considered your lord and master i.e. husband. There is no doubt that Katharine was doing both. Stirring up the Emperor to invade is pretty major!

        1. bruno says:

          Hello Jane, first of all I was clearly misunderstood and never accused anyone of being a liar, under this post or other .
          But, as a lawyer (I too have a law degree, une “maîtrise de droit privé”, de droit français; le système de références juridiques est certes différent, mais les réflexes et le raisonnement requis sont comparables) you will understand that a fact, accompanied by sentences like “there is no doubt” need some strong evidences to be backed up .
          It is precisely a lawyer’s work to analyse data and prove facts
          Especially when the latter are used to support an accusation (queen Catherine was manipulating her husband, as well as her english people, both loving and trusting her so much).
          What you wrote was so very new – well, to me, being french, with no pretention in history, even in french history, so I don’t need to tell with my poor english …
          But the point is that I am well aware I need further information,just wanting to learn .
          I thank you for recalling me definitions of high- and petty-treason (but you can guess by now, they are well known of me, they can be traced from ages
          So be sure, I am sincerely longing for your evidences, anxious to read them .
          Take your time, of course, but please don’t forget 😉
          Yours respectfully

    2. Claire says:

      Yes, an interesting point. It is little wonder that Henry VIII was relieved at Catherine’s death because it removed an obstacle to foreign policy for him, her opposition and her relationship with Charles V had been real thorns in his side. Yes, I think your point is valid regarding the threat from Charles V and Catherine’s actions being seen as tantamount to treason, by Henry anyway!

      1. Jane says:

        The sources for my reasoning are exhaustive poring over numerous versions of The Six Wives Of Henry VIII, but it is Starkey and Weir who are more objective when it comes to Catherine’s character and who are more prepared to question her motivation. Antonia Fraser is rather too inclined to see her as a Catholic saint. Now I am Catholic myself, but I don’t buy the fact that she was a good Catholic girl and wouldn’t lie, manipulate or do whatever she had to. She was the daughter of their most Catholic Majesties Ferdinand and Isabella, who did plenty of both. It’s called politics. Now, if you go to the bibliography in either of those books and follow up the references to various correspondence between Catherine and her parents, especially Ferdinand, it’s all about how they can run England to Spain’s advantage by influencing Henry. It did make me wonder where her true loyalties lay and why she was so popular.

        1. bruno says:

          Thank you Jane, I try to read it in order to better my knowledge in english historical facts.
          I guess Queen Catherine was rather influenced (when a girl) by her mother.
          Isabel, queen of Castile, had to conquer the power by claiming that her half brother’s only child (by his second wedding to a born princess of Portugal) was conceived by her sister-in-law’s relation to a supposed lover.
          In order to bastardize the youg Juana (aka “la Beltraneja”, i.e. daughter of Juan), she insinuated that her late half-briother was gay, or impotent
          Not a good beginning for a saint I admit
          But another fact is that Catherine of Aragon, when left a widow, by Prince Arthur’s early death, was totally left alone by her parents.
          If her mother died very soon after, her terrible father (who was so harsh towards Jews), fearing he would have to pay off her dowry, never answered her cries and prayers, it seems.
          Instead, he soon re-married (to a french young noble girl, Germaine of Foix), making his daughters’ (his only legitimate son, Juan, had died when a teenager) rights rather weak – his new wife was about eighteen years old by then and the pair clearly intended to get heirs to Aragon (so it would have fell apart from the famous realm of Castile-and-Aragon).
          A very personal (not to say “selfish”) calculation of him if we consider that his young bride’s uncle, was Louis XII, french king by then.
          Challenging the rights-to-be of his grandchildren Habsburg.
          And a very bad news for his daughter Catherine, by then retained as hostage in England.
          She was no more interesting for king Henry VII at a strategic level.
          Finding herself more helpless than ever.
          Would young Henry Tudor not have “fallen in love”with her (however he married her hastily when inheriting the english crown), she would certainly have remained somthing of a spinster.
          I don’t see her as a saint – but as a strong-willed woman.
          Sincerely grateful to Henry Tudor, but surely not an idiot .
          Another point is that, when Anne Bullen appeared as the rising star, the queen’s father Ferdinand was dead (since 1516, ten years before or about).
          Her nephew Charles was still more remote than her parents
          Her sister Juana (“la Loca”) had became mad.
          I don’t see wher she could find outer help.
          Imagining she would have provoked an invasion…
          Maybe she tried (?), but …

        2. bruno says:

          I of course meant “daughter of Beltran” (Beltran de Albuquerque de La Cueva, in fact).
          This naming being an obvious insult – insinuating the king of Castile had not sired her)

    3. Banditqueen says:

      Hello Jane, you have raised the over looked issue of treason here and I think you make a valid case. Queens, not only Catherine of Aragon could be useful sources of information to previously rival or enemy states, especially when the dynastic marriage was to broker a peace after years of war. Ambassadors when speaking and being briefed by the Queen, if a moment could be found for some privacy could be given letters or verbal communication on the state of affairs in the court, problems with the marriage, fears, threats, secrets, so on and could reveal secret agendas to the Queen in return. In other words Ambassadors were spies and confidante. In the case of Spain, they were not England’s enemies at the time of Henry and Katherine’s marriage, or Arthur and Katherine’s marriage, they were a much needed allie and both countries needed each other. However, Spain and France made their own pact, betrayed Henry and Katherine was forced to denounce her father for doing so. I am certain that Katherine did not see her complaints back home or her many discussions on policy as treason, but they could have been seen in this light. The treason laws at the time, however, did not exactly extend to numerous aspects of free talk with foreign guests and I doubt that Katherine could be found guilty of treason before 1534. Her later letters and briefings could be seen as dangerous, many of her supporters certainly came close to treason, her refusal to take the oath of supremacy would become treason, letters were sent to Katherine saying that she had powerful friends working on her behalf, I believe that one or two appeals to the Emperor to invade England came from the court, but Katherine, herself distanced from the offers of armed intervention. After Katherine was banished from court, as you can see from Chapyus, the historian Friedman writing in the nineteenth century, tells us about a conspiracy with some of Henry’s nobles, the supporters of
      ary and Katherine called the Aragonese Party and the Emperor to free Katherine and force Henry out. The conspiracy came to nothing, it was probably a none starter, the nobles came to heel, and Katherine, herself when she heard rumours that moves were afoot to raise the people or invade forbade such moves. Katherine said that she did not want her people to suffer in this way, as an invasion would do this and forbade all requests that she gave her blessing to an invasion. As we know Henry feared that the Emperor would invade as he was thankful that the threat died with Katherine, but he also told Chapyus that Katherine was a proud and forceful woman who could raise an army just as her mother had done. He feared Katherine, he feared her popularity, but in reality the Emperor and France were too busy fighting over Italy to invade England. Had Katherine not made it clear, however that she condemned the idea of invasion, the fact that somebody was plotting on her behalf could most certainly have been seriously looked on as treason. Katherine was wise enough to distance herself, but several times may have come close to a treasonous conspiracy. That she did not shows that she was wise, her supporters careful to toe the line and that Henry had bigger concerns. Putting Katherine on trial would have triggered an invasion.

  40. Vermillion says:

    It’s an interesting question. It’s important (although difficult!) to try and view why the decision was made by Catherine to fight without knowing how long it would drag on for and how it would end.

    Really, given Catherine’s character, it’s unlikely that she could really have taken any other approach than to resist completely. She comes across as someone with a fairly ‘black and white’ perspective (something that she perhaps passed on to her daughter Mary), and her own pride in her royalty and status aligned her with the ‘old guard’ nobility at Henry’s court, who likewise considered the new guard like Cromwell at court with a certain disdain. Perhaps the fact that Henry was looking to replace her with a lady-in-waiting, someone considerably lower than her in the social hierarchy, added to she insult she felt and her resistance.

    In a way she was in a bit of a perfect storm. Whilst as the aunt of Charles V, she had powerful support in one sense and couldn’t just be pushed aside, which certainly slowed down Henry’s actions in pushing for divorce, I wonder whether this in fact just made things worse for her. Although some historians claim that the threat of Charles getting involved militarily in the situation on Catherine’s behalf was real, I don’t get much impression that Charles really cared about Catherine herself or would have gone to such lengths to help her – after all, even when Henry had his marriage annulled and married Anne, Charles didn’t do anything, and it’s hard to imagine how much more Henry would have to have done to provoke a military retaliation, short of killing her. As such, I think Catherine was given the false hope of backing from Charles through Chapuys, which doubtless made her even more determined to resist Henry, when in reality the power of that support was largely hypothetical rather than real. If this hadn’t been there, she might have had to bend more, which would have surely meant a less bad ending for her.

    I recall reading somewhere (perhaps in Starkey’s ‘Six Wives’) that in her final days, Catherine discussed with Chapuys her fears that she might have made the wrong decision, given that the outcome was disastrous both for herself and for her religion in England. I suspect that at the end she may have realised that she didn’t make the right decision. I think Starkey is right in saying that the exact nature of the Reformation was as much her creation as it was Henry’s or Anne’s and that it would have been better for her (and perhaps England in general) if she had conceded earlier. But there was no certainty as to how things would turn out in those tumultuous years, and she could be regarded as simply being unfortunate in being on the losing side in a high-stakes games – her loss wasn’t inevitable, so as such her decision to fight wasn’t necessarily misguided.

  41. Charles Schwartz says:

    Blaming Catherine’s refusal to lie for everything that follows is a bit of a stretch. Henry’s (And Cromwell’s) greed for powers, land and wealth was as much a part of it as her insistence on the truth. The annulment I think was just the excuse to grab everything.

    Would things have been different if she had lied? Yes, but there were reformers already in England (including Cromwell and Cranmer) and who knows how it would have played out.

  42. Maryann Pitman says:

    The situation is very sad, and I feel for Katherine, always have. Princes have feelings and needs, but are expected to put those aside for the welfare of the nation. Henry and Katherine did not do that, each for their own reasons, and each in their own way.

    It is certainly true that Popes were generally amenable to annulments and dispensations as required, as long as both parties were agreed, and it seemed to be beneficial to do so. I am no expert on papal interference in royal marriages, but there are loads of examples out there.
    As noted above, Jeanne of France agreed to enter a nunnery so that Louis XII could obtain his annulment and marry Anne, who brought Brittany into the French domain by the marriage.
    Then there’s the case of Philip Augustus and Ingeborg of Denmark, his second wife. Apparently, he found he did not care for her, cast off Ingeborg, and married Agnes of Meran, having 2 children with this unfortunate lady. Ingeborg made a fight of it, and the Pope refused to recognise the third marriage, ordering Philip back to wife #2. The was an interdict for a year, which forced Philip to repudiate Agnes(she died the next year), he refused to take Ingeborg back until 1213.

    One of the more peculiar situations was King Stephen’s daughter, Mary. She was yanked out of an abbey, where she had taken vows, and married off to provide heirs for the county of Boulogne. After having two daughters, the marriage was annulled, and she was sent back to a convent.

    There have been a number of cases of happy marriages broken up because the Pope decided the consanguinity was too close (or perhaps the royal couple involved did not ask, or ask nicely enough-with a big enough bribe-for a dispensation) and the couple had to separate. This happened to a couple of Spanish Kings, and Robert I of France, I believe.
    Even William the Conqueror had issues over his marriage to Matilda of Flanders, requiring the building of two abbeys.

    Even Henry’s sisters were able to untangle their marital affairs over time.

    Henry should have been able to get his annulment, giving his rather pressing need for an heir. His mistake was deciding to marry his wife’s attendant, and his timing. Had he moved earlier, and been inclined to marry into Spanish royalty, his odds would have been better.
    Katherine was too proud, and given Henry’s refusal to allow Mary to remain legitimate, too protective to give in. She would not give way for a servant, or allow that servant’s children to precede her child in the succession. A Spanish marriage would have at least allowed her the cover of maintaining the alliance.

    I don’t know that she understood Henry that well, or perhaps the situation changed him in ways she never could have anticipated. Doubtless, like Philip, she expected that in time, he would give in to the Pope, and come home.

    When it became apparent that Henry would be willing, in fact, to split England away from Rome to get his way, she would have done well to relent, but it may well be that by then it was too late.

    Henry would have saved her pride by getting the annulment with a view to a royal Spanish or Portuguese bride. Charles V would have then added his weight in favor of the annulment. Perhaps at that point, if Mary was left in the succession, she would have stepped aside. We will never know. Henry insulted her by his choice, which was not a wise choice for the state in any case. Katherine stood on her rights rather than consider what was really best for England. England paid the price.

  43. Wesley Molt says:

    This is a hard question. Could things have worked out better? Certainly, as Anne of Cleves proved. Could Catherine have done anything different? Hard to say, especially considering the Pope’s suggestion. I can’t see Arthur not consummating their marriage, and Catherine had a good reason to lie.

    I can easily understand Henry’s motivation. England had been torn apart by civil war over the succession at least seven times over the previous 130 years, and he didn’t want to risk risk being the cause for another. That meant that he needed at least one more child, and Catherine was both too old and too unreliable to try having another. Why Catherine didn’t understand that, I don’t know, especially considering the threat of the sweating sickness, which could have killed her, Henry and Mary at any time.

    In the end, I don’t think Catherine should have fought after the Pope’s suggestion, if only so that the Tudor line would have the opportunity to have more heirs. Every monarch of the era knew the importance of having at least two children, and preferably more.

  44. Bolaji Olatunji says:

    Hello All,

    I’ve been lurking on this topic for a year and finally decided to post something.

    I think Catherine would have been amenable to an annulment if Henry wasn’t a complete blockhead and managed this matter in a way that preserved her honour and Mary’s rights.

    First and foremost he should have come to her and appealed to the politically astute dynast she was. He should have leveled with her and highlighted the importance of not . just having a son but another living child . As both of them were well aware one child is not enough and since by the time this matter arose Catherine was entering menopause and a spare was still needed regardless of gender. Couching this matter as an issue of conscience when he was busy dry-humping every flat surface due to his attraction to Anne Boleyn was not the way to go.

    Secondly, if he was serious about getting a male heir, Henry should have ended things with Anne Boleyn and given Catherine the power to have input as to who he should marry. Giving her a seat at the table in that manner would have reinforced the fact that he still valued Catherine’s opinion and advice.

    Thirdly, Henry should have secured Mary’s succession rights in writing, i.e. Mary comes first before any other daughters with his new wife but after sons.

    Finally, Henry should have offered Catherine a retirement “technically” at a nunnery but more nunnery adjacent i.e. a half-way compromise between a nunnery and the settlement Henri of Navarre gave Margot de Valois.

    Henry may have cared about having a male heir but he didn’t care enough to do the hard, right and politically astute thing which was to give up Anne Boleyn. If he had done so he, Catherine, Anne and the people of England may not have suffered the way they did.

  45. Helen Davis says:

    Katharine and Anne both stood,up,to Henry and both paid dearly for it. May they both rest in peace.

  46. lost_grrl says:

    I’ve posted something similar to this elsewhere on this site but I think that when viewing this story through 21st century eyes we overlook the concept of kings and queens believing that they were chosen by God himself to rule. That can result in believing that whatever you, as king, is therefore right. This is different than Catherine being pious and unwilling to break a vow made to God. Catherine believed that she was born for the explicit purpose of being queen and only God could change that. I would argue that her actions reflect that more than piety. I would further argue that lying about Arthur could have easily been part of this. Why should she care about lying in a court she deemed as fraudulent? Think of all of the horrific things kings have done over the centuries while claiming to do the work of God and believing themselves to be pious.

    I will say that she was treated horribly but she wasn’t a saint. If concern over Mary’s legitimacy was actually her main concern, she did the exact opposite . She very easily could have negotiated for Mary’s continued legitimacy in exchange for an annulment. She didn’t do that. Nor did she capitulate when it became obvious that Henry was going to tear Christendom apart at a time when it was already fraying. She could have had a better life for herself and even an actual relationship with Mary since Henry would have no reason to keep them separated.

    1. Helen Davis says:

      One reason I have little sympathy for her or her daughter. All they had to do was one thing so their separation, while tragic, was self inflicted.

  47. Alexis says:

    Katharine did the right thing. She stood up for what she believed in, she stood up for her marriage, for her daughter. What’s wrong with that? Times were different five hundred years ago. She was England’s true Queen, even if Henry cast her aside for that home wrecking woman. I have no sympathy for Boleyn. She reaped what she sowed. She deserved what she got. The only good thing she ever did was produce Elizabeth.

  48. Heather says:

    I feel pretty bad and embarrassed for her. Her actions are frustrating and disappointing for women through the lens of modern eyes. If only she knew what more (not all) women know now and that is how she squandered her life and happiness

  49. Paula says:

    I don’t blame the separation of Catherine and Henry on Anne in any way, shape or form. Henry needed a male heir period. He knew that the entire country depended on him to provide stability by producing a male heir in order to avoid chaos and possibly civil war. He was desperate to fulfill this need. I don’t see that as a selfish act. I see it as a very unselfish act, because he was concerned with his country and leaving it in peace. In my humble opinion, and I’ve thought long and hard about this, Catherine was not thinking of anyone but herself and her wounded pride. She and Henry had not slept together for 2 years prior to his requesting an annulment. She knew the marriage was over in that sense. As Queen her obligation should have been to her country, not to her pride. Knowing that there was a chance of civil war if there was no male heir she should have stepped aside for the peace and love of the realm. After much digging I believe she hoped to further unite Spain and England. In an earlier letter to her father she called England his realm. The fact that she did not step aside for the good of the realm after she reached menopause makes me wonder about her loyalty to England. We have to remember she wasn’t just a betrayed woman, she was the queen of a realm and the realm should always come first. On a personal level I do feel so very bad for her, but on another level I believe she acted out of pride.

  50. KIMBERLY says:

    oh, i thought that if she had entered a convent, her marriage would’ve been over automatically. just read that it wasn’t the case. she needed to fight the annullment or condemn her soul, her honor, and her conscience. to anull her marriage or not fight it= admitting to adultery which is a grave sin.

    what makes no sense is this: why didn’t henry have her poisoned? no one would know who did it. she died of cancer….and her heart had a huge black thing in it.

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