Catherine of Aragon – From Queen to Dowager Princess of Wales

Posted By on April 9, 2011

Katherine of AragonOn this day in history, Wednesday 9th April 1533, a “high ranking delegation of Councillors”, headed by the Duke of Norfolk, informed Catherine of Aragon that Henry VIII was married to Anne Boleyn now. Catherine’s Chamberlain, Sir William Blount, 4th Baron Mountjoy, was then left to break the other news to Catherine, that she was no longer Queen and that she was to be known as the Dowager Princess of Wales.

All of this was reported to Emperor Charles V by his ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, in a letter dated the 10th April:-

“But there is no chance that the King will listen that the affair be determined otherwise than by the Archbishop, of whom he is perfectly assured, as he has performed the office of espousal (de l’esposement), as I have formerly written to you ; and he is fully resolved, as he has told many, and those of his Council publish, that immediately after Easter he will solemnize his marriage and the coronation of the Lady. The better to prepare the way, he sent yesterday the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, the marquis and the earl of Ausburg (?) to the Queen, to tell her that she must not trouble herself any more, nor attempt to return to him, seeing that he is married, and that henceforth she abstain from the title of Queen, and assume the title of duchess (princess), leaving her the entire enjoyment of the goods she formerly had, and offering her more, if she needed more. The Queen would not fail to advertise me of the interview. I know not whether they are in any doubt as to the Queen’s willingness to dislodge or not ; but about eight days ago, the King’s council commanded my lord Mountjoy to rejoin her with all diligence, and keep watch upon her, and not leave her.”

Catherine of Aragon, a Spanish Princess and Queen of England for nearly 24 years, had been demoted and discarded.

28 thoughts on “Catherine of Aragon – From Queen to Dowager Princess of Wales”

  1. La Belle Creole says:

    Bad luck for Catherine. Bad luck for Mary. Worst luck for Anne Boleyn.

    As if Henry’s tantrums and a kangaroo court have the power to unmake England’s true Queen.

  2. Neil Kemp says:

    Whilst being on the pro Anne side of most arguments, I don’t think anybody can deny that Catherine was treated very badly in this business. She maintained great dignity throughout, both during and after her “demotion” and, although not officially Queen, continued to behave in the manner befitting of one.

    1. Tudorrose says:

      I totally agree with you on that one Neil and Katherine would of done so anyway as it was indeed of course in her nature anyway as she was of course and indeed a Spanish princess, a princess of Spain born to a King, a King of Spain and of Aragon and a Queen of Spain originally form Castille which is in Portugal. So Katherine was not all Spanish after all, she was indeed in fact half-Spanish and half-Portugeese. So being of royal decent anyway, it would of been in her nature, Katherine’s nature as a result to do this. 🙂

      1. Claire says:

        I’ll quickly correct the whole Castile issue before we start a Portugal vs Spain war! Castile is nothing to do with Portugal and Catherine of Aragon was not half Portuguese. In around 1400 the Kingdom of Castile was actually around 2/3 of Spain, it was huge and was made up of the Kingdoms of Galicia, Leon, Sevilla, Cordoba, Jaen, Murcia, Toledo and Castile, plus the Principality of Asturias and the Lordship of Biscay. It did not include the Kingdom of Portugal, the Kingdom of Navarre, the Kingdom of Granada or the Crown of Aragon. In 1460 a treaty with Portugal also gave Castile the Canary Island. In Castile and Aragon were united by the marriage of the Catholic Reyes, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, and in 1492 Ferdinand and Isabella conquered Granada. In 1516 Charles I (later Charles V Holy Roman Emperor) became King of Spain, ruling over Aragon and Castile as one entity.

        There is a wonderful map of the historic kingdom of Castile at as it was in 1400 and, as you can see, it has nothing to do with Portugal. Today, in Spain, the main official language (they also have regional languages – Catalan, Basque, Galician…) is known as Castilian and Spain still has the autonomous regions of Castila y Léon and Castila La Mancha. I live in Almeria province in Andalucia which used to be part of the Kingdom of Granada and was owned by the Moors.

        1. Claire says:

          I forgot to say that Catherine did have a bit of Portugues blood in that her maternal grandmother was Isabella of Portugal, who married John II of Castile.

        2. Sharon says:

          Catherine also had English blood, right? Her great grandmother was Catherine Lancaster. John of Gaunt’s daughter by his second wife, and her great, great grandmother was Philippa Lancaster also John of Gaunt’s daughter by his first wife.

        3. Claire says:

          Yes, that’s right, on her maternal side.

      2. Neil Kemp says:

        Thanks for your reply, Tudorrose.
        As I said, I am a staunch supporter of Anne, but I have always held an admiration for Catherine. Her conduct and deportment in times of adversity make her a true Lady.

        1. TudorRose says:

          My pleasure 🙂 It was a pleasure 🙂

    2. Marietta says:

      Yes, this is true. I myself favor Anne but I do feel that Catherine was greatly mistreated, especially when she was forbidden to see her beloved daughter and only child. And yet, through it all she remained dignified and I found her to be an admirable woman and an even more admirable queen.

  3. Esther Sorkin says:

    Her conduct during the “Evil May Day” riots showed that Catherine was a good queen (IMO). I often wonder what would have happened if Henry had let Mary and Catherine be together in a decent location, instead of making them look like saints by his persecution of them … Catherine wasn’t going to play leader of a war force in any event.

  4. Kaitlyn says:

    I quite like both women. Catherine was treated horribly when Henry married Anne Boleyn and I believe she was the rightful Queen. However, Anne was treated horribly, as well by many people, and of course, with her unjust trial and execution. I believe both women to have been great and “rightful Queens”, if that makes any sense.

    1. Fiz says:

      I completely understand, Kaitlyn and I feel exactly the same.

      1. Tudorrose says:

        Me three, you can count me in on that one too! 🙂

    2. La Belle Creole says:

      The reason I cannot support Anne Boleyn as an English Queen is that the circumstances surrounding her queenship are shady at best. Had the Pope declared Henry’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon null and void, I would view Anne’s marriage/coronation as legal. Had Henry remained true to his first marriage and wed Anne after Katherine’s death, there would be no room to dispute the soundness of Anne’s marriage and queenship (though I don’t doubt Henry would have wormed his way out of it if he wanted to.) Henry and Anne reaffirming their marriage after Katherine’s death might have given Anne’s position greater credibility, and I don’t think it’s an accident or oversight that Henry neglected that step.

      The proof in how “shady” Anne’s marriage and queenship was is revealed in how quickly and easily it was voided when Henry wanted out of the marriage.

      However interesting I find Anne Boleyn, her positions (as H’s wife and Queen Consort of England) are tenuous at best. She was one game woman, and she definitely deserved a better man than Henry.

      1. Tudorrose says:

        True! but they did have quite a few things in common, for example they both had the same temperment and were both very passionate people, this is just a couple of things that Henry and Anne did have in common where as with Katherine of Aragon it was royalty and blood thirst they had which was the same as eachother.

        I agree though that Anne would of been better of with someone else but at the same time she would not of been as known and the major figure that she was then or today if that had not of happened but that is destiny and fate for you but at the same time if not had been matched or paired with some one else then at least afterwards she should of been without a doubt, after their, the marriage and her Queenship, status as Queen came to an end that is of course just like Henry was allowed and allowed himself to continue on with his life so she should have been that is the least that could have been granted to her and that she should of been granted as I am sure she would have found someone else afterwards as they say that there is someone for everyone out there even if meant being and staying single for a while first.

  5. DeAnn says:

    Also on April 9th in history was an event that would have far-reaching repercussions and even allow Henry Tudor to seize the throne.

    On April 9, 1483, Edward IV died at Westminster Palace. He had summoned his family, including Henry VIII’s mother two days earlier to say his goodbyes.

    As far as Catherine of Aragon, she may have been treated badly in the 1530s but she certainly wasn’t in the 1520s. A true “queen” who cared truly about her adopted country and knowing the lessons of the Wars of the Roses would have reached a compromise with Henry that would have kept her daughter in line for the throne and found another Hapsburg or a suitable foreign princess for him to marry rather than Anne Boleyn.

    1. La Belle Creole says:

      Catherine of Aragon had no need to learn the lessons of the Wars of the Roses. Rather it fell to the English people to learn from the Wars of the Roses and THEY DID.

      If not, how does one explain Mary Tudor’s popularity with the people and their support?

      It is only Henry VIII who never learned or evolved. All that drama and criminal behavior to prop that poor, delicate boy on the English throne for a few years and say he’d done his duty to England.

      Henry (and England) had a proper Queen. And a proper heir. Everybody knew it except Henry.

      1. DeAnn says:

        I have found with history that often when we try with our modern eyes to oversimplify that it only leads to misjudgment. The reality is many noblemen had either survived themselves or had their own families’ memories of the Wars of the Roses to know Henry needed a male heir.

        Certainly, some were willing to accept Mary as a queen regnant succeeding Henry. Or her marrying. But it’s patently false to say “everyone” knew it. That’s not what history shows. Many of the noblemen knew Henry needed a male heir and understood that desire. Noblemen like the Duke of Norfolk would have remembered Margaret of Anjou and Elizabeth Woodville.

        Elizabeth of York had the far superior claim to the throne than Henry VII. Margaret, the daughter of the Duke of Clarence, also had a far superior claim. England may not have had Salic Law in reality but in theory it did. We have hindsight. But there is nothing to have stopped Margaret Pole’s descendants from making a bid for the crown if say Henry had died from the sweat in 1528. Cecily of York also had children. Katherine of York certainly did. Obviously we know none of these York heirs made a bid for the crown but Henry didn’t know that if he had died with a young Mary as his only heir. He may have been a monster but he also feared another civil war.

        As far as Mary’s popularity and support that was in the 1530s after Henry had treated her and Catherine so badly and she was of age. If in the early 1520s, Catherine had voluntarily stepped aside and Henry had remarried another foreign princess and had a male heir then England would have accepted that. There would have been no drama, no muss, no fuss.

        And you only have to look at Mary’s reign to realize how poorly she was prepared to rule England and that Henry’s worst fears about a female ruler were realized. She did the very thing he didn’t want to happen. Have England a vassal to Spain. It took Elizabeth to prove him wrong.

        1. La Belle Creole says:

          *shrugs* Every single heir supported by various English factions following Edward IV’s reign was female. Mary Tudor. Elizabeth Tudor. Jane Grey.

          Obviously, whatever qualms the English had concerning a queen regnant were resolved.

          Mary’s reign would have involved far less religious conflict had it not been for the problems Henry VIII left for his children to inherit.

          A man as determined and driven as Henry VIII could have resolved to see Mary’s education and her political acumen developed to suit her nation’s interests instead of casting her aside in favor of chasing one woman after another in search of a son. He even set up Richmond as a potential rival for Mary (THAT was a civil war in the making if there ever was one.)

  6. miladyblue says:

    One thing that makes me wonder about Katharine fighting like she did, for her marriage and title, is that she was the daughter of a Queen Regnant – a very powerful, effective, and ultimately successful Queen Regnant.

    If there were no living male heir to succeed Henry, what would have kept Mary from being as powerful and effective as Ysabel? I think that is why Katharine made sure Mary had such a thorough education, so that she would be completely prepared to assume the throne if no son were born.

    In addition to believing her marriage valid and SACRED, Katharine fought the annullment tooth and nail to preserve Mary’s legitimacy, which meant Mary’s rightful place in the succession.

    What a terrible slap in the face, then, to a woman of Katharine’s intellect, piety, and very, very royal blood, to lose everything as she did, because of her “failure” to have a son. NO ONE will ever be able to convince me that Henry was not a 100%, Grade A, USDA Choice, SCUZZBALL for the way he treated Katharine and Mary.

    1. La Belle Creole says:

      Henry has many things to be ashamed of, that’s for sure.

      1. DeAnn says:

        You mean Edward VI right? Because the three females you cited were all considered after Edward VI’s death.

        Because it’s patently untrue, that “every single heir supported by English factions after Edward IV’s death was female.”

        Edward V. Richard, Duke of York and Norfolk. Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Henry Tudor. Lambert Simmel. Perkin Warbeck. Edward of Warwick. Earl of Lincoln. The Courtenays. The Poles. And as you yourself said the Duke of Richmond. All males. All supported at one time or another by “factions” after April 9, 1483 when Edward IV died.

        And as far as saying the English had resolved the issues of a queen regnant, again such a broad sweeping statement doesn’t square with history. Sure, some might have had no issue. Some would have welcomed Mary as queen. But to say no one had an issue again misses the fact that some prominent noblemen were urging Henry to remarry and get “a Duke of York” three weeks after Jane Seymour had been buried at Windsor Castle.

        1. La Belle Creole says:

          How do I say this. Let’s see.

          The fault is neither Katherine of Aragon’s nor Mary Tudor’s that some English subjects were sexist pigs. That is the failing of said sexist pigs. Not Katherine. Not Mary. Do you not see this? It was not Katherine’s duty to disgrace herself and bastardize her daughter in order to placate stupid people or traitors. Stupid people or traitors are never in short supply. Any monarch can find himself or herself facing challenges by would-be usurpers at any time. Henry’s male gender did not protect him from this threat, either. Assumption that Mary’s gender automatically condemned the country to a new civil war while a male successor guaranteed no civil war is unfounded.

          Yes, I meant Edward VI. Pardon me for putting the numerals backwards.

  7. DeAnn says:

    If Henry VIII had died any time between 1502 and 1516, I cannot imagine a scenario in which the English nobility would have supported putting Margaret Tudor on the English throne as queen or co queen even though her father had said she would be heir presumptive during the marriage negotiations with Scotland.

  8. DeAnn says:

    La Belle Creole it’s obvious that we take different approaches to viewing history. You obviously view history only with your modern eyes. I try and view history with both modern eyes and the eyes of the people who lived at the time.

    What is sexism to us now was the way of life then. Women were essentially chattel. Katherine didn’t have to bastardize Mary. She could have entered a nunnery and worked out a deal where Mary stayed legitimate in the line of succession and a true daughter of England.

    We obviously view things differently. I don’t have to “see” your way nor do you have to see “my” way. My view is as Queen in the morasses of the time in England that Catherine should have worked out a deal with Henry and stepped aside. That said, she did not deserve the treatment she subsequently got.

    I don’t understand the traitor reference.

    As far as usurpers, you only have to look at the list that I cited of all the pretenders and claimants and threats that Henry VII and Henry VIII faced during their reigns. Real or imagined, few kings or queens before them would have faced so many over such a relatively short period of time. And Henry was well aware of that and it factored into his decisions and thinking whether we like that or not with our modern eyes.

    1. La Belle Creole says:

      Regarding traitors — an Englishman refusing to acknowledge the sovereignty of the king’s legitimate heir/ess is a traitor. S/he commits treason should s/he raise arms against his/her annointed ruler and/or assists with placing an alternative ruler on the throne.

      The reasons and excuses are unimportant. I’ll cut slack for situations where a ruler was clearly unfit, such as the ruler being insane. Sanity is required to govern and to represent a nation. Male sex characteristics are not and were not even in the 1500’s. Henry VIII himself is credited with justifying his harsh mistreatment of his wife and their daughter because he feared Katherine’s ability to thwart him due to her kinship to Isabella. If women were harmless chattel, Henry would not have felt this way.

      English subjects disinclined to accept Mary Tudor as a legitimate Queen Regnant were traitors. Their excuses do not matter. Whether it was because of her religion, her gender, their preference for an alternative candidate, or to further their own ambitions, their disloyalty was treasonous.

      Sexism is sexism. It does not matter if sexism was accepted or not, it’s still sexism. I have every right to judge it and to disapprove.

      You are entittled to your view. My view is that Henry should have supported his wife and his daughter instead of repudiating them to satisfy backwards sexist policies and his own itch for variety.

  9. DeAnn says:

    Again, you say categorically that sex does not determine the right to be heir to “a nation” and that wasn’t an issue in the 1500s.

    You don’t say England. You say a nation. And that’s simply wrong. England didn’t have Salic law but other countries did. France is the obvious example in 1516. If not for Salic law, Francois’ first wife would have been queen in her own right rather than through her husband. There were plenty of “sexist” countries who precluded women rulers both before and after 1500. Again, it may be sexism to modern eyes. It may seem “backwards” now but it certainly was acceptable practice then and certainly wasn’t backwards. Backwards implies you are going back to a previous bad or out dated policy It was the reality of medieval life.

    I have no idea what period of time you are referring to folks being “traitors” if they didn’t support Mary. If you are referring to after Edward’s death that is one thing. But if you are referring to other times, again that’s wrong.

    Because of the Act of Succession of 1534, you were a traitor if you supported Mary over Elizabeth. That’s the facts. Parliament passed the act at Henry’s urging. So folks like Thomas More and Bishop Fisher were executed as traitors. Obviously the situation changed in 1536 and both were excluded until the final act in 1543-1544.

    So by the law of the land, people were traitors if they supported Mary as queen regent during this period of time. That’s not an excuse. That’s the facts. Obviously after her brother’s death, if you didn’t support her you were a traitor and treated as such. You can judge sexism but you can’t change the facts to suit your judgement either.

    But I am now curious….who do you think should have been Richard II’s legitimate heir? And do you think the Lancasters were traitors?

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