Did Catherine of Aragon and Arthur Tudor consummate their marriage?

Catherine of Aragon and Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, were married from 14th November 1501 until Arthur’s death on 2nd April 1502, but did they consummate their marriage? They certainly slept in the same bed, but did Catherine of Aragon and Arthur Tudor have sex?

Find out what people said at the Legatine court hearing in 1529 and the Zaragoza hearing in 1531, and what Catherine claimed, in this talk…

Huge thanks to Lucy from the UK for asking such a wonderful question.

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18 thoughts on “Did Catherine of Aragon and Arthur Tudor consummate their marriage?”
  1. One of life’s great mysteries! I’ve always thought they probably tried at least once, but she never got pregnant and we do know she was capable of becoming pregnant. I think they would have tried for children right away since they were the heirs to the throne.
    At the same time ‍♀️‍♀️‍♀️

  2. Picture the scene many years ago, the hall decked with garlands of flowers the wedding banquet, the merry company the shy and timorous young bridegroom and bride, both of a young and tender age, the coarse joviality that always accompanied weddings, the slapping on the back the drunk guffaws of laughter, as Prince Arthur was bundled along the torchlit corridor with his companions to the marital bedchamber, in that age they had to grow up quickly, and young Arthur was heir to his fathers throne, the Tudor dynasty rested on him, but they were so young they had the rest of their lives before them, both knew it so there was no urgency to consummate their union that night, Katherine his Spanish bride was waiting in her fine lawn nightgown her ladies having prepared her for bed, her hair had been brushed and sweet herbs had been used to sweeten the bed, this was her wedding night and unbeknown to her and her bridegroom, it was to be a most sorely contested affair many years later, and played out most embarrassingly in front of the clergy of England and the Cardinal of Rome whilst the world watched on, we have both English and Spanish witnesses who attended the couple, we have Arthur claiming he had been in the midst of Spain which we can dismiss as mere boasting, he would not wish after all, for everyone to think he was not man enough to sleep with his nubile wife, we have Don Elvira Katherines devoted servant and whom many thought of as a rather interfering busybody, who stated that her mistress was rather sad and disappointed the following morning, and who had told her nothing had occurred between her and her husband, but maybe Katherine was just embarrassed about discussing her wedding night with her finding it a somewhat unpleasant affair? As we know we can only speculate from the sources, yet they did spend other nights together and so there is a very real possibility that they did sleep together, young men are more sexually aware and eager than young women, they are full of testosterone but Arthur was not a healthy lad, and in Giles Tremlett’s book on Katherine which I possess, he declared several of the Spanish men in the young princesses retinue thought Arthur pale and weak and did not think he was up-to performing, the lavish royal wedding ceremonies they had years ago must have been exhausting and Arthur was not well, sad really to think of this young man with all the pressure on him as his fathers heir, having to go through that elaborate event for hours on end when all he must have wanted to do was curl up and rest, there is of course the theory that Arthur was a sufferer of cystic fibrosis than he would have had problems in the bedroom department so maybe after many nights of sleeping together this young couple were still virgins, so maybe Katherine many years later was speaking the truth when she said she had never had sexual relations with her first husband, and as she said to Henry V111 at the court in Blackfriars she was a true maid without touch of man when he had her at the first, the remark she threw at him about his conscience was probably well intentioned but she hit a point, he did everything according to his conscience! Of course some may think Katherine was lying, she was known for being very pious and god fearing, she prayed for long hours, but if she was lying as David Starkey said, it was a good lie and was done out of a very real attempt to save her daughters position as Henry’s heir, an illegitimate princess was without prospects, the best that could be done for her was to make a good marriage little else, Katherine was like a lioness fighting for her cub, so if she did indeed lie when she maintained she was a virgin when she married Prince Henry it is perfectly understandable, however i feel that nothing did happen between Arthur and Katherine, there may have been some half hearted attempts on his part and maybe the couple decided afterwards to just take it easy and not bother too much till they were older, Henry V11 was on the throne there was no urgency, maybe the king and queen had told them to wait after all? The wedding had been advantageous to both England and Spain, they had cemented the Anglo Spanish alliance, the negating of heirs would come later, and there is a very real possibility that had Arthur lived long enough to inherit his fathers throne, if he were a sufferer of cystic fibrosis then he would have died without heirs anyway, as it was he died suddenly and shockingly after a short illness leaving his parents heartbroken and Katherine facing an ominous future, she had also been ill but rallied, and for the next five years she lived more like a captive without the luxury her position as Princess of Wales entailed, she eventually became betrothed and married Prince Arthur, and they were very happy, till twenty years later when suddenly, her far distant past was to be dredged up in front of a shocked Europe, by the very husband she still sadly, loved and adored.

  3. I believe Catherine. When she looked Henry straight in the eye and said in effect, “You know the truth!” it is convincing. I can imagine Catherine saying to Arthur, “Never mind. We are both very young and there is plenty of time.” And then there was no time.

    1. Life has a way of constantly surprising one, poor Katherine thought her future was mapped out so it was, but in a heartbeat her young husband was gone, had he lived would their marriage have been a success? I think that Arthur would have stayed true to her and never treated her like his younger brother did, he may have had mistresses but try to divorce her or annul their marriage – no, but one cannot know what goes on in another persons mind, Katherines obstetric history also meant she would have been no more lucky in producing an male heir for Arthur than she was for Henry, Arthur also would have accepted it as gods will more than likely, but he died so young we have no knowledge of his personality and life experience can change ones outlook on life, being king he also was aware of the need for a son, his father instilled that need in both sons, in paintings of Arthur he resembles his brother, possibly had he grown up he would have been handsome but he was not it seems as athletic like Henry, the latter was a show off and was graceful at dancing as well as sports, he had a magnetism and vitality that Arthur never possessed, his hair looks mid brown in his portrait not the golden red that Henry possessed and maybe was a gentler version of his younger brother, maybe he was kinder to, one cannot see Arthur turning into a wife killing monster but then Henry V111 suffered from two head injuries, the last one more deadly than the first, poor Arthur was robbed of his life and his young bride was to enter into marriage with his dynamic sibling, she did know great happiness but also despair when her children died and when her adored and adoring husband turned against her.

  4. This is such a great question and one I’ve mulled over many times. In the end it didn’t matter one way or another because Henry was going to divest himself of Catherine no matter what her state of virginity was when they married. A lot of lying, I believe,–both from the English and the Spanish–going on. Something that should have been utterly private was raked over the coals so thoroughly and in such a tawdry and salacious way that almost no one came out of it without a bit of mud on them. Did Catherine lie? Well, she lied about lots of things. She was not only the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella and diplomatic dissembling would have come with her mother’s milk. And she was, during that awful interregnum between being Arthur’s wife and becoming Henry’s wife, her father’s official diplomat. BUT!!! Did she lie about her virginity? I argue with myself about that and swing both ways. And, did Henry lie? We know that he lied about anything and everything and one of his courtiers–I believe–wondered, at one time, if Henry even knew what it was like to bed a virgin. So, for Henry, trying to extricate himself from a marriage he was done with a this would have been a lie of expediency and, as I said previously, lying wasn’t a problem with him. I think that Catherine would have said anything at all to preserve her marriage and I believe that Henry would have said anything at all to dissolve it. It really is something to think about and discuss but, as you said, Claire, we simply don’t know.

    1. Kathryn you are correct, Katherine was a kings daughter and knew the art of diplomatic dissembling, she was the daughter of the formidable Ferdinand and his warrior queen Isabella, and she did when first married to Henry become like a mediator between her father and husband, in the 12th c Princess Joan, or lady of Wales as she was styled, the bastard daughter of King John married Prince Llewelyn of Wales and became a mediator for both father and husband, in Katherines case she was fighting to protect her daughters inheritance as well as the very raw emotion she felt over Henry’s rejection of their wedding vows made many years before, The pope had allowed the dispensation and the couple were wed, Henry V111 I feel did treat his first wife very badly but then he was to go on and treat most of them the same, eventually killing two of them, what Henry wanted Henry got, he had everything he had desired from a young age, now he was being told in no uncertain terms that there were some things he could not have, Henry did lie himself and do awful things which he put down to his conscience, in a sense it was mere hypocrisy and Katherine knew her husband of old, she knew he could put forward a very persuasive argument to free himself of his queen, but this argument all hinged on whether Katherine and Arthur had slept together, something which she always denied and because the only other person who could affirm if this was true was dead, Katherine held all the cards, Henry used Arthur’s remarks ‘ last night I was in Spain’, as proof of carnal knowledge but it was a weak one, and the pouring over the reports in England and Spain at the time, most of which was bawdy bedroom gossip, the witness accounts of both Arthur and Katherines servants was all dredged up and bandied around England and Europe, Katherine had been a young and timorous bride in the distant past, not so now and if her hypocritical husband could lie then so could she, and as we know, she could go to her priest and seek forgiveness for lying afterwards, it was a just cause she was committed to, it was not something however she would have done lightly, a woman of her integrity did not lie easy, in Spain and some other countries they did hang the wedding sheets outside to prove the bride had indeed been a virgin but it was not a custom done in England, and had that been the case, then people would have seen pristine white linen floating in the breeze, because Katherines despondency the next day and her words to Don Elvira must have been the truth, she trusted the older woman her devoted servant and there would have been no reason for her to claim a falsehood, it was said in confidence between a young bride and her loyal friend, however as stated that did not mean they did not sleep together at a later date, but their extreme youth and Arthur’s frailty the fact there was no rush, and that both Henry V11 and Elizabeth of York probably told them there was no real need to sleep together possibly meant during their short marriage, that they never had sexual relations at all, they must have embraced each other and kissed but I believe that’s as far as it went, Elizabeth of York knowing her sons fragility maybe told him to wait till he was king we do not know, as Claire says it is mere opinion, regarding Henry V111 he was in perfect health when eventually he wed his sister in law and he too must have been a virgin, after Arthur’s death his father kept him in an oppressive but gilded prison, knowing now that his countries future rested entirely on his arrogant younger son, a thought that he must have viewed with some apprehension, indeed the old king was said not to be over fond of Prince Henry, possibly seeing in him the flaws of his grandfather Edward 1V, Henry felt like a freed bird when he became king and because of his stifled early years following Arthur’s demise, he also must have been an innocent when he first slept with Katherine, the awkward fumbling’s that often occur between two young virgins would have made the other aware it was their first time also, so did Katherine lie when she said she had never slept with her first husband? On the wedding night no I believe nothing happened but they had every opportunity to do so in the months that followed, however her position as Henry’s queen, a position she had held for twenty years was at stake here, her daughters rights and those of her daughters children’s rights were also at stake, so if Katherine was lying it was a lie she was completely blameless for and should not be held to account for.

  5. Should have asked Catolina, the lady who made Katharine’s bed that night and for several years afterwards. That’s exactly what Isabella did and she swore her daughter was still a virgin. 0f course Katharine was telling the truth, she wouldn’t lie in confession, to the Court, on oath, to two Bishops, her husband and continue over so many years. She had no reason to lie in 1503, even if she may have done in 1529. Why was she so upset the next morning? Nothing had happened, she had failed. Arthur may well have thought he had made penetration but he was drunk, 15, scared, in the company of a stranger, they couldn’t communicate in the same language very well, he was a teenager who boasted so as his young pals, much the same age as him would think he had done his duty and there was a rawdy pack outside the door, grunting and making rude noises all night. I can’t think of anything more off putting.

    I very much doubt that any wedding is consummated on the wedding night. Most people are too tired and not very capable of anything. However, a few days later and you are alone and settled down. That’s when nature takes over. However, after the wedding night Arthur and Katharine were separated. They were separated for a few weeks while the adults decided if they were old enough to live together. Katharine wasn’t even going to go to Ludlow with Arthur. Henry Vii wanted to enquire about the health of the couple, the Spanish thought Arthur was weak, but his doctors thought him well enough and the reference to him being not in good health refers to sexual health. Some people thought sex was bad for young people, others it was good for them. It was this debate which dominated the next few weeks. The issue of a separation was settled when one doctor pointed out that the Princes would be heartbroken to be left behind if Arthur left for Ludlow. So the couple got on well and liked each other. After a few weeks the couple were allowed to establish their own household. In this case it was in the newly done up stronghold of Ludlow, the luxurious Royal Apartments awaited them in the capital of the Marches.

    The next time Katharine actually slept in the same room as Arthur was December 1501. Katharine said that she had only slept in the same bed 7 times and yet his chamberlain said he went to her Chambers several times. Where either of them lying? No. Both told the truth as they remembered it. Arthur may not have actually slept with Katharine. They were not in any rush. Duty is not a guarantee of achievement. Being in the same room wasn’t evidence of sex but its implied. Everyone assumed and nobody said otherwise because it wasn’t something you talked about. Donna Elvira was certain Katharine remained a virgin. Several attempts may have been made but failed. If Arthur had testicular cancer one of the serious ailments people today thought that he had then he wouldn’t be able to consummate his union. At the end of the day we simply don’t know the truth, but I don’t think it was consummated and I do believe what Katharine spoke the truth over and over again all those years ago.

    1. I lean more towards the fact that they did not sleep together than they did, as Katherine herself reminded Henry at the court of Blackfriars ‘you know when you had me at the first I was a true maid without touch of man’, this she said whilst looking straight into his eyes in front of the packed court, it was an embarrassing scenario for both king and queen but here she was declaring to the world her absolute sincerity, it is said Henry V111 looked straight past her, then she got up and walked out ignoring the calls to resume her seat, when Henry wished to rid himself of Anne Boleyn he conveniently used the old excuse – incest again, this time it was Henry V111 himself, he innocently had carnal knowledge of her sister, before unfortunately becoming entrapped by her sorceress of a sister, and Henry Percy to had been engaged to Anne but her old love refused to be drawn into the king’s matrimonial argument, refuting the claim of any engagement because years before, the king wished to marry her, now they were saying they had been engaged after all, we can imagine Percys fury, Henry V111 really was a hypocrite of the first degree but that mattered not to him, and his toadies carried out his orders because they had to, unjustified and hypocritical that it was, regarding Prince Arthur’s health I too have heard that he could have had testicular cancer, and
      cancer does tend to run in families, maybe Henry Fitzroy suffered from the same illness, for most of his life Arthur was a healthy young lad but several months before his death he weakened, his nephew who died around the same age was also healthy then wasted away, for many years TB always a killer was said to have been the cause of their deaths but really, it could have been anything, Edward V1 died from a dreadful wasting disease it is now thought his immunity was lowered after contracting measles the year before, then caught TB which because of his weakened immunity he could not fight, all these diseases now could be cured by simple antibiotics apart from testicular cancer, but that can be treated with a good survival rate, with cancer also, it can grow without the sufferer feeling any pain till it has reached an alarming stage, stages 1-4 and 4 is terminal, this is why this awful illness is called the silent killer, so Arthur could well have had that a year or two before he felt unwell and then succumbed to death, we do not know it is all theories, but most of the men in Henry V111’s family died in their early teens whilst on the brink of manhood, Princess Mary his youngest sister did die young also but she was an adult, it is thought sweating sickness hastened her demise, people’s survival rate rich and poor in early times did not hold well with the advanced medical knowledge we have today, the ones who did survive had sheer luck on their side.

  6. Henry was a virgin as well when they married as he had in fact been raised originally for the Church. Katharine kept to her story her entire life and said this publicly before 1000s of people. Henry knew she was a virgin. He knew what to expect, so did she. They both knew what was expected but they also knew each other well. Henry wanted to marry Katharine from the time he was noted as a potential suitor. Katharine was more valuable as a virgin and so her dowry was doubled. Its also one of the reasons she didn’t gain from her widowhood. She wasn’t entitled to her full dower after Arthur died, unless the marriage was consummated. The same problem arose for Mary Howard as her marriage to Henry Fitzroy wasn’t ever consummated.

    You are absolutely correct. You don’t walk up to your husband and make a speech which the public can hear and tell him you know I was a virgin and I dare you to say otherwise, especially if he happens to be the King of England. Henry was suddenly very quiet. He knew that Katharine was telling the truth. Henry wasn’t interested. He wanted to marry Anne Boleyn, not save his marriage to Katharine. There was no way Anne was going to allow this Court to go her way. The only thing Katharine could do was appeal to Henry as the Head of Justice and then to the Pope. Henry was not able to say anything because his case would just go against him. Katharine knew that and her speech and humility were brilliant. She timed everything to perfection.

    Katharine was just so consistent in her truth for so many years. She first said nothing happened and others did as well back in 1503, long before she married Henry. She told her Confessor that she was a Virgin. She gave him leave to tell the whole world what she had said. As you know the seal of the confession is sacred and cannot be broken under any circumstances, unless the penitent gives leave for the information to be revealed. Katharine would be embarrassed by such information so she would have only revealed it publicly if it was the truth. How did she benefit admitting to incest? It was a terrible thing to admit to and the only way she would be free to marry Henry was if she remained a virgin. Another thing is, her ladies and doctors could have been ordered to examine her physically. If Katharine was saying I am still a Virgin, therefore I can marry Prince Henry, the King would be within his rights to test her claim and that would be humiliating for her. He chose to believe her. Her mother believed her as did others she made her claim to. This wasn’t a private thing, everyone knew what was said in 1503. It would be useless to examine her in 1529, of course, after several children, but before she married Henry Viii, certainly it would have been useful and maybe the problem wouldn’t have existed 20 years later.

    Henry’s first act as King was to make the treaty with Spain. Whether he knew or not, Henry didn’t care. He only cared when it suited him and still Katharine’s answer was the same. Sad as her record of childbearing was, her status as a woman at the time of her marriage to Henry in 1509 had nothing to do with it.

    1. No at that early stage in their marriage Henry was more interested in her father Ferdinand than Katherine, this is what Tremlett says in his biography of Katherine, it was a good thing for England to have powerful Spain as an ally, but Katherine herself was charming and pretty with her porcelain skin wonderful auburn hair that tumbled down her back, and Madonna like features, he was not averse to marrying his sister in law and I believe as I have said before, that he must have had a schoolboy crush on her, she was about five years older than him which to a young lad would have added to her attraction, she appeared sophisticated and of course she was foreign, her broken English he found enchanting, had she been twenty years older with a crooked back he would have thought otherwise, and there probably was a mutual attraction on Katherines part at least, because Henry V111 was devastatingly handsome and charismatic, I think she must have compared him to poor Arthur and at first found him enchanting but he was just a boy to her then, but when Henry V11 died after several years had passed I think her attraction grew into a very real and deep love, and this love endured long after he had turned his back on her, one young women fell over themselves at his feet just like they had for his grandfather, the equally handsome and charismatic Edward 1V, so we can easily say a mutual attraction existed between this young couple, and yes at this stage in their marriage Henry was just pleased to have Ferdinand as an ally babies would come later, but they were doomed for the royal nursery was destined never to know the patter of little feet and the echo of children’s cries in its walls, most families lost children it was normal rich and poor, but children of richer families had a better start in life, Elizabeth of York lost some children, she then died in childbirth following her little daughter Catherine, leaving both the king and Henry bereft, he was a mere nine years old at the time, and in one illustration of the queens deathbed it shows the young Prince prostrate with grief at her bedside, but Katherine of Aragon was much more unluckier than most, out of several miscarriages and those born dead, and those that survived for a mere few days or hours, their eldest Henry of Wales survived a few weeks before dying, she finally gave birth to Princess Mary, and she must have been told from young that she was a very special little girl, all her brothers and sisters had departed from this world and her fathers dynasty rested on her fragile shoulders, why Mary survived is a mystery although she was to endure poor health as she aged, many of her later ailments were possibly down to stress, Mary Tudor Henry’s youngest sister lost some boys then had three children who were all fine, and Queen Margaret of Scotland also lost some children before finally giving birth to James V she then later had a daughter Margaret with her second husband, but Katherine’ s childbearing history was really quite tragic and maybe one day science will provide an answer as to why she lost so many children, for sadly it was that that ruined what had been, a very successful marriage.

  7. Henry Viii was indeed deeply affected by the loss of his mother, probably more so than those of his siblings, although I am sure their deaths affected him as well. He was 11 at the time of her death in February 1503. However, he expressed his grief for his mother in a letter regarding the death of Philip of Castile and Burgundy, who had become close to him when he visited with Katharine’s sister, Joanna. Actually they were shipwrecked but invited to the English Court. Philip was called Handsome and was the sort of Prince whom Henry wished to be. In this letter Henry said the death of Philip had touched him in the same way as the loss of his own dear mother. Elizabeth of York was obviously a good mother. She was very close to her sons and maybe one of the reasons Henry gravitated easily towards female company. The visit of Joanna and Philip on their way to Spain brought with it complications because Henry vii saw it as an opportunity to arrange a new marriage between Henry and their daughter. Henry was forced to denounce Katharine when he was 15 but in 1507 she became the Ambassador of Ferdinand and her own desperate circumstances changed.

    Henry vii was accepted as an ally in the Holy League v France which was part of the arrangement with Ferdinand and Maximillian, Holy Roman Emperor. This alliance was the reason for the continuing alliance with Spain, but Katharine was of less value as a bride after 1505 and the death of Isabella i of Castile. Ferdinand was King of Aragon, not Spain, which was now inherited by Juana and Philip and then their son Charles. However, he was valuable as a military commander and for his money. The dowry Katharine would bring was still an enormous amount of money and Henry Vii was fond of coin as we all know, not a miser but greedy just the same. He put the price up and the wrangling began. When he died his son was anxious for war with France as Henry V had been and saw himself as King Arthur. He did want Katharine, but you are correct, he also wanted Ferdinand for his money and his military contribution. More importantly Henry Viii wanted the Empire because Maximillian was a brilliant commander and jouster, just as his stepson had been. He became a role model for the young King, sending him elaborate armour and a helmet with horns and glasses. You know, the famous one in the Tower. Katharine was the beautiful prize who sealed the deal.

    The first thing Henry did was announce he was getting married. He completed the terms of the treaty in three weeks. Marriage also declared him an adult. His grandmother was concerned Henry might not be ready and appointed a Regency Council. Few people know that Henry Viii had a Regency Council for five years. This is because he took over himself and changed the nature of their duties. He was, however, content to allow them to rule while he played. He signed warrants for generous gifts to his friends. And who where his friends? The old families of the House of York his father had feared. Henry was surrounded by young men like Courtney, Brandon, Neville, Willoughby, Blount, Grey, Pole, etc, all just like himself. He also inherited the Howards and with them, the Boleyns. However, on his Council he had older men like Richard Fox and the upcoming Thomas Wolsey. He also had the young lawyer and scholar, Thomas More. This last pair would be his mentors and hands, eyes and ears for the next two decades.

    Henry and Katharine were attracted to each other. The political stuff behind their marriage was important but the bond they shared was real and deep. A few weeks after Henry wrote that even if he were still single, he would pick her. She taught him how to rule. Katharine handled Henry well and there was a clear affectionate bond and even deep love between them. It was the tragedy of the loss of all but one baby which wrenched them apart. Henry comforted Katharine and vice versa when their babies died. The rate of loss was highly unusual. All children of one sex, sons, died. This wasn’t the same as loss of children as all couples seem to have endured at the time, it was almost a curse. One child survived, Mary, their beloved daughter. Both Henry and Katharine doted on her and she was treated as heir until 1533. By then Anne Boleyn was Queen, Katharine banished, a new baby was born and Mary was declared illegitimate. She refused to accept the situation as a young woman of 17 and Henry reacted badly. He refused to see her until she submitted and separated her from her mother and himself.

    However, Anne didn’t have any success with children either, suggesting to modern doctors that the problem lay in Henry’s genes. She too only produced one living child, a girl. Unfortunately for Anne, her failure turned out to be fatal. Tired of her constant nagging and her dominance, her failing pregnancies and desperately needing a son without another long drawn out annulment, Henry had Anne tried and executed for treason, incest and adultery three years later. With wife number three, Jane Seymour, who came from a family of several sons and daughters, Henry was more lucky and she gave him the son he craved. Edward was born on 12th October 1537 at Hampton Court and Jane died of complications from his birth on 24th October that year.

    Its very easy to see how one might believe that Katharine lied to protect her child and her position as Queen. I certainly would. She had been Queen for 20 years and now her beloved husband was trying to say they were not lawfully married in order to wed one of her ladies. Katharine thought Henry had lost his mind. She thought his immortal soul was in trouble and tried to save him. How many stupid women have done that? Katharine loved Henry. She loved her daughter, she was called to be Queen. Who had saved England from invasion? Katharine. Who was beloved? Katharine. Who had the better claims? Katharine. Who had put all of that to one side for the sake of peace and unity? Katharine. Why would she not declare her first marriage invalid to preserve her honour and defend her second? It seems logical that she would lie for a greater cause. Until you actually know Katharine.

    Someone wrote before that Katharine had lied lots of times. That’s actually not true. We know of one time only. When Katharine was pregnant in 1510 she miscarried her baby girl and her doctor told her she was still pregnant. Katharine was fooled by her body into thinking the same and Henry was fooled as well until her time drew near and she knew the miscarriage was final. An embarrassing situation for both Henry who was angry, not with her but her doctors and women. The couple had to tell Ferdinand the bad news. They jointly wrote to say she had recently miscarried and concealed the earlier one. However, by now Katharine was pregnant again. On 1st January 1511 she gave birth to a healthy son and heir, Henry, Duke of Cornwall. He was treated to a fantastic pageant and grand baptism, tournament and festivals. It was while celebrating that he died aged 52 Days. His mother and father were distraught. This is the only time Katharine lied. There is no comparison to her alleged lie about the consummation of her first marriage.

    For one thing this wasn’t a public lie. It was private and we only know about it because of the letter and timing of her first and second pregnancies, which cross over each other. Second, this was a lie made to her father out of embarrassing circumstances. Third this was not a lie made in the Sacrament of the Confession and to compare the two things as the same is to misunderstand Catholic theology. To lie on the Sacraments or in Confession was to put your soul in jeapardy and risk both being excommunicated and Eternal damnation. Katharine made this declaration to Father Compeggio under the seal of confession. The only reason we know about it is because she gave him permission to tell the world about it. That’s a big deal. Only the penitent can give that leave. A priest cannot reveal what is said under the Seal of the Confession, not to save a life, not to save his life. Whether we approve or not isn’t relevant. That was and is Catholic belief then and now. You cannot lie to God and the priest stands in the place of Christ in their relationship with a penitent and at the Alter. You are not confessing to the priest, you are confessing to God and he is there just to guide you and deliver the forgiveness and penance and to instruct you how to do better. He is meant to forget and its meant to be anonymous. Of course Katharine asked for Confession so it wasn’t anonymous. However, she came as a supplicant and a penitent and was received as such. Its important that she told the truth, otherwise she would compound one sin with another. Katharine was a very devout woman, even for her time. She fasted and went regularly on pilgrimage. Katharine spent hours in her later years at prayer. She probably wore a hair shirt. She was extremely worried about her husband and his immortal soul. Such a woman was very unlikely to lie. Even if Katharine did lie before, that wasn’t the same and not in the Confession. Just as the final Confession made by Anne Boleyn is now taken as proof of her innocence of the charges against her, I don’t see any reason why that of Katharine should not be seen in the same light. It was taken as true at the time. More people believed Katharine than Henry which tells us something about their characters and reliability. Katharine was consistent in her claims and didn’t have the same selfish reasons as Henry to lie. Henry stood up in Court and claimed that he would be content to live with Katharine if his marriage was considered valid. That was a blatant lie. He had no intention of accepting the verdict of the Court at Blackfriars and tried to force its decision in his favour. Katharine made her speech and departed because she knew the trial was a farse. She sent her cause to Rome, to the Vatican, to a higher power. She didn’t lie in 1501, 1502 and 1503 and she certainly didn’t lie in 1509 and 1529. Katharine had everything to lose and still told the truth. Her soul was at risk but she told the truth. She made declared that she had failed in her duty during her first marriage in public. Luckily for her, showing the bedsheets was a Spanish tradition, not an English one. She didn’t know what didn’t happen during the few months of her marriage to Arthur was going to haunt her 28 years later. She and Arthur were 16. They had years ahead of them, there was no rush. Why not wait for a better time? No, sorry, Katharine was a virgin when she married Henry, her first marriage wasn’t consummated, although we cannot be certain, she told the truth and for me that’s the end of the argument.

  8. Just read in the Daily Mail that the geanology series ‘ Who do you think you are’ has traced the comedian Josh Widdicombe’s family lineage back to Catherine Cary, and are stating that she was the natural child of Henry V111, I could not help chuckling as I knew every Tudor historian would be turning in their graves having read this article, it is wrong surely to say this man was the descendent of Henry V111 when there is no evidence whatsoever, we have discussed Catherine’s paternity on here and in several biographies on Mary for eg the one by Alison Weir she also examines the so called evidence regarding Catherine and the king, there is no proof at all just gossip that she was his child, based on speculation that the kings grants to Cary were in gratitude for bringing up his daughter, but he gave grants to many of his courtiers and William after all, was his blood kin and a personal favourite of his, and there we have it, also the king never acknowledged both Catherine nor her brother Henry as his, and I doubt the courtiers at the time or the Boleyn family thought she could have been Henry V111’s, geanologist’s are not historians as they have just proved and really, they should have consulted a Tudor historian when Widdicombe’s link to Catherine Cary was proved.

    1. Its possible he is the descendent of William and Mary Carey, via Catherine their daughter as many people are. At the end of the day she had sixteen children, many of them had children and so on, so Mary Boleyn has hundreds if not thousands of descendents and we have seen that the present Queen is one of them. His line would then go through the Boleyn line but certainly his line cannot be verified back to Henry Viii. There is no known evidence that either Catherine or Henry Carey where fathered by Henry Viii. Unless these so called experts have taken DNA and compared it to none contaminated DNA from Henry Viii, these findings are invalid. Catherine Carey is more likely to be his daughter if Henry did indeed father either of Mary’s children, but again there is no evidence that she was his daughter. Only DNA can prove that and it is hardly likely that any DNA has been authorised to be taken from Henry Viii for a TV programme. They shouldn’t have made such a claim and it only serves to make more myths about the family of Henry Viii. As to the granting of money and resources to William Carey these could have been for good service or because he was a blood relative of the King. He was his friend and Henry was generous to his friends. I know historians like to link financial rewards to women especially as evidence of them being mothers to the illegitimate children of Kings and nobles but it wasn’t that simple. For example Richard iii had two illegitimate children, John of Gloucester and Katherine Herbert, wife of the Earl of Worcester. Several ladies have been suggested for their mother and several grants traced to several women. However, at least half are too old and we now know they were nurses or wet nurses for the children. We know at least three women qualify as real possibilities but six had received grants during periods that cover the early years of John and Katherine’s life. Its believed they had the same mother and were born before his marriage to Anne Neville. As that was around 1473 only records before that are relevant. This was a well-known fact that women were recorded as giving service in the archives to such and such and very little other information is often forthcoming so historians have no idea what that service was. They may be nurses or midwives or rockers or some other care giver for royal or noble children or the wives of courtiers who had given years of service in the background. That’s the history of women often hidden from history by their gender and we have to be careful what assumptions we make when interpreting their records.

      1. Yes I read that Richard fathered Katherine and a son, and I wondered did they have children themselves, if so could their descendants be around today, but it is wrong to state publicly as the Daily Mail did that Widdicombe had a link to Henry V111, it does as you say add to the many myths about this man, the queen herself descends from Catherine Cary so she must have often wondered herself if she was the old kings daughter, thus making herself a direct descendant of Henry V111, but she does not want his grave disturbed for DNA checking and I cannot blame her for that, I think the dead once buried should be allowed to rest in peace, there is no proof and it needs to be 100% unequivocally that Henry V111 fathered Catherine Cary and / or her brother Henry, as he was silent on the matter I believe that is proof that they were the children of William Cary, many kings throughout history had bastards and yes some speculation has arisen over their mother’s, Henry 1sts eldest bastard Robert Earl of Gloucester is said to have been the son of a Welsh woman named Nest, but there is not 100% proof and for many years Rosamund De Clifford the mistress of Henry 11 was said to be the mother of his two bastard sons William and Geoffrey, William named Longespee because of his height when older referred to a noblewoman Ida De Tosney as his mother, which totally debunked the theory that Rosamund was his mother and that of Geoffreys, it is now thought that Rosamund had no children at all but she was famous for being called the rose of the world, and there are many ballads written about her, and she is the object of a famous Victorian painting by a well known artist, Henry V111 was said to have fathered a John Perot who did look amazingly like him tall athletic and handsome, but again the king never acknowledged him which because of his gender and because he was such a fine physical specimen of a man you would have thought he would have, he is also said to have fathered a daughter by Bessie Blount along with Fitzroy, she was his younger sister and could have been her husbands but many have speculated she could have been the kings, speculation however or a so called likeness and the fact that the mother once slept with another man, king or peasant does not prove a thing, it is wrong of the Daily Mail to claim such a falsehood but the newspaper does have a reputation for sensationalism, I do however like the Daily Mail so I will forgive it’s transgress on this occasion.

        1. I agree and you are right the public claims are out of order. I wouldn’t like to trace someone back to any of these so called illegitimate children of royalty, not without verification. At least if it was well known King Henry ii fathered an illegitimate son, Geoffrey, who was Archbishop of York and super holy so we can be sure he didn’t have any known kids, then another William, whom he acknowledged and dumped in the Royal nursery and then we knew for certain who the mothers were, we could be reasonably certain if they definitely had a traceable line that we might trace someone back to them. As the legally wedded father was always assumed to be the father before DNA, one has to assume that the legitimate children we know off are indeed traceable down the line to the present day. The problem is most illegitimate children were not claimed and not verified. They lost out on inheritance and they often got “provided” for more in the hope that they would vanish or remained hidden. An obvious example and exceptionally well to do illegitimate clan, however, where the Beauforts, children of John of Gaunt and his mistress, Katherine le Rote who was his last wife and who where legitimized by Pope and Parliament.

          The children of John and Katherine went on to marry into the best families, including Joan Beaufort who was the second wife of Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmoreland and the mother of Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, the mother of Edward iv and Richard iii. Another child, the eldest son, John Beaufort became Duke of Somerset and was the ancestor of Margaret Beaufort, the Tudor Matriarch. So the Beaufort line can be traced from John of Gaunt back to Edward Iii and so on, down to the present monarchy via the Tudors and so on. We know most of this as its verification is not in doubt, although DNA might have something to say. We cannot, however, verify claims regarding the illegitimate children of several others, including Henry ii, where a number of claims have been challenged and Henry Viii who claimed only one illegitimate child. He probably did have more but verification is dubious.

          As to the children of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, neither of them had any children. John was probably murdered by Henry Vii and vanished from history but he was recorded as being given the Constable of Calais job by his father and is believed to have died in the first couple of years of Henry’s reign. I don’t believe there is any proper evidence for his fate but this was a fate noted down at the time. John was unmarried and had no known children. Katherine was married to the Earl of Worcester and no children are known to have been born. She died young. His only other child was about ten when he died in 1484 so too young for marriage, let alone children. Richard’s DNA was traced from the female line and two collateral descendants where found from his sister, Anne, Countess of Exeter. The male Beaufort DNA popped up two anomalies. Described as two paternal accidents, they show someone was either unfaithful twice or two women were unfaithful. Without digging up the entire Beaufort clan there is no way to tell which generation is responsible although there was an indication the breaks are in the generations since the seventeenth century. This is the problem with genealogy.

  9. IMO, Katherine had absolutely no motive to lie about her virginity. According to Scarisbrick’s biography of Henry VIII, Katherine’s marriage to Arthur created two impediments (not just one) to marrying Henry — something called “public honesty” as well as Leviticus. If the marriage to Arthur was not consummated, the marriage was invalid because “public honesty” arose out of the public nature of the marriage, not consummation. However, the Catholic church repeatedly recognized marriages valid under Deuteronomy, regardless of consummation of the first one. (Deut 25: 5 -8(if a married man dies childless — as Arthur did — his brother must marry the widow)

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