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Was Katherine of Aragon a virgin?
March 13, 2010
3:29 pm
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C
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I'm new so sorry if this has been discussed before but I was curious to see what you guys think about Katherine of Aragon being a virgin when she married Henry VIII? Personally I think she lied because it benefitted her to do so.

March 13, 2010
5:46 pm
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HannahL
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I agree…I think she quite possibly lied.  I just get the feeling that Arthur being too sickly and weak to consummate his marriage is farfetched.  Obviously, since she was stuck in England with only loneliness, abandonment from her ambitious parents, and decreasing political importance, Katherine would have greatly benefited from such a lie.  But I doubt that we will ever know for sure.

March 14, 2010
7:55 am
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Hannah
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There is no  way of ever knowing the truth about this, I think we just have to mindful of the fact that Katherine could've lied. Most men know when a woman is a virgin, there is usually blood and discomfort when a woman's virginity is taken. Only Henry and Katherine themselves know the details of that. Also, Arthur as far as I know, died of sweating sickness meaning that he would've been perfectly healthy up until the day before he died. And ofcourse, there were Arthur's famous boasts about “being in the midst of Spain”. We just don't know, and likely, never will. For what its worth, Henry genuinely believed she wasn't a virgin and attributed Arthur's death to too much sexual activity at too young a age; and barred his own illegimiate son from consummating his marraige (to Mary Howard).

Be daly prove you shalle me fynde,nTo be to you bothe lovyng and kynde,

March 14, 2010
9:06 am
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ProudtobeCatholic
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I say she was a virgin when she married Henry.  Consummation of a marriage was a big deal back then.  I find it hard to believe that someone as devout and religious as Katharine was would lie about something like that.

When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

March 14, 2010
4:34 pm
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Impish_Impulse
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I think she was a virgin, too. That was a huge thing back then, and when Katharine claimed after Arthur's death that the marriage hadn't been consummated, it wasn't the expected or even convenient thing for her to claim. She would have been entitled to dower lands and monies as a widow. Henry VII and Ferdinand of Aragon both tried to not only preserve the alliance, but to do so by paying as little money as possible to other other.

Henry wanted the original dowry paid in full before renegotiating a new dowry for the new husband. Ferdinand wanted to combine monies for both deals, and both men weren't as careful of Katharine's honor in their haste to be cheapskates. Henry VIII rather cynically took advantage of this when he wanted out of the marriage 20 years down the line and Katharine refused to go quietly. He had no objections re: her virginity at the time of the marriage.

He may NOT have been the best judge, though, particularly later in his life, as he believed not only that Kathryn Howard was a virgin, but believed Anne of Cleves was not (based solely on her curvy figure!). So I discount his input. And believe she was the virgin she claimed to be.

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March 14, 2010
8:19 pm
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HannahL
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Hmm I may have to change my opinion on this subject.  I just started reading Antonia Fraser's “The Wives of Henry VIII”, and there are some interesting facts in the section about Katherine that lean towards her virginity after Arthur died and seem credible.  However, I haven't finished this section, so I'll have to update on this.

March 16, 2010
9:37 am
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Jasmine
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I think it unlikely that she was a virgin.  Consummation of royal marriages was a very important issue and any hint that things had not gone “properly” in that quarter would have been followed up.  There would have been talk – viz Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI.

The Spanish alliance was particularly important to Henry VII and he would not have wanted anything to threaten it.  It gave international recognition to a dynasty which had acquired the crown under disputed circumstances and which had been plagued by pretenders in the years since Bosworth.  Non-consummation of the marriage could have led to Katherine being recalled to Spain and any dowry repaid.  It would also have made Katherine's position in England very vulnerable, if the Spanish alliance suddenly lost it charm.

Later it was in Katherine's interests to say she was a virgin.  Much had been made of the fact that she was religious – but she was also a Spanish Princess, used to court life and diplomatic lies – I do not think that her religion meant she never told a lie.  Once the divorce was mentioned, she had Mary's position to consider as well as her own.

March 16, 2010
8:19 pm
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Melissa
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Hannah said:

There is no  way of ever knowing the truth about this, I think we just have to mindful of the fact that Katherine could've lied. Most men know when a woman is a virgin, there is usually blood and discomfort when a woman's virginity is taken. Only Henry and Katherine themselves know the details of that. Also, Arthur as far as I know, died of sweating sickness meaning that he would've been perfectly healthy up until the day before he died. And ofcourse, there were Arthur's famous boasts about “being in the midst of Spain”. We just don't know, and likely, never will. For what its worth, Henry genuinely believed she wasn't a virgin and attributed Arthur's death to too much sexual activity at too young a age; and barred his own illegimiate son from consummating his marraige (to Mary Howard).


Some people are in pain the first few times they “consummate” so they could give the appearance of virginity each time without any real acting or lying.  I dunno.  Different question-do you think Anne thought Katherine was truly not a virgin when she married Henry?

Ainsi sera, groigne qui groigne.

March 17, 2010
4:13 pm
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C
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G.A. Bergenroth found letters in the Spainish archieves that claim Katherine lied about her virginity to stay in England and fulfill her duties. In addition to lying about that the documents claim she lied to her father about a miscarriage in 1510, making him believe she'd pregnant much longer then she had been, which shows she lied when it was politically convient to do so.

As far as religion goes it's odd that she'd become even more devoted to her religion, even going as far as wearing a hair shirt under her gowns, just because. Perhaps it was to atone for her sins, such as claiming to be a virgin when she wasn't. If she did lie there was nothing to be gained from admitting it and everything to be lost.

As far as what Anne thought I'm torn but given Anne's nature is probable she really did think Katherine was a liar.

March 18, 2010
9:46 am
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Sharon
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Of couse, there is no way of knowing for sure, but my gut tells me Katherine was not a virgin when she went to Henry's bed.  Arthur was a healthy young man when they were married.  It would have been expected of them to consummate their marriage.  They were 15 and 16 yrs old.  Old enough to bedded and to have children in that time period.

She claimed she was a virgin for diplomatic reasons.   And when it came to diplomacy, Katherine proved herself to be as manipulative as her Father and Father-in-law.

As for Anne's thoughts on this, it's probably a safe bet that she would have believed Katherine was lying.  Henry may have influenced that belief; but then again, Anne was very good at forming her own opinions and most assuredly would not have trusted Katherine's say so.

May 6, 2010
3:07 am
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allison
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Wasn't Katherine ill also at the time of the marriage?

I think I read that somewhere and think maybe it was not consumated.

VINCERE VEL MORI

May 6, 2010
7:52 am
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Lord White
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I read, in Antonia Fraser's book about The six Wives of Henry VIII, that Catherine was virgin when she married Henry VIII. But Arthur, Henry's brother, said that he and Catherine consumated on the first night. I think that Catherine was virgin and that Arthur lied but this is a mistery; only Catherine knew the thrut.

May 6, 2010
12:17 pm
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allison
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I read that too in the book, but reckon if they were both ill at the time from some flu or sweating sickness then maybe it wasn't and Arthur said that to stop people asking and thought he'd get back to it when he was better?

VINCERE VEL MORI

May 6, 2010
7:58 pm
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Impish_Impulse
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Katharine's beloved and only brother Juan was sickly like Arthur, and died shortly after his teen marriage: it was believed at the time that he had worn himself out trying to do his duty. I read a book (can't remember which one, but I believe it was fiction) in which Katharine confesses to her duenna after Arthur's death that she was still a virgin. That she had been worried about Arthur dying like Juan, and had confided in him the story of her brother dying. That she was willing to wait until he was stronger and also willing to let people think the marriage had been consummated to protect his pride. And that Arthur had been relieved and grateful, and it had brought them closer. But now that he was dead, there was no longer any reason to protect his pride and let Henry VII hang on tenterhooks and delay naming Henry heir while wondering if she was pregnant.

Even if it was fiction, enough of it seemed plausible to make me wonder. And the story of her brother is true, so maybe…

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          Ring the bell and run. He hates that."    

May 6, 2010
8:34 pm
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Sabrina
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It's a sticky subject. No one knows what happened after Katherine and Arthur were left alone. Remember, her mother educated her in everything but “womanly” subjects. Maybe something happened, maybe nothing happened. I would think Henry would know if she was a virgin or not that first night. (I'm sorry if that was crude, but it would be obvious). She held on to the fact that she was a virgin for Henry, and people believed her.

Let not my enemies sit as my jury

May 9, 2010
2:00 pm
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Nikki08
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I can’t figure out a reason that they wouldn’t have consummated the marriage in 6 months….I mean, they were around the same age…I don’t see where they complained about each other anywhere….and he didn’t get sick and die until April(6 months after the wedding)….so why wouldn’t they? Isn’t it their job to get to the business to creating an heir asap?

But I see what everyone else is saying…that she was so “good” that she wouldn’t lie about something like that…but as we know, women were chattel…maybe her father made her lie in order to keep the alliance…maybe Henry vii pressured her to lie in order to keep her dowry….

From the books I’ve read, it seems like the ladies in waiting and serving maids knew more about those queens and princesses bodies than they knew themselves….so I wonder if there was someone who testified(during the granting of the dispensation) that there was no evidence of consummation?

I know one thing, I would LOVE to know the reason the marriage was not consummated with Arthur in 6 months, and he was close to her age…but it was consummated with Henry viii and he was 5 yrs younger….(around 11yrs old)….

May 10, 2010
11:19 pm
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Impish_Impulse
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Nikki08 said:I would LOVE to know the reason the marriage was not consummated with Arthur in 6 months, and he was close to her age…but it was consummated with Henry viii and he was 5 yrs younger….(around 11 yrs old)….


I offered one explanation above – Arthur's final illness wasn't until six months into the marriage, but he was frail and sickly before that. Enough that people commented it was a shame that Henry was the second son, because he physically seemed the more 'kingly' of the two.

Also, Henry married Katharine when he was nearly 18 yrs old, not immediately after Arthur's death.

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               "Don't knock at death's door. 

          Ring the bell and run. He hates that."    

August 2, 2010
6:30 pm
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Noelle7
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The comments that Arthur supposedly said that where brought up during the divorce trial sound to me like a young man who is trying to save face. He would not have admitted that the marriage was not consumated for political and personal reasons. If he even said them at all.

When Arhur was alive, it was to her benefit to say the marriage had been consummated, but when he died, it was better to say the marriage had not been consummated. Personally, I like to think that she was a virgin because I so love the way she staunchly stood up for herself and Mary and it would be very heartbreaking if that was based on a lie.

August 15, 2010
4:33 pm
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Marquess_of_Pembroke
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I believe her when she said she was a virgin. Even if she did lie, I don't for one moment believe she'd leave this earth without confessing that sin. What a young girl may have felt forced into a lying about an adult, very religious Catherine would not have put her soul at risk for. That was one of her arguments against the divorce. I know some argue that if she confessed to the lie then that would change things for Mary, but I don't believe that even for Mary she'd condemn her soul to hell. Remember this is a woman who was cut off from her daughter because of her beliefs, I don't believe she'd separate herself from God for an eternity.

Also as soon as I heard Arthur's remarks they sounded like the boasting of a high school boy with something to prove rather then a husband. I don't know if you can make an argument out of that, it was just my impression/ gut feeling as a woman.

August 16, 2010
11:27 am
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ipaud
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I read somewhere that Henry VII had said that his son (Henry VIII) was not to marry his brothers widow. Ferdinand and Isabella were apparently none too pleased with their daughter being treated so badly in England after the death of Arthur and made it known quite strongly.  Young Henry was apparently infatuated with Katherine even though just 11 at the time of Arthur's wedding, he spent more time with Katherine than Arthur from her arrival in England to her wedding. Young Henry was the one who accompanied Katherine to her wedding and was said to be dazzled by the occasion. It was never envisaged that young Henry would ever become king and his education took a 180 degree turn on the death of Arthur his brother. He now needed to be moulded into a king, usually a lifetimes work and education. It is my feeling that young Henry knew what he wanted and Katherine who had been cast aside gladly took young Henry's offer. I also think that Henry was guided by his mother, Elisabeth of York and at that time he took her word as gospel. The alliance of England's Henry and Spain's Katherine ticked so many boxes, it just had to happen at that time. For Henry VIII it was perfect and what he wanted.

England needed stability and regardless of what Elisabeth of York's husband Henry VII thought before his death, a re-marriage to Spain would bring this much needed stability about and after all,  there were not too many available alliances of worth to the English throne at that time. The Tudor claim to the throne was dubious enough and the new King, Henry VIII needed every advantage if he were to succeed and not end up in more wasteful wars with England's Nobles and there were many who believed to have more claim on his throne than any Tudor.

so, I can't see Katherine's Virginity getting in the way of what needed to be done. If she needed to be a Virgin, then she was!

If it was not this, then it would be something else?

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