Start as you mean to go on, Henry!

King Henry VIII has gone down in history as the king who had six wives and who executed two of them, as well as having three of his marriages annulled. He had quite the marital history!

But did you know that Henry was just thirteen when he broke one of his wives’ hearts for the first time, and he broke up with her on the eve of their scheduled wedding. Bad form, Henry, bad form!

Yes, on this day in Tudor history, 27th June 1505, Henry, Prince of Wales, the only surviving son of King Henry VII, broke up with nineteen-year-old Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. The couple had been betrothed for two years by this point, but Henry renounced this betrothal.

You can find out more about this, why Henry did this to his fiancée, and how they ended up getting married in 1509, by watching my video:

If you prefer audio to video, then you can listen to my podcast at

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12 thoughts on “Start as you mean to go on, Henry!”
  1. Your videos are always interesting, Claire! Thank you for doing them. I have one question: above, you mentioned that Henry had three of his marriages annulled. But weren’t there four annulments? CofA, Anne Boleyn, Anne of Cleves, and Katherine Howard? Could you please explain?

    1. The Howard marriage was never annulled. KH never admitted to a pre-contract with Dereham which would have been an acceptable cause for annulment.

      Why Cramner never found another reason for one, i do not know. I suspect that H8 just wanted the whole thing swept away and finished.

      The Act of Attainder against KH was never signed neither, allowing Mary to reverse it along with many other warrants issued by Henry and his council during her reign.

  2. I think Prince Henry was told what to do by his father, Henry Vii, because the financial situation was such that Henry didn’t have the whole of the dowry promised and Henry Tudor had not paid what he promised either. The death of Katherine’s mother, as Claire said, changed things politically so of course the King wanted a better marriage to the sister of the future Emperor for his heir, but Henry wanted to marry Katherine, had always wanted to marry Katherine and when he was free to do so, it didn’t take him long to put things right. We have to remember that Henry Vii was in charge and kept his son under his thumb: the Prince had to obey his father. Once he was King he was free to do as he pleased and he chose Katherine.

  3. Prince Henry was obviously doing what his father ordered but poor Katherine, losing a husband so soon after the wedding and then facing a future of uncertainty, then oh joy his charismatic younger brother was betrothed to her, then tragedy strikes her beloved mother died and made her daughter less of a catch on the marriage market! So what with grieving for her mother she then had to face the awful news that Prince Henry was not going to marry her after all, but another lady, feelings did not come into it and so poor Katherine was thus wandering in the wilderness again, a poor young widow her future look bleak and uncertain again, I would like to think that Henry already enamoured of Katherine told her that he was acting on his fathers orders, told her not to disclose the information and be patient, when he was King they could get married, young lovers are headstrong and can be indiscreet and I believe he could have said a similar thing to her, it does sound awful but this young prince probably could not wait for his father to die, his mother’s death affected him a lot and he was to say much later it was the worse day of his life, we cannot imagine what sort of father Henry V11 was, but he could well have been remote and distant, he had his kingdom to worry about and so he could not have been very close to his children, bearing in mind from a young age royal children had their own households and they grew up seeing more of their nannies and governess than their parents, who they would have only seen on the odd visit and when they were summoned to court, and the young Henry was so different in looks and character from his cold fish of a father that all the people loved him and were enchanted by him, what a king he will make must have been the whispers that ran around the court and the city to, Henry V111 took after the Plantagenets in looks and although by name he was a Tudor, he was amazingly like his grandfather, the promiscuous pleasure loving Edward 1V, and there must have been some at court and amongst the common people who remembered that king, who was known for his great physical beauty, standing at over six foot and causing such a stir among the ladies, be their the noblest in the kingdom or merely the fishwife in the market, there were many who looked forward to the day when Henry V11 were to leave this realm and give his country into his sons hands, for both him and the grieving Katherine of Aragon when that day came they must have both felt like they were released from prison, Henry because he had been closely guarded since his brothers death, his father fearing he may lose him to, and he felt hemmed down in that stifling existence, for Katherine she could now look forward to a happy future.

    1. Poor Katherine was also left almost in dire straits, with not enough money for food and to pay her servants. She was recycling her dresses, mending and stitching them, she wrote to her father begging for money for everything and she was so upset and desperate that she even considered suicide. Henry was wealthy. He had plenty of money to provide for her and a grand household, but he chose to provide her with very little. Now it was probably an exaggeration that she had no money for food, although her letter to her father also states that they are selling things to make money. Even if he was involved in a dispute over money owed for Katherine and her hand, Henry Vii neglected a foreign Royal Princess and insulted her. She may not be as valuable to him as a bride, but he was holding onto her, just the same, plus she was still a Spanish Princess and his daughter by law and deserved better.

      What a contrast when a few years later the tall, handsome, vigorous and energetic and athletic King Henry Viii came to Katherine and told her she was finally to be his Queen in 1509! She was joyful, full of hope and she was just as enthusiastic about marriage to Henry as the seventeen year old King, once he had his own authority. Henry made certain everything outstanding on the treaty was concluded very quickly and in June 1509 the couple were married and then had a jubilant and triumphant wonderful joint coronation on Midsummer 1509. Katherine must have been very excited and Henry could hardly contain himself. They must have felt that the future was bright. They must have had real hope in their hearts. Henry was let loose with the massive fortune that his father left him and his early reign was one big party. He loved to surprise and dress up for his Katherine and her husband and her knight in shining armour.

  4. This is the period in her life when her erratic eating habits were said to have developed, psychologists have questioned her unhappy and miserable state of mind which in many people, (and women more than men seem to be more vulnerable) have led to the onset of bulimia or anorexia nervosa, Katherine’s eating was a real cause of concern for those around her, and especially the Spanish ambassador who relayed his fears in a letter to the pope, he feared that she may not be able to have children so infrequently did she did, Katherine could have suffered from anorexia, brought on by feelings of low self worth, she had lost her young husband and then her mother, suddenly she must have felt extremely vulnerable her father was not there for support, she was in a strange land and at the mercy of her dour faced mean old father in law, Henry V11 did have a bad reputation for parsimony which he
    passed down to his granddaughter Elizabeth 1st, and the wrangling over Katherine’s dowry could not have helped, it is true that she was being treated very shabbily, for a princess to have to endure such money worries must have been unbearable for her, more than ever her hopes pinned on her young handsome brother in law, her looks not used to the damp blustery winds of England must have wilted somewhat and she lost weight, she had her beloved Spanish companions with her including the protective Don Elvira who seems like a mother hen guarding her chick, they would have given her some comfort and there was one who would be her lifelong companion, Maria De Salinas who years later would ride miles to be with her on her lonely deathbed, such bright hopes for the future she was schooled to be Queen of England and now she was reduced to poverty, not knowing wether she was to stay or be sent back, she wrote to her father but it did no good for her plight, the wrangling over her dowry went on and we can see how her health was affected, we can feel for this poor young woman who must have felt that she was stuck between the devil and the sea, Henry’s marriage proposal was the shining beacon she longed for, maybe she felt that God had intended she be Henry’s bride all along and not Arthur’s, the pale image of her dead husbands face must have faded into a rather sad poignant memory as she now prepared for her wedding celebrations to England’s new king, they were both young and healthy and god be willing she would soon have a prince, how lucky mortal man are that we cannot see in the future, blessed indeed are the ignorant.

  5. Hi Claire. Did you post a video for the 28th? Your podcast is available but when you click the YouTube link the message ‘video not available’ appears. If you go to the Anne Boleyn Files channel it’s not there either.

    1. Yes, but it went live a bit later than usual as Tim forgot to change the default schedule time in the YouTube dashboard – sorry about that!

      1. Nothing to apologise for. I was just afraid something had gone wrong at my end. Thank you Claire.

    1. Shirley it was proof of his virility proof that the barren state of his marriage was in no way down to him, Catherine could not give him a son, yet his mistress could, so overwhelmed with excitement and joy he publicly acknowledged his bonny baby, he had been in love with the child’s mother Elizabeth Blunt and they had had an affair for several years, so proud of him he conferred on him when he was older the royal titles of Richmond and Somerset, titles only his father had owned, this angered his wife Katherine who must have feared her own child was being pushed aside.

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