The Death of Catherine of Aragon

Posted By on January 7, 2011

On this day in history, 7th January 1536, at two o’clock in the afternoon, Catherine of Aragon died at Kimbolton Castle. She had been ill for a few months but felt worse after drinking a draught of Welsh beer in December 1535 and this, combined with the embalmer’s report that all of her organs were healthy apart from her heart, “which was quit black and hideous to look at”, gave rise to rumours that Catherine had been poisoned. However, the embalmer, who Giles Tremlett points out was a chandler (a candle maker) and not a medical expert, also found a black body attached to Catherine’s heart, and Tremlett concludes that “a secondary melanotic sarcoma was almost certainly to blame”, a secondary heart tumour caused by cancer in another part of the body.

Catherine of Aragon’s Last Days

On the 29th December 1535 Catherine’s doctor sent for Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial Ambassador and a friend of Catherine’s – Catherine had taken a turn for the worse. Chapuys sought permission from the King to visit Catherine and it was granted. Mary was not so lucky, Henry refused to let her see her mother in her last days, something which must have broken the hearts of both women. As Chapuys travelled to Kimbolton, Catherine received a surprise visitor, her former lady-in-waiting and confidante, María de Salinas, now Lady Willoughby, on New Year’s Day. Giles Tremlett writes of how María had rushed up from London on hearing the news of Catherine’s illness and that “she acted out an elaborate charade to force her way into the house, claiming the letter licensing her to enter was on its way” and pretending that she had been thrown from her horse and was in urgent need of shelter. She was allowed in.

The Catherine that María saw on that day must have been a far cry from the Catherine she had once known. Tremlett describes how Catherine “could barely sit up, yet alone stand”, that she had been unable to keep food down and that she was unable to sleep due to severe pains in her stomach. Chapuys arrived the next day and although the former queen was weak she was still lucid enough to know that she needed witnesses in the room when she first spoke to him so that she could not be accused of plotting against the King, later conversations, however, were in private. Chapuys visited Catherine every afternoon for two hours over four days and he reported that she was worried about her daughter, Mary, and her concern that the Pope and Emperor were not acting on her behalf. Catherine was also worried that she might be to blame for the “heresies” and “scandals” that England was now suffering from because of the battle over the divorce. She was haunted by the deaths that had resulted from Henry’s Great Matter and the fact that it had led to England breaking with Rome – were they down to her stubbornness, her refusal to go quietly? These were the questions preying on her mind during her last days.

Catherine’s health seemed to rally in the first few days of January, she ate some meals without being sick, she was sleeping well and was chatting and laughing with visitors, so Chapuys was dispatched back to London. However, on the night of the 6th January, Catherine became fidgety and in the early hours of the 7th she asked to take communion. It was unlawful for communion to be taken before daylight but Jorge de Athequa, Catherine’s confessor and the Bishop of Llandaff, could see that his mistress did not have long to live and so administered communion and listened to her confession. Tremlett points out that although he had promised Chapuys to get a deathbed vow from Catherine that she had not consummated her marriage to Prince Arthur, Llandaff forgot. Catherine settled her affairs, giving instructions on what she wanted done with her worldy goods and her burial – she wanted to be buried in a chapel of Observant Friars (Franciscans). It is also said that she wrote a letter to her former husband, Henry VIII, although Tremlett believes that the letter “is almost certainly fictitious”:-

“My most dear lord, king and husband,

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

Tremlett writes of how Catherine then prayed, asking God “to set Henry back on the right path and forgive him for wronging her” before asking her Father’s pardon for her own soul. She continued praying until the end, until her loving Father took her into Paradise. Catalina de Aragón, daughter of the great Catholic Reyes, Isabel I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, was dead. She had died not in some sumptuous palace surrounded by her loved ones, but in a small, dark, cold castle with her faithful staff in attendance. A sad end to a woman who had once been Queen of England and who had defeated the Scots as Regent.

Although, as Tremlett points out, Catherine “died, her mind still troubled by whether she had been good to a country which, in the end had been bad to her”, she was finally at peace, and I hope that her friends had been able to reassure her and ease her worries during those last days. I can’t see that Catherine could have acted any differently. She had married Henry VIII before God and despite the annulment and his subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn, Catherine believed that she was still his true wife and Mary his legitimate heir. She had to fight for what she believed, for the sake of her soul and for that of her husband. I’m sure that her conscience would have been even more troubled if she had agreed to the annulment and risked their souls.

Catherine and Peterborough Cathedral

On the 29th January 1536, Catherine of Aragon was laid to rest at Peterborough Abbey, now Peterborough Cathedral. She was, of course, buried as the Dowager Princess of Wales, not as Queen, but her grave is now marked with the words “Katharine Queen of England”.

Peterborough Cathedral commemorate Catherine’s death and burial each year with a special service and programme of events. This year the programme includes:-

  • Friday 28th January, 10.30am, Catherine of Aragon Commemoration Service – The annual service which commemorates the life of Henry VIII first wife, Catherine
  • Friday 28th January, 5pm, Candelit Procession and Vespers – “A candlelit procession of honour of Katharine through the Cathedral grounds and up to her tomb. The procession harks back to her funeral and the 1000 candles lit for Katharine by approximately 200 mourners in 1536.”
  • Saturday 29th January, 9am, Roman Catholic Mass by the grave of Catharine of Aragon – A Mass in Catherine’s memory
  • Saturday 29th January 10.00am to 3.00pm, Tudor Living History – “A chance to meet Catharine and Henry Vlll, Tudor dancing and music, Tudor crafts, archery, surgery and much more.”
  • Saturday 29th January at 7.30pm, The Sixteen in concert – “The Sixteen are recognized as one of the world’s greatest choral and period instrument ensembles. This unique concert which will only ever be performed this evening will feature music Catharine would have heard at court, and also a piece reputedly written especially for her by Henry VIII. “

You can find out more about this programme of events at The Katherine of Aragon Festival 2011 webpage.

Notes and Sources

70 thoughts on “The Death of Catherine of Aragon”

  1. Clarebear says:

    Thanks so much Claire for letting us know about the events being held at Peterborough Cathedral at the end of January to commemorate Catherine’s death and burial. I wouldnt have known about them otherwise. I only live an hours drive from Peterborough, so I will difinatly be going along to events and Commemoration Services on that weekend. I have wanted to visit the burial place of Catherine for a few months now, but this now gives me an even better reason to go along!!!

    1. Claire says:

      Hi Clarebear,
      If you do go to the service and events, please can you let us know what they were like? Thanks so much.
      x

  2. Nancy says:

    I’ve had the opportunity to visit Peterborough Cathedral
    and Catherine’s grave several times, the most recent time being
    September 21, 2010 during my most recent trip to England. When I
    was there, there was a portrait of Catherine hanging above her
    burial place, and a beautiful arrangement of flowers to the left of
    her grave. It’s nice to know that she’s still remembered and
    honored.

    1. Claire says:

      Hi Nancy,
      I’m so glad that Peterborough remember Catherine in this way, she was an amazing woman.

  3. Rose says:

    Whenever I read about Catherine of Aragon, and how kind and forgiving she seemed to be, I question weather I should be so interested in Anne Boleyn, who took away all the things and people Catherine loved… 🙁

    1. Claire says:

      Hi Rose,
      I do feel that Anne did not have much choice in being the other woman. She did refuse Henry and she even retreated to Hever so she did the best she could but who can say “no” to a King really? I think the blame for everything that happened can be laid at Henry’s feet. Mary thought that her ill treatment was Anne’s fault until it carried on after Anne’s death and actually got worse. Henry really couldn’t bear anyone crossing him or rebelling against him.

      1. Funnyhaha says:

        Claire, I have come to the same conclusion. Women in Tudor England has absolutely no say in the choices made for them by their family or by politics. While Anne was certainly ambitious, she loved another before she loved Henry (one could argue whether she did love Henry). I don’t believe that Anne was given a choice regarding her affair with Henry. I believe that her family placed her where they wanted her. Once she had Henry’s attentions, she kept them. This was a family that allowed their daughter Mary to have at least 1 child with Henry; they were very motivated to remain as significant figures in Henry’s life. Anne did what she was told and was clever enough to find ways to benefit herself in the process. That is how she survived as long as she did and I respect her practicality.

        I believe that Henry would have split with Rome even if Anne hadn’t become Henry’s love and wife. When he would have split with Rome is anyone’s guess. But the Protestant Revolution was already under way in Europe, and Henry was easily convinced that Catholicism was corrupt. He gained tremendous power and influence by splitting with Rome.

        May Queen Catherine be blessed. That woman was a force to be reckoned with, and I admire her tremendously. It is tremendously sad that Henry had it within himself to be so very cruel to a woman who spent her life loving him and bearing his children. Catherine was one of the best things Henry gave England; she suffered tremendously on England’s behalf. I am glad that she found spiritual comfort in her suffering. Had her faith not been as powerful as it was, I am not sure that she would have survived as long as she did.

      2. JudithRex says:

        Respectfully, one could say after believing
        Anne, his own wife, had been a traitor to him,
        Henry’s treatment of everyone, including his
        daughter, got worse. That doesn’t mean Anne was
        innocent of cruelty toward Mary as she admitted at the
        end of her life

        1. Claire says:

          I don’t think that anyone was saying that Anne was innocent of cruelty, she just wasn’t the one ultimately responsible for it as she was only Queen Consort, Henry VIII made the decisions regarding his daughter.

  4. David says:

    I can not even begin to fathom how lonely this lady was during the last years of her life. Having to deal with the total rejection and humiliation. I am already 15 years older than she was when she died, so I can only think that she felt very young. Maybe I will make a trip up to Peterborough while we are in England this spring. I can not believe they believed what a candle maker had to say about her death. I do believe the cancer train of thought however. Interesting Claire……..!!

    1. Claire says:

      Hi David,
      I feel so sad that a woman of her upbringing and a woman who did nothing wrong died in such circumstances and Henry was so cruel to keep Mary away from her mother. So very tragic.

  5. julieann says:

    Every time I read catherines last letter 2 henry I get goosebumps. The events at peterborough to commemorate her life and death are only fitting for not a. Dowager Princess of Wales but a true Queen of England, and i am glad her final resting place reflects that. Thank u Clare for some more great info!

    1. Claire says:

      Hi julieann,
      I get goosebumps too and I really hope that Catherine did write that letter, it is so moving.

  6. Denise says:

    Three words come to my mind when I think of Catherine of
    Aragon, to sum up her life: ‘That Poor Woman’.

  7. Kim Kloes says:

    I wonder what it would be like to feel that much passion
    for something that you would be willing to give your life for it?
    It would have been easier to go to a convent which may have been a
    choice at one point. I can’t imagine giving up my child for my
    beliefs. It speaks to the strong convictions Catherine had for her
    God and her church. If there is a hereafter, I hope she has found
    some peace in it.

    1. Claire says:

      Hi Kim,
      Some people criticise Catherine for not agreeing to going into a convent, saying that Mary’s life would have been easier if she had, but Catherine believed that she was Henry’s true wife, that their marriage was valid, and so she had to fight for her marriage for tha sake of her soul and for Henry’s, plus she wanted to fight for Mary’s claim to the throne.
      She was an amazing woman who stood up to Henry no matter what and she did feel that she and her daughter could be martyred for this, so she knew Henry well!

    2. Funnyhaha says:

      Catherine believed that she was damning her soul and her daughter’s soul to hell if she didn’t fight for the validity of her marriage. I think that it is impossible for us to understand how badly past generations feared for their immortal soul. Catherine was the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella. She was raised to believe that it was God’s desire and thus her destiny that she be Queen of England. Her’s was a holy calling and she was honor-bound to obey God’s command.

      Catherine suffered in life so that she and her daughter wouldn’t suffer for eternity.

  8. Eliza says:

    It is so sad that Catherine did not have the chance to see
    her daugther at least for one last time.Her life was full of ups
    and downs, from princess to being alone and almost poor in a
    foreign country, then Queen, then again alone. When I think of
    Catherine’s death, I always remember how relieved Anne must have
    felt, but, unfortunately she couldn’t even imagine that she herself
    would die in the same year. Personally I don’t feel that Anne took
    away Catherine’s life. I think she was a factor for Catherine
    unhappiness, yes, but for me Henry was the one responsible for her
    last difficult years.

    1. Claire says:

      I agree, Eliza, I think that Anne was very spiteful in what she said about Catherine and Mary, but that this was borne out of frustration rather than true malice. I think there is only one person to blame for what happened to Catherine and Mary – Henry.

  9. lisaannejane says:

    I think Henry’s treatment of Catherine was so typical of
    him. He could not stand anyone to go against his wishes in any way.
    Even when she was dying, his ego was more important. All his future
    wives suffered from this. Actually, no one was safe from
    Henry’

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, just look at Thomas More; he was a man who had known Henry as a very close friend and mentor for many years and yet Henry could just turn on him when he didn’t agree with Henry. Out of respect for Henry, More resigned and kept his feelings to himself, rather than openly defy him, but at the end of the day he just couldn’t agree with Henry and do what he wanted him to do and it cost him his life. Henry just could not tolerate those who crossed him or who he felt betrayed him. It’s as if he could turn his feelings on and off like a tap (faucet!) and his love and respect could turn to hate.

  10. Eliza M. L. says:

    Rest in peace, Queen Catherine. I hope you are safe and
    with your daughter.

    1. Claire says:

      RIP Catherine and Mary

  11. TudorRose says:

    Catherines heart just to add was also washed after removal
    according to sources that I have read and upon the washing the
    black did not wash off it was still there. Also Catherine wanted to
    be buried in an abbey and not a cathedral but the wish she had was
    not granted to her unfortunately so she was interred at
    Peterborough instead. It was stated that Catherine may have been
    poisoned by the drink that she had drunk, by the welsh drink in her
    cup that is but there is not enough substantial evidence to prove
    this theory. According to Chapuys in a letter to Charles V he
    stated that he thought that the poison had come from spain. Just to
    clarify King Charles and Chapuys were in correspondance a lot with
    eachother during that time it seems writing letter after letter. It
    seems to me that this was just hearsay as I myself highly doubt
    that she was ever poisoned. As the “Tudors were supersticious” you
    see. I think that she had some internal illness and that was the
    cause of her death nothing else. It seems that she had something
    wrong with her heart. I have heard that she died of cancer. As for
    the stomach pains and not being able to keep food down aswell as
    being sick these were probably all part and parcel of the disease
    itself, So in other words these were the symptoms of what she had
    that was wrong with her that she was going through. On the day of
    Catherines funeral both King Henry and Queen Anne wore yellow as a
    sign and mark of respect for Catherine as yellow had been the
    colour of mourning for the spanish apart from black of course. It
    is funny the colour yellow was seen as mourning for the spanish but
    for the english it was seen a sign of happiness but as funny as it
    may sound it is supposed to be a true fact.

    1. Claire says:

      I think there were bound to be rumours of poisoning anyway, whatever the embalmer found, but when he found that Catherine’s heart was black this of course substantiated people’s suspicions, even though we know today that a black heart does not mean death by poison. It was just another rumour to blacken Anne’s name and gossippy Chapuys would pass that on to Charles as he always passed gossip on.
      As I’ve said in the article, it is now thought that the growth on her heart was a secondary tumour, meaning that there was primary cancer somewhere else in the body and perhaps in her stomach or digestive system, seeing as she was suffering with stomach ache, but I wonder of she had something like ovarian cancer. Mary I’s second phantom pregnancy killed her and it seems that she had some kind of growth in her womb/ovaries so perhaps her mother died in the same way, I don’t know.
      The dressing in yellow bothers me. I have looked and looked and I can’t find any evidence of people in Spain wearing yellow for mourning or even monarchs wearing it for mourning. Carlyn Beccia of Raucous Royals pointed out that Juana la Loca ordered all her ladies to wear black when her husband died, Charles V wore black when Juana died and when Philip II died everyone wore black. I know someone on another forum said that yellow, as a liturgical colour, stands for “God’s light, happiness and purity” but that it could also symbolise “treachery, degradation, and heresy”. The same person pointed out that yellow was worn by victims of the Spanish Inquisition. In Spain executioners once wore yellow so perhaps it was linked to death. I think the idea that it was the colour of mourning comes from Hall who says that Anne wore “yellow for mourning”. I haven’t found anything to back up the idea of it being the Spanish colour of mourning at the time.
      There are also different accounts of who actually wore yellow, Edward Hall has Anne wearing yellow, whereas Chapuys writes of Henry wearing it. I know that Chapuys was not Spanish but he was the Imperial ambassador so surely he would not have been so outraged about yellow being worn if it was the Spanish colour fo mourning? I think he would have been touched that Henry respected Catherine by wearing her country’s colour of mourning. Hmmm…

      1. Claire says:

        I’ve just looked at what The Spanish Chronicle says about Catherine’s death and Henry’s reaction and it says “and as soon as the King heard of it he dressed himself in yellow, which in that country is a sign of rejoicing” – it says nothing about yellow being a mourning colour so I wonder if Hall and others were just being diplomatic in saying that it was.

        Tudorrose,
        You’re right in what you say about Catherine’s wishes not being carried out. She wanted to be buried in a Chapel of the Observant Franciscans (Observant Friars), her beloved order, but she was buried at Peterborough, which was an abbey then as it had not been dissolved.

        1. Funnyhaha says:

          Is there speculation that Anne and Henry didn’t wear yellow upon learning of Catherine’s death? I thought I read that there was debate about that, but I could be mistaken.

        2. Claire says:

          I think at least one of them wore yellow but which one is the question.

      2. Nasim says:

        I don’t think we can link the cause of Katherine’s death with Mary’s. The idea that Mary died because of a tumour – because of her phantom pregnancies – has been rejected by recent biographers. The symptoms of pregnancy Mary exhibited ended up vanishing; this included the swollen belly which, according to John Foxe, was supposedly the product of a tumour. Why she suffered from phantom pregnancies (if indeed this was what she suffered from), remains unknown, though it is interesting to see that contemporaries recorded her as being in very good health throughout each ‘pregnancy’. She appears to have become ill in the summer of 1557, possibly being affected by the influenza epidemic.

        David Loades gave an alternative theory on Katherine’s final illness. He believes she died of coronary thrombosis, having suffered from two or three heart attacks (so the several lapses in her health in her final months), resulting in a blood clot. Hence her heart appearing ‘blackened’ in the autopsy.

  12. Gena says:

    Henry is definitely the one responsible for Catherine’s
    woes. Anne’s behavior towards her & Mary would have been
    sanctioned by Henry. Henry didn’t like it when anyone crossed him
    and specially a woman who should have been subservient – that
    bought out the worst in him. Both Catherine & Anne were put
    in impossible positions by Henry and reacted in the only ways they
    could have with their own honor at stake.

      1. Claire says:

        sorry, meant “true”!!

  13. Marie says:

    To me Queen Katherine of Aragon was and always will be a
    warrior Queen. In my mind she was not a victim, but instead a woman
    who fought to the end. Even when she knew the price of refusing to
    accept Henry as Supreme Head of the Church, still she stood her
    ground. What a Queen. What a woman! And what a fool Henry was. Love
    reading your blog I learn so much. Thanks for your hard work.
    Blessings Marie

    1. Claire says:

      Thanks, Marie. Catherine was a very brave woman. She knew that she and her daughter could be martyred for standing up to Henry and for being true to their faith, but she still refused to submit to him. I think it was a case of her putting God before Henry and I’m sure she got her reward for doing so. Henry was a complete bully.

  14. Marie says:

    Thank you Claire:)
    I agree with you concerning Henry, he was indeed a bully and a brute! I really do believe if Mary had not given in when recognising her father as Head of the Church then he would have had her beheaded! The only thing that would have stopped him would be politics and not his own consience (or lack thereof). Why is it that so many authors exonerate Henry for his actions?

    I truly admire Queen Katherine and her indomitable spirit and will power, but I also admire aspects of Anne Boleyn. During her time as Queen there was much corruption in the Church(hence Luther gained ground) and it is my personal opinion that Anne was sincere in trying to reform the ‘new’ Church to reflect Christ’s teaching. Was she ambitious ofcourse, everyone was.

    It is such an intriguing part of history tha it nevert grows old…..

    BTW I read your review of Wolf Hall and did a YAY! I hated that book! Yet everyone applauds it but I suppose its a case of different courses for different horses lol.

    Blessings

    Marie

  15. Nima says:

    Katherine of Aragon ‘s life = big failure.
    England broke from Rome because of her stubborness
    She gave birth to one of the worst English monarch ever Mary I
    Both her and her daughter are” sad “women ,I just can’t admire them sorry if it sounds harsh
    But their obssessiveness brought nothing but death and sadness and to achieve nothing in the end. Their behaviour actually allowed the opposite of everything they fought for to happen.

    1. Claire says:

      Hi Nima,
      I think everyone is entitled to their point of view but I do think you’ve been rather harsh on Catherine. I think you have to consider the times they were living in and their religion to understand their actions. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that it may have been better for Mary for her mother to agree to go to a convent but we need to understand that Catherine believed that she was Henry’s true wife and that the annulment was not legal. She therefore had to fight for the marriage to protect her soul and Henry’s. She could not agree to the annulment or to Henry’s marriage to Anne, which made him a bigamist in Catherine’s eyes and in the eyes of God, or so Catherine believed. She was not stubborn, she was fighting for her faith, her marriage and her daughter’s claim to the throne.
      Mary was definitely a damaged woman but, again, we have to judge her actions by looking at the context. Mary believed that Protestants were heretics and that it was her job as God’s appointed ruler to stamp out heresy. She believed that she was doing God’s work and stamping out heresy which came from the Devil. I am not justifying what she did, just trying to put it in the context of the time she lived in. Thomas More encouraged the persecution of Protestants for the same reason.

      1. Kathryn says:

        Agreed. And Thomas More himself had several reformers burned at the stake. As much as I admire him, he did the very same thing to others that ended up happening to him. 🙂

        1. Banditqueen says:

          Several? Actually five.

  16. TudorRose says:

    I myself have not heard about anyone from Spain wearing
    yellow to mourn the death of anyone but I did hear or see this
    somewhere I know it for a fact. According to what I read and
    remember, Henry and Anne both wore this colour. Henry was supposed
    of worn the colour yellow to mourn the death of his first wife
    Catherine of Aragon, white to mourn the death of his second wife
    Anne Boleyn and the colour black to mourn the death of his third
    wife Jane Seymour as for Catherine Howard it is not known what
    colour he wore or if it was known and recorded it has not survived.
    I sure would like to know what colour he wore for Catherine
    Howard!. I mean afterall there were only three mouring colours for
    the royalty to wear was there not as for the poor people of the
    period it would have only been one colour which was black as for
    the royalty it was black, white and purple. As for Anne of cleves
    and his last wife Catherine Parr they both outlived him so it would
    not matter, So it would not be important to know. To pick you up on
    a point claire about the colour of what was during mourning at the
    time catherine of Aragon died, like I said I thought that the king
    and the queen both wore the same colour which was yellow but if
    that was not the case then I would think that Henry wore black and
    Anne wore yellow like as was done in the BBC’s portrayal of the
    Tudors. My reason for this is not just for the fact that, that is
    how it was on screen but it would make sense if you think about it
    would it not. It does to me. As black was the main mourning colour
    for the spanish and this would make on Henry’s part as he would be
    mourning for his dead Annuled/divorced wife out of respect but as
    for Anne as she had not been anything to Catherine apart from just
    a lady-in-waiting to her, maid of honour so to speak and as there
    would of been some of sought of friction between them especially
    during the divorce proceeding and when it was known thus that the
    Kings interest was now on Anne and not her it would make perfect
    sense for Anne to have worn the colour yellow as this was a sign of
    happiness for the english like I said in an earlier post. So she as
    a result would of been happy that Catherine was dead and to her
    “The most happiest woman alive”

    1. Claire says:

      Hi Tudorrose,
      I just can’t find any evidence to back up the theory that yellow was a colour of mourning in Spain so perhaps Hall was just giving Anne the benefit of the doubt or trying to be diplomatic in his description of events. Henry was certainly happy that Catherine had died.
      As I said, different accounts say different things about who wore yellow, e.g. The Spanish Chronicle reports Henry dressing in yellow and Hall says “Anne wore yellow for the mourning”. so who knows who wore what. David Starkey says that it is “recusant tradition” that has Anne wearing the yellow and Henry weeping over Catherine’s letter.
      I think both Anne and Henry were initially relieved and happy about Catherine’s death but that it also made Anne worry about her future and health. She seemed to fear that she might die in childbirth, little was she to know that she would be executed just a few months later!

  17. lisaannejane says:

    Nima, I just can’t think of Catherine’s life as a total
    failure, She was a woman who lived in a world that told women what
    to do. But she did have the affection of the English people and the
    victory at Flodden Fields showed that she could be a leader. No one
    could have predicted how events would turn out but she showed real
    courage in facing Henry at court. She clearly did not get what she
    wanted in the end and many would disagree with her choices but she
    did what she thought was best, Mary did prove that a woman could
    rule and helped pave the way for Elizabeth. I would suggest that
    you read Linda Porter’s book about Mary to have a better
    understanding of both mother and daughter.

    1. Banditqueen says:

      Hi, yes, Linda Porter is excellent. I have always tried to have a balanced view of Mary, based on evidence. Anna Whitelock has also written a fine, intimate portrait of Mary as Queen, Princess and a woman. I highly recommend both authors.

  18. Kelly says:

    Next to Anne, i love the story of Catherine of Aragon, she to me, is a symbol of girl power. In a time when a woman was suposed to listen to her husband, she stood up for her own right. If i were in her shoes (lucky i am not) i would not give in, and i think that was a hard struggle for her and to anyone who stood up against Henry. This woman deserves respect for standing up for her own beliefs. And i also love the idea that people still talk about her and that she still is honoured every year. These were difficult times. She was and i have the idea sill is loved by the people. Rest in peace queen Catherina!

  19. Carolyn says:

    Nima, I blame Henry for how Mary turned out. His rejection
    of her mother and the old religion just reinforced in her mind how
    important they were. I think his cruelty to her and her mother made
    her a bit damaged in her spirit. If she was the worst English
    monarch ever, it wasn’t Katharine’s fault, but Henry’s, as well as
    Mary’s herself.

    1. Vicky says:

      Mary was never raised to be Queen of England that is to rule like Henry to be a lone monarch she was after all a woman. Thankfully, when she married Phillip she put in the marriage contract that he would not make choices for England Im not sure how that worked out for surely he influenced her decisions. When Phillip left England Mary was left to rule alone in fact most of her marriage was alone. I know her marriage was unpopular with the English. I blame both parents for how Mary turned out Henry for his cruelty and Cathreine for her stubborness.

  20. Nima says:

    Well compare her to her sister Elizabeth whose childhood was just as tragic. She managed to rise beyond it an became a great ruler.
    Mary burning Cranmer , declaring her parents her marriage good and valid as soon as she gained the throne etc….shows much of her character.
    The only good thing she did was to not sign her sister’s death warrant.

  21. Anna Hedlin says:

    Hello Claire,

    I’m writing a novel (in swedish) about Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour and Tudor courtlife in general. Your site is great help, informative and well written!

    Do you know where I can get information about embalming in Tudor times and the connection with candle making? Antonia Fraser also mentions that Jane Seymour was embalmed by a candle maker.

    Anna

    1. Claire says:

      Hi Anna,
      It sounds like embalming bodies was a job given to a candlemaker (chandler) but I haven’t been able to find out anything about it. I’ve checked in Alison Sim’s “The Tudor Housewife” and there doesn’t seem to be anything in that. When I looked in her books “Pleasures and Pastimes in Tudor England”, which has a section on funerals, it just says that in wealthy households bodies were “often embalmed or sealed in a lead coffin”. She cites Cressy, “Birth, Marriage and Death”, p366-7.

  22. Kara says:

    Sorry this is a little late but I do like to. Pay my respects to the late Queen, may she still be resting in peace. This lady was a very strong and devoted lady and deserves all the respect. I love Anne too and have never had anything bad to say about this noble Queen.
    Of all Henry’s wives she was the longest and she was very loved, my heart goes out to her and respect her strong will to stay Henry’s true wife until her tragic end.

  23. catharine says:

    Nima Elizabeth also had the opportunity to learn from Mary’s mistakes.

  24. Toia Townes says:

    I will never believe that COA did not write or at least dictate that last letter to Henry VIII. It sounds so very much like everything we know of her character and her personality.

    And it is similar to the speech she gave at the Blackfriars trial when she went down on her knees in front of him. I have no idea why Tremlett would say she didn’t write the letter…I have never read one historian cast any doubt on it’s validity. I have recently ordered the Tremlett book and I pray I don’t regret it…I admire COA and I am simply not in the mood for a hatchet job on this unfortunate, but courageous woman.

    My favorite biographer of COA by far is Antonia Fraser…she writes with great compassion and understanding for all six of Henry’s queens and while she certainly does not disparage Anne Boleyn she does not conceal her particular admiration for Catherine.

    1. Claire says:

      It’s not a hatchet job at all, I would say that it is a celebration of her life. Tremlett lives in Spain, I think, and has used a lot of Spanish sources.

  25. Antonio says:

    CATALINA DE ARAGON, A BRAVE WOMAN OF HER TIME, BEAUTIFUL, FAITHFUL, RESPONSABLE, BETTER EDUCATED THAN HENRY VIII, AND A WOMAN THAT ALWAYS LOVED HER HUSBAND AND HER NEW COUNTRY, AND SO BADLY TREATED BY THE BIGGEST TYRANT AND BRUTE KING ON EARTH. I AM SPANISH AND I AM DEEPLY TOUCHED FOR THE GREAT ADMIRATION, SIMPATHY AND RESPECT THAT MANY OF YOU HAVE FOR THIS POOR WOMAN.
    UNABLE TO SEE HER DAUGHTER MARY IN HER LAST DAYS.
    REST IN PEACE CATHARINE OF ARAGON QUEEN OF ENGLAND
    CATALINA DE ARAGON INFANTA DE ESPAÑA

    1. Leslie says:

      Not to mention with a better claim to the throne of England than Henry had, via her descent from one of John of Gaunt’s legitimate daughters, as opposed to one of his “legitimated” Beaufort children.

  26. Antonio says:

    A PURE WOMAN OF CASTILIAN STOCK, FAIR AND BLUE EYED, ALWAYS WRONGLY PORTRAYED AS AN OLIVE SKIN AND BLACK HAIR BLACK
    EYED LADY. SHE WAS LIKE HER MOTHER ISABEL (NOT ISABELLA) AND A
    BIT LIKE HER SISTER JOANA MARRIED TO PHILLIP THE HANDSOME. I HAVE
    SIMPATHY FOR ALL OF HENRY VIII WIVES, BUT SPECIALLY FOR MY COUNTRY
    WOMAN CATHERINE. THEY WERE ALL VICTIMS OF THAT KING MURDERER.
    WE WILL VISIT THE TOMB AT PETERBOUGH CATHEDRAL.
    GOD BLESS KATHERINE OF ARAGON QUEEN OF ENGLAND

  27. john brown says:

    Katherine of aragon Queen of Enlgand was a very good Qeen and she the the people of enlgand how can someome be so mean to a very good Queen she was full of love and she love her husband with all of her heart and she love Enlgand so much i cry so much over Katherine my heart go’s out for Katherine that is one Queen i well love with all od my heart and god bless her

  28. pete says:

    Having just visited 1 of Our Great Cathedrals in England “Peterborough” Cathedral…l was So Overjoyed to discover the grave of 1 Humble Queen” Katherine of Aragon there…I just could not leave that Resting place of Hers…l felt A Peace and A Great “Sense of Being”…May this Noble Queen Rest In True Peace…..

  29. Vicky says:

    Catherine was indeed a wonderful Queen of England married to a brute of a man but he was still King she should have reconized that he was not going to accept Mary as his heir after what his father went through for a male heir. Henry vll had 2 male heirs but that was not enough especially when Author died. I wonder what would have happened if Catherine had taken the veil I remember reading some where that her vows would have ended but when at the time she took the vows? If that is the case then would Mary have been a bastard or not depending on when the vows ended. If Anne had a son it wouldnt have mattered a male would have taken the throne before a female anyway. I just wonder if taking the vows was an honurable way out for Catherine.

  30. Elizabeth says:

    I read the story of Queen Catherine death, it was very sad to know that she suffer so much for the king’s love and not being able to see Mary. I personally believe that she was poisoned. There were a few people who would gladly want her put of the way. The Queen was outspoken and brave, like her mother Queen Isabella. She was a fighter like her mother.

  31. Banditqueen says:

    Catherine of Aragon was the perfect Queen and I wish her peace in Heaven. Her life with Henry was happy for many years, but tragically they were torn apart by the need by Henry for a male heir. Katherine and Henry were well matched which contributed to their entrenched positions. Both Katherine and Henry were deeply committed to their faith, which also unfortunately contributed to their entrenched positions. Katherine believed that God called her to be Queen and her daughter was ordained as Henry’s legal heir to be Queen. She saw herself as his legal wife and fought for her rights and that of her daughter. Yes, life would have been easier had she volunteered to enter a,religious house, but she believed her cause was just, so did Henry. Henry believed his case was valid and he and Katherine were not married. His affair and intention to marry Anne Boleyn did not help. Once it was clear he wanted to marry Anne, he was not going to get an annulment. He could not get a divorce as he wanted to remarry. Add to this mix the fact that Katherine’s nephew owned half of Europe and controlled the Pope it was impossible for Henry to win his case. Henry, of course saw the entire situation differently, he became hardened in his attitude and the way he treated people and bullied Katherine in order to try to get her to conform. Her health suffered and although cancer possibly killed Katherine, her living conditions, being moved about and hounded, the stress and guilt she felt, being separated from a man who had broken her heart but she still loved and her daughter, who she loved, her only living child; all of this played a part in her death.

    Katherine of Aragon was a worthy Queen, not a failure as one person said, despite the disappointment of how her life turned out. She was a strong and resilient woman with standards, high moral standards that our godless society has no comprehension about, which means that it has no right to judge her beliefs. Henry went on to marry a second stubborn woman, another strong woman with deep religious beliefs and firm ideas, whom he could not cope with…Anne Boleyn. Her fate was even more tragic and terrible, for Henry tired of her none conforming mind and saw a second tragic history of female child followed by still births or miscarried children. Her life, sadly was to end in being innocently set up on false treason charges and executed three years after her coronation. Henry was much changed by years of bitter quarrels with Rome and arguments with Katherine over the annulment, years of frustration, the execution of friends as they would not accept his new role as head of the English Church, plus his accidents had changed his personality. He could no longer brook criticism or opposition.

    I believe that Katherine loved Henry to the end and had they had a male heir he would never have left her. It was a badly dealt hand that led to the decisions that killed their marriage and the fact that they were too alike that turned love into bitterness. Henry became more of a bully, but he also appears to have regretted the way their marriage ended. Traditional stories claim that he wept at her last letter. I don’t know if that is true because I was not there, but he did complain to Anne that Katherine never spoke to him the way she did. I also believe Henry measured his other wives by her. They were married for over 24 years. Even before his active pursuit of an annulment they had been married almost eighteen years. The majority of those eighteen years were happy and devoted. Henry Viii was not the womanizer of legend, the evidence does not support this, nor did he have any evidence of sexually transmitted diseases. He had a few temporary mistresses while his wives were pregnant. Two of his mistresses he married. This was not unusual and by the standards of his day, Henry was actually a sexual prude. Katherine had no reason not to want to fight for her husband. She didn’t believe he would go as far as he did until he abandoned her and that was only in late 1531. She still hoped for a decision from Rome and it is a pity one did not come sooner. When it did in 1533 it was in her favour, but it was too late, Henry had already arranged his own annulment via Cranmer and a commission, married Anne and gotten her pregnant. In Katherine’s eyes Henry was lost in his mind and soul, he was committing bigamy. Perhaps she should have accepted defeat and retired with a suitable income and half a dozen palaces, but she was as stubborn as the man she had married. In the end this and her health killed her. But in the end su also won, for the world now honours her as a true Queen.

    Rest in peace dear Queen Katherine and may perpetual light shine on you, Queen on Earth, Queen in Heaven. I raise a glass to you.

    1. Helen says:

      I agree with your description except for the perfection part. Nobody oa perfect

  32. John says:

    Clair, (Jan,8, 2011),

    I’m 6 years late but I refer to your comment about Henry and/or Anne mourning in yellow.

    When Jane Seymore died, Henry mourned in black for three months.

  33. Jackie says:

    I felt sorry for the way Anne Boleyn was falsely charged and killed. Nobody deserves that. But she was incredibly cruel to Catherine of Aragon and Mary. Her arrogance was mentioned by many contemporaries and I found her totally unlikable. I hope as she sat in the tower at the end, that she reflected on the misery she brought to Catherine.

    1. Helen says:

      Jackie, there is plenty of evidence Anne was remorseful.

  34. Shelley Lenhart says:

    Hail to Queen Catalina of England…may she rest in peace. God bless her and may her soul be now in heaven..far away from any stress or loss or pain.

  35. Banditqueen says:

    Rest in peace, Queen Katherine of Aragon, true Queen of Henry Viii and may you rest with wings of angels in heaven.

    It is very touching that she still wanted to see nobody else but Henry at the end. Poor Katherine, loving a man who banished and mentally abused her for four years. I believe she died of cancer but it is possible that something in the beer brought about her final illness. If the water in the beer wasn’t processed and boiled up properly or something else was wrong with it, the equivalent of food poisoning is possible. With threats circulating from the new Queen’s inner circle and fears about her health from numerous quarters it’s not surprising that Chapuys believed Katherine had been poisoned. It may seem odd a candle maker doing the embalming but they used such people apparently as they knew the art of preservation. Medical professionals didn’t know how to embalm a corpse. What is odd is not having someone say anything as to the course of death. Chapuys was very upset afterwards and his letters home reflect his anger and suspicion. He became very protective of her daughter Mary, who was cruelly kept from her mother in her last days.

  36. Nell says:

    The thing that has always puzzled me about the Catherine of Aragon story is – how Henry wielded such power that he was able to hoodwink so many people into believing that he had a genuine case for wanting to end his marriage to her in order to marry Anne Boleyn.

    His ultimate claim:- that she was not his wife because she had been previously married to his late brother is, I think, drawn from a biblical passage: Leviticus 20 v 21 in the Old Testament which, depending on the translation, says something like:

    “If a man marries his brother’s wife they will die childless. He has done a ritually unclean thing and has disgraced his brother”

    Note it says “his brother’s WIFE” not “his brother’s WIDOW” which could put a rather different slant on things.

    From what I know of Jewish practice at the time, if a man died, particularly if he left children behind, an unmarried brother would have been encouraged to take the widow as his wife to keep it in the family, so to speak.

    So I find it very puzzling how a situation arose where Henry thought he would get away with convincing the Pope and the entire Vatican that he had a case. And that the various factions involved took such a long time to decide, (9 years, I believe), that he actually DID NOT have a case to annul his marriage to Catherine.

    Which, as we all know, resulted ultimately in the Reformation.

    I would be interested to hear any comments on this as I have always found this puzzling

  37. Ellen Behrens says:

    May I make an alteration to what I have written above.

    I wrote “From what I know of Jewish practice at the time”. I now realise that I should have said “From what I know of Jewish practice at the time that Leviticus passage (20:21) was written, if a made died”…etc etc. Otherwise it might look a bit ambiguous, because that Leviticus passage came from around 1440 – 1400 BC and it might look as though I was referring to Jewish practice in Europe in the 16th Century AD.

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