CATHERINE OF ARAGON: THE INFANTA QUEEN

 

Spain entered England through one queen, Catherine of Aragon. The daughter of Isabella of Spain, sister of Juana of Castile, she was raised to be queen of England. Docile, religious, sweet tempered, Catherine would defer to her husband in all things. All things but one: The woman raised to be queen would die in a battle to maintain her title. Alone and separated from her daughter Catherine would die as queen of nothing, replaced by another woman and scorned by her husband. She, like many of the women in her family, would be destroyed by the wills of a man.

THE SPANISH INFANTA

 

Catherine of Aragon was the last child of Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain. Her mother spent most of her pregnancy on a battlefield, waging war against the blasphemous moors.  Isabella finally gave up her war in September for the birth and Catherine was born Catalina of Spain in December of 1485. Catalina was destined for great things her parents decided and at three years old she was betrothed to Arthur of Wales, future King of England. It was decided then that Catalina would be the future queen of England and she grew up with this in mind.

 

THE DOWAGER PRINCESS

 

Catherine left her home in Spain at sixteen, in 1501, to make the perilous crossing to England toward her new life and role.  The journey was treacherous and took three months to make. When Catherine arrived she had very little time to freshen up; King Henry and his son journeyed to where she was staying and demanded to see the Infanta. For the Spanish this was a large insult and it was the beginning to what would become a rocky relationship between the two countries.

Catherine and Arthur were married on November 14, 1501. It was decided the couple would not consummate the marriage right away, seeing how both were very young. The couple moved to Ludlow Castle to take up their positions as Prince and Princess of Wales. They were barely married six months before both became sick with the sweating sickness. Catherine survived. Arthur was not so lucky. The young prince died, leaving Catherine a widow and her fate undecided.

A NINE YEAR FIGHT

 

With the death of the prince King Henry had two options, send Catherine and her dowry back to Spain, an option he was not willing to consider, or find a new match for her. Henry had a younger son, Henry, so after 14 months he made another match. Catherine would be married to Henry. The betrothal was set and Catherine reassumed her position as future Queen of England. The match was not that simple though.

 

Catherine waited maybe a year before her father- in-law began to let it be known he was not so keen upon a Spanish alliance. After all, he already had Catherine’s dowry in England and his son was eligible to marry any woman, and bring in more foreign money. Henry VII was nothing if not a greedy man and he desired more money for his growing treasury. Catherine spent nine years waiting for her husband. It was not until Henry VII died that Catherine was finally married to Henry VIII and made queen of England. She had fulfilled her destiny  it seemed, but her fight would never been over.

 

A MALE HEIR, OR LACK THERE OF

 

Right after marriage Catherine became pregnant, a fact that roused Henry’s joy. In 1510 Catherine gave birth prematurely to a stillborn daughter. The joy was short lived. Catherine became pregnant again and this time gave birth to a living male heir. Henry. The castle was alight in the future promise of another king, but again Catherine would disappoint. The baby died after 52 days, leaving Catherine drowning in sorrow. After that Catherine would have pregnancy after pregnancy, followed by disappointment after disappointment. Catherine gave birth to one living child, a daughter, Mary I, who would go on to be a terror long after her mother was gone.

 

AN AMBITIOUS MISTRESS

 

Henry grew out of love with his wife, no surprise. The king was younger than his wife and rather lustful. A string of unsuccessful pregnancies had left Catherine heavy and tired, older looking. The king turned his attention towards other women, always returning to his wife afterwards. Catherine endured the string of mistresses; after all she was still queen. One woman would change this. Anne Boleyn came into the picture in 1526, catching the king’s eye and refusing to give in to him. This was a new game Catherine had never seen before and though she held onto hope that the King would grow tired, as he normally did, she was in for a rude awakening call.

 

A ROYAL DIVORCE

 

In 1526 Henry began to separate from Catherine.  He made inquiries to the Pope about an annulment, claiming that taking his brother’s wife had been a sin. Catherine did not know at first, and when she discovered she was beyond upset. An annulment would mean she was no longer Queen of England, further it would mean her daughter was illegitimate and would have no right to the throne. For the first time in her life Catherine would defy her husband. Instead of disappearing to a convent quietly, as Henry had hoped, Catherine put up a fight. Though at a disadvantage, Catherine wrote to the Pope and to her Nephew, the Holy Roman Emperor, pleading her case.

The fight continued for six years, with Catherine adamant in her claim that she and Arthur had never consummated their marriage. In 1533 however Anne became pregnant, and Henry was forced to make a decision. He proclaimed himself head of the Church of England and granted his own annulment. Catherine refused to acknowledge the change, but it did not matter, paper said they were divorced.

To hurt Catherine more, Henry made her leave court and took away their only child. She was forced to live in seclusion for three years at Kimbolton Castle until her death on January 7, 1536. She was not even allowed to say goodbye to her daughter.

 

Catherine was born on a battlefield in a war and died fighting her own war. In the end she was granted one wish, her daughter would become queen one day, but she would shame her mother with the acts of horror she would commit while on the throne.

 

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