Katharine of Aragon: Life Story

Chapter 14 : Banished

Still reluctant to displease Henry, the Bulls were not published, but Clement had achieved the feat of angering both Henry and Katharine. Incensed by his failure to order Henry to treat her as his wife, she sent Clement a letter clearly laying out what she conceived to be his duty to her. She pleaded with him to cease delaying and to judge the case.

In her letter to Clement, Katharine reiterates her belief that Henry himself is not responsible for the aspersions cast on their marriage but blames it all on his advisers. It is hard to know whether Katharine was sincere in this belief. She would not be the first or the last wronged wife to blame anybody but her husband and perhaps she still believed that if their married life were to be resumed it would be better for her to think well of him. It is hard to doubt that Katharine’s view of Henry as lacking agency must have been deeply irritating to a King who believed himself supreme.

Perhaps Katharine’s beliefs were not entirely unrealistic, as in the summer of 1530, she and her husband still presided over the court together and treated each other politely and respectfully in public, and both spent time with their daughter, Mary. Katharine was also allowed to see Chapuys, who never ceased badgering Charles to do more for his aunt.

By January of the following year, however, Anne Boleyn was more prominent than ever – to the extent that the Pope wrote to Henry pointing out that his behaviour was scandalous. Anne was growing in confidence and, although she still referred to Katharine as Queen, said that she would rather see her hanged than acknowledge her as mistress.

The pressure began to tell on Katharine’s health and she was ill during the spring. A further blow was to fall in July 1531. The court was at Windsor and Henry rode out one day with Anne at his side. He did not return. As was customary between the couple, following a three-day’s absence, Katharine wrote to him. Henry ordered her to refrain from contacting him in future either by letter or messenger and Katharine was never to see her husband again.

Orders shortly came for Katharine to remove herself to a house known as The More, in Hertfordshire. It had been one of Wolsey’s houses and was therefore now in the King’s hands. Although Katharine protested loudly, she was still well served and provided for and no palace of Wolsey’s was likely to have been uncomfortable. Henry sent further delegations to try to persuade her to conform but it was useless – she was determined to fight for her rights and for Mary’s. She now began to suggest that, rather than being motivated by genuine scruples, it was his passion for Anne Boleyn that was driving him.

Meanwhile further delays in the case were unfolding in Rome. Clement’s strategy was counter-productive. An early confirmation of the validity of the marriage might well have been accepted by Henry or a firm judgement against Katharine at an early stage would have given her no option but to acquiesce. By dragging the case out, neither party was satisfied and Henry became determined to find his own way through the problem. The final rupture between Henry and Katharine came in January 1532 when as was her custom she sent him a New Year gift of a gold cup. The King having carefully examined the object, sent it back and ordered her desist from any further communications.

In Rome, Clement’s advisers had finally come to a conclusion. Although they declined to accept Katharine’s assertions as to her virginity as relevant, on the basis that this was something that could never be proven, the fact that Henry had married her of his own free will, regarded her as his wife and had children by her, rendered the marriage valid. These recommendations were not made as formal judgements.

Clement was still so reluctant to alienate Henry that, having discovered that he was living openly with Anne, rather than excommunicating him as some of Katharine’s partisans wished, he merely wrote to him urging him to refrain from such improper behaviour. Again Clement could please nobody. Henry was furious, Katharine contemptuous and Chapuys scornful. A side-effect of this letter was Katharine’s dispatch from The More to Ampthill in Bedfordshire, with a reduced household.

Katharine of Aragon

Katharine of Aragon

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