Katharine of Aragon: Life Story

Chapter 5 : Queen of England

On 21st April 1509, Henry VII died. Katharine, together with her sister-in-law Mary, called the Princess of Castile in recognition of her betrothal to Charles, were issued with appropriate mourning garb and horses to take part in the funeral procession. Within days the new king, Henry VIII, declared his intention of marrying Katharine and the ceremony took place on 11 th June at the Palace of Placentia (Greenwich Palace) where Henry had been born. Ferdinand appeared to have no problem coming up with the money for the dowry once he was assured that the marriage would take place. Henry and Katharine were crowned together on 24th June 1509 and Katharine, triumphant in white satin with her much admired auburn hair hanging loose, was transformed from a widow, living on money from pawning her jewels and plate, to a Queen.

The newly married couple threw themselves into the pleasures of power and married life. They hunted, danced, enjoyed music and spent as much time as they could together. They appeared to onlookers to be deeply in love and both sent affectionate letters to her father saying how happy they were. Ferdinand responded by sending Henry some expensive Spanish horses that Katharine had requested.

The internal affairs of Spain affected England to a certain degree. The Queen of Castile, Katharine’s sister, Juana was deemed, rightly or wrongly, to be incapable of ruling. Her heir was Charles, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy and paternal grandson of the Emperor Maximilian. Charles’ other grandfather, Ferdinand, had no intention of letting the Burgundian interest hold sway in Castile, which he was ruling on his daughter’s behalf. He was therefore reluctant to approve Charles’s betrothal to Henry VIII’s sister, Mary, and was still hoping to have a son of his own by his second wife, Germaine de Foix, to inherit Aragon. Henry, in a letter of July 1509 announcing the happy news of Katharine’s pregnancy, agreed with Ferdinand that Maximilian’s and Charles’ desertion of their old alliance with Spain and England was a retrograde step. Nevertheless there was no move to break the betrothal between Charles and Mary.

Later in the year, Ferdinand was pleased to hear that Henry was considering allying with Ferdinand himself, Maximilian and Charles against the French, to preserve the independence of Venice which Louis XII was threatening. He counselled against immediate war with France, affirming that so long as he himself lived the French would not dare to attack England, but warned that the French were likely to provoke trouble in Scotland.

A month or so later Ferdinand seemed to be ready to join an alliance against France. This was music to Henry’s ears and preparations began to be made for an attack on the old enemy. Katharine was delighted that her husband and father appeared to be of one mind.

There is only one report of dissension between the King and Queen in their first year of marriage: a rumour arose at court that Lady Anne Hastings, the sister both of the Duke of Buckingham (a man with a substantial claim to the throne) and one of Katharine’s ladies in waiting, Lady Elizabeth Stafford, was having an affair with a gentleman of Henry’s bed chamber, Sir William Compton. Before long, it got about that Compton was just a front for the real lover, Henry himself. Lady Anne was packed off by her husband to a convent and Lady Elizabeth was dismissed by Henry for causing trouble.

Katharine’s anger and jealousy was severe enough for it to be reported in foreign dispatches. Whether Henry was really the guilty party is unclear – given his general romantic streak and genuine love for Katharine it seems unlikely that he strayed so early. This view might also be supported by the fact that in 1528, when Compton died, he left a considerable bequest to Lady Anne.

Katharine of Aragon

Katharine of Aragon

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