Katharine of Aragon: Survey Results

Should Katharine have accepted the annulment of her marriage?

Chapter 2 : Yes, She Should

First, comments from those who believe Katharine should have accepted the annulment:

‘For the good of the country and succession, she should have let him go.’

‘She would have lived a better life during her last years. She would have probably been allowed to see her daughter Mary. Henry could have married Anne Boleyn much earlier and they could have had a son, or at least more opportunities for a son. Maybe Anne wouldn't have been executed. If she had accepted the annulment, it would have been a win-win situation for everybody.’

‘I think that she would have saved a lot of people, including herself, a lot of pain if she had agreed to go into a convent and let Henry take a new wife. There were abundant precedents for this, especially in the history of the French monarchy. That said, she had been raised with the expectation that she would live and die as Queen of England and that conviction was only strengthened by her years of isolation and hardship as a young woman. I would never condone Henry's behavior toward Katherine and Mary, but he had a genuine cause for concern. With hindsight we know that 16th century England would support a female monarch, but prior to the Tudor dynasty the only precedent was when Matilda attempted to take the throne, which resulted in the period known as The Anarchy. Henry was also acutely aware of his dynasty's fragile hold on power and his lack of adult, male, English heirs should he fail to produce a son.’

‘Fighting the annulment got her absolutely nothing except the right to continue calling herself Queen. Henry did not love her any longer. She had to have known that. She should have accepted Campeggio's suggestion that she enter a convent. Henry would have been generous to her, as he usually was to people who agreed to his wishes. She would have been able to see her daughter and her friends again. Mary would still have been considered legitimate. And England would have remained Catholic. I think her refusal to accept the annulment was just false pride on her part.’

‘I know I'm looking at this with hindsight and a modern point of view but I really do think she should perhaps have not been so stubborn about it. Henry was being "difficult" and a lot of people died unnecessarily. If she had allowed Henry to have his way she would have been able to make a much more dignified exit and live in relative comfort as Queen Anne (Cleves) did.’

‘Because it would have given her the chance of a dignified exit and a prosperous retirement. She hadn't succeeded in her role insofar as she hadn't produced a male heir. There was no precedent in England to suggest that her daughter could successfully become monarch in her own right, so she couldn't guarantee her daughter's position by hanging on to her marriage. Her stubbornness forced Henry into a position he might not have taken and changed British history via the Reformation, which might have happened naturally and less painfully if not for Henry. I think Anne of Cleves was much more sensible in accepting what Henry wanted - she became rich and influential, and was able to control her own destiny thereafter. Having said that, I can see why Katharine wanted to stick to a position of principle. She had been a good queen and a loyal wife. She just needed to be a realist and know when to bow out gracefully.’

Yes, but also no. As much as I sympathize with Katherine and her belief that 1) marriage is indissoluble 2) she was meant to be queen by God's will, she should have also known that the King has the power to do as he pleases. She could have put the well-being of her daughter, and their relationship ahead of her pride. But then again, she thought they get to spend eternity together, and was willing to sacrifice the earthly life for that. All being said, I said yes because even putting myself in her shoes, I cannot imagine the benefit of not backing down.