Ancestors of Katherine of Aragon

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The House of Trastámara was a dynasty of kings in the Iberian Peninsula, which governed in Castile from 1369 to 1504, in Aragón and Sicily from 1412 to 1516, in Navarre from 1425 to 1479, and in Naples from 1442 to 1501. The house took the name of the Count (or Duke) of Trastámara (Trans Tameris, north of Tambre river in Galicia), a title used by Henry II of Castile (Enrique de Trastámara), El de las Mercedes, before he became king in 1369; that is, during the civil war in which he sought to overthrow his legitimate brother, King Peter of Castile. He was raised and educated by the Count Rodrigo Álvarez. Through the Compromise of Caspe (1412), Ferdinand de Antequera, the second son of John I of Castile, was elected by the nobles of Aragón, Barcelona, and Valencia as king. This was the first cadet branch of the dynasty. In 1425, John, the second son of the Ferdinand de Antequera, married the Navarrese queen and became Navarre's king. He reigned until his death in 1479, when his daughter Eleanor succeeded him briefly for a year. In 1442, Alfonso V of Aragon succeeded to the Neapolitan throne by conquest. He ruled it until his death in 1458, when his illegitimate son inherited it and began a new branch of the dynasty. The reigns of the Trastamaran kings were characterised by a reinforcement of monarchical authority, economic development, and the expansion of the bourgeoisie. The House of Trastámara died out in 1555, with the death of Queen Joanna of Castile, sister of Katherine of Aragon.
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As most people know, Katherine was the only one of Henry's wives to have been born a Princess, the daughter of not one but two reigning monarchs, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile.

On the Spanish side of her family, it is said that Katherine could trace her ancestors back to the Visigothic kings of Spain, who first settled in the country in 410. The last of these, King Roderick was defeated and killed by Moorish invaders at the Battle of Guadalete in 711. Thereafter, the Christian kingdoms of Spain gradually pushed back the Moorish boundaries until the reconquest was finally completed by the surrender of Granada in 1492, an event which Katherine witnessed.

Unsurprisingly, Katherine's forebears included many heroic warrior kings and many accomplished and powerful queens. Below are some of the best known:

Alfonso 'the Battler', King of Aragon was born in Alfonso 'the Battler'1073, the younger son of King Sancho Ramirez of Aragon. He participated in the recapture of Huesca from the Moors in 1096 and inherited the throne in 1104. As his nickname suggests, Alfonso spent most of his life at war with the Moors, and fought twenty nine battles against Moorish and Christian opponents. His greatest triumph was the recapture of Zaragoza from the Moors in 1118. Alfonso made the city his capital and it remains the capital of Aragon to this day. He went on to capture other major towns: Cervera, Castallon and Tarazona in 1119, Lerida in 1123 and Monzon in 1129.

However, Alfonso was less successful in his matrimonial affairs. He married Urraca of Castile in 1109, but the two quarreled over the government of Castile, which Urraca was determined to keep to herself. Alfonso's habit of sleeping in his armour is unlikely to have improved his conjugal relationship! The Pope declared the marriage of Alfonso and Urraca null and void in 1110 but the stormy marriage limped on until 1114, when the couple finally separated

Following an unsuccessful attempt to capture further territory at the Battle of Fraga in 1134, Alfonso died on 8th September 1134.

Petronilla, Queen of AragonPetronilla, Queen Regnant of Aragon (pictured right) was born in 1136 and succeeded to the throne of Aragon when she was a baby. Her father Ramiro, a monk, was forced to leave his Order on the death of his elder brother Alfonso 'the Battler' without heirs. He married Agnes of Poitiers, and as soon as she had produced a daughter, renounced the throne and returned to his monastery.

Petronilla married Ramon Berenguer, Count of Barcelona, thus uniting Aragon and Catalonia under the same rulers, when she was eight years old, although the marriage was not consummated until she was fifteen. Petronilla and Ramon ruled their kingdoms until Ramon's death in 1162 and had five children. In 1163, Petronilla abdicated in favour of their son Alfonso II, although she continued to advise and counsel him.

Petronilla died on 15th October 1173 and was buried in Barcelona.

Ancestry of Katherine of Aragon - Urraca of CastileUrraca, Queen Regnant of Castile (pictured left) has already been mentioned as the unhappy wife of Alfonso 'the Battler' of Aragon. She was born in 1079 and was married to Raymond of Burgundy in 1087. The marriage produced two children, including a son and heir Alfonso VII (through which the Kings of Aragon descended), born in 1105. Her granddaughter through Alfonso VII, Sancha of Castile, married Alfonso II of Aragon, son of Ramon Berenguer IV of Barcelona and Petronilla of Aragon (see above). Urraca became Queen of Castile and Leon in 1108, following the death of her father Alfonso VI. Urraca was queen regent of León, Castile, and Galicia, and claimed the imperial title as suo jure Empress of All the Spains from 1109 until her death in childbirth, as well as Empress of All Galicia. Her stormy second marriage produced no children and was dissolved by the Pope. Unusually for a medieval Queen, Urraca openly took lovers and had an illegitimate son by one of them.

Urraca was described by a contemporary chronicler as 'prudent, modest and of good sense'. She was able to hold her kingdoms together and pass them on intact to her son Alfonso VII on her death in 1126. Alfonso went on to continue the Reconquista and to be one of the most successful of Spanish medieval kings.

Henry II of England
Henry II
King of England
(1133 - 1189)
great-grandson of William the Conqueror, was the first of the House of Plantagenet to rule England. Henry was the first to use the title "King of England" (as opposed to "King of the English"). His mother Matilda was the first female to rule England.

Eleanor of Aquitaine
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Duchess of Aquitaine
(1122 - 1201)
Ruler in her own right of as Duchess, queen consort in France; then England; and finally queen mother in England. She was married to Louis VII of France c. 1137. Their marriage was annulled c. 1152 and Eleanor remarried to Henry II.
Louis VII the younger" of France
Louis VII
King of France
(1120 - 1180)

the son and successor of Louis VI "the fat" and Adelaide of Maurienne. He ruled from 1137 until his death. He was a member of the House of Capet. His reign saw the beginning of the long feud between France and England.
Matilda of England and Henry the LionHenry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine had 8 children including:
John King of England, Eleanor Queen of Castile, and Matilda of Saxony (pictured)

Katherine of Aragon had all three siblings as ancestors.
Louis VII of France and Eleanor of Aquitaine had two daughters and Katherine of Aragon descended from Marie of France, Countess of Champagne wife of Henry I, Count of Champagne. Their daughter, Marie, married Baldwin I of Constantinople.

Berengaria of Castile and Leon
(Berengaria de Castilla)
Queen of Castile
Queen consort of Leon
(1180 - 1246)

Daughter of Eleanor of England and Alfonso VIII of Castile. She was Queen Regent of Castile in her own right, but abdicated in favor of her son in 1217.

*Katherine of Aragon also descended from her sister Blanche who married Louis VIII of France. Blanche and Louis' son, Charles of Naples would go on to marry Beatrice of Provence, sister to the Queen consort of England, Eleanor.
Their descendants include Blanche of Anjou, mother of Constance of Aragon.
(See Constance of Peñafiel)

Mother of Ferdinand III
Alfonso IX
Alfonso IX
(Alfonso IX, Rey de Castilla y León)
King of León and Galicia
(1171 – 1230)
Son of Ferdinand II of León and Urraca of Portugal. Alfonso had over twenty three children. Eight were by his first two wives, Teresa of Portugal and Berengaria of Castile. The rest were with various mistresses.

Father of Ferdinand III

John I of England
King of England
(1167 - 1216)

Father of Henry III
Isabella of Angoulême
Isabella of Angoulême
(1188 - 1246)

She was suo jure Countess of Angoulême, daughter of Aymer Taillefer, Count of Angoulême, by Alice of Courtenay.
Her second husband was Hugh X of Lusignan.

Mother of Henry III
and Alice de Lusignan

Ancestry of Katherine of Aragon - German Emperor, House of Hohenstaufen
Elisabeth of Swabia
(Elisabeth von Hohenstaufen)
Queen consort of Castile and
(1203 - 1235)
1st wife of Ferdinand III;
daughter of the German king Philip of Swabia and Irene Angelina of Byzantium.
*Katherine of Aragon was also a descendant of her sisters Marie and Beatrice.

Mother of Alfonso X

Ferdinand III
Ferdinand III
Fernando III, Rey de Castilla y León)
King of Castile, Galicia & León
(1199 - 1252)

Father of Eleanor of Castile and Alfonso X
Ponthieu coat of arms
Joan of Dammartin
Jeanne d'Aumale, Comtesse de Ponthieu)
Countess suo jure of Ponthieu
Queen consort of Castile and
(c. 1220 - 1279)
Through her maternal grandmother, Alys of France she was a descendant of Louis VII of France and Constance of Castile.

Mother of Eleanor of Castile
Henry III
Henry III
King of England
(1207 - 1272)

Father of Edward I and Edmund Crouchback, 1st Earl of Lancaster
Eleanor of Provence
Eleanor of Provence

(c.1223 - 1302)

daughter of Ramon Berenguer V, Count of Provence and Beatrice of Savoy. Through her paternal grandfather she was a descendant of Alfonso II of Aragon and Sancha of Castile.

Mother of Edward I and Edmund Crouchback, 1st Earl of Lancaster

Saint Ferdinand III, King of Castile and Leon, was born in 1199, the son of Alfonso of Leon and Bereguela of Castile. His mother briefly reigned as Queen before ceding her kingdom to her son. St. Ferdinand of CastileHe spent much of his reign fighting the Moors. Besides his military skills, Ferdinand was an able politician, who was able to exploit dissension among his Moorish opponents. He captured the cities of Ubeda in 1233, Cordoba in 1236, Jaen in 1246, and Seville in 1248, thus forcing the boundary of the Morish kingdom of Granada back to where it would remain, more or less unchanged, for the next two hundred and fifty years.

Ferdinand did not neglect the arts: he improved the University of Salamanca and founded the Cathedral of Burgos. He also founded Franciican and Dominican monasteries in Andalucia. When he died in 1252, he was buried in the Cathedral of Seville by his son and successor Alfonso X

Ferdinand was canonized by Pope Clement X in 1671. One of his many daughters, Eleanor of Castile, married Edward I of England and was the ancestress of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Catherine Parr,
as well as Katherine herself.
Ancestry of Katherine of Aragon - Violanta of Aragon
Violant of Aragon
(8 June 1236 - 1301)
daughter of King James I of Aragon and his second wife the queen Yolande of Hungary.

Mother of Sancho IV of Castile and Don Ferdinand de la Cerda
Ancestry of Katherine of Aragon - Alfonso X of Castile
Alfonso X
King of Castile and León
(1221 - 1284)

Father of Sancho IV of Castile and
Don Ferdinand de la Cerda
Eleanor of Castile
Eleanor of Castile
1st Wife of
Daughter of
Ferdinand III King of Castile, Galicia & León and Joan Dammartin.

Mother of King Edward II

Edward I
Edward I
King of England
(1239 - 1307)

Father of King Edward II

Ancestry of Katherine of Aragon - Maria de Molina
Maria de Molina
Princess of León
(c. 1265 – 1321)

She was the daughter of the infante Alfonso of Molina and Mayor Alonso de Meneses. Her paternal grandparents were Alfonso IX of León and Berenguela of Castile.

Mother of Ferdinand IV of Castile and Beatrice of Castile
Ancestry of Katherine of Aragon - Sancho IV of Castile
Sancho IV the Brave
King of Castile, León and Galicia

(1257/1258 – 1295)

Father of Ferdinand IV of Castile and Beatrice of Castile

Edward II of EnglandEdward II
King of England
(1284 – 1327)

was King of England from 1307 until he was deposed by his wife Isabella in January 1327. The reign of Edward II was disastrous for England, marked by incompetence, political squabbling and military defeats.

Father of Edward III
Isabella of France, Queen of England
Isabella of France
(c. 1295 – 1358)

Sometimes described as the She-wolf of France. She was the youngest surviving child and only surviving daughter of Philip IV, King of France
Joan I of Navarre.

Mother of Edward III

Don Ferdinand de la Cerda
(Fernando, Infante de Castilla)
Crown Prince of Castile

Father of
Fernando de La Cerda
Blanche of France
(Blanche de France)
Princess of France

Mother of
Fernando de La Cerda
Edmund of England nicknamed "Crounchback"
1st Earl of Lancaster
1st Earl of Leicester

Father of Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster
Blanche of Artois
(Blanche de Artois)
Queen Dowager of Navarre

Mother of Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster
Ancestry of Katherine of Aragon - La Cerda ArmsThe Arms of the House de la Cerda to the 13th century, a combination of Castile and León, from infante Fernando, and the arms of France, for Blanche of France. Blanche of France was a daughter of King Louis IX of France and Margaret of Provence, sister of Eleanor of Provence, consort to Henry III of England. Blanche was sister of King Philip III of France and Queen Isabella of Navarre, both of whom were also ancestors to Queen Katherine.

Ferdinand predeceased his father in 1275 at Ciudad Real. Blanche and Ferdinand's sons did not inherit the throne of their grandfather, since their uncle, the second son, Sancho (IV), enforced his claim, even by rebelling. Blanche's brother Philip warned Sancho that he would invade Castile on behalf of his two nephews.
Edmund, 1st Earl of LancasterEdmund was the younger son of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence and the younger brother of Edward I of England. Edmund married Blanche of Artois, daughter of Robert I, Count of Artois, son of Louis VIII of France and Blanche of Castile who was in turn the granddaughter of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Edmund and Blanche were parents to four children including Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster and Edmund's eventual heir, Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster.

Edmund accompanied his brother, Edward, on the ninth crusade. On his return, he made Grosmont Castle his home where his son Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster was born. He died in 1296 while besieging the town of Bordeaux on behalf of his brother. He was interred into Westminster Abbey.

Henry, 3rd Earl of LancasterHenry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster and Leicester (c. 1281 - 22 September 1345) was the son of Edmund of Lancaster and Blanche of Artois. His mother had been previously Queen of Navarre as consort to Henry I of Navarre. They had one daughter, Henry's maternal half-sister Joan, who became Queen Regnant of Navarre as Joan I. Joan would go on to marry Philip IV of France. Joan was mother to three kings of France and one queen consort, Isabella, queen of Edward II of England; parents of Edward III and thus grandparents to John of Gaunt [ancestor of King Henry VIII, Queen Katherine of Aragon, and Queen Catherine Parr].Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster

Before 2 March 1297, Henry of Lancaster would marry Maud Chaworth (1282-1322), an English noblewoman and wealthy heiress of Sir Patrick de Chaworth and his wife Isabella de Beauchamp, daughter of the 9th Earl of Warwick. Henry and Maud would have several children which included ancestors of Henry's other English queens Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Katherine Howard, and Catherine Parr.

Katherine of Aragon's ancestor, Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster (c. 1310-1361). Henry would go on to marry Isabel de Beaumont, daughter of Henry de Beaumont, Earl of Buchan and Alice Comyn. Henry and Isabel were parents to Blanche of Lancaster, who would marry John of Gaunt as his first wife. Their daughter was Philippa of Lancaster, queen consort of Portugal.
[see below for more info]

Ferdinand IV, El Emplazado
(Fernando IV, Rey de Castilla y León)
King of Castile and León
(1285 – 1312)
Constance of Portugal
(Infanta Constanza de Portugal)
Princess of Portugal

Parents of
Alfonso XI of Castile
Ancestry of Katherine of Aragon - Beatrice of Castile
Beatrice of Castile
(Infanta Beatriz de Castilla)
Princess of Castile
Queen consort of Portugal and the Algarve


Mother of Peter I of Portugal and Maria of Portugal
Ancestry of Katherine of Aragon - Afonso IV of Portugal
Afonso IV of Portugal
(Afonso IV de Bourgogne, Rei de Portugal)
King of Portugal and the Algarve
(1291 – 1357)

Father of Peter I of Portugal and Maria of Portugal
Fernando de La Cerda
Juana Núñez de Lara
Lady of Lara

Parents of
Blanca Fernanda de la Cerda y Lara

King Edward III of EnglandEdward III
King of England
(13 Nov 1312 – 21 Jun 1377)
son of Edward II and Isabella of France.
Edward and Philippa were also ancestors to queens Jane Seymour and Catherine Parr.

Father of John of Gaunt Plantagenet, Duke of Lancaster & Titular King of Castile

Philippa of HainaultPhilippa of Hainault
Queen Consort of England
Lady of Ireland
(24 Jun 1314 – 15 Aug 1369)
The daughter of William I, Count of Holland and Joan of Valois, granddaughter of Philip III of France and Isabella of Aragon

Mother of John of Gaunt Plantagenet, Duke of Lancaster & Titular King of Castile

John of Gaunt
1st Duke of Lancaster

Father of Philippa of Lancaster
Blanche of Lancaster
Duchess of Lancaster

Mother of Philippa of Lancaster

Alfonso XI of Castile
(Alfonso XI, Rey de Castilla y León)
King of Castile and León

(1311 - 1350)
Through his mistress, Eleanor Guzman he was the father of Henry II of Castile and Sancho of Alburquerque.

Father of
Peter I of Castile

Maria of Portugal
(Infanta Maria de Portugal)
Princess of Portugal
Queen consort of Castile and León

(1313 - 1357)

Mother of
Peter I of Castile
Juan Manuel
Duke of Peñafiel

(Infante Juan Manuel de Peñafiel, Conde de Peñafiel)
(1282 – 1348)
He was son of Juan Manuel of Villena (the son of Ferdinand III of Castile and Elisabeth of Hohenstaufen) and his second wife Beatrice of Savoy.

Father of Juana Manuel of Castile
Blanca Fernanda de La Cerda y Lara
Duchess consort of Peñafiel
(c. 1317 – 1347)

Mother of
Juana Manuel of Castile

Ancestry of Katherine of Aragon - Peter I of PortugalPeter I of Portugal (Pedro I de Bourgogne, Rei de Portugal), King of Portugal (1320 - 1367)
Despite his gruesome legacy, Peter I of Portugal did have a peaceful reign and managed to install a system of justice which was relatively fair for the times. Ancestry of Katherine of Aragon - Ines de CastroHe attempted this with his Beneplácito Régio in 1361, which forbade any Papal Bulls to be published without his prior consent. This was a result of the number of fake papal documents that had been entering the country. He also began the "nationalization" of the military orders by placing his youngest son João (an illegitimate child) as the Master of the Order of Avis. Perhaps Peter is better known for his controversy with a mistress, Inés de Castro. She is best known as lover and posthumously exhumed and declared lawful wife of King Pedro I of Portugal, and therefore Queen of Portugal by order of Pedro himself. When Peter's wife, Constance of Castile, died in 1345 Afonso IV, Peter's father, tried several times to arrange for his son to be remarried, but Peter refused to take a wife other than Inês, who was not deemed eligible to be queen even though she was an illegitimate great-granddaughter or Sancho IV of Castile and 3x great-granddaughter of Alfonso IX of Leon. She was also legitimately descended from Infanta Sancha Henriques of Portugal, the$daughter of Henry, Count of Portugal. Peters's legitimate son, future king Ferdinand I of Portugal, was a frail child, whereas Peter and Inês's illegitimate children were thriving; this created even more discomfort among the Portuguese nobles, who feared the increasing Castilian influence over Peter. Afonso IV banished Inês from the court after Constance's death, but Peter remained with her declaring her as his true love. After several attempts to keep the lovers apart, Afonso IV ordered Inês's death. Pêro Coelho, Álvaro Gonçalves, and Diogo Lopes Pacheco went to the Monastery of Santa Clara in Coimbra, where Inês was detained, and killed her, decapitating her in front of her small child. Legend holds that Peter later had Inês' body exhumed and placed upon a throne, dressed in rich robes and jewels, requiring all of his vassals to kiss the hand of the deceased "queen". This has never been proven, but what is known is that Peter did have Inês' body removed from her resting place in Coimbra and taken to Alcobaça where her body was laid to rest in the monastery. Peter had two tombs constructed in the monastery, one for each of them. These still exist today; they contain images of Peter and Inês facing each other, with the words "Até o fim do mundo..." or "Until the end of the world..." inscribed on the marble.
Ancestry of Katherine of Aragon - Ines de Castro Tomb
Inês Pérez de Castro

Queen consort of Portugal
(1325 - 1355)

Mother of
Infanta Beatrice of Portugal
Constance of Peñafiel de Castile
(Constanza de Peñafiel)
Queen consort of Portugal
Crown Princess of Portugal

(c. 1320 - 1349)
She was the 2nd wife of Peter I of Portugal. She married firstly Alfonso XI of Castile as a child. She was the daughter of Juan Manuel, Duke of Peñafiel and his second wife Constance of Aragon, a daughter of James II of Aragon and Blanche of Anjou, daughter of Charles II of Naples and Maria Arpad of Hungary.

Teresa Lourenço
(c. 1330 - ?)
Mistress of Peter I of Portugal
Some say she was a noble Galician, daughter of Lourenço Martins, o da Praça, and wife Sancha Martins.

Mother of
John I 'the bastard' of Portugal

Henry II of Castile
'Henry of Trastámara'
King of Castile
(1334 - 1379)

Father of John I of Castile
Juana Manuel of Castile
Queen consort of Castile

(1339 - 1381)
She was the heiress of Escalon, Villena, Penafiel and Lara as well as the sovereign lady ("señora soberana") of Biscay (the Basque country). She was half sister to Constance of Peñafiel through her father, Juan Manuel.

Mother of John I of Castile
Katherine's family name was Trastamara. This was derived from the title of her great-great-great grandfather, Henry of Trastamara.

Henry was born in 1334, the illegitimate son of Alfonso XI of Castile by his mistress Eleanor de Guzman. He had a legitimate half-brother Peter, who would soon be known as 'Peter the Cruel' when he had his wife murdered and committed various other acts of violence. Henry rebelled against Peter, and the civil war between them lasted from 1366 to 1369.

Henry of Trastamara beheads his brother Peter 'the Cruel'Pictured left - Henry of Trastamara supervises the beheading of his brother Peter 'the Cruel'.

Henry was greatly aided by the famous mercenary captain, Bernard de Guesclin, but was defeated at the Battle of Najera by the forces of Peter, which were led by the eldest son of Edward III of England - the Black Prince. But Henry returned with another army: the two brothers met at the Battle of Montiel in 1369, and this time, it was Peter who lost. Taking no chances, Henry had Peter beheaded in his tent on the battlefield.

Henry's reign passed relatively peacefully, and he was able to hand his kingdom on to his son.

Peter I 'the cruel' of Castile
(Pedro I, Rey de Castilla y León)
King of Castile and León
(1334 - 1369)

Father of Constance of Castile
Maria de Padilla
Queen consort of Castile and
(1334 - 1361)

Mother of Constance of Castile
Ancestry of Katherine of Aragon - Peter of Castile and the English fighting AragonPopular memory generally views Peter as a vicious monster. Much of Peter's reputation comes from the works of the chronicler López de Ayala who served Peter's usurper. After time passed, there was a reaction in Peter's favour, and an alternative name was found for him. It became a fashion to speak of him as El Justiciero, the executor of justice (the Lawful). Apologists were found to say that he had only killed men who themselves would not submit to the law or respect the rights of others. Peter did have his supporters. Even Ayala confessed that the king's fall was regretted by the merchants, who enjoyed security under his rule. The English, who backed Peter, also remembered the king positively. Geoffrey Chaucer visited Castile during Peter's reign and lamented the monarch's death in The Monk's Tale, part of The Canterbury Tales. (Chaucer's patron, his son-in-law, John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, fought on Peter's side in his struggle to reclaim the throne.)
Maria Padilla was the mistress of King Peter of Castile whom she married in secret in 1353. She was a Castilian noblewoman. Her father was Juan García de Padilla, 1st Lord of Villagera, her mother was his wife María Fernández de Henestrosa, a relative of Juan Fernández de Henestrosa, who mediated an apparent pardon to Fadrique Alfonso of Castile, a half-brother and rival of María de Padilla's lover, King Peter. María and Peter had at least four children. Two of their daughters were married to sons of Edward III, King of England. Isabella, married Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, while the eldest, Constance, married John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, leading him to claim the crown of Castile on behalf of his wife. The daughter of Constance, Catherine of Lancaster, was married by Henry III of Castile in order to reunify any claim to succession that may have passed via Constance.

Katherine's great great grandparents

John of Gaunt
Prince of England
Duke of Lancaster
5th Earl of Leicester
2nd Earl of Derby Duke of Aquitaine
Titular King of Castile

(with Constance of Castile)
(1340 - 1399)

Father of
Catherine of Lancaster
Constance of Castile
Titular Queen Regent of Castile
(1354 - 1394)

Mother of Catherine of Lancaster
John I of Castile
King of Castile
(1358 - 1390)

Father of Ferdinand I of Aragon
Henry III of Castile
Eleanor of Aragon
Princess of Aragon
Queen consort of Castile
(1358 - 1382)
Daughter of Peter IV of Aragon and Eleanor of Sicily

Mother of Ferdinand I of Aragon
Henry III of Castile
John I of Portugal
King of Portugal
(1357 - 1433)

Father of
John of Portugal
Philippa of Lancaster
(1360 - 1415)
Daughter of John of Gaunt Plantagenet and his 1st wife,
Blanche of Lancaster

Mother of
John of Portugal

coat of arms of peter the ceremoniousPeter IV, King of Aragon, known as 'The Ceremonious' (1319 - 1387) significantly expanded the Aragonese territories in the Mediterranean. He wrested the Kingdom of Majorca, which comprised the Balearic Islands, from his brother-in-law James; conquered the trans-Pyrrenean provinces of Roussillon and Cerdagne from France, and captured Sicily in 1377. The theme of Aragonese expansion in the Mediterranean was one which would continue through Katherine's early life, and would have a significant effect on her views, particularly her lifelong antipathy towards France.

Pictured left - Heraldic device of Peter IV at the Monastery of Poblet, Catalonia, where many of Katherine's ancestors are buried.

Peter's wife Eleanor of Sicily, Katherine's great-great-great grandmother, was also an accomplished politician, very much in the tradition of Aragonese queens.. 'She was a forceful presence in the court, becoming the King's chief adviser after the fall of his minister Bernat de Cabrera, whom she had pitilessly opposed' (Bisson).

John I of CastileJohn I of Castile, (right) succeeded to the throne in 1379. He had married Eleanor, daughter of King Peter 'the Ceremonious' of Aragon, in 1375, and two of their

sons were Katherine's great-grandfathers. After her death, he married Princess Beatrice of Portugal. After her father's death, he attempted to establish her claim to the Portuguese throne, but was defeated at the Battle of Aljubarrotta in 1385, thus ensuring that Portugal remained an independent country, at least for the next two hundred years.

Pictured right - John I of Castile, from his tomb in Toledo Cathedral

King John was more successful in his struggle with John of Gaunt, who attempted to claim the throne of Castile by right of his wife Constance, the legitimate daughter of Peter 'the Cruel'. The English Duke journeyed to Castile with his wife and their daughter Catherine in 1386 and established himself in Galicia, but was forced to withdraw to Portugal after a failed attempt to invade Leon in the following year. Eventually, a deal was reached whereby Catherine married the King's eldest son Henry, thus giving the Trastamara line greater legitimacy. John was killed in a riding accident at Katherine's birthplace of Alcala de Henares in 1390.
Sancho of Castile, Count of Albuquerque and Haro
(1342 - 1375)

son of Alfonso XI of Castile.

Father of Eleanor of Albuquerque

Princess Beatrice of Portugal
(1347 - 1381)

Mother of Eleanor of Albuquerque
Alonzo Enriquez, Admiral of Castile
(? - 1429)
Juana González

Parents of Frederick Enriquez
Diego Fernandez de Cordova
Senor de Banna Marshal of Castile

(d. 1435)
Inez de Toledo

Parents of Mariana de Cordova
Alfonso of Braganza
(1370 - 1461)

Father of Isabella of Braganza
Beatrice Pereira
(d. 1420)

Mother of Isabella of Braganza

Ancestry of Katherine of Aragon - John of Gaunt and Constance of CastileBesides her Spanish ancestry and the Portuguese royal blood that came to her through her mother, Katherine also had a strong English inheritance. Both her parents were descended from Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Like her husband, Henry VIII, Katherine was also a descendant by both parents of Prince John of Gaunt (pictured left with wife Constance), son of King Edward III and Philippa of Hainault: her great-great-grandmother Philippa of Lancaster, Queen of Portugal was John's daughter by his first marriage to Blanche of Lancaster; her great-grandmother Catherine of Lancaster, Queen of Castile, was John's daughter by his second wife Constance of Castile. This may well have played a part in Katherine's colouring (fair skin, blue-grey eyes and red-gold hair), although some of Katherine's paternal ancestors, most notably her great-grandmother Eleanor of Albuquerque, were also redheads.

Royal, handsome, intelligent, athletic, powerful and wealthy, John of Gaunt
(a Plantagenet) strode across the stage of 14th century England in a blaze of charisma. He was the 3rd son of an English King, Edward III, and the father of another, Henry IV. His legitimate daughters married into the royal families of Portugal and Spain, and were Queens and the mothers of Kings.

John of Gaunt's power and wealth were greatly enhanced by two very advantageous marriages, but he made the most of all the opportunities which came his way.

John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster - © Meg McGathAs a young man, he married the heiress Blanche of Lancaster. Through her, he became Duke of Lancaster and the wealthiest man in England.Together they had three children, including Henry Bollingbroke, the future Henry IV.

After Blanche's death from the Plague, John of Gaunt married Constance of Castile, the usurped and exiled heir to the throne of Castile. He claimed the Crown of Castile by right of his wife. In his old age, John of Gaunt married for a third time. No Duchess or Queen this time, rather he married his long-term mistress through whom the Beaufort line was produced. The Beaufort line proved to be a burden as they were eventually declared legitimate after the marriage of John to his mistress, Katherine Swynford. It was through this line that the son of Margaret Beaufort, Henry Tudor claimed the throne thus producing the Tudor dynasty and Henry VIII through his marriage to Elizabeth of York. Elizabeth descended from Constance of Castile's sister, Isabella, who married Edmund of Langley, son of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault. She also descended from John of Gaunt through the illegitimate line of the Beauforts by John's daughter, Lady Joan, and her husband Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmoreland's daughter Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, mother of King Edward IV.

Another notable descendant of John of Gaunt and the only other wife of Henry VIII to descend from John was Henry's last wife, Catherine Parr.

Katherine's great grandparents

Ancestry of Katherine of Aragon - Eleanor of Alburquerque
Eleanor of Albuquerque
Queen consort of Aragon, Majorca, Valencia, and Sicily
Countess consort of Barcelona

(1379 - 1435)
wearing a red robe

Mother of
John II of Aragon
Ancestry of Katherine of Aragon - Ferdinand I of Aragon
Ferdinand I
of Aragon

King of Aragon, Majorca, Valencia, and Sicily
itular Duke of Athens and Neopatria, Count of Barcelona, Roussillon and Cerdanya
(1380 - 1416)

Father of
John II of Aragon
Henry III King of Castile
Henry III of Castile
King of Castile
Prince of Asturias
(1379 - 1406)

Father of
John II of Castile
Catherine of LancasterCatherine of

Titular Queen regnant of Castile and Leon
(1374 - 1418)
Inherited the throne through her father's claim of the throne, through his marriage to her mother. Her reign did not last as Catherine's grand-uncle, Henry II of Castile, seized the throne.

Mother of
John II of Castile

Frederick Enriquez, Conde de Melgar, Admiral of Castile
(1394- 1473)

Father of Joanna Enriquez

Mariana de Cordova, (d.1431)

Mother of Joanna Enriquez

John of Portugal
João de Aviz, Duque de Beja)
1st Lord of Reguengos de Monsaraz, Colares and Belas
(1400 - 1442)

Father of
Isabella of Portugal

Isabella of Braganza
Isabel de Bragança)
(1402 - 1445)

Mother of
Isabella of Portugal

Ferdinand and Henry were brothers, the sons of John I of Castile and Eleanor of Aragon. Henry was never strong - he was known as 'Henry the Sickly' - but was a fairly successful king. His marriage to the English princess Catherine of Lancaster produced three children, a son John (who became John II of Castile\) and two daughters: Maria, who married her cousin King Alfonso 'the Magnanimous' of Aragon and Catherine, who married his brother Henry. King Henry's early death at the age of 27 meant that his widow Catherine and brother Ferdinand ruled as joint Regents for his baby son. Ferdinand was regarded as exceptionally kind (by ruthless fiteenth-century standards) for not usurping his nephew's throne, but he used crown lands to enrich his own sons, which probably did more damage to Castile in the long run. Catherine continued as sole Regent after her brother-in-law was chosen King of Aragon in 1412.

Catherine was a tall, strapping blonde, whose hearty English appetite at banquets rather shocked her new subjects: she must have made quite a contrast to her frail husband. She was a successful Regent for her son, arranging close trade links between Castile and her native England: her death from a stroke at the age of 45 removed a useful guiding influence from him.

Her brother-in-law Ferdinand was a skilful politician and soldier, who captured the town of Antequera from the Moors - he was thereafter known as 'Ferdinand of Antequera'. At the age of fifteen, he married the great heiress Eleanor of Alburquerque, who was twenty-one. She was famous for her beautiful red-gold hair and for the fact that she was so rich that she could travel from one side of Castile to the other without leaving her own lands: Eleanor was known as 'La rica hembra' - the wealthy woman. The death of of King Martin of Aragon without male heirs meant that the Corts, or Parliaments, of the Aragonese kingdoms had to choose a successor - at the Compromise of Caspe in 1412, they chose Ferdinand, whose mother Eleanor had been Martin's sister.

Ferdinand struggled with the disputaceous Corts, but was beginning to make headway before his death in 1416 at the age of 35. He was successful in his foreign policy, confirming the Aragonese hold over Sicily and protecting Catalan trade by treaties with Genoa and Egypt. He was also instrumental in ending the Great Schism in the Catholic Church by removing his support from the last Antipope, Benedict XIII. He and Eleanor had had five sons and two daughters, and he was succeeded by his eldest son Alfonso, who was then aged 20.

It may come as a surprise to learn that Katherine also had Jewish ancestry: her great-great-great grandfather Alfonso Enriquez had an affair with a lady named Paloma of Toledo, who had converted to Christianity. Their son Alfonso succeeded his father as Admiral of Castile in default of legitimate heirs.

Katherine's grandparents
John II of Aragon
John II of Aragon
Juan II, Rey de Aragón y Navarre)
(1398 - 1479)
known as 'the Great' or 'the Faithless'.
Juana Enriquez de Córdoba
Joanna Enriquez
Juana Henriques)
(1425 - 1468)
2nd wife of John II of Aragon.
John II of Castile
John II of Castile
Juan II, Rey de Castilla y León)
(1405 - 1454)
Isabella of Portugal
Isabella of Portugal
Isabel de Aviz)
(1428 - 1496)

2nd wife of John II of Castile.

The second son of Ferdinand and Eleanor, John was first married to Blanche, Queen of Navrarre, by whom he had three children: Charles, Blanche and Eleanor. He married Joanna Enriquez in 1447, by whom he had two more children, Ferdinand and Joanna.

A born trouble-maker, but one of the most formidable politicians of the fifteenth cenrury, John's early years were spent attempting to take over the government of Castile, often in concert with his brother Henry. His brother King Alfonso, known as 'the Magnanimous', lived in his conquered kingdom of Naples after 1435, partly as a way of keeping out of his brothers' quarrels, leaving his estranged wife Maria to govern in his stead.

John had also acted as his brother's llochtenant (deputy) in Aragon and Catalonia before inheriting the crown at the age of sixty in 1458. His feud with his eldest son Charles was one of the causes of the Catalan civil war (1462-1472), in which a series of pretenders claimed the Catalan throne, whilst Aragon and Valencia remained mainly loyal to the king. In order to obtain the support of his younger daughter Eleanor and her husband Gaston de Foix, John arrested her elder sister Blanche, the rightful queen of Navarre, and handed her over to Eleanor, who imprisoned her in the Castle of Olite. Two years later, tired of her inconvenient house guest, Eleanor had Blanche posioned.

Despite his age and deteriorating eyesight, John battled the rebels with the help of his wife and younger son, eventually retaking Barcelona in 1472. He successfully underwent operations for removal of cataracts, and regained his sight at the age of 70. He was a very able diplomatist who formed alliances with England and Burgundy against his great enemy, France. John died on 20 January 1479, at the remarkable age of eighty. John was tough, intelligent and brave, but was also cold, calculating and ruthless. His greatest enemy, Louis XI of France, called him 'The Wolf'.

Joanna Enriquez was the daughter of Frederick Enriquez, a leading Castilian nobleman of royal (and Jewish) descent, and his first wife, Mariana de Cordoba. Following her marriage to Prince John, she acted as his llochtenant in Navarre, which she came into conflict with her stepson Charles.
Accused (probably unjustly) of having ordered the poisoning of Charles who died in 1461, Joanna fled to Girona (Catalonia), where she was besieged with her nine year old son in the castle for two months by the rebel Count of Pallars. Joanna bravely organised the castle's defences until their rescue by her stepson-in-law Gaston de Foix. This marked the beginning of civil war in Catalonia which lasted for ten years. Joanna played a major part, presiding over the corts (parliaments), leading armies and negotiating treaties. Her greatest wish was to have her son married to Infanta Isabella, half-sister and heiress presumptive of King Henry IV of Castile. However, Joanna died on 13 February 1468 from breast cancer, which she had fought for the previous five years, a year before the marriage occurred. She was survived by her husband, who never remarried and reigned until his death in 1479. The Aragonese historian Zurita described her as 'a most excellent and valiant princess'.

John inherited the Crown of Castile whilst still a baby. His mother and uncle acted as Regents in the first years of his reign. John married his cousin Maria of Aragon, by whom he had a son, Henry, and secondly married Isabella of Portugal, by whom he had a daughter Isabella and a son, Alfonso.

John was king of Castile for forty-nine years, but as numerous historians have stated, he barely ruled at all. Although he was cultured and intelligent, John was weak and lazy, preferring to leave the government to others, His closest friend and councillor, Alvaro de Luna, effectively ruled the country for him but was opposed by many nobles, including the powerful Enriquez family. John's reign was also troubled by the incursions of his cousins, the Infantes of Aragon, who included the future King John of Aragon: they kept the king in virtual imprisonment for two years.

De Luna was eventually brought down by the machinations of the King's second wife, Isabella, acting with powerful nobles. They persuaded John to execute the favourite in 1453. John is said to have been stricken with remorse for his action, and only survived de Luna by a year. He died on in
1454, at Valladolid, leaving his crown to his eldest son Henry. On his deathbed, John is said to have stated that he would rather have been born the son of a mechanic than the son of a King.
John II of Castile and Isabella of Portugal - © Meg McGath

His second wife, Isabella, was a cousin of the King of Portugal. Her grandmother, Phillippa of Lancaster, was English, the daughter of John of Gaunt by his first wife Blanche of Lancaster. Although much younger than her husband, she was a far stronger character and disapproved of the way that her husband was under the thumb of Alvaro de Luna.
Isabella's behaviour became erratic after the birth of her daughter, also named Isabella, in 1451: she was subject to fits of depression which may well have been a post-natal complication.

Isabella was, however, able to plot the downfall of her husband's favourite De Luna, with disaffected nobles. After her husband's death, she retired (at the age of 22) to the Castle of Arevalo to bring up her children. Her mental health problems worsened - she was said to have been haunted by De Luna's ghost - and she appears to have succumbed to bi-polar disorder. Isabella spent the rest of her life in seclusion at Arevalo, where she died on 15 Aug 1496.

Katherine of Aragon's parents
19 October 1469 at Valladolid, Castile, Spain.

Ferdinand of Aragon as a young man
Ferdinand of Aragon
Fernando II, Rey de España)
King of Aragon, Valencia, Majorca, Sicily (as Fernando/Ferran II)
Naples (as Ferrante III),
and Navarre (as Fernando I)
King of Castile and León (as Fernando V)
(with wife, Isabella I)
Titular Byzantine Emperor
(with wife, Isabella I)
Count of Barcelona
Count of Roussillon and Cerdagne
(1452 - 1516)

Ferdinand II of Aragon was born on March 10, 1452, in the small town of Sos, Aragon, the son of John II of Aragon by his second wife, the Castilian noblewoman Joanna Enriquez.

As the younger son of a younger son, he appeared to have little prospect of inheriting the throne, but when his uncle Alfonso V died without legitimate heirs, his father John became King of Aragon at the age of sixty.

John was on bad terms with his eldest son Charles, and refused to ackowledge him as heir to the throne. This resulted in unrest in Catalonia, and when Charles died in 1461, leaving his nine year old brother as heir, it developed into outright civil war. Queen Joanna succeeded in obtaining the recognition of her son as heir, but was forced to flee to Gerona, where she and Ferdinand were besieged in the castle by a rebel army for two months. John succeeded in rescuing his wife and son with the help of his son-in-law Gaston de Foix, but at the price of pawning the provinces of Roussillon and Cerdagne to France. He also handed over his eldest daughter Blanche to her sister Eleanor, who imprisoned and then murdered her.

The rebellious Catalans offered the throne to a series of pretenders, whilst Aragon and Valencia remained loyal to the King. Placed by his faher at the head of the Aragonese forces, the twelve year old Prince Ferdinand won a notable victory over the forces of the pretender Pedro of Portugal at the Battle of Calaf on 28th February 1465. As the chronicler Pulgar said, 'throughout his childhood, he (Ferdinand) was brought up in wars, where he underwent many hardships and dangers'.

Another, more dangerous pretender arose, the French-backed John of Lorraine. As his father went blind and his mother succumbed to cancer, the young Prince faced increasing responsiblities as Governor of Aragon and leader of the army. At fifteen, he was described by a contemporary writer as 'a good knight - strong, handsome, brave and very sure of himself'. John turned to diplomacy to isolate his enemies, and arranged for Ferdinand to marry the Princess Isabella.

As there was no money in the treasury and he was aware that King Henry was prepared to do anything to prevent the marriage, Ferdinand and three friends disguised themselves as a party of merchants, with the Prince acting as their servant. It was an eventual journey: having walked almost a hundred miles in four days, the Prince was almost killed by a stone thrown by a sentry at the frontier town of Burgo de Osma.

Meeting for the first time in secret two days before their wedding, Ferdinand and Isabella seemed to have formed an instant attachment. The couple married on October 19, 1469, on a papal dispensation which turned to have been forged by Ferdinand's father and the Archbishop of Toledo. Isabella was immediately disinherited by a furious King Henry, who conferred the succession on his alleged daughter Joanna.

The lives of Ferdinand and Isabella after their marriage are continued below
Isabella of Castile
Isabella of Castile
Isabel I, Reina de Castilla)
Queen Regent of Castile and León
Queen Consort
of Aragon, Valencia, Majorca, Sicily, and Naples
Titular Byzantine Empress
(with husband, Ferdinand II)
Countess consort of Barcelona
(1451 - 1504)

Isabella of Castile was born on 22nd April, 1451, in Madrigal de las Altas Torres, in central Castile. Her father died when she was three, and her mother, aged only 22, retired from Court with her children to the small town of Arevalo, where she became increasingly mentally ill. When Isabella was eleven, her brother Henry summoned her to Court to be godmother to Princess Joanna, who was widely rumoured to be the product of his wife's adultery with a prominent courtier. Henry's weak rule sparked a number of rebellions: by 1466, these used Isabella's brother Alfonso as a figurehead and Isabella was torn between his claims and those of Henry, whom she regarded as the rightful king. She was also forced to sidestep Henry's efforts to marry her off to a series of unwanted bridegrooms: she was saved from one of these, a drunken, middle-aged lecher named Pedro Giron, by his sudden death on the way to the wedding.

On the death of Alfonso in 1468, Isabella initially considered making a bid for the throne but then wisely came to a compromise with Henry rather than seeking to immediately become Queen. She was aware that as an unmarried teenaged girl, the support which she could attract would be limited. Henry recognised her as his heiress and she promised in turn not to marry without his permission. But neither side trusted the other, and Isabella knew that she needed to find a husband quickly to bolster her claims.

At seventeen, Isabella was a tall, pretty girl with the blue eyes and red-blonde hair of her Plantagenet ancestors. Unsuprisingly, she had many suitors, the most serious of which were King Alfonso of Portugal; Charles, Duke of Berri, brother of the King of France; Richard Duke of Gloucester (the future Richard III); and her second cousin Ferdinand of Aragon. Unusually for a fifteenth-century woman, Isabella got to choose. The favourable reports of the good looks, courage and intelligence of Ferdinand convinced her to choose him, although she was also aware that although he was only sixteen, he already had a terrible reputation as a womaniser (he would have at least two illegitimate children by the age of seventeen). As he was also, after his father, the nearest male heir to the throne of Castile, it mean that they could join their claims together.

In order to escape arrest by her brother's agents, who had learned of her proposed marriage, Isabella was forced to flee to Valladolid. She and Ferdinand married there on 19th October 1469.

The lives of Ferdinand and Isabella after their marriage are continued below

Greatly aided by Ferdinand's diplomatic and military skills, Isabella spent the next five years building up support amongst the Castlilan nobility and towns. She gave birth to a daughter, Isabella, in 1470 and in 1472 obtained a valid dispensation for her marriage from the papal legate, Cardinal Borgia (the future Pope Alexander VI). Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile -- © Meg McGathWhen Henry died on 11th December 1474, and in Ferdinand's absence, Isabella had herself proclaimed queen.

She was immediately challenged by Joanna and her supporters, who obtained the backing of King Alfonso of Portugal, her uncle and later fiance. The civil war that followed lasted five years, but the outcome was not in doubt after Ferdinand's victory over Alfonso at the Battle of Toro on 1st March 1476. The Treaty of Alcacovas which settled the war provided for the marriage of Princess Isabella to the heir of Portugal.

After some initial wrangling, Ferdinand and Isabella agreed a power-sharing deal by which each could wield power in Castile jointly and severally. After his father's death in 1479, Ferdinand extended the same powers to Isabella in Aragon. Despite their very different personalities, or 'the contrast of character between the uncompromising, devout and chaste Isabella and the worldly, flexible and frequently unfaithful Ferdinand' (Henry Kamen), their equal partnership proved a great success. However, like other women of her time, Isabella had to turn a blind eye to her husband's frequent affairs (he had at least seven illegitimate children, all by different women), and no doubt gave good advice to Katherine on that score.

Ferdinand and Isabella had five children who lived to adulthood, one son and four daughters. They were careful to present all their actions as being made jointly, to exclude any possibility of the nobility attempting to play one off against the other, to the extent that the chronicler Pulgar once recorded that 'the King and Queen gave birth to a daughter!'

Ferdinand and IsabellaThe young King and Queen (pictured left) faced an uphill struggle to restore order in Castile after the anarchy of Henry's reign, but succeeded in curbing the power of the nobility, boosting the power of the towns and restoring law and order. Although some writers have claimed that Katherine was brought up in Granada, she only spent a few months there, as the Spanish court was itinerent - in the thirty year reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, it travelled well over two thousand kilometres. The monarchs did more travelling than any other ruler in Spanish history, with the possible exception of the current King, their descendant Juan Carlos, who has the advantage of modern methods of transportation rather than going everywhere on horseback. This had the advantage of giving their subjects some sense of cohesion, as the kingdoms otherwise functioned internally as separate entities.

The Moorish kingdom of Granada was still a separate state within the peninsula, but in 1481, the Moorish capture of Zahara sparked a war which would last for ten years. Ferdinand led the army and fought with great courage and Isabella organised supplies and men. Contrary to the opinions of some writers, she never led the army in battle, although she occasionally wore armour whilst reviewing the troops.

Whilst the Spanish forces suffered some reverses in the early years of the war, their superior organisation, manpower and firepower meant that the outcome was never really in doubt. They were also aided by feuds within the Moorish royal family, which Ferdinand exploited with his usual skill. The young Katherine was present during the blockade of the city of Granada, which lasted from 1491 to the beginning of 1492. Granada officially surrendered on 6th January 1492. Under the terms of the surrender, the Moors were allowed freedom of worship.

Granada - the Alhambra
Pictured right - The Alhambra, Granada

In 1478, Pope Sixtus IV granted permission for the establishment of an inquisition in Castile. This was not a new idea - Aragon already had an inquisition and previous tribunals had operated elsewhere, including southern France. The main purpose was to ensure the religious orthodoxy of the conversos, those who had converted from Judaism, many of whom clung to Jewish customs. The operation of the Spanish Inquisition is rightly regarded as a terrible event in history. However, by the standards of the time, the Inquisition was not particularly harsh and the great majority of those found guilty of heresy were fined or penanced rather than executed. Due to concerns that the remaining Jews influenced their converso friends and relatives adversely, the Jews were expelled from all the Spanish kingdoms on 31st March 1492. This was a another horrifying act, but again this was not a new idea - Jews had previously been expelled from England, France and parts of Italy. About half converted to Christianity and around 80,000 left the country, although half of those later converted and returned.

In the same year, Ferdinand and Isabella agreed to sponsor the Genoese sailor Columbus. His discoveries led to the expansion of the Spanish Empire. In 1494, by the Papal Bull Inter Caetera issued by Alexander VI and the Treaty of Tordesillas, the Americas were divided between Spain and Portugal.

Up until 1492, both Ferdinand and Isabella had concentrated primarily on solving Castilian problems and conquering Granada. Thereafter, Isabella was mainly occupied with church reform and Ferdinand with foreign policy. He gradually built up the best diplomatic service in Europe, which ensured that he was far better informed about his rivals and their plans than they were about him. After surviving a near-fatal assassination attempt in Barcelona on 7th December 1492 (which must have been extremely traumatic for the seven year old Katherine), Ferdinand successfully recovered the counties of Rousillon and Cerdagne from Charles VIII, who wanted a free hand to conquer Naples (Treaty of Barcelona, 19th January 1493). Naples was ruled by his brother-in-law and cousin, Ferrante I, but Ferdinand had never given up his own claims. He formed the Holy League in 1495, in which the Pope, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, Venice and Milan combined together to drive the French from Italy. The marriages alliances of his children were designed to encircle the old enemy, France.

In 1500, Ferdinand changed sides and allied with Louis XII of France to eject the illegitimate line of Aragonese kings from Naples and divide the kingdom between them. The erstwhile allies soon quarrelled, and war broke out in 1502. Initially, the French were successful but the Spanish army under Gonsalvo de Cordoba gradually wore them down and by the end of 1503, the entire kingdom was in Spanish hands. Ferdinand also increased his influence on the small kingdom of Navarre, ruled by descendants of his sister Eleanor.
Ferdinand and Isabella, c.1485

Ferdinand was at odds with Isabella over the government of Granada. He objected to the heavy-handed actions of Cardinal Cisneros, Archbishop of Toledo, which soon provoked a rebellion. Following the suppression of the revolt, all Moors who refused to convert to Christianity were expelled from Granada in 1501 and from Castile in 1502. The majority coverted, but with little sincerity. Ferdinand refused to implement the same policy in Aragon, where the Moors continued to enjoy freedom of worship until 1525. In 1503 Ferdinand and Isabella became heirs to the Eastern Roman Empire and thus Ferdinand became de jure Roman Emperor.

Pictured left - Ferdinand and Isabella c. 1485

By this time, Isabella's health was beginning to fail. Her only son John, eldest daughter Isabella and grandson Michael had died, and she was increasingly worried by the mental health problems of her daughter and heiress Joanna, wife of the Archduke Philip of Austria, Duke of Burgundy. By September 1504, it was clear that Isabella was dying of cancer. In her Will, she specified that Ferdinand should serve as Regent of Castile until her grandson Charles was twenty if Joanna was 'unwilling or unable to rule'

Isabella died at Medina del Campo on 26th November 1504 at the age of fifty three. She was a woman of great determination, resourcefulness, ability, and courage, but her piety was marred by bigotry and her resolution by inflexibility. She had proved that an able woman could rule successfully in a male-dominated world, a lesson which was not lost on her daughter Katherine and granddaughter Mary.

Right - Statue of Isabella

statue of isabella of castile
Isabella's death left Ferdinand - and by extension, Katherine - in a very difficult position. Although he succeeded in persuading the Cortes of Toro to ratify his title of Regent in 1505, he faced opposition from the Archduke Phillip. Phillip had previously stated that Joanna was insane, but he was now anxious to press her claims in an effort to win power for himself. With the Emperor Maximilian supporting his son's claims and Henry VII sitting on the fence, Ferdinand reversed his traditional policy and made an alliance with France (Treaty of Blois, 1505). Under the terms of the treaty, Ferdinand married Louis' niece, Germaine de Foix, who also had the advantage of possessing Andorra and a claim to the throne of Navarre. According the Venetian ambassador, he was no more faithful to her than he had been to Isabella. Their only son, John, died a few hours after his birth on 3rd May 1509.

The support that Phillip gained from the Castilian nobility, who wanted a weak King so that they could wield more power, forced Ferdinand to withdraw from Castile in June 1506. Sailing to Naples, he spent seven months reorganising the administration of that kingdom before meeting Louis XII at a summit meeting at Savona. By this time, Phillip had died in somewhat suspicious circumstances and Joanna showed no inclination to exercise power, allowing Castile to fall into a state of anarchy.

Ferdinand's return to the Regency in 1507 was generally welcomed by the nobles as well as the people, and after making an example of the rebellious Marquis of Priego, he had no further problems in establishing his control over Castile. Joanna retired first to Arcos and then, in 1509, to the Castle of Tordesillas, where she remained imprisoned until her death in 1555. Ferdinand was now able to turn his attention to Katherine's situation in England He made Katherine his ambassadress to England (the first female ambassador in recorded history) and made the remainder of her dowry available. Negotiations recommenced, although without significant progress until the young Henry took the throne.

Ferdinand's adherence to the League of Cambrai (1508) , under which the majority of European powers joined together to crush Venice, brought him the return of the Neapolitan ports lost to the Republic in 1495, and the subsequent War of the Holy League extended Spanish influence into northern Italy. Spanish expansion in the Americas continued, and Florida was discovered by Ponce de Leon in 1513. In the same year, Niccolo Machiavelli used Ferdinand as a major role model in his famous political work, 'The Prince'. Between 1507 and 1509, many ports on the coastal strip of North Africa known as the Maghreb fell to Spain.However, the most important event of the last part of Ferdinand's reign was probably the conquest of Navarre.

Ferdinand of Aragon
Navarre had been inherited by Ferdinand's great-niece Catherine and her husband John d'Albret. Louis XII had been inclined to support the rival claims of their cousin Gaston de Foix as a way of keeping them in line, but Gaston's death at the Battle of Ravenna (1512) meant tnat his claims passed to his sister Germaine, the wife of the French King's greatest rival. .Louis therefore made a defensive pact with them (Treaty of Blois, 1512). Anticipating this, Ferdinand (pictured right) had manipulated Henry VIII into sending an amy into Guienne under the Marquis of Dorset. He also published an alleged abstract of the Treaty of Blois which misrepresented it as a planned attack on Spain rather than a defensive alliance.

With the attack on Navarre apparently justified and backed by the Pope, and France effectively rendered unable to support the Navarrese sovereigns due to the presence of Dorset's army, Ferdinand's army had little trouble in conquering the entire kingdom. John and Catherine fled to France. The Cortes swore allegiance to Ferdinand in 1513, and most of Navarre remains part of Spain to this day.

By 1515, the foundations of the great Spanish Empire had been laid, and Ferdinand was able to declare to the Cortes of Burgos that 'in the past seven hundred years, the Crown of Spain has never been so great or so resplendent as it is now and all, after God, by my work and my labours'. Increasingly ill with coronary disease, Ferdinand continued to travel throughout Spain. On a journey to Seville in January 1516, he apparently suffered a heart attack near the small village of Madrigalejo in Extramadura, and died there a few days later on January 23rd 1516 at the age of sixty three. Under the terms of his Will, the Spanish kingdoms were in practice inherited by his grandson Charles V, although Joanna remained the theoretical sovereign. The news of his death was concealed from Katherine until after the birth of Princess Mary on 18th February.

Ferdinand was brave, charming, highly intelligent, resilient, witty and charismatic, but was also devious, unscrupulous, duplicitous, promiscuous and utterly ruthless when it came to promoting Aragonese interests. For good or ill, his actions had shaped not just Spain but Europe at a critical turning point in history.

capilla real tombs of ferdinand and isabella
Tomb of Ferdinand and Isabella (with that of Joanna and Phillip in the backrground), Capilla Real; Granada

Katherine of Aragon
(Catarina de Aragón, Infanta de Aragón)

born 16 December 1485 at Alcala de Henares, near Madrid,
7 January 1536 at Kimbolton Castle, Hertfordshire, England

Katharine of Aragon by Micheal Sittow

Katherine of Aragon, probably by Michael Sittow


Spain 1492, David Abulafia
Juana the Mad, Bethany Aram
Ferdinand and Isabella, Felipe Fernandez Armesto
The Reign of Henry VII, Francis Bacon
Louis XII, Frederick Baumgartner
The Medieval Crown of Aragon, Thomas Bisson
Calendars of State Papers, Spanish, Foreign and Domestic, and Venetian
Seek the Darkness: the story of Juana la Loca, Amerie Dennis
The King's Other Body - Maria of Castile and the Crown of Aragon, Theresa Earenfight
Ferdinand and Isabella, Profiles in Power, John Edwards
The Spain of the Catholic Monarach, John Edwards
Imperial Spain, John Elliott
Boadicea's Chariot, Antoina Fraser
The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Antonia Fraser
History of Italy, Francesco Guicciardini
Islamic Spain, 1250 - 1500, L.P. Harvey
The Spanish Kingdoms, Volume 2, Jocelyn Hillgarth
Spain 1469 - 1714, a Society of Conflict, Henry Kamen
The Spanish Inquisition, Henry Kamen
Isabel the Queen, Peggy Liss
The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli
Spain in the Middle Ages, Angus Mackay
Catherine of Aragon, Garrett Mattingly
Renaissance Diplomacy, Garrett Mattingly
Ferdinand and Isabella, Malvina McKendrick
The Rise of the Spanish Emprire, Volume 2, Roger Merriman
The Moslems of Valencia, Mark Meyerson
The Queens of Aragon, E.L. Miron
The Mendoza Family in the Spanish Renaissance, Helen Nader
The Last Crusaders, Barnaby Rogerson
Isabella of Castile, the First Renaissance Queen, Nancy Rubin
Alfonso the Magnamimous, Alan Ryder
The Wreck of Catalonia, Alan Ryder
Henry, Virtuous Prince, David Starkey
Six Wives : the Queens of Henry VIII, David Starkey
Rivers of Gold: the Rise of the Spanisn Empire, Hugh Thomas
Henry VII, Neville Williams
Wikipedia article on Katharine