Queen Katherine of Aragon

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Katherine of Aragon as played by Maria Doyle Kennedy
Infanta of Aragon & Castille & Queen of England
Motto: " Humble & Loyal" (As Queen of England)
& " Not for my Crown" (As Princess of Wales)

Born December 16, 1485 - died January 7, 1536
Crowned June 25, 1509
Separated & Banished July 1531 (aged 46)
Marriage officially annulled January 1533
Character's backstory:
Born an Infanta of Spain, to King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castille, Katherine came to England at the age of 15 to wed Arthur, Prince of Wales. After Arthur’s death Katherine lived in abject poverty for several years while her father and her father-in-law argued over what was to become of her, because the notoriously miserly Henry VII did not want to have to return Katherine and her dowry to Spain; at one point he even considered marrying her himself after the death of his wife Elizabeth of York. At first, she was betrothed to Henry VIII when he was a boy, but he later repudiated her at his father's instigation so Henry VII could look for a more advantageous marriage for his son. With the death of Ferdinand - Isabella had passed sometime before - , the balance of power in Europe had shifted away from Spain and Katherine had lost her status as a desirable match.

However, upon the death of Henry VII his son, the 18-year-old Prince Henry, who had long been taken with his pretty Spanish sister-in-law (six years his senior) and urged by his privy council , married her on June 11, 1509. For a time Katherine served as her father's ambassador in Henry's court, but eventually was forced to choose between her loyalty to her father and her husband. Of course she chose Henry. In 1513, during Henry's absence in France on military campaign that culminated in the inconclusive Battle of the Spurs, Katherine was an able administrator. As Henry's regent, she presided over the war against the invading Scots, mustering and rallying the troops, as well as providing 'standards, banners, and badges". At the beginning of September 1513, Katharine left Richmond at the head of an army that may have been composed of as many as 40, 000 and waited at Buckingham for news and to provide reinforcements to the armies fighting in the north if needed. She had not long to wait. On September 9th, the English forces led by the Earl of Surrey, Thomas Howard, father of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, (Surrey would later become the 2nd Duke of Norfolk and pass the title on to his son) won a decisive victory over James IV of Scotland at Flodden, putting an end to the Scottish threat. Katherine's martial spirit likened to that of her mother Isabella was commented on in the courts of Europe. Upon the conclusion of the Battle of Flodden, she sent the coat of the defeated and defunct James IV to Henry with her congratulations, giving him, of course, all the credit for a victory that was greater then his own in France, as a proper wife of the time who 'knew her place'.

Through the years, she had many pregnancies, but only one living child, Princess Mary Tudor , whom she adored. As the daughter of a Queen regnant, Katherine hoped to see Mary designated heir to England's throne, but although England did not have the Salian Laws prohibiting a female ruler, the English had by custom avoided Queens regnant, and Henry was insistent on a male heir, even going to far as to grant titles, and lands to his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, that made it seem that he was preparing to designate Fitzroy his heir. Of course, Katherine protested. The idea of divorcing Katherine began to be discussed shortly after which Henry became infatuated with Anne Boleyn. Then the matter became more urgent to the King, and he began in earnest to pursue an invalidation of his first marriage to Katherine's horror and dismay. She refused to accept the divorce, her demotion to Princess Dowager, and Mary's removal from the succession for the rest of her life, although Henry exiled her from court, separated her from Mary, and imprisoned her in a succession of damp, gloomy manors and castles.

Katherine died at the age of 51 on January 6th, 1536 at Kimbolton. Henry granted her the funeral due to a Princess Dowager, relict of his brother, Prince Arthur, a title Katherine had refused in life, continuing to call herself Queen of England in her correspondence and considering herself Henry's only lawful wife. She was buried in Peterborough Abbey. In 1891, during restoration at the abbey, Queen Katherine's remains were moved to the north presbytery aisle just outside the sanctuary. By order of Queen Mary, wife of King George, V, the royal banners of an Infanta of Spain and Queen Consort of England are suspended above her grave. Gold lettering on the grillework reads, "Katharine, Queen of England".
It was clear that Henry & Katherine loved and respected one another in the early years which made his eventual disinterest all the more painful for the queen to bear. Even after he no longer loved her, Henry for a long time retained a respect for her and openly sought her advice and opinion.

Princess, daughter of Isabella of Castille and Ferdinand of Aragon , Queen of England.

Infanta of Spain, Princess of Wales, Princess Dowager of Wales, Queen of England.

Personality type: She had charm, graciousness, intelligence & naturally evoked positive responses wherever she went. She had a more reserved character than her husband and blushed at his ribald jests, but she entered into the spirit of frivolity which pervaded their court.Strong willed and always aware of her royal heritage & role in life.,She always gave Henry credit and as a wife knew her "place". She was a deeply pious woman, growing more so as she aged. She also wore hair shirts and prayed for hours on end. She raised Mary to be the same way. She thought Wolsey far too worldly to be a man of the church. She was also peeved that her role as Henry's confidante and adviser was slowly stolen away by Wolsey. Katherine was jealous of the Cardinal's influence with her husband, particularly since it meant a subsequent decline in her own influence. She was a devoted, if stubborn, wife whose unwillingness to acquiesce to Henry’s demands complicated the lives of everyone involved.

Signature look:
Dignified,formal in demeanor, light and strawberry blond in complexion (unlike most motion picture portrayals) Katherine had English ancestry in John of Gaunt and her maternal grandmother and namesake, Catherine of Lancaster and was more of an English, than a Spanish complexion. She favoured more formal & conservative attire.
Although Katherine was attractive in her youth, the years and repeated childbearing were not kind to her.
In 1519 Francis I is known to have said Henry was "Young & Handsome" while he ungallantly said Katherine was " Old & Deformed" probably due to her being overweight and under 5 foot in height.

Endearing trait(s):
Compassion, courage, intelligence, devotion to her daughter Mary, loyalty, patronage of education, tenacity, & her strength in adversity. A devoted & pious catholic.

Annoying trait(s):
She was stubborn & proud but this was in the main due to her grand pedigree. Blind unwavering affection for Henry & belief in his blamelessness with regard to "the King's Great Matter"

"Since 1522, Henry prompted by doubts raised by his confessor, John Longland, Bishop of Lincoln, had been questioning the validity of his marriage....In private, the King and Queen were drifting apart. In 1531, Henry claimed that, by the spring of 1525, when Katherine's periods finally ceased, although he occasionally shared a bed with her for form's sake, he had stopped having sexual relations with her, apparently because she had a gynaecological condition that repelled him. However, in 1528 when he was still sleeping in the same bed with the queen, he told Cardinal Campeggio that he had not had intercourse with her for two years.
The age gap between the royal couple was never more obvious. Katherine who had long since lost the prettiness of her youth and was now a dumpy, middle-aged matron, increasingly sought solace in the company of her daughter and in religious observances."
[source: Alison Weir's Henry VIII and his court]

MDK as KoA

Queen Katherine of Aragon - The Tudors Wiki

'My tribulations are so great, my life so disturbed by the plans daily invented to further the king's wicked intention, the surprises which the king gives me, with certain persons of his council, are so mortal, and my treatment is what God knows, that it is enough to shorten ten lives, much more mine.'
~ Katherine of Aragon to Charles V,

Queen Katherine of Aragon - The Tudors WikiKatherine Aragon COA as Queen Consort
Royal seal and coat of arms of Katherine of Aragon
(Catalina de Aragon)

King Henry VIII himself, said of Katherine:
"The Lady Katherine is a proud, stubborn woman of very high courage. If she took it into her head to take her daughter's part, she could quite easily take the field, muster a great array, and wage against me a war as fierce as any her mother Isabella ever waged in Spain" [source: Cal. S.P Span., 1534-35 p.430]

Ambassador Chapuys wrote (with admitted bias): “And I am told that the said Cromwell could not help saying that it was impossible for a human creature to have given utterance to a more wise or courageous answer than that which the Queen made... and that God and nature had done great injury to the said queen in not making her a man, for she might have surpassed in glory and fame all the princes whose heroic deeds are recorded in history.”
[source: Eustace Chapuys, Imperial Ambassador, 1533
Calendar of State Papers, Spanish, IV, ii, 737.]

Anne Boleyn herself may have had certain respect for Katherine's skill at besting Henry in debate and unsympathetically told the King, who was seeking solace from her after a vigorous argument with the Queen, "Did I not tell you that whenever you argue with the Queen, she is always sure to have the upper hand?" [Ives, Starkey and Weir all cite this. The source is Cal, S.P. Span. Ven., 1527-33, 224]

....and Katherine urged forbearance from her ladies toward Anne:
When one of her ladies began to curse Anne, Katherine commanded her instead to 'pray for her' because the time would come when 'you shall pity and lament her case."
Weir, "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" pg. 255

Martin Luther about the divorce of king and queen: "Before I should approve of such a repudiation, I would rather let him (Henry) marry a second queen...Even if there should be a divorce, Catherine will remain Queen of England, and she will have been wronged before God and man...No, my friend, if you are bound to a woman, you are no longer a free man; God forces you to stay with wife and child, to feed and rear them".
Heiko A. Oberman's biography "Luther" , pg 286

*Click here to view the Historical Timeline of Katherine's life

Health :
"Katherine ...'suffered from leucorrhea, a particularly unpleasant and odorous infection that sometimes followed on the heels of childbirth'. This could not have made her attractive to Henry." (Kelly Hart's Mistresses of Henry VIII 2009)

By 1524 at age 39 and after 6 pregnancies, it became evident that Katherine would not be able to have any more children.
Special doctors had been summoned from Spain to help the queen conceive again which were obviously unsuccessful. (However, there are indications that Henry explored the idea of divorcing Katherine as early as 1518. An English courtier had supposedly visited the Vatican on an exploratory mission earlier that year).

It is thought that she had cancer at her death because her heart was revealed to be blackened. This gave rise to some rumours of poisoning at the time.


Family members:

Father: Fernando II de Aragon (Ferdinand II of Aragon)
Mother: Isabel de Castilla
Sister: Juana the mad, (Queen of Castille after he mother's death and wife to Philip the Beautiful), Isabella of Asturias, and Maria of Aragon
Brother: the Infante Juan
Nephew: Charles V,Holy Roman Emperor (also known as Charles I of Spain)
Great-nephew: Philip II
Great grandmother: Katherine of Lancaster.

Arthur Tudor -Prince of Wales - married 14 November 1501 - 2 April 1502 - Arthur died of the sweating sickness
King Henry VIII in 1509.

Daughter - still born 31 January 1510
Prince Henry, Duke of Cornwall born 1 January 1511 - died 52 days later
Henry Born November 1513 - died a few hours later
Daughter - stillborn - December 1514
Princess Mary Tudor - born 18 February 1516
Daughter - still born 10 November 1518

Friends: Ambassador Mendoza, Ambassador Chapuys,Thomas More,Cardinal John Fisher,Maria de Salinas,Lady Elizabeth Darrell

The Protestant & Reformer Faction.
The Boleyn and Howard Factions.

  • "If I had to choose between extreme sorrow and extreme happiness, I would always choose sorrow, for when you are happy you forget about spiritual things, you forget about God.But in your sorrow, He is always with you."

  • "Chastity? You talk to me about chastity when you have a mistress and two children, your Eminence."

  • " You're taking my child from me; my child! You are tearing her from me as if you were tearing her from my womb".

  • "God never called me to a nunnery, I am the King's true and legitimate wife" Katherine to the legates.

  • "Sir I beseech you. For all the love that has been between us. Let me have justice and right. Give me some pity and compassion for I am a poor woman and a stranger born out of your dominion. I have no friend here, and little counsel. I plea to you as head of justice in this realm. I call God and all the world to witness that I have been to you a true humble and obedient wife ever compliant to your will and pleasure. I have loved all those whom you have loved for your sake whether or not I had cause. Whether they be friends or enemies. By me you have had many children. Although it has pleased God to call them from this world. But when you had me at first , I take God as my judge , I was a true maid without touch of men. And whether or not it be true, I put it to your conscience." Katherine to Henry in the Legatine Court

  • "... but for my part, I forgive you all, and pray, dear God, that He will forgive you also. ... and lastly, this I vow, that my eyes desire you above all things."
  • Episode 8 where she bows and defies Henry in front of the whole court showing she is still in the game, and if you can't stand the heat as you say, then stay out of the kitchen.
  • Episode 17, in which Katharine writes Henry a farewell love letter in which she extends her forgiveness for all the wrongs he has done her, and prays for his soul.


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MDK as KoA

Katherine of Aragon
NPG - Late 17th century
MDK as KoA

Queen Katherine of Aragon - The Tudors Wiki
Miniature portrait, approx. 1526 or 1527

(around the time Anne Boleyn caught Henry's eye
when season 1 starts)
Miniature by Lucas Horenbout / Horenbolte.
Katherine Collage

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