Born: 16th December 1485, Castile
Daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile
Married: 1st Arthur, Prince of Wales (1501-1502), 2nd Henry VIII (m 1509 annulled 1533)
Died: 7th January 1536, Kimbolton Castle
The first wife of Henry VIII. Katherine was brought to England as a bride for Henry’s elder brother Arthur in 1501. At only 15 they were wed, however this happy young couple were not to last as Arthur died only four months later. For Katherine, her life was on hold owing to Henry VII refusal to allow her to leave England. He was not going to lose his powerful alliance with Spain. Prince Henry was only 10, too young to marry so Katherine had to wait. They were eventually married in June 1509, and shortly after he was crowned in Westminster Abbey after Henry VII death.
The marriage may surprise some people, owing to the perception of how badly it ended. In actual fact it was a very happy one. Despite their five year age gap, they got on well, sharing interests in music and art. In 1516 their daughter, Mary was born and rejoicing was to follow. Henry was besotted by his little girl, and planned alliances were formed between England and France as a potential bride for the French Dauphin.
However, a son was needed to continue the succession, and after several miscarriages and still births, no more heirs were to be born from Katherine. By this time Henry’s attention had been swayed at court and he started to believe Katherine was cursed. The following events hold great significance on the societal structure of Britain even now. Roman Catholicism had been the fabric of England, but was ended with Henry’s divisive Break with Rome in 1534. This act was to ended Katherine and Henry’s marriage which was annulled and left their daughter Mary out of the line of accession.
Katherine’s remaining years were awful. She was banished from London and spent her time in poor circumstances owing to very little financial help from Henry. He forbade her to see Mary, however they did secretly correspond with the help of some of her loyal servants. Katherine became ill in the winter of 1535 and died the following January. It has been suggested that Henry rejoiced at the news of her death. He did not attend her funeral and refused Mary to attend. To many, Katherine remains as Henry’s ‘true’ wife owing to their 24 year marriage but also how she presented herself. Her quiet dignity and refusal to submit to Henry’s demands brought her much loyalty and admiration. She retained her faith right up until her death. She is buried in Peterborough Cathedral.