Saturday, April 28, 2012

Catherine of Aragon: Henry's Spanish Queen

Catherine of Aragon: Henry's Spanish Queen is a 2010 biography written by Giles Tremlett on Catherine of Aragon.

Catalina of Aragon was born on December 16, 1485 to the Queen Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, the Catholic Monarchs. Ten years before her birth, Isabella had wrestled the throne away from her niece, Princess Juana "La Beltraneja", and named herself the rightful Queen of Castile. Now firmly rooted the the true ruler of Castile, Isabella worked hard on her dream of the Reconquista, reclaiming Spanish land still in possession of the Moors.

At the age of three, Catalina was engaged to the Prince of Wales. The son of Henry VII of England and Elizabeth of York, Arthur was two at the time of his betrothal. Having only recently establishing the Tudor dynasty after the long and bloody War of the Roses, a marriage between Arthur and a daughter of  the Catholic Monarchs would only serve to strengthen Henry's legitimacy in the eyes of the English people. From then on Catalina would be trained for her future role as Queen of England.

Now sixteen, Infanta Catalina of Aragon is sent to England to become Catherine, the Princess of Wales. Catherine and Arthur were married on November 14, 1501. What happened that night would be play a part a critical part in Catherine's future.  The couple moved to Ludlow Castle in Wales shortly after their wedding . Tragically both husband and wife fell to the sweating sickness. Catherine survived. Arthur didn't. After only a few months of marriage, Arthur died on April 2, 1502. 

Catherine recovered to find herself a widow. She was in a foreign land without the aid of her family; her future unsure. Her stock as the daughter of the King and Queen of Spain fell considerably when her Mother died November 26, 1504. Now she was only a daughter of the King of Aragon. Catherine was caught in between the power struggle between her Father and her brother-in-law, Philip the Handsome, for power over Castile. Although she had been betrothed to Prince Henry, Arthur's younger brother, the King was always threatening to marry Henry to some other Princess. Seven years passed before the storm cleared.

On April 21, 1509, Henry VII died and his son became Henry VIII  of England. Henry and Catherine were married on June 11, 1509. A dispensation was required from the Pope as it was forbidden for men to marry their brother's widow. The two were crowned together at Westminster Abbey on June 24.  Catherine was now Queen.

Shortly after their wedding, Catherine was pregnant but miscarried after only a few months. The pregnancy, however, carried on as Catherine believed that she was carrying twins and only one had died. There was no child. The Queen gave birth to a baby boy named Henry on New Years Day 1511. The boy lived for over a month. Of all the Queen's numerous pregnancies and birth, only a daughter, Mary, survived past infancy.

Catherine proved herself a capable leader during her husband's absence in France leading English troops against Scottish ones and winning a decisive battle where James IV of Scotland is killed. From then on, she was the people's Queen.

Catherine's failure to produce a son deeply effected her relationship with her husband. England had never had a Queen Regnant but Catherine, being the daughter of the legendary Isabella, held firm to the fact that women were just as good as men. When Henry installed his illegitimate son by Elizabeth Blount, Henry Fitzroy, as Duke of Richmond, the Queen flew into a rage.

In 1525, Henry became enamored with one of Catherine's ladies-in-waiting. If Catherine thought that it was just a mere fancy, she was dead wrong. The woman that had caught the King's attention was none other than Anne Boleyn and she would not stop until she was Queen. If Henry wanted Anne, he would have to obtain an annulment from Catherine. His case was based on a line from Leviticus saying that a man can not lie with his brother's wife, that he has uncovered his brother's nakedness and they shall be barren. Catherine defended herself valiantly, the marriage was never consummated she said

When Rome refused to grant, Henry took the radical step of naming himself God's Representative on Earth and creating the Church of England. Catherine was stripped of her title as Queen of England and sent away. Henry married Anne in May. Anne did not give Henry the boy that she had promised but instead was delivered of a girl, named Elizabeth after Henry's Mother, on September 7, 1533.

Catherine died on January 7, 1536. She still continued to called herself Queen of England, wife of Henry VIII. Her daughter, Mary, would be England's first Queen.

I give this book a 4/5. The book was very well written. Giles Tremlett handled the subject of Catherine's first marriage very well, although he never gives us a definite answer, he does imply that Catherine and Arthur had sex. Tremlett paints Catherine as a very duty driven woman which begs the question as to why someone who is so duty bound would not fulfill her duty of producing an heir with her husband?


1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. I mean personally I could not care less about these rulers but the way you do your reviews is interesting. Keep up with these.