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Posts Tagged ‘Catherine Katherine of Aragon’

Henry VIII's true wife.

Forgive my rants and ramblings. “The Tudors Wiki” has an ongoing debate about which of Henry’s wives had it worse.  I say it was Katherine of Aragon.  

(The Tudors is a “visually lush but historically loose” series on the life and wives of Henry VIII. Our ancestor Sir Thomas Wyatt is an integral part of it. You can see seasons 1 and 2 on demand via Netflix; seasons 3 and 4 are available on DVD.)

I suspect 80% of “The Tudors”‘ research came from one of my favorite references – Alison Weir’s “Six Wives of Henry VIII.”

The casting is brilliant, but they were a little stuck in stereotypes. They have the Spanish queen played by Maria Doyle Kennedy who has pitch black hair and fair skin;  check it out: http://tudorswiki.sho.com/page/Queen+Katherine+of+Aragon

This actress is awesome in the role but the real queen had fair skin and reddish hair. 

In my research I find myself growing very attached to some of these people. Katherine – like Sir Henry Wyatt – is  a favorite. But it didn’t “feel” right because I’m supposed to be writing about our ancestors and their connections, ya know? So you can imagine my delight in finding she does have a connection to us. 

Henry VIII elbowed our Thomas out of the way so he’d have a clear shot at Anne; then Tom fell in love with Elizabeth Darrel, Katherine’s Maid of Honor. (I’m going off memory so don’t hold me to details in this blog.)

Katherine of Aragon

It’s funny, the English had not yet encountered a strong, capable Queen Regnant but that’s exactly what Katherine’s mother was. Isabella I of Castile was at war and in the saddle the day before Katherine was born; she gave birth and rode off again the next morning, leaving the infant with a wet nurse.

Henry VII saw Isabella and Ferdinand as movers and shakers; he wanted to  strengthen his claim to the throne by marrying his oldest, Arthur, to their Katherine. They were betrothed as toddlers.

I can’t remember how old Katherine was when she finally made the journey to England. I think early teens.  She met with horrific storms en route and it took about three months to get there. I wonder if she saw that as an omen.

When she landed, she was entering prime child-bearing years. Arthur died of sweating sickness shortly after the wedding. Katherine was sick too – but she survived.

Imagine being a young girl, widowed, alone in a strange country. I read somewhere that her parents taught her to drink wine before she left home because the English couldn’t drink their water; it was unfit for human consumption.

Henry VII promised Isabel and Ferdinand that he would treat Katherine as his own daughter, but he used the young widow as a financial bargaining chip instead. He wanted dowry. He arranged for her betrothal to his son Henry, butyears later it was secretly withdrawn. He got stingy with her and she had to beg for clothes and money for the few loyal servants she had left.

Henry VII bears much blame for Katherine’s sad life because he wasted at least six of her prime child bearing years. Maybe if he had stepped aside, his son would have had his sons. Sure he would have strayed, but Katherine might have kept her crown and lived a more peaceful life. 

By the time Henry VII died and the young Henry VIII accepted his brother’s widow as wife, she was 23 years old – he was 18. Her first son was born on New Year’s Eve – a little boy who died in less than 60 days.

More miscarriages … imagine the rush of hormones, the depressions, the grief. Queens were glorified breeders. I read that she gave off an unpleasant odor after every pregnancy and Henry couldn’t stand the thought of getting close. Plus she was getting old quickly. Who wouldn’t? 

The royal couple’s daughter Mary didn’t count in the grand scheme of things because the English could not remember a time when they’d had an effective queen regnant.

Henry VIII’s father cared about money and establishing the Tudor dynasty. Henry VIII cared about putting on a big show and having a legitimate son or two to perpetuate the lineage. 

I think it’s probably true that he felt he had sinned by taking his brother’s wife; but the measures he took to rid himself of this pious woman were despicable.

There is a scene in The Tudors where Katherine takes a nighttime carriage ride to a cathedral to pray for a son. She steps out of the carriage barefoot onto cold wet stones … it’s a powerful visual.   

Katherine was the proud daughter of a powerful queen. Katherine herself was queen regnant for six months at the Battle of Flodden (Henry was busy in France at the time; nobody talks about that because he took credit for her win over the Scots.) 

She was a was a good woman who genuinely loved her God, her husband and her daughter. 

Towards Katherine’s end, Henry told Katherine and Mary they could see each other if they would acknowledge Anne as queen; they would not. Who could blame them?

All those miscarriages, one beloved daughter – then a husband whose affections grew cold to the point where he flaunted her successor.  When they opened her up after her death, they found “something black” on her heart. They say now that was a cancer. Well, abuse feeds cancers. I say any way you cut it, she died of a broken heart.

Yes, I believe Katherine had it worst.

I truly wonder why the Catholic church sainted Sir Thomas More (who burned Protestants at the stake) but not Katherine? Her faith, integrity and loyalty were unshakable.

If you watch the Tudors, you’ll see the scene where Katherine dies and her maid Elizabeth Darrel hangs herself; it didn’t happen that way. Elizabeth D. did not commit suicide.

Katherine wrote Elizabeth D. into her will, hoping she would find a good match. She already had a match – our ancestor, Sir Thomas Wyatt.   He even translated some Latin for Katherine. I wonder how well he knew her.

Anne Boleyn was the victim of her own ambition. I don’t care if we are related, I believe Anne’s karma played out in her lifetime; fortunately it did not extend to her daughter Elizabeth.

Elizabeth D. lived with Sir Tom at Allington until his death. (He died while traveling on behalf of the king.)  She had sons by him; one died with his half-brother Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger at or after the rebellion.

Here’s something cool … last week I learned that Henry VIII gave Anne of Cleves three residences in appreciation for her willingness to step aside as wife. (She had to be giddy with relief!!) One of those residences was Hever, home of Anne and the Boleyns. Anne of Cleves also took an interest in little Elizabeth.

I wonder if the two spent time together at Hever. I can’t wait to learn more.  I have a soft spot for bastards who turn out ok:-)

(I am one.)

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