Henry VIII turns on Katherine of Aragon


When Henry VIII believed that Katherine of Aragon would no longer be able to give him a male heir he began to look for ways out of the marriage. Whether he truly believed his own statements, or if he was just looking for a way out, only he and his closest advisers would know. Henry’s biggest concern was that Katherine’s marriage to his older brother Arthur must have been consummated and that is why he had not been able to conceive a surviving son and male heir with her.

While reading Sarah Gristwood’s newest book, “Game of Queens” she discusses two different debates regarding Henry’s concern with his first marriage.

In the book of Leviticus, the Bible says, “If a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing: he has uncovered his brother’s nakedness. Thy shall be childless.”

In Henry’s mind this meant not without child, but without male heir. Clearly he interpreted things the way that would benefit himself. However, in the book of Deuteronomy it contradicts Leviticus saying that a man has a duty to marry his deceased brother’s widow and to ‘raise up seed for his brother’. So…which was it? Was Henry supposed to marry his brother’s widow or was he not?

The ultimate question was whether or not Katherine of Aragon and Arthur, Prince of Wales had consummated their marriage. When the papal legates (Campeggio and Wolsey) visited Katherine and tried to convince her to join a nunnery she refused. They told the Pope, ‘Although she is very religious and extremely patient, she will not accede in the least.” Katherine swore on her conscience that she and Prince Arthur had never consummated their marriage, and declared that ‘she intended to live and die in the estate of matrimony to which God had called her.’

Cardinal Campeggio attempted to sway the queen but she would not listen. Wolsey warned her to yield to the King’s displeasure – she snapped at him saying:

Of this trouble, I thank only you, my lord of York! Of malice you have kindled this fire, especially for the great grudge you bear to my nephew the Emperor, because he would not gratify your ambition by making you Pope by force!

Wolsey then went on to excuse himself. He stated that it had been ‘sore against his will that ever the marriage should be in question’ and he promised, as legate for the Pope to be impartial. Katherine did not believe him as she knew Wolsey to be the closest adviser to the King.

On the 26th of October 1528, by her request, Campeggio heard Katherine’s confession. She declared, upon the salvation of her soul, that she had never been carnally known by Prince Arthur. Campeggio believed she was speaking the truth but continued to push for her to go to a nunnery.

In 1531, Katherine was still declaring herself Henry’s true wife. Henry was attempting to force Katherine to sign his Act of Supremacy. She refused, stating that the Pope was ‘the only true sovereign and vicar of God…’ She went on to say:

I love and have loved my lord the King as much as any woman can love a man, but I would not have borne him company as his wife for one moment against the voice of my conscience. Iamhis true wife.

From all that we have read and learned about the relationship of Arthur, Prince of Wales and Katherine of Aragon it appears that they had not consummated their marriage. Most believe it is because Arthur was in such poor health at the time. I believe that Katherine would never have lied in confession.

What do YOU believe?


Gristwood, Sarah; Game of Queens; page 129

Weir, Alison; The Six Wives of Henry VIII, pages 177, 190, 191, 227



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Arthur Tudor Henry VIII History Katherine of Aragon

8 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Their marriage was consummated. Arthur was not sickly & weak, if he had been then Henry VII would not have pinned all his hopes on him and left his younger son out of training for rule. The sweating sickness and malaria we’re both noted for taking down the strongest and healthiest of men. Katharine firmly believed the Pope was God’s voice on earth. If the Pope declared her a virgin then Katharine would consider herself virginal and untouched, especially considering the amount of time passed between marriages. Had she been a virgin she surely would have stated that when Lady Magaret and Queen Elizabeth were waiting the 6 months to ensure she was not pregnant. There is also the witnesses, including those claiming to have seen the sheets. On top of ALL OF THIS, Katharine was raised to be queen and knew the marriage must be consummated to be legal, her and Arthur’s love letters and pleas for a papal dispensation to marry younger. Do you think for 1 minute that Katharine of Aragon would give any cause to say she was not truly married to Arthur or his true wife? Her mother most definitely installed proper protocol in her child. That does not excuse Henry…just saying.

    • Clearly we have different takes on this matter. By the way, it had been documented that Arthur was sickly so I’m not sure why you think he wasn’t. I’m sure Henry VII was hopeful he would get better – why wouldn’t he think so? If this topic was so cut and dry we would t still be debating it centuries later.

      • Not all historians agree that Arthur was sickly. Henry VII was a shrewd and careful man as was his mother Lady Margaret. To say Henry would pin all his hopes on a weak child seems completely out of character. Henry VIII had not been trained to rule as one would expect if they felt they needed a spare just in case. I have not seen any reputable proof of Arthur being a sickly child. Other than his death when both be and Katharine were sick, which would not be proof as Arthur would not have gotten Katharine sick because he was a sickly child. I do wonder if it was malaria, given the region and Katharine’s future problems with her pregnancies. It is sad to think antibiotics could have saved that woman so much heartache, but then we would not have had Elizabeth.

  2. I just started reading Allison Weir’s ‘Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen.’ I’m on page 300 of over 500 pages on my Nook. Her development of the characters of Katherine and Henry are excellent. We’re not often aware that they loved each other passionately until miscarried and stillborn sons and daughters (except for Mary) mired them in grief and doubt. Thomas Boleyn has just been mentioned and his ‘fair’ daughter Mary who became Henry’s mistress before Anne. Bessie Blount had already entered the picture and given birth to Henry Fitzroy, the son who made Henry believe he could sire sons, with a different wife.

    • That was a fantastic read. The book on Anne is arriving in my mailbox in Tuesday and I cannot wait to read her take on Anne. If I recall correctly Weir is promoting this series as fiction, right?

  3. In my opinion she would not have lied. England required a male per Henry’s wish, but I can see Katerine not having a female queen on the throne as her mother was one of the strongest queens and had no problem ruling. I would imagine that might have argued that point that you don’t see in any movies. However, if she had won the argument the line died very quickly since Mary died early in her reign. To bad he couldn’t see the potential of women because Elizabeth I was a better ruler than he was and for a longer more successful time.

  4. she was the true wife of Henry I believe her 100% she was never a liar or a manipulator she was a true Christian woman wrongly treated by Henry and his camp.

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