Infanta Katherine of Aragon
Birth: 15/16 December 1485, Palace of Bishop of Toledo
Parents: Ferdinand II of Aragon & Isabella l of Castile
Katherine of Aragon was named after her great-grandmother, Katherine of Lancaster – daughter of John of Gaunt and his second wife, Infanta Constance of Castile.
Henry VII also descended from John of Gaunt and his third wife.
John of Gaunt was son of Edward III. Technically speaking, Katherine of Aragon had a stronger claim to the throne of England than her future father in law, Henry VII.
During her upbringing Katherine was well educated. She was an avid reader and was trained in needlework, dancing, lacemaking and embroidery in the black-work style. This style of embroidery was made popular by Katherine in England.
Katherine loved and respected her mother Isabella. She grew up to be much like her – in looks and character. Isabella was able to turn a blind-eye to Ferdinand’s many infidelities, as did her daughter years later with her second husband, Henry VIII. Like her mother, Katherine also had a great sense for fashion.
Henry VII, to stabilize his reign and cement himself as king of England, needed an alliance with a powerhouse…Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. Henry VII had issue with France as did the Spanish monarchs. An alliance would benefit both.
The instability of the recent kings of England’s reigns (Henry VII, Edward IV, Edward V & Richard III) made Ferdinand and Isabella reluctant to align themselves with Henry VII. With that being said, assistance against France (from England) was more important to Ferdinand than his own daughter’s future security.
In December 1487 Queen Elizabeth of York wrote to Isabella I of Castile asking her to be kept informed of the health and safety of Katherine – ‘whom we think of and esteem as our own daughter.’
On 27 March 1489 the Treaty of Medina del Campos was signed by the Spanish sovereigns. This treaty included a marriage contract between the Infanta Katherine of Aragon, and Arthur, Prince of Wales, with a dowry of 200,000 crowns. Today that would convert to Ł5M or $7.7M. Henry’s ratification to the treaty came in September 1490 by the Treaty of Woking when then the agreement was finally signed by the king.
The english subjects were very excited to see the girl who would one day be Arthur’s queen, however, her father was in no rush to move forward. The newest pretender, Perkin Warbeck, had emerged and threatened the throne along with the continuing existence of Edward, Earl of Warwick – who had a stronger claim to the throne than Henry VII. The Earl of Warwick’s uncle was Edward IV.
By 1499 the threat of Perkin Warbeck had subdued and a by proxy marriage for Arthur and Katherine had taken place of 19 May 1499 at Arthur’s manor house in Bewdley. At this point the only thing that was stopping the Spanish sovereigns from sending their daughter to England was the threat of the Earl of Warwick – last heir of York. Ferdinand insisted he would not send his daughter unless Edward, Earl of Warwick was eliminated. What a predicament, Edward was first cousin to the Queen, and she adored him – felt responsible for his well-being. Imagine having to tell her that the future of the Tudor dynasty was with the death of her beloved cousin.
Edward, Earl of Warwick was arraigned for conspiring with Perkin Warbeck. The simple-minded youth, whom had spent most of his life in the Tower of London alone, became confused and pleaded guilty to the charges against him. He was sentenced to death and beheaded in November 1499 on Tower Hill. His only guilt was being the son of George, Duke of Clarence (brother to Edward IV) and Isabel Neville.
Katherine of Aragon always felt responsible for the death of the young Earl of Warwick. I often wonder if Elizabeth of York held it against her daughter in law, or if she understood what had to be done for her son and the Tudor line.
Now that the Earl of Warwick was dead there was nothing stopping Katherine of Aragon’s wedding to Arthur, Prince of Wales. In 1500, with all threats to the English throne eliminated, Ferdinand and Isabella began preparations to send their daughter to England for her wedding – Katherine was now 15 years old. (see portrait above)
In April 1501 Isabella announced that she was ready to send her daughter to England. On 21 May Katherine left the Alhambra in Granada for the port of Corunna. From there she would sail to England. She arrived in Corunna 20 July 1501 but could not embark due to winds until 17 August. The weather was so unfavorable that they were forced to return to Spain and dock in Laredo. On 27 September the weather calmed and Katherine was again on her way to England to meet her groom. In five days she arrived at Devon in Plymouth.
Reference: The Six Wives of Henry Vlll by Alison Weir