Katherine of Aragon: Princess of Wales

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.

Katherine of Lancaster
Katherine of Lancaster
constance of castile
Constance of Castile
John of Gaunt - son of Richard lll
John of Gaunt







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.

example of blackword embroidery
Black-work style embroidery

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.

Isabella l of Castile - attributed to Gerard David
Isabella l of Castile – attributed to Gerard David
Katherine - By Miguel Sittow - around age 15
Katherine – By Miguel Sittow – around age 15









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 wedding portrait of Ferdinand and Isabella, c. 1469
The wedding portrait of Ferdinand and Isabella, c. 1469

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.

Henry Vl
Henry VI
Edward IV






Edward V
Edward V
Richard III






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.

Perkin Warbeck – The Pretender
Edward, Earl of Warwick
Edward, Earl of Warwick









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.

Katherine of Aragon
Katherine of Aragon

Reference: The Six Wives of Henry Vlll by Alison Weir

Letter from Perkin Warbeck

Perkins Warbeck
Perkin Warbeck

Translated from Latin.

[To Isabella of Castile, 1493: (British Library MS Egerton 616), as quoted by I. Arthurson in The Perkin Warbeck Conspiracy, P. 49-50]

“I myself, then nearly nine years of age, was also delivered to a certain Lord to be killed, [but] it pleased Divine Clemency, that lord, having compassion on my innocence, preserved me alive in safety: first, however, causing me to swear on the holy sacrament that to no one should I disclose my name, origin, or family, until a certain number of years had passed. He then sent me therefore abroad, with two persons, who should watch over and take charge of me;  and thus I, an orphan, bereaved of my royal father and brother, an exile from my kingdom, and deprived of my country, inheritance and fortune, a fugitive in the midst of extreme perils, led my miserable life, in fear, and weeping, and grief, and for the space of nearly eight years lay hid…scarcely had I emerged from childhood alone and without means, I remained for a time in the kingdom of Portugal, and thence sailed to Ireland, where being recognised by illustrious lords, the earl of Desmond and Kildare, my cousins, as also by other noblemen of the island, I was received with great joy and honour. -Richard”

Richard, Duke of York
Richard, Duke of York
Perkins Warbeck
Perkins Warbeck