Katherine of Aragon: First Wife of Henry VIII

When we think of Henry VIII we often think of his sixth wives – the end of his first marriage was quite controversial and took many years to achieve…that’s the marriage we are looking at today. Katherine of Aragon and whether or not the marriage between Arthur, Prince of Wales and his bride was consummated. We’ll also look at what happened during her marriage with Henry and how she never allowed Henry to have the upper-hand. In her mind, she was his true wife and queen. I also created a podcast about this subject that I believe you will thoroughly enjoy. If you’d like to check it out please click the image below. This is from 2017:



Katherine – The Early Years

Katherine was the daughter of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile and was named after her great-grandmother, Katherine of Lancaster who was the daughter of the well-know John of Gaunt and Constance of Castile. If you are not familiar with John of Gaunt, he was the son of King Edward III of England – the king with many sons who eventually caused the Wars of the Roses fiasco. But that’s another story!

During her upbringing Katherine was well-educated. She was an avid reader and was trained in needlework, dancing, lace-making 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.

Katherine of Aragon by Michel Sittow



England – 1501

When Katherine came to England in 1501, it was on the heels of the execution of Perkin Warbeck and Edward, Earl of Warwick. Her parents, Ferdinand and Isabella did not wish to send their beloved daughter to a country whose ruler could be removed and their daughter left empty-handed. That is what was going on in England at the time – Warbeck and Warwick were both threats to the throne of Henry VII. Some English subjects believed that either of those men deserved to wear the crown over Henry because of their Plantagenet or House of York lineage. Warbeck claimed to be the son of Edward IV (one of the princes in the Tower) and Warwick was the son of George, Duke of Clarence, brother to King Edward IV and Richard III. Now….when Richard III assumed the role of King of England after the disappearance of the princes in the Tower many suspected that he was responsible for their disappearance because he had the most to gain from it. Now, while I also agree with that statement, we honestly may never know what happened to Edward V & Richard, Duke of York during their stay in the Tower, BUT, the fact that Richard III had the marriage between his brother King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville declared unlawful and invalid because of a previous secret wedding Edward had with Eleanor Butler (which then by right made him next in line to the throne), one could see that this is something that he desired. While he never showed this desire while Edward IV (his brother) was on the throne, unlike his brother the Duke of Clarence, it is not unusual for him to wish to be king if he believed it was his right.

So…this is the mess (with an abbreviated back story) that was going on in England at the time of marriage negotiations with Henry VII and the parents of Katherine of Aragon.

I’ve often thought that Katherine, in her pious ways, may have felt guilty for the execution of Warbeck and Warwick, because it appears that they only occurred because otherwise Ferdinand and Isabella would not send their daughter to England. I’d be curious to hear what you think about that – did Katherine feel guilty or have remorse for the death of these young men? Especially Warwick since he was the first cousin to her new mother-in-law, Elizabeth of York, whom she was very close to.

When Katherine married Arthur, Prince of Wales their marriage was very short-lived. After being sent to Ludlow after their wedding, Arthur and Katherine both became ill but Arthur would not survive. Arthur had been ill or sickly for many years and some have suggested that their marriage was not consummated, even though the morning after their wedding night he boasted that he had “spent the night in Spain”.

Whether or not they did or didn’t is one of the main questions you hear — The question that always comes back into my head is why did Henry want to get the papal dispensation before marrying his brother’s wife? Surely there was more reason than the fact that she was his sister in law…was it because of the chance that the marriage was consummated?

Next we must consider how pious Katherine was — would she condemn her immortal soul just to ensure she was still queen or to prove Henry wrong? Probably not, but would she lie to keep her daughter, Princess Mary in favor? That is likely. As a parent I know a person will do anything to protect their child. Anything.

Plus, we don’t know if she confessed to a priest on her deathbed. Some can say that it was never reported that she did but honestly, if the priest was loyal to her and it was a confession then it was private and he could not repeat it. I was raised Catholic so I know that much.



The King’s Conscious

I recently posted this question on Facebook and Twitter pages and the results are in – we still don’t know. As usual the masses are torn. On the Facebook page Heather mentioned Margaret Beaufort being in charge of the court of Henry VII at the time and she would have made sure things were done properly. This is a very interesting point that you do not hear often and I question if that’s because Margaret died in 1509 after Katherine of Aragon married Henry VIII. She was not available to testify and had not left behind anything to indicate that her grandson Arthur had consummated his marriage with Katherine of Aragon. So…while the idea of Margaret Beaufort made sure the deed was done is just that, an idea. There is no evidence to suggest one way or another so we must set that idea aside.

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.

At the peak of the King’s “Great Matter”, Katherine of Aragon made the speech of her life – On the 21st of June 1529, Katherine, the Queen, gave the speech of her life, on her knees, before Henry VIII and the rest of those present at the hearing. She has been quoted as saying:

“Sir, I beseech you for all the love that hath been between us, and for the love of God, let me have justice and right, take of me some pity and compassion, for I am a poor woman and a stranger born out of your dominion, I have here no assured friend, and much less indifferent counsel: I flee to you as to the head of justice within this realm. Alas! Sir, wherein have I offended you, or what occasion of displeasure have I designed against your will and pleasure? Intending (as I perceive) to put me from you, I take God and all the world to witness, that I have been to you a true and humble wife, ever conformable to your will and pleasure, that never said or did anything to the contrary thereof, being always well pleased and contented with all things wherein ye had any delight or dalliance, whether it were in little or much, I never grudged in word or countenance, or showed a visage or spark of discontentation. I loved all those whom ye loved only for your sake, whether I had cause or no; and whether they were my friends or my enemies. This twenty years I have been your true wife or more, and by me ye have had divers children, although it hath pleased God to call them out of this world, which hath been no default in me.

And when ye had me at the first, I take God to be my judge, I was a true maid without touch of man; and whether it be true or no, I put it to your conscience. If there be any just cause by the law that ye can allege against me, either of dishonesty or any other impediment to banish and put me from you, I am well content to depart, to my great shame and dishonor; and if there be none, then here I most lowly beseech you let me remain in my former estate, and received justice at your princely hand. The king your father was in the time of his reign of such estimation through the world for his excellent wisdom, that he was accounted and called of all men the second Solomon; and my father Ferdinand, King of Spain, who was esteemed to be one of the wittiest princes that reigned in Spain many years before, were both wise and excellent kings in wisdom and princely behavior. It is not therefore to be doubted, but that they were elected and gathered as wise counsellors about them as to their high discretions was thought meet. Also, as me seemeth there was in those days as wise, as well-learned men, and men of good judgement as be present in both realms, who thought then the marriage between you and me good and lawful Therefore is it a wonder tome what new inventions are now invented against me, that never intended but honesty. And cause me to stand to the order and judgment of this new court, wherein ye may do me much wrong, if ye intend any cruelty; for ye may condemn me for lack of sufficient answer, having no indifferent counsel, but such as be assigned me, with whose wisdom and learning I am not acquainted. Ye must consider that they cannot be indifferent counsellors for my part which be your subjects, and taken out of your own council before, wherein they be made privy, and dare not, for your displeasure, disobey your will and intent, being once made privy thereto. Therefore, I most humbly require you, in the way of charity, and for the love of God, who is the just judge, to spare the extremity of this new court, until I may be advertised what way and order my friends in Spain will advise me to take. And if ye will not extend to me so much indifferent favour, your pleasure then be fulfilled, and to God I commit my case!”

Katherine of Aragon



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. I am his true wife.

Around 1532, when Henry VIII requested Katherine of Aragon return her jewels to the crown she fell ill soon after. To be quite honest, Katherine was already ill. She had made a request to see her good friend the Imperial Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys. Chapuys, wanting to following court rules, requested permission from the King to see Katherine of Aragon at Kimbolton. The chronicler reported Henry VIII saying, “Yes, Ambassador, you have my permission; I will send you word when you can go.” Henry did not send word. Chapuys requested leave many times and yet received no word from the King. Eventually Chapuys sent word to the King that he was leaving – he was tired of waiting. If, while on the road, he received word from the King of England he would surely obey it.

On his way out of London, Chapuys gathered as many Spanish merchants as he could that would accompany him to Kimbolton. There were nearly “a hundred horses” in his company. The spirit of the group was high and they were very happy and excited to visit Katherine, their queen.

Once King Henry received the message from the Imperial Ambassador he was determined to not allow him to see Katherine. He understood the danger of having a Spanish Ambassador speaking to the wife he had thrown aside. The King sent a man by the name of Thomas ahead of Chapuys to arrive at Kimbolton in advance to send the message that Chapuys was not to be permitted to visit the Queen. While Chapuys was slowly traveling to the castle he saw this man (Thomas) pass him on the road – Chapuys seemed to understand what the man’s mission was and had one of his servants follow him to confirm his suspicions.

Katherine was aware that her friend, the ambassador would soon arrive with such great company that when she received word that he could not enter it devastated her. I can only imagine how lonely she was for a familiar face, and a friendly one at that.

Chapuys was ordered to stay four miles from the castle. Why four miles? I assume that is where they were stopped from their forward progress.

That evening Katherine send food and wine to her Spanish friends and begged them to have good cheer. It was that night that the Spaniards told Chapuys that only HE was not allowed to see Katherine, not them. They informed him that they intended to continue to Kimbolton, which they did. The next morning about thirty men began their adventure to see the Queen. With them they brought what seems to have been the ambassador’s fool – or a fool nonetheless. This man was dressed as a fool and had a padlock hanging from his hood.

When the men arrived at Kimbolton they rested for a bit until they saw ladies in the window. That is when the fool decided he had to get to the ladies immediately. Being the fool he was , he started toward the moat (getting in the water) and there was great concern from the other men in the party that he would drown. When the men pulled the fool out of moat they removed his padlock and threw it at the window with the ladies; They yelled at the ladies that next time they would bring them the key. The padlock did not make it to the window but fell to the earth on the other side of the moat. Some of the castle servants saw where the padlock had fallen and immediately went to grab it. They assumed that it had a note within it for Katherine. They immediately sent it to the King to be examined, and no note or letter was found.

In the meantime, back at the castle, the Spaniards had approached the gate and were welcomed inside. Katherine’s ladies were sent to greet them and they were fed a great breakfast in the lower hall. While the men were having breakfast the fool decided to visit the castle barber for a problem he was having. He made signs to the barber that indicated that he may have a toothache. The barber took pity on the man and wanted to help him. He sat the fool down and attempted to stick his fingers in his mouth to see what the problem was, this must have caused pain to the fool because he clenched his teeth and screamed out in pain – at the same time the poor barber also screamed in pain for having his fingers bitten. The ruckus that ensued aroused the attention of others having breakfast that they came to see what the problem was. When they discovered it to be the fool they all had a good laugh. They then returned to finish their breakfast before leaving the castle.

When the men returned to Chapuys they told him the stories of what had happened and all had a great laugh about it – they then returned to London. Nothing more is mentioned by the chronicler of what had been discussed, or if the Queen was present.



1534

After the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and a year after the birth of Princess Elizabeth. King Henry had demanded that Mary take the oath to the Act of Succession, which meant that her parents were never married and she was illegitimate. Mary had refused his request and was understandably fearful of someone trying to harm her because of it. Henry’s retribution was to not allow the person most important to her, her mother. In addition, he dismissed her household, and placed her in the care of Lady Anne Shelton, who was the aunt of her enemy, Anne Boleyn. Needing advice on what she should do, Mary reached out to her mother. This is the letter that Katherine wrote to her daughter. Katharine recommends to Mary to follow her own strategy: Obey Henry in all things except those which would offend God.

The mother and daughter team did not make things easy for Anne and Henry. They fought tooth and nail to keep what was rightfully theirs….

April 1534

Daughter, I heard such tidings today that I do perceive if it be true, the time is come that Almighty God will prove you; and I am very glad of it, for I trust He doth handle you with a good love. I beseech you agree of His pleasure with a merry heart; and be sure that, without fail, He will not suffer you to perish if you beware to offend Him. I pray you, good daughter, to offer yourself to Him. If any pangs come to you, shrive yourself; first make you clean; take heed of His commandments, and keep them as near as He will give you grace to do, for then you are sure armed. And if this lady [Anne Shelton] do come to you as it is spoken, if she do bring you a letter from the King, I am sure in the self same letter you shall be commanded what you shall do. Answer with few words, obeying the King, your father, in everything, save only that you will not offend God and lose your own soul; and go no further with learning and disputation in the matter. And wheresoever, and in whatsoever company you shall come, observe the King’s commandments. Speak you few words and meddle nothing. I will send you two books in Latin; the one shall be De Vita Christi with a declaration of the Gospels, and the other the Epistles of St Jerome that he did write to Paul and Eustochium, and in them I trust you shall see good things. And sometimes for your recreation use your virginals or lute if you have any.

But one thing I especially desire you, for the love that you do owe unto God and unto me, to keep your heart with a chaste mind, and your body from all ill and wanton company, not thinking or desiring any husband for Christ’s passion; neither determine yourself to any manner of living till this troublesome time be past. For I dare make sure that you shall see a very good end, and better than you can desire. I would God, good daughter, that you did know with how good a heart I do write this letter unto you. I never did one with a better, for I perceive very well that God loveth you. I beseech Him of His goodness to continue it; and if it fortune that you shall have nobody with you of your acquaintance, I think it best you keep your keys yourself, for howsoever it is, so shall be done as shall please them.

And now you shall begin, and by likelihood I shall follow. I set not a rush by it; for when they have done the uttermost they can, than I am sure of the amendment. I pray you, recommend me unto my good lady of Salisbury, and pray her to have a good heart, for we never come to the kingdom of Heaven but by troubles.

Daughter, whatsoever you come, take no pain to send unto me, for if I may, I will send to you.

Your loving mother,

Katharine the Queen.

Katherine of Aragon, NPG



End of 1535 and January 1536

About eight or nine months later the King informed the Imperial Ambassador that Katherine was very ill and soon to die. He gave him permission to see her. Chapuys arrived at Kimbolton on New Years Eve 1535. Katherine was very pleased to see her great friend that she did not want him to leave – every time he attempted to leave she would ask him to stay.  Katherine’s spirits seemed to improve. The chronicler also suggested that the fool had also accompanied Chapuys on this trip and was there to amuse Katherine. It is noted that she enjoyed his company.

It appears that Chapuys left after Katherine’s doctor assured him that she was better and he need not fear to leave her. She died (7 January 1536)  shortly after and it is believed that Chapuys was in London at the time of her death.

Maria de Salines was one of Katherine of Aragon’s most important ladies-in-waiting; She came with her from Spain in 1501 when Katherine married Arthur and stayed with her until Henry VIII no longer allowed her to service the “disobedient” queen.

In December 1535, Maria heard her dear friend Katherine was near death. She desperately wanted to be her but it was impossible to see her without permission from the king. Maria wrote to Secretary Cromwell to plead her case and appeal to him for permission to see Katherine.

Master Secretary,

In as lowly manner as I can, heartily I recommend me unto you. And thus it is I have forborne you all this same while, for my servant brought me word, when I sent him to you, that you were in such importune business that you could neither dispatch me nor no other body. And now, Mr. Secretary, need driveth me to put you to pain for I heard say that my mistress is very sore sick again; wherefore, good Mr. Secretary, I pray you remember me of your goodness, for you did promise me to labour the king’s grace to get me license to go to her grace afore God send for her: for, as I am informed, there is no other likelihood but it shall be shortly. An if so be that the king’s grace of his goodness be content that I shall go thither, without I have a letter of his grace, or else of you, to shew the officers of my mistress’s house that his grace is content with my going, else my license shall stand to none effect. And as touching that, there is nobody can help me so well as you. Mr. Secretary, under God and the king, all my trust is in you: I pray you remember me now at this time. And so Jesus have you in his keeping.

From the Barbican, the 30th day of December (1535).

By your beadwoman,

Mary Willoughby

It appears her access to Katherine was denied, however she went to Kimbolton anyway. She had no license from the king for entrance but was somehow able to convince them to admit her to the queen anyway. The next day Katherine of Aragon died with her dear life-long friend by her side on 7 January 1536.

So here we are, at the end of her story, but it’s not really the end because we are still talking about her nearly 500 years later. In the Katherine vs. Anne story there is no clear winner. Both women died without the love of their husband and both women had daughters who became queens of England.



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Clearing up the Portrait Confusion: Arthur and Henry



Arthur and Henry Tudor were brothers, so inevitably they looked alike. Today’s topic is clearing up the confusion between which portrait is Arthur and which is Henry.

The question really circulates around one portrait, the one of young Henry VIII at the beginning of his reign. This is the one that many people, when posted or shared online will say, “That’s a portrait of Arthur, not Henry!” I usually follow those comments by sharing the confirmed portrait of Arthur and explaining that they were brothers so they look a lot alike, but the portrait of the young King is indeed him.

Arthur (Left) and Henry (Right) Tudor side by side

Henry Tudor, King of England

I’m hoping by sharing this with you that this will clear up any confusion there may be.

This unusual portrait of a slender, beardless Henry VIII (reigned 1509-47) was painted when the young king was about twenty-two. It is the earliest known portrait of him as king. The image matches the description given by an Italian ambassador to the English court: “His complexion is very fair and bright, with auburn hair combed straight and short in the French fashion, and a round face so very beautiful, that it would become a pretty woman, his throat being rather long and thin.” He is shown wearing a red gown with brown fur edges, with the sleeves slashed to reveal cloth of gold beneath. Around his shoulders is a chain of balas rubies (a red gemstone found in present-day Afghanistan) surrounded by clusters of pearls. On his black cap is an enseigne, or cap badge. Enseignes often depicted scenes from the Old Testament. Many people wore them on their caps, but only the king’s was allowed to be gold. As with his father’s portrait, the young Henry holds the Tudor rose, symbolizing his continuation of the dynasty. – Berger Collection

English School, Henry VIII, ca. 1513, Oil on panel



Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales

When this portrait was discovered it was described by Catherine MacLeod, curator of sixteenth and seventeenth century portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, as the only surviving portrait of Arthur that could have been painted within his lifetime’.

From looks of Arthur’s ageit is apparent that this portrait was made near the end of the marriage negotiations with the Ferdinand and Isabel (Katherine of Aragon’s parents), and has been datedc.1500. It is extremely likely that this was around the conclusion of the marriage negotiation since he is holding a white gillyflower – which traditionally stands for betrothal and purity.

The is the only confirmed portrait of Arthur, Prince of Wales

The following portrait is often said to be Arthur but it is not confirmed as him. As you can see from the portraits, the brothers had very similar features – this is why there is often confusion when they are shown separately.

In this portrait the sitter is not holding a flower (which would indicate he is married) and on his red cap is a gold St. John the Baptist enseigne or badge. If the snippet above about only king’s being allowed to wear gold badges on their cap is correct then this portrait cannot be Arthur – it would have to be Henry right? But then there is the date of the portrait…it’s dated c. 1501 and Henry would only have been ten years old. So, there’s that.

I don’t want to start an uproar about this portrait, just some food for thought. This article is a focus on the two above portraits and distinguishing between the two. If you know more about all these portraits I would great appreciate your feedback in the comments. Thanks!




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Henry VIII turns on Katherine of Aragon

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?

Sources:

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 and Katherine Sent to Ludlow Castle

arthur-and-katherine-sent-to-ludlow-castle

Merely three months after their marriage, Arthur and Katherine, Prince and Princess of Wales were sent to Wales to reside at Ludlow Castleto preserve ancient customs (as the letter states).

Here is a letter from Henry VII to Katherine’s parents (Ferdinand and Isabel) letting them know that Arthur and Katherine were sent to Wales to reside at Ludlow Castle.

The young couple were married on the14th of November 1501 – this letter was dated the 20th of February 1502.

Little did Henry VII know, two months after he sent this letter, his son would be dead, and Katherine a widow. All the hard work it took to see the marriage to fruition ended so abruptly.

Prince and Princess of Wales – Ludlow

Henry VII to Ferdinand and Isabella
[“Court and Society from Elizabeth to Anne,” Vol. I]

Richmond, February 20, 1502

To the most serene and most puissant Prince and Princess, the Lord and Lady Ferdinando and Isabel, by the grace of God King and Queen of Castile, Leon, Arragon, Sicily, Grenada, &c., our well-beloved kinsfolk and cousins, we Henry by the same grace, King of England and France, and Lord of Ireland, send greeting and ever-increasing good fortune.

Ludlow Castle with Dinham Weir, from the South-West Samuel Scott1765 to 1769
Ludlow Castle (Wales);Samuel Scott 1765 to 1769

That we might observe the ancient customs of our realm, we recently despatched into Wales the most illustrious Arthur and Catherine, our common children. For though the opinions of many were adverse to this course by reason of the tender age of our son, yet were we unwilling to allow the Prince and Princess to be separated at any distance from each other. Thus much we wished to show unto you by this our letter, that you may understand our excessive love which we bear towards the most illustrious Lady Catherine, our common daughter, even to the danger of our own son.

But the said most illustrious lady has with her a venerable man, Alexander Geraldine, her principal chaplain, for whom we have the greatest regard, partly by reason of his virtues, shown unto us in many ways, partly because he has been the said lady’s preceptor, and for a long time your Majesties’ servant, and we doubt not that he will, in his letters, give a true report unto your Majesties of the well-being and tranquility, as well of ourselves and our realm, as of the most illustrious lady his own mistress. Wherefore we shall not a present write at greater length.

Letter Source:

Arthur, Frank; “The Youth of Henry VIII, A Narrative in Contemporary Letters”; page 24-25

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Prince Arthur and Katherine of Aragon



This letter from Arthur Tudor was dated 1499, nearly two years prior to Katherine arriving in England and wedding her prince, however they were just married by proxy. At the time this letter was written, Arthur was only thirteen years old.

In her new book, Katherine of Aragon – The True Queen, Alison Weir stated that Arthur did not write the letter himself and that someone else assisted him or wrote it for him. After reading the letter I have to agree – I believe he was merely coached on how to write the letter.

The by proxy marriage of Arthur and Katherine took place in May 1499. Some time after the ceremony it appeared to have been a concern of English dignitaries that the Spanish monarchs would not send their daughter. Found within the Spanish Letters and Papers a statement that insinuates that the King of England is concerned:

RE: Time of sending the Princess Katharine to England.
He is mistaken if he believes that they intend to delay the sending of the Princess to England. That is not their intention. On the contrary, they are prepared to send her as soon as the Prince of Wales shall have completed the fourteenth year of his age, a time which is not far distant.

England was in great peril in late 1499, Perkin Warbeck (the Pretender) and Edward, Earl of Warwick (son of Duke of Clarence) were both threatening the stability of the English throne. Katherine’s parents Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile apparently kept their daughter in Spain until the threats were neutralized. Warbeck and Warwick were executed the month after this letter was written. England was stable and Katherine could now be trusted in the hands of the English king and queen.

On the 17th of August 1501, Katherine set sail for England but was turned back due to strong storms that forced them back. On the 27th of September they tried again and were successful in their journey to England.

Arthur wrote several letters to Katherine, of which this is the only one to survive. It was originally written in Latin – the only language they both understood.

2016-04-7--21-15-25
Arthur, Prince of Wales & Katherine of Aragon

To the most illustrious and excellent princess, the Lady Catherine, princess of Wales, duchess of Cornwall, &c., my most entirely beloved spouse. (5 October 1499):

Most illustrious and most excellent lady, my dearest spouse, I wish you very much health, with my hearty recommendation.

I have read the most sweet letters of your highness lately given to me, from which I have easily perceived your most entire love to me. Truly those your letters, traced by your own hand, have so delighted me, and have rendered me so cheerful and jocund, that I fancied I beheld your highness and conversed with and embraced my dearest wife. I cannot tell you what an earnest desire I feel to see your highness, and how vexatious to me is this procrastination about your coming. I owe eternal thanks to your excellence that you so lovingly correspond to this my so ardent love. Let it continue, I entreat, as it has begun; and, like as I cherish your sweet remembrance night and day, so do you preserve my name ever fresh in your breast. And let your coming to me be hastened, that instead of being absent we may be present with each other, and the love conceived between us and the wished-for joys may reap their proper fruit.

Moreover I have done as your illustrious highness enjoined me, that is to say, in commending you to the most serene lord and lady the king and queen my parents, and in declaring your filial regard towards them, which to them was most pleasing to hear, especially from my lips. I also beseech your highness that it may please you to exercise a similar good office for me, and to commend me with hearty good will to my most serene lord and lady your parents; for I greatly value, venerate, and esteem them, even as though they were my own, and wish them all happiness and prosperity.

May your highness be ever fortunate and happy, and be kept safe and joyful, and let me know it often and speedily by your letters, which will be to me most joyous. From our castle of Ludlow. 5th of October, 1499.

Your highness’ most loving spouse,

Arthur, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, etc.

Eldest son of the King.

Sources:

Letters of royal and illustrious ladies of Great Britain, from the commencement of the twelfth century to the close of the reign of Queen Mary;

by [Green], Mary Anne Everett (Wood), Mrs., 1818-1895, [from old catalog] ed -Published 1846

Find on web:https://archive.org/details/lettersroyaland04greegoog pages,121-122

The Anne Boleyn Files – Catherine of Aragon Sets Sail for England

Katherine of Aragon – The True Queen; by Alison Weir

Wolsey’s Mistress and Children

It was the Spring of 1509, King Henry VII lay dying in his bed surrounded by his most intimate courtiers and household. His son, the seventeen year old Prince of Wales would soon become the next King of England. King Henry VIII.

Henry, however, was never supposed to be heir apparent to the throne. He was raised as a ‘spare heir’ with his sisters, and his education was that of a second son and not that of someone who would someday become King.

In the Spring of 1502 everything changed for Henry. His brother Arthur, Prince of Wales was dead and Henry was now his father’s heir.

Henry’s priorities, at the age of seventeen, didn’t include ruling a kingdom. While he enjoyed being the all-powerful King of England he despised the tedious duties of kingship – he wanted to be a teenager, and have fun.

Thomas Wolsey had been a chaplain for Henry’s father and predecessor. He became an almoner upon Henry’s accession to the throne. An almoner was the king’s distributor of money to the poor. From there Wolsey’s duties and titles only grew and he became the man who made all the decisions that young Henry didn’t want to bother himself with.

It was known at the time that Wolsey had a sexual relationship with a woman by the name of Joan Larke, or Mistress Larke. Joan was born around 1490 and was the daughter of Peter Larke of Huntingdonshire. At this time in England it wasn’t a requirement for men of the cloth to be celibate. So while this may have been frowned upon, it wasn’t against the rules.

Wolsey kept their relationship under wraps, and whether he and Joan actually married has been disputed. Joan has been referred to as Wolsey’s mistress by multiple sources.  Joan’s relationship with Wolsey is said to have lasted a decade, but when it exactly started was not documented.

There is also no evidence showing that Wolsey was still sleeping with Joan after he became archbishop of York in 1514.¹

The below grant shows Wolsey was given a dwelling at St. Bride, on Fleet Street (London) in 1510. Wolsey and Larke would have lived together at this address.

Thomas Wolseye, the King’s chaplain, dean of Lincoln. Grant of messuage called the parsonage, with garden adjoining, in the parish of St. Bride, Fleet Street, London, which the abbot and convent of Westminster demised, 26 November ’23 Henry VII, for 99 years to Sir Richard Emson, attained; also of the orchard and twelve gardens in the same parish (between the first-named garden and the Thames), which Thomas Dokwre, prior of the hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, demised for 99 years to the said Sir Richard.²

It is commonly believed that Wolsey and Larke had two children together. The first, a son, by the name of Thomas Wynter who was born in 1510. Wynter being Wolsey’s son has been disputed with claims that he was actually his nephew and not his son at all. Wolsey was said to have publicly promoted Wynter as his nephew.¹ There is no clear reasoning as to why his last name was Wynter and not Wolsey (that I’ve been able to find, other than speculation).

When Wolsey’s status rose he became ashamed of having a mistress and chose to marry Joan off to a man by the name of George Legh. He also paid her dowry. At some point their son was sent to live in Willesden, and their daughter was adopted by John Clancey.

L. and P. Hen. VIII, iv, 3095; the king presented on account of the minority of the patron. Thomas Winter is usually stated to have been the son of Cardinal Wolsey, but was perhaps his nephew. He appears at this time to have been only a boy, and in 1519 was learning Latin. In 1528 he was living in Paris, continuing his studies. The manner in which benefices and dignities (e.g. the deanery of Wells, the archdeaconries of York, Richmond, Suffolk, and Norfolk) were heaped upon this non-resident youth is a singular illustration of the zeal for Church reform sometimes attributed to Cardinal Wolsey. Winter appears to have resigned his preferments at or soon after the cardinal’s fall, and nothing more is known of him.

Thomas Winter’s celebrity rests soley on the fact that he was the illegitimate son of Cardinal Wolsey, for despite education by some of the finest scholars in Europe and lavish ecclesiastical preferment, the boy appears to have been an untalented wastrel. His mother was probably the daughter of a Thetford innkeeper, Peter Larke. Wolsey formed what was known as an “uncanonical marriage’ with the woman at about the time of his rise to power.³

Wolsey and Larke supposedly also had a daughter named Dorothy (mentioned above) who was born in 1512. Dorothy eventually was adopted by a man named John Clancey after her mother lost favor with Wolsey. Later she was placed in the Shaftesbury Abbey, a much favored convent for the daughters of the wealthy, and became a nun. When the abbey was later dissolved Dorothy received a pension from Thomas Cromwell.

We’ll never know for certain whether or not Thomas Wynter and Dorothy Clancy were the children of Thomas Wolsey, but from what I’ve read it seems pretty clear that they were.

John Skelton, a poet, wrote “Speke Parrot“, in early 1520s and it references Wolsey and Larke:

‘For some say ye hunt in parkes,

and hauke on hobby larkes

and other wanton warkes

when the night darks’

Sources:

(Books)

Gwyn, Peter; The King’s Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of Thomas Wolsey, (Introduction)
Guy, John; Cardinal Wolsey: A Student’s Guide, (Introduction)
Gairdner, James; Cardinal Wolsey – A Short Biography

(Web)

wikipedia.com; Thomas Wolsey, Joan Larke, Thomas Wynter

A Who’s Who of Tudor Women: http://www.kateemersonhistoricals.com/TudorWomenL.htm

(Notes)

¹Guy, John; Cardinal Wolsey: A Student’s Guide, (Introduction)

²’Henry VIII: January 1510, 16-29′, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 1, 1509-1514, ed. J S Brewer (London, 1920), pp. 155-166 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol1/pp155-166

³Peter G. Bietenholz, Thomas Brian Deutscher, Contempora