Book Review – The Seymours of Wolf Hall by David Loades

By Nathen Amin

The term ‘Wolf Hall’ has become widely recognised in recent years thanks to the title of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning tour de force, released to much acclaim in 2010. Whilst the protagonist of Mantel’s fictional work is a certain Thomas Cromwell, Wolf Hall itself refers to the family home of the Seymours, a provincially important dynasty based in the Wiltshire manor house.

David Loades book unquestionably intends to capitalise on the considerable attention given to Wolf Hall and its one-time inhabitants through Mantel’s award-winning words, but this isn’t to diminish the scope of Loades’ work; this is a long overdue assessment of the life and times of the foremost of the Seymours, briefly encompassing their beginnings to the apex of their influence during the reigns of Henry VIII and the Seymour-blooded Edward VI. As Loades notes at the outset; “The Seymour family was one of the most prominent at the Tudor court”. Their worth as subjects of such a work does not stem solely from Mantel’s influence.

The book is subtitled ‘A Tudor Family Story’, and with good reason, as the focus of the book is unquestionably Edward and Thomas Seymour, the brothers of Queen Jane who rose high in the Tudor court after their sister’s marriage to Henry VIII in 1537. Edward gradually replaced Thomas Cromwell as King Henry’s chief servant after 1540, becoming earl of Hertford, duke of Somerset and, after the accession of his nephew Edward VI, Lord Protector of England. Thomas was Lord High Admiral, and based at Sudeley Castle with his wife Katherine Parr, the final wife of King Henry, was briefly in custody of the young Princess Elizabeth. Queen Jane, meanwhile, was the focus of Loades’ previous work ‘Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s Favourite Wife’, which serves as a great companion piece to this particular work.

The author is an Emeritus Professor of the University of Wales, not to mention a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and as to be expected from such an accomplished academic figure, the book is a thorough, thought-provoking, masterpiece when it comes to the Seymour family in the sixteenth century. You won’t find irrational leaps of opinion or wild speculation in this book unlike many other similar productions, but rather hard fact and logical conclusions drawn directly from available primary source material. Loades’ book is about the real Seymours and how they lived, politicked and endured, not fictional conjecture with little basis in reality. I do feel the book glosses over the origins of the family, founded in the seventh century, and quickly advances to the life and times of Sir John Seymour, the queen’s father, but this is probably not an issue for an intended audience primarily concerned with learning about the Tudor Seymours. This criticism is quickly offset by the engaging introduction from Professor Loades where he effectively justifies the necessity of his work.

The Seymours of Wolf Hall’ is ultimately a much-recommended companion to the more mainstream works on Henry VIII and his extraordinary reign, whilst also serving as a splendid book in its own right. It serves as an ideal read for those looking to broaden their horizons on all things Tudor, and ultimately, whether on topic or off, Professor Loades is one of the most eminent authorities on the Tudor court. There is much to learn from this book.

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David Loades was Emeritus Professor of the University of Wales and an Honorary Member of the University of Oxford, History Faculty. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, Vice-President of the Navy Record Society and former President of the Ecclesiastical History Society. He is the author of over thirty books on the sixteenth century, specializing in the Tudors.

Top Ten Myths About Henry VIII

By Amy Licence

MadeGlobal’s “All About” series is the perfect choice for anyone who wants to know more about the key characters of history. The books are colourfully illustrated throughout, have a simple narrative to explain the key points in the character’s life and more detailed sections for the more- able reader or teacher. The book also contains a section of thought-provoking questions which can be used to further discussions about history.

Henry VIII is probably the most famous Tudor. He was a handsome, athletic young man; he never expected to become king and so was determined to enjoy his reign. Henry had six wives but could hate as passionately as he loved. He even had two wives executed. Henry surrounded himself with extraordinary men, including Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell, and, during his reign, he changed religion forever in England. His son and daughters went on to be famous monarchs too.

Why did Henry have so many wives? Why was his reign so important?

Here are ten myths often mentioned when discussing Henry VIII

  1. Henry had six wives.

Well, yes and no. It depends on who you ask. Today we accept all the six women- Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr- as Henry’s wives and queens. He went through a wedding ceremony with each of them willingly, save for Anne of Cleves, which he wanted to wriggle out of, but it was diplomatically difficult. Yet if you asked Henry himself, he would say he had two or three true wives. According to the king, his unions with Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Anne of Cleves were all invalid because of precontracts or other circumstances, meaning that he had been mistaken at best, deceived at worst. Henry would claim Jane Seymour as his first wife and certainly Catherine Parr as his last. His fifth wife, Catherine Howard was executed, so there was no lengthy annulment, but her precontract with Francis Dereham would have made that match invalid in the king’s eyes too.

2. Henry was huge.

At the end of his life, in his late forties and early fifties, Henry did put on weight, so this is true of that time. By his death, he had a fifty-three inch chest and a fifty-two inch waist. However, for years before this, Henry was handsome, athletic and strong. His punishing physical routine of hunting and jousting kept him in shape and he was considered to be one of the most attractive men of his day, with his red-gold hair and angelic features, as Thomas More described them.

3. Henry had syphilis.

This is very unlikely. The theory didn’t actually emerge until the late nineteenth century, when a historian identified a “ridge” on the king’s nose, in a portrait, which was supposed to indicate the final stages of the disease. However, Henry showed no symptoms of it during his lifetime and was never subjected to the contemporary mercury treatments for syphilis that his French counterpart, Francis I, took regularly. Equally, none of Henry’s children displayed signs of congenital syphilis.

4. Henry was originally intended for the church.

No, he wasn’t. It’s certainly true that Henry wasn’t intended for the throne, as he had an elder brother Arthur, who was being trained up by their father as the next Tudor king. Arthur received a very different education at Ludlow Castle, while Henry was brought up with his sisters at Eltham Palace. Yet it would have been very unlikely that his parents had ever destined him for the church and his upbringing shows no signs of it. If he had been the fourth, fifth, or sixth son, this might have been the case but, although Arthur’s death was not expected, life was fragile and could swiftly end. Henry VII and Elizabeth of York had lost a couple of children in infancy and knew the dangers. Prince Henry was raised as the spare heir but, from the age of eleven, was in line to inherit. This misapprehension may arise from descriptions of him during his teens, in which an observer commented that he was kept closeted away.

5. Henry was a big eater.

Reputedly so, but then he would have needed to eat lots to replace the calories he burned off, spending days in the saddle. There would have been no throwing the bones into the fire though, as some popular films have suggested. Impeccable manners were an essential at court.

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6. Henry was something of a prude.

This one is difficult to know, as it’s all about what happened behind closed doors. While Henry was definitely not the celebrated Romeo that Francis I proved to be, he did have mistresses and fathered at least one illegitimate child that we know of. And that’s the key to this one: it’s about what we do know and what we don’t know. Henry wasn’t so much a prude, as very private and discreet. We only know about his affair with Bessie Blount because she fell pregnant and about Mary Boleyn because it raised potential problems when he wanted to marry her sister. Without those accidents, we would know nothing about Henry’s mistresses at all. So there may well have been others.

7. Henry nearly died twice.

He did indeed! In 1536, the king suffered a terrible fall during a joust, in which his horse fell on top of him, leaving him unconscious for two hours. Then, in 1538, the ulcer on his leg became infected and he writhed in pain for over a week, reputedly turning black in the face, so that his life was despaired of. Things would have been very different in England, had either of those occasions finished him off. He must have been very strong indeed to survive both.

8. Henry was a Protestant.

No! Henry broke with the Pope and established himself as the head of the church of England but, until the day he died, he considered himself to be a reformed Catholic. It was the abuses of the Catholic church he rejected and continued to persecute Protestants as heretics. Sometimes his reforms did seem to send mixed messages, and he drew back from some of them towards the end of his life.

9. Henry executed lots of people.

Henry did not shy away from inflicting “justice.” Especially towards the end of his life, he stepped up his campaign to rid himself of his enemies, even those who had formerly been his close friends, ministers or even his relatives. After the death of Anne Boleyn in 1536, he pursued any perceived treason very harshly, with another purge of his “enemies” in 1538 and, 1541, sending the elderly Margaret Pole to the block. He was ready to make an example of those who rose against him too, ordering mass executions of those protesting against religious reform following the Pilgrimage of Grace. Those who spoke out against his regime, him, or his wives, in the 1530s and 1540s, even through reported gossip, could expect the worst.

10. Henry’s palaces were dirty and smelly.

Well, they were, but only after several weeks of the court being in residence there. Henry himself was rather a clean freak, obsessed with avoiding the bad odours and airs that were thought to spread illness. He had baths installed in his palaces, either made of stone or of wood lined with linen, all supplied by pumped water. He gave detailed instructions for the regular cleaning of his son Edward’s apartments and moved regularly to allow cleaning to take place. His close-stools were regularly changed, his laundry washed and scented, and his rooms swept and perfumed. In later years, the ulcer on his leg did emit unpleasant smells, but that was the result of illness, not lack of hygiene.

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Amy Licence is an historian of women’s lives in the medieval and early modern period, from Queens to commoners. Her particular interest lies in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, in gender relations, Queenship and identity, rites of passage, pilgrimage, female orthodoxy and rebellion, superstition, magic, fertility and childbirth. She is also interested in Modernism, specifically Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, Picasso and Post-Impressionism.

Amy has written for The Guardian, The TLS, The New Statesman, BBC History, The English Review, The Huffington Post, The London Magazine and other places. She has been interviewed regularly for BBC radio, including Woman’s Hour, and made her TV debut in “The Real White Queen and her Rivals” documentary, for BBC2, in 2013. She also writes literary fiction and has been shortlisted twice for the Asham Award.

Her website can be found at amylicence.weebly.com and her new book can be found at the following Amazon link;

Book Review – The First of the Tudors by Joanna Hickson

By Nathen Amin

First of the Tudors is the latest offering from best-selling author Joanna Hickson, and follows on somewhat from her previous books, The Agincourt Bride and The Tudor Bride, released to critical acclaim in recent years. Her latest offering recounts the story of Jasper Tudor, son of the aforementioned bride and half-brother of the unstable king, Henry VI. Jasper was the product of a lengthy liaison between Katherine de Valois and the Welshman Owen Tudor, and occupied a curious position in 1451, when the story commences, as one of the king’s closest relations, albeit without the English blood royal.

The narrative is interesting, as Hickson uses two characters to deliver the story – Jasper, and a young Welsh maid Jane, who gradually becomes the protagonist’s lover. Despite regularly switching back and forth between the two voices, with their own interpretation of events, the flow isn’t interrupted and it adds another facet to the story. Jasper is wise, determined and compassionate, whilst the beautiful Jane, albeit headstrong and impulsive, is kind and devoted to her man. Two more likable characters you could not find. You will root for them throughout the book, especially as danger rears its end on more than one occasion.

Hickson’s use of the English language is clever, and emotive; her account of Henry Tudor’s birth is particularly descriptive and gripping, and even accounting for prior knowledge of what happened, still leaves the reader with a sense of dread as to the outcome. The story shifts between London and Wales, the latter an oft-overlooked setting for such books, and provides a whole new level of places and people for Hickson to explore, much to the reader’s benefit. It is what sets the book apart from others in the genre. It is a readable tome that you will put down at the end of one episode, then find yourself quickly returning to pick up the story.

15542094_1279307785470154_3069932482731460548_nIt is always a concern with historical fiction that the author will bastardise the facts to such an extent, the real people and real events become an afterthought. Hickson avoids falling into this trip; her book IS fiction, with invented speech between characters and even the main relationship between Jasper and Jane having no historical basis, yet, as anyone who has studied the period in depth will attest, nothing she has put to paper is outlandish, or even unlikely. I read this book, and believed in what she had to say. It was how I imagined the life and times of Jasper Tudor, and his young nephew Henry, was during the tumultuous years of the 1460s.

Jasper has a strained relationship with his elder brother Edmund, for example, and again, whilst historical evidence for this is lacking, it’s hardly unbelievable for there to have been some degree of gentle animosity between a set of brothers, as has been the case throughout time. Jasper places Margaret Beaufort on a pedestal, which again could have been the case; this is not a book where Jasper has an affair with Margaret, or any other preposterous invention. Hickson hasn’t gone out of her way to make things up for entertainment, as, quite frankly, there isn’t a need to when it comes to the Wars of the Roses. Everything has an air of believability to it, even for those coming to the text with detailed knowledge of the real story.

Essentially, Hickson’s evocative book is a classic ‘Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Girl, Boy Gets Girl Back’ production, but set in the tumultuous world of the Wars of the Roses. A classic theme set in a captivating period that works well. My only regret? The book ended.

Book Review – Catherine of Aragon; An Intimate Life of Henry VIII’s True Wife by Amy Licence

By Nathen Amin

I’ve said in previous book reviews for Amy Licence, that she is unquestionably the most prolific historian writing today. Her output of books in recent years is incredible, the culmination of a life’s fascination and study of the subject, and this continues with her latest offering, Catherine of Aragon, an Intimate Life of Henry VIII’s True Wife.

My first thought upon receiving the book, is that it’s MASSIVE. It’s a seriously thick book, comprising 560 pages split across 7 separate parts. Covered are Catherine’s birth and childhood in Spain, her marriage to Prince Arthur, her widowhood, her early marriage years to Henry VIII, her life as Queen of England, the downfall of her marriage and her final, tragic years. It’s fair to say, this may just be the definitive account of the life of Catherine of Aragon.

Licence’s speciality is the study of the Tudor women, as women in their own right, not as mere decorations of their husbands, fathers or brothers, and it is this expertise she applies to Catherine of Aragon, the foremost Tudor woman for the first quarter of the sixteenth century.

The author leaves no stone unturned, and covers the entirety of Queen Catherine’s life, not just her more infamous moments. Anyone with a passing interest in the Tudors will know of Catherine’s doomed marriage to Arthur, followed by her second union with his brother, Henry. This does not, and should not, define Catherine, however, and the author does a great job in examining the early life of the Spanish princess, from her birth in 1485 to her upbringing amongst the fascinating and colourful royal court of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, Europe’s renowned Catholic Monarchs. Catherine’s later devoutness and stubbornness did not come from nowhere, it was imbued in her as a product of this illustrious Spanish union.

14591841_1222548391146094_4556601838587401747_nParticularly fascinating, and crucial to Catherine’s life, is the detailed account of her 1501 wedding to Arthur, particularly the subsequent ‘did they, didn’t they?’ bedding ceremony, or ‘the most famous bedding ceremony of all time’ as Licence aptly puts it. Intriguingly, Licence offers a third, graphic, scenario as to what happened on that fateful night, a compelling theory that may just make you blush.

We are also treated to an in-depth insight into Catherine’s life in between her marriages. It is often overlooked that this span of time was eight years, that is almost a decade of character growth which is often disregarded in other books on the subject. It is these insights into the lesser-known minutiae of the queen’s life that make Licence’s book a worthwhile purchase. In fact, I’d argue it’s a necessity for anyone who wishes to study, or gain greater knowledge, of the first half of the Tudor century of rule.

As expected perhaps from the leading Tudor historian on female matters, this book is sympathetic and understanding of its subject, but that’s not to say in a biased or predisposed way. Licence comes to her conclusions about Katherine through sheer research of her character, her influences and her actions, and puts forward a compelling case of a pious and courageous woman who only sought to serve her god, and serve her husband, in the manner she thought best. This is a compassionate and positive portrayal of Catherine, but that is only because it is the least the woman deserves.

Quite simply, there doesn’t appear to be anything more said on the subject of Catherine of Aragon, that what Amy Licence has covered in her colossal biography.

Henry VII and Catherine of Aragon; “The King and the Pauper Princess”

By Karlie (@ HistoryGal_)

“Though they cannot now see the gentle face of their beloved daughter they may be sure that she has found a second father who will ever watch over her happiness, and never permit her to want anything he can procure her…” [1] — King Henry VII of England, to King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile, 28 November 1501.

I

It had been a harrowing few months for the more than one hundred and fifty passengers aboard the Spanish fleet headed to England. Seized by a series of violent storms that nearly capsized them, the weary group of travelers remained in Laredo, Spain for almost a month until the King of England sent one of his best naval captains to guide them across the Bay of Biscay.

On 2 October 1501 the fleet arrived in Plymouth: a picturesque waterfront city on the south coast of Devon. The leading nobleman of the city greeted the Spanish party enthusiastically before they escorted them to the church of St Andrews where they gave thanks for their safe arrival.

Throughout Devon, the townspeople clamored to welcome their distinguished foreign guests. But there was one girl amongst the travelers who courted particular attention. Her name was Catherine of Aragon.

Catherine was the youngest daughter of the two most powerful sovereigns in Europe: Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. Growing up, Catherine spent a lot of time with her parents during their military crusades. She was even present when Ferdinand and Isabella’s army defeated the Moors in the Granada War.

Catherine learned from her parents how to effectively lead an army into battle; a skill that would come in handy when she led the English in victory against the Scots in 1513.

Thanks to her formidable mother, Catherine and her sisters received a broad education almost equal to that of their brothers. By the time she was fifteen years old, Catherine was fluent in several languages including French and Latin; she was also well versed in matters of religion, philosophy, history, and law.

It was essential for all high-born ladies of the 15th and 16th century to be proficient in domestic pastimes such as needlework, sewing, and cooking. Catherine excelled at them all as well as the more refined purists like dancing, music, and singing.

As a Princess of Spain, these skills were taught to Catherine to prepare her for the important duties of queenship. This was a role in which Catherine had been groomed for since she was three years old. It was at this young age in which she became betrothed to Arthur, Prince of Wales.

The details of their betrothal had been outlined in the 1498 Treaty of Medina del Campo: a formal agreement that united the Kingdoms of England and Spain. As the parents of the bride, it was Ferdinand and Isabella’s responsibility to arrange a dowry for Catherine.

They agreed to settle on a dowry of 200,000 crowns; the first half of which (100,000 crowns) was to be paid to Arthur’s father: Henry VII, upon Catherine’s arrival and the second half was to be paid at a later date.

The fact that Catherine and Arthur barely knew each other was not a concern for their parents nor was it a requirement in arranged royal marriages. Thus when Catherine came to England in 1501 her fiancé was practically a stranger to her.

Before their marriage, the only source of contact either of them had with each other was through letters.

The only surviving letter from their correspondence is one written by Arthur in October 1499. The letter (written in Latin) began with Arthur addressing Catherine as the: “Most illustrious and most excellent lady, my dearest spouse….” He went on to write: 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.” It ended with Arthur wishing for Catherine to be “ever fortunate and happy, and be kept safe and joyful...” [2].

Catherine was anxious to meet the love struck Prince and more anxious to fulfill her role as the Princess of Wales and the future Queen Consort of England…

But just as Catherine was set to depart from Granada to England to marry Arthur, her trip was deliberately postponed for a year.

One of the reasons for Catherine’s delayed departure was because her parents (particularly Isabella) wanted to spend more time with her before she left home forever.

Ferdinand and Isabella were also concerned about the validity of their daughter’s marriage to a Prince who was barely fourteen years old. They addressed their misgivings to King Henry and informed him that they would send Catherine to marry his son only when the latter took his vows as an adult.

Eager to gain an ally with Spain, Henry complied with the Spanish Monarch’s request. Not long after Arthur took his vows, he and Catherine were married by proxy (for a second time) on 22 November 1500.

II

Shortly after Catherine’s arrival in England, she was “… lodged at the mayor’s house in Notte-street…Here she is said to have rested for a fortnight and was then escorted by way of Tavistock, Okehampton, and Crediton, to Exeter, on her way to London, where she was received with great honour and respect….At Exeter, her residence was at the house of the Dean. She rested [there for] several days, then by short journeys [Catherine traveled] to London.” [3].

King Henry was so anxious to see the future Princess of Wales that he traveled from Richmond with Prince Arthur to Hampstead just to meet her. When they arrived at Dogmersfield House, Henry was informed by Pedro de Ayla that Ferdinand and Isabella had requested that neither he nor his son were to see Catherine until the day of the wedding.

The Spanish diplomat’s words were not well received by the King who demanded that Catherine be presented to him at once. He even remarked that he would see her “even if she were in her bed!” [4].

With the help of her ladies, Catherine was made presentable to see the man who would soon become her father in law.

After a quick introduction, Catherine slowly lifted the veil that was concealing her face. The King was relieved to find that his future daughter in law was just as beautiful as the Spanish and English diplomats had reported to him: her fair complexion, blue eyes, and long reddish-blonde hair was the embodiment of English beauty. However, Catherine could barely speak English, and she and the King had to conduct the rest of their meeting entirely in Latin. This did not bother Henry who was impressed by Catherine’s impeccable display of grace and poise.

Henry later wrote to Ferdinand and Isabella that everyone had “much admired [Catherine’s] beauty, as well as her agreeable and dignified manners” [5]. Arthur also wrote to Catherine’s parents, to tell them that he had “‘never felt so much joy’ in his entire life as when he ‘held the sweet face of his bride’ and that ‘no woman in the world could be more agreeable to him.’” [6].

What mattered most to King Henry was not only that Catherine was beautiful and had polite manners but that her dowry filled his coffers and that her marriage to Arthur strengthened the Tudors claim to the throne.

As a descendent of King Edward III’s third son John of Gaunt and his two legitimate daughters, Catherine had a stronger claim to the English throne than the Tudors did.

Henry VII’s ancestral claim to the throne came mainly through that of his mother: Margaret Beaufort. Margaret was the great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt and his mistress Katherine Swynford. John and Katherine were later married, but their offspring were excluded from the line of succession. Henry VII’s father, Edmund Tudor, was the son of a Welsh courtier who married the widow of King Henry V: Catherine of Valois.

In any case, it was a battle, not imperial heredity that empowered the Tudors to take over the throne of England.

The Tudors reign began in 1485 when Henry VII defeated Richard III (the last Plantagenet King of England) at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Not long into his reign, King Henry was confronted by several Yorkist’s rebellions. Most notably was the 1487 Battle of Stoke Field which resulted in a decisive victory for the Tudor’s.

King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were initially hesitant to have their daughter marry a Prince whose father may not hold on to his position as King for long.

Before they agreed to sanction the match, Ferdinand and Isabella pressured King Henry to execute one of the claimants to the throne: Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick. After wasting away in the Tower of London for fourteen years, Edward was beheaded on Tower Hill on 28 November 1499.

Sadly, Edward’s blood would not be the last spilt on Catherine of Aragon’s behalf…

III

On 12 November 1501, Catherine was escorted from Lambeth Palace into the heart of London, by some of the primer nobleman in England. During the royal parties’ procession from London to Cheapside, they stopped to watch six speculator pageants thrown in the Princess’s honor. Catherine was then taken to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s residence where she would remain for the rest of the evening.

The next day Catherine went to Baynard’s Castle and formally presented to her future mother in law Queen Elizabeth of York. More celebrations followed before Catherine went back to Lambeth Palace to prepare for her wedding day.

On 14th November Catherine and Arthur were married in a lavish ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral. The stone pillars of the Cathedral were draped with expensive and ornate tapestries, a “platform raised six feet high and draped in red fabric” [7] had been erected on which Catherine and Arthur took their vows, and “a special gallery [was in place] where the King, Henry VII and his Queen, Elizabeth [watched the wedding]” [8].

Trumpets blared, wine flowed through fountains, and the people cheered the Prince and Princess of Wales as they made their way from the Cathedral to Baynard’s Castle for the wedding celebrations.

Midway through the extravagant festivities, the young bride and groom were ushered into a bedchamber to consummate their marriage. After a number of ceremonial tasks were performed – which included the blessing of the marriage bed by the bishops– Catherine and Arthur were left alone….

“Willoughby!” Arthur announced to his steward the following morning. “Bring me a cup of ale, for I have been in the midst of Spain” [9].

It was those very words that would come back to haunt Catherine twenty eight years later, when her honor was questioned as well as her right to be Queen of England. Catherine would swear on her knees at the Legatine Court at Blackfriars, that “I take God to my judge, I was a true maid, without touch of man” [10]. As a devout Catholic, Catherine risked eternal damnation of her soul if she were to lie before God about the validity of her virginity prior to marrying her second husband.

But during Catherine and Arthur’s short lived marriage, the general censuses at the English court was that the couple had consummated their marriage. A contemporary scribe reported: “And thus these worthy persons concluded and consummated the effect and complement of the sacrament of marriage” [11]. However, soon after Arthur’s death Catherine claimed that this statement was untrue. Even Catherine’s duenna Doña Elvira Manuel asserted that her charge was still a virgin.

It’s possible that Arthur’s lewd statement came from the fact that, for whatever reason, he was unable to perform in the marriage bed. It’s important to note that Arthur was not the perpetually sick Prince of legend. As historian Julia Fox points out, “Arthur was no weakling. He had, said, the Marquis of Dorset, a century later, “a good and sanguine complexion; “lusty” was what Charles Brandon had heard said of the prince.” [12]

In December 1502, Arthur and Catherine were sent to live at Ludlow Castle in Shropshire. There was some controversy surrounding King Henry’s decision to have his fifteen year old son and his sixteen year old daughter in law co-habitat at such a young age. Queen Isabella even wrote to him to express her concern for her daughter’s well-being.

Henry addressed Isabella’s qualms by writing to her that he and his councilors “were 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.”  [13].

The decision to send Arthur to Ludlow Castle proved to be one of the worst mistakes Henry VII’s life…

IV

On 2 April 1502 Arthur Tudor died from what was thought to have been consumption (aka tuberculosis). The most likely cause of Arthur’s death was the sweating sickness; a highly contagious and often fatal disease that had spread in the vicinities of Ludlow Castle around the time Arthur and Catherine became ill.

Henry VII was at Greenwich Palace when his confessor informed him of Arthur’s death. One of the King’s heralds wrote: “When his Grace understood these sorrowful and heavy tidings, he sent for the Queen, saying that he and his queen would take the painful sorrows together [14].

Closeted in his royal bedchamber, Henry and Elizabeth wept for the loss of their eldest son. Henry was so unnerved by the tragic news that Elizabeth had to comfort him. “God had left him a fair prince and two princess,” said Elizabeth, referring to their other children Henry, Margaret and Mary. “God is where he was and we are both young enough [to have more children]” [15].

Prince Arthur was laid to rest in Worchester Cathedral on 25 April 1502. It was custom for royalty not to attend funerals, and so Catherine remained at Ludlow Castle until she recovered from the same illness that killed her husband. She was then conveyed to London in a black velvet and cloth litter that had been provided for her by Queen Elizabeth.

For several months Catherine lived under intense scrutiny at Croydon Palace until it was established that she was not pregnant with Arthur’s child.

Their daughter now a widow and childless, Ferdinand and Isabella wanted Catherine returned to Spain as soon as possible. “They also demanded that Henry should put the princess in possession of her widow’s jointure—one-third of the revenues of Wales, Cornwall, and Chester—and repay the first instalment of her dowry – 100,000 gold crowns…” [16].

The last thing King Henry wanted was to grant Catherine her jointure and to give back half of her dowry, and so while he “received their [Ferdinand and Isabella’s] proposal courteously,” [17] he would not openly commit himself to a definite course of action.

This meant that as long as Catherine lived in England her future and her financial situation remained uncertain…

V

On 11 February 1503, Henry VII’s wife, Elizabeth of York, died from a postpartum infection. The child that she bore was not the boy her husband had desired but a girl, who died at only eight days old.

Deprived of her own mother’s affection, Catherine had formed a bond with the kind and affectionate Elizabeth who used to send her gifts and request her company. As Catherine mourned the Queen’s death, so too did King Henry who “privily departed to a solitary place…and would no man should resort upon him” [18].

Two years after the death of his wife, King Henry courted several of the most eligible noblewoman in Europe, including Margaret of Austria and Catherine of Aragon’s cousin Joanna of Naples. At one point, the forty six year old English King suggested that the seventeen year old Princess Catherine should become his next wife. This idea repulsed Ferdinand and Isabella so much that the latter proclaimed that the union was “a thing not to be endured” [19].

Ferdinand and Isabella were, however, still keen on forging an alliance with the Tudor King in order to gain an ally in their war with France. A match was soon agreed upon between Catherine and Henry VII’s eleven year old son Henry, Prince of Wales. They were formally betrothed on 25 June 1503 at the Bishop of Salisbury’s house in Fleet Street. Their marriage was to take place as soon as Prince Henry reached the age of maturity.

Since she was a child growing up in Spain, Catherine believed that it was her destiny to become Queen of England. And with her impending marriage to Prince Henry she was one step closer to achieving her life’s ambition.

But the road to matrimony was not smooth sailing for Catherine. Her chief obstacle was that she was betrothed to her deceased husband’s brother. And according to canon law, it was illegal for a man to marry his brother’s widow.

This law was based on Leviticus 20:21 which states “If a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.”  

Catherine’s assertion that she was a virgin, if true, meant that in the eyes of the court her marriage to Arthur was null and void. Nonetheless a dispensation from the impediment of affinity was requested from the Pope.

At the request of the ailing Queen of Castile, the first draft of the dispensation was sent to Spain. Isabella was dismayed to find that “the bull clearly stated that her daughter’s previous marriage had been consummated. Catherine, it proclaimed loud and clear was no virgin.” The main issue with this statement was that “a payment of 100,000 scudos to Henry VII hung on the question of Catherine’s virginity, and on this wording the money was his.” Isabella protested the clause which prompted the Pope to amend the dispensation by replacing the word had in “had been consummated” with the word “forsan: ‘perhaps’” [20].

The final version of the papal dispensation enabling Catherine and Prince Henry to marry was ratified in August 1503. Much to King Henry’s annoyance, a copy of the dispensation wasn’t sent to him until a month later.

To cement his new alliance with the Spanish monarchs, Henry VII agreed to financially support Catherine. And for his part, Ferdinand agreed to pay the last installment of his daughter’s dowry. 

In reality, Ferdinand couldn’t afford to pay the rest of the dowry; thus he had no intention of sticking to his end of the deal. Nevertheless, he carried on the marriage negotiations as if he was going to remain true to his word.

VI

Catherine was plunged into deep mourning for the third time in three years when, on 12 November 1504, her mother (Queen Isabella) died. Isabella’s passing had profound consequences for the young Princess, not least of all because her elder sister Juana was now Queen of Castile. “This meant that “Catherine’s worth as a bride fell dramatically. She was no longer the Princess of the Iberian Peninsula, [which made] an alliance with Aragon of limited value” [21].

To make matters worse, a squabble for power ensued as Juana’s domineering husband Philip of Burgundy attempted to seize power away from his wife and from Ferdinand who still claimed a right to administer the kingdom” [22].

As a result of Catherine’s diminished social status, Henry VII became less enthusiastic about contracting his son to marry her. Henry’s misgivings about Catherine and her family strengthened, when “in an attempt to gain accession to the throne of Navarre” [23] Ferdinand married the niece of Louis XII of France.

Shortly after Ferdinand’s marriage to Germaine of Foix, King Henry reduced Catherine’s allowance. Henry began to use the remainder of her dowry to fund his own exploits. This meant that Catherine could barely afford to run her own household…

In November 1505, the impoverished Princess and her attendants were forced to move from Durham House in London to live with the English King in his palaces.

“By December 1505 Catherine’s financial situation was grave. Her father had failed to send her any money, despite repeated requests, and all King Henry had given her was a small pittance for food – she was often reduced to eating yesterday’s fish from the market. She was also in debt to some London merchants for household necessities, and the gowns she had brought from Spain four years before were so shabby that she felt, as she told her father, ‘nearly naked.’” [24].

Just four months after Catherine moved back to court, King Henry made his son renounce his betrothal to her in a private ceremony at Richmond Palace. The terms were “not acted upon”; however, it was done “so that the marriage could thenceforth be cancelled at short notice…” [25].

In 1509, Henry VII discreetly began negotiations for a marriage between his son and several European Princesses, including Catherine’s own niece Eleanor of Austria. But King Henry’s dream of a Tudor alliance with the house of Hapsburg fell apart in 1508.

Henry talked of re-opening marriage negotiations with Ferdinand if only the latter would send over the rest of Catherine’s dowry. But Ferdinand remained vague about when and in what currency the money would be sent to him…

VII

Trapped in a foreign land, surrounded by rapacious courtiers, and in the care of a pitiless father in law, Catherine wrote to her father to complain of her abject existence.

On 22 June 1505, Ferdinand wrote to the Spanish Ambassador, Dr. de Puebla, to advise Catherine “to revere and be very obedient to the King, as is her duty, and as being a means of making him love her more, and of doing more for her”  [26].

Catherine had taken her father’s advice; but since King Henry felt that it was the duty of her father to provide for her, the latter was forced to live on meager rations.

This ungallant behavior by King Henry was in stark contrast to his actions towards Catherine when she was Prince Arthur’s wife. Back then, he had been so anxious to please his homesick daughter in law that he tried to “console her by showing her his extensive library at Richmond,” he even allowed her to “choose jewelry from a selection that he produced for her perusal.” [27]

Catherine’s widowhood wasn’t entirely shrouded in misery. As historian E. Sadlack writes: “Catherine paints her situation as blackly as possible to move Ferdinand to action, and that the English in fact protested [that Catherine’s] complaints were exaggerated, [however] there can be no doubt that these were difficult years for her….”  [28].

During Catherine’s most trying times, she sought solace in her ladies in waiting; none more so than her good friend Maria de Salinas. The English King’s youngest daughter Mary Tudor – too young to be a confidante– was also one of Catherine’s closest companions.

Known for her unwavering piety, Catherine found refuge in her daily religious practices. But her rigorous bouts of fasting for Lent caused many to fear for her health. “In October 1505…Pope Julius II wrote to Prince Henry urging him to restrict the severity of Catherine’s new religious practices lest they damage her health –and (by implication, no doubt) her fertility.” [29]

The Pope and the Prince were right to be concerned over Catherine’s health. In November and December of 1505 Catherine was confined to her bedchamber after falling ill with “severe tertian fevers.” [30]

Catherine was convinced that the person responsible for most of her problems was Dr. de Puebla. Her feelings were that Dr. de Puebla’s interest lay primarily with England and its King, rather than with Spain, Ferdinand, and her wellbeing.

At the insistence of her domineering duenna, Elvira Manuel, Catherine wrote a letter to her father on 2 December 1505 to complain about Dr. de Puebla and about the pitiful circumstances she and her attendants were forced to endure. “…each day my troubles increase,” wrote Catherine, “and all this on account of the doctor Dr. de Puebla, to whom it has not sufficed that from the beginning he transacted a thousand falsities against the service of your highness, but now he has given me new trouble; and because I believe your highness will think I complain without reason, I desire to tell you all that has passed….”  [Dr. de Puebla] negotiated that the king should dismiss all my household, and take away my chamber-equipage, and send to place it in a house of his own, so that I should not in any way be mistress of it.” Catherine also did not fail to include the all-important matter of her dowry: “It appears to me that it would be better if your highness should take them [her jewels] for yourself, and should give to the king of England, my lord, his money.” [31]

Dr. de Puebla was not dismissed from his post, however Elvira Manuel was when the Ambassador became privy of a secret plot spearheaded by Elvira, her brother Juan and Catherine’s brother in law Philip I of Castile. Their plan was to set up a meeting between King Henry, Philip and his wife Juana in the hopes of cementing an alliance that would weaken Ferdinand politically.

“In December 1505, for promoting Philip’s interests at the expense of Ferdinand of Aragon Elvira [and her brother] were told to leave England. She departed on the pretext of visiting a doctor in Flanders about a disease that had already caused her to lose one of her eyes, but she knew that she would not be permitted to return. She had alienated not only King Henry but also Catherine of Aragon. Elvira spent the rest of her life amongst Spanish exiles at the court of Flanders. Catherine was said never to have spoken her name again.” [32]

VIII

After years of not receiving the additional payment of the dowry, King Henry informed Catherine that “he no longer regarded himself and his son bound by the agreement to marry her.” Ferdinand excused the lack of payment on “the trustees…and Philip for not allowing him access to the Castilian funds so that he could send the marriage portion to England.” [33]

In September 1506, Philip I of Castile died from typhoid fever, but rumors at court were that Ferdinand had poisoned him. With Philip out of the way, Ferdinand began to rule Castile in his Juana’s stead.

Once again, Catherine became a valuable asset and “like magic Henry VII became amiable again to his daughter in law. He deplored her illness now, and cordially granted her the change of residence from Eltham to Fulham that she had so long prayed for in vain” [34]. Philip’s passing also served in King Henry’s best interest because it meant that the newly widowed Juana was free to marry…

IX

Henry VII had been enamored with the blue eyed and auburn haired Juana of Castile since their unexpected encounter in January 1506. At the time, the ship transporting Philip and Juana from the Netherlands to Castile was met by turbulent storms that forced them to dock at Weymouth in Dorset. “Seizing his opportunity, Henry lured Philip inlaid and royally entertained him at Windsor Castle and Richmond Palace flattering him with lavish and costly entertainments and showering him with gifts and attention. One result was a trade agreement that was highly favorable to the English merchant guilds” [35].

When Juana was formally presented to the English court an observer recorded that King Henry was waiting to greet her, he then “kissed and embraced her”…and in spite of Phillip’s attempts to keep them apart, Juana made a favorable impression upon [him]” [36].

Shortly after her arrival, Juana was reunited with her sister Catherine for the first time in ten years; sadly, it would be the last time they would ever see each other.

Catherine wrote to Juana in October 1506, that their brief reunion gave her “great pleasure” and that she was saddened by Juana’s “sudden and hasty departure.”  Catherine added that “the great affection [Henry VII] has felt, and still feels, towards your Royal Highness from that time until now, is well known” [37].

There can be no doubt that Henry persuaded Catherine to write this letter to her sister. He had hopes of winning over Juana’s affections and her hand in marriage. Catherine hoped that if Juana agreed to marry King Henry that this would improve her own chances of marrying Prince Henry.

If Juana—who still mourned the death of her husband— were to marry again then the kingdom of Castile would fall predominantly under the control of her husband. Having secured the rule of Castile for himself, Ferdinand had no plans to relinquish control to anyone else.

Although Ferdinand would never let Juana marry Henry VII, it didn’t stop him from dangling the prospect of marriage over him as a means of control. In one of Ferdinand’s responses to Henry’s request to marry Juana, he informed him “that it was ‘not yet known whether Queen Juana be inclined to marry again’” [38].   Ferdinand’s vague response only emboldened Henry in his pursuit for Juana’s hand in marriage.

Eventually, Ferdinand had Dr. de Puebla inform him that Juana was still in mourning for her husband and that her excessive grief made her mentally unfit to marry anyone. Admitting defeat (but refusing to believe she was really insane) King Henry formally withdrew his proposal to marry Juana in June 1508.

In 1507 Ferdinand sent another Spanish Ambassador to England to negotiate Catherine’s marriage to Prince Henry. The man he chose was a politician and military commander named Gutierre Gomez de Fuensalida.

Fuensalida found credence in Catherine’s complaints about Dr. de Puebla. He reported to his master that [Dr. de Puebla] is a servant of the King of England, and although there cannot be two opposites in one man in this individual there are: his heart is English and his tongue is Castilian” [39]. Fuensalida also remarked about Catherine’s health, writing that the she was “so ill and disconsolate’ that he could barely find the words to describe her condition” [40].

Fuensalida worked tirelessly to pacify King Henry’s qualms about not receiving the 100,000 crowns that made up the rest of Catherine’s dowry. But nothing the Ambassador promised satisfied Henry.

Eventually, the King became so frustrated with Fuensalida and the talk over his son’s marriage to Catherine that he refused to meet with the Ambassador.

For several weeks, Fuensalida had to convene with Henry’s equally hostile and combative councilors. When King Henry finally permitted Fuensalida into his presence again their meeting ended disastrously. The King was once again infuriated with the Ambassador, this time for implying that he and his son were still legally bound to honor the marriage contract.

Although he was angry with Fuensalida, King Henry was willing to listen to Catherine of Aragon’s litany of complaints.

In no uncertain terms Catherine “complained bluntly to him [Henry VII] that in the forty days of Lent she had not had access to him [Henry, Prince of Wales.]” [41].

Since Prince Arthur’s death, the King had kept a tight rein on his last surviving son.  Fuensalida reported to his master that Prince Henry was “never permitted to go out of the palace, except for exercise through a private door leading to the park. At these times he is surrounded by those persons especially appointed by the king as his tutors and companions and no one else, on his life, dared approach him. He takes his meals alone and spends most of his day in his room, which has no other entrance than through the king’s bedchamber. He is in complete subjection to his father and grandmother and never opens his mouth in public except to answer a question from one of them.” [42]

Rather than address Catherine’s complaints, “Henry –accompanied by his mother— excused himself on the grounds of illness and raged at Ferdinand’s conduct, lambasting the “poor prince” who did not pay his debts and who had cruelly incarcerated [Juana].[43]

Fuensalida reported to Ferdinand that soon after the King meet with her, “Catherine’s living quarters [were] downgraded and that she was now living over royal stables” [44]. King Henry then announced that he didn’t think the marriage between the Prince and Catherine would ever happen because Ferdinand couldn’t afford to pay the dowry.

King Henry’s bad temper was exasperated by his increasingly bad health. “Shortly before Easter 1507 the king suffered a devastating attack of “quinsy’s” a peritonsillar abscess, and for nearly a week he had been unable to swallow “he was left so feeble he thought he might die.” Henry’s health was briefly restored to him but by “February 1508 he was ill again, suffering from consumption or phthisis, a progressive wasting disease, though his doctors told him it was gout again” [45].

To add to Henry’s list of grievances, Ferdinand’s refusal to support the betrothal of his grandson Charles of Ghent to his daughter Mary had caused a deeper riff to develop between the feuding monarchs.

When Henry summoned Fuensalida to discuss matters further, Fuensalida suggested to him that not only should he forgo the rest of Catherine’s dowry but that he should also call off Mary and Charles’s engagement. Naturally, Henry was upset and insulted at such an idea. After a few choice words directed at the Spanish Ambassador, Henry confronted Catherine in her bedchamber.

“My daughter,” began Henry to Catherine, “I for the great love that I have had for you have given you my two sons, both of them my heirs…and I have turned down other women who were as good as you…” he then stated that “he and his son were free,” from the marriage contract because Ferdinand had “promised [to pay the dowry] within the time that was stipulated” and failed to do so. The King also let Catherine know that he was displeased with her father for “refusing to sign the declaration…confirming the marriage of [Charles and Mary][46]

Henry’s harsh words had the desired effect because on December 1507, he convinced Ferdinand to publically consent to Charles and Mary’s betrothal.

Also in 1507 (before Fuensalida fulfilled his position at the English), “Ferdinand sent [Catherine] the formal credentials to act as his ambassador in England” [47]. Historian Elizabeth Norton writes in her book “The Illustrated Wives of Henry VIII” that Catherine’s position as Ambassador to England (the first woman to ever do so) improved her status at the English court. And although Catherine proved to be efficient in her duties, the fact remained that throughout the years of 1506-1508 she needed a more powerful person to champion her cause…

The person with whom the Princess would become the most reliant on was a Castilian friar by the name of Fray Diego Fernandez.

X

Fray Diego was officially appointed as Catherine’s confessor in April 1507. Before long, the charming yet cunning confessor was advising and controlling the young and impressionable Princess on practically every aspect of her life.

In a letter dated 4 March 1509, Fuensalida informed Ferdinand of a bizarre incident that occurred between Catherine and Fray Diego:

“King Henry had asked the Princess Katherine and Princess Mary to go to Richmond, where he intended to meet them. When the Princess Katherine was ready to start, the friar came into her room, and said to her, “you shall not go today.” The Princess, it is true, had vomited that night but was perfectly well, and the distance she had to travel was at the utmost less than one league. She therefore protested that she was not ill, and did not like to be left behind alone. The friar, however, overruled her objections in a high handed manner by his categorical command, “I tell you that upon pain of mortal sin you shall not go today.” The Princess, not daring to displease him, had no choice left, and underwent the humiliation of telling the Princess Mary…that she was unable to go ” [48].

 It’s important to remember that in this stage of her life, Catherine was naïve, vulnerable and in desperate need of ‘good counsel’. This made her an easy prey for “haughty and licentious” young men like Fray Diego, who were looking to exploit all that court life had to offer.

Catherine vehemently denied the court rumors that she and Fray Diego were lovers. However, she refused to hide her affection for him, she even went so far as to state that he was the: “best confessor that ever woman in my position had, with respect to his life as well as to his holy doctrine and proficiency letters” [49].

In 1515, Fray Diego was found guilty of ‘fornicating’ with several women at court and –despite his pleas—was sent back to Spain. Catherine wrote to her father “begging him to show the friar favor as he “has served her very faithfully all the time he was in England, and much better than certain persons pretend.” [50].

XI

In 1509, Fuensalida was recalled from his post as Spanish Ambassador after failing to convince King Henry to agree to Ferdinand’s demands.

And after spending seven years in England as a bride, widow and a virtual prisoner Catherine had had enough. Her spirits completely shattered, Catherine resigned herself to the notion that she would never marry Prince Henry. She wrote to her father in March 1509, that she wanted to go back home to Spain so that “she could spend the rest of her life serving God.” [51].

          XII

On 21 April 1509, Henry VII died at the age of fifty two from tuberculosis. He was laid to rest the following month alongside his first and only wife Elizabeth of York in the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey. After ruling England for twenty three years the first Tudor King’s reign was at an end, and the crown passed on to his seventeen year old son Henry.

There is a popular legend that the ailing King made a death bed request for his son to marry Catherine of Aragon. In all likelihood this tale is merely Tudor propaganda; “conceivably, if Henry VII had lived for several more years he and Maximilian (the Holy Roman Emperor) would have arranged the Henry VIII/Eleanor match instead for around 1510-1511.” [52].

One of the reasons why Henry married Catherine was because she was young and beautiful and there was no reason to doubt she wouldn’t prove to be an amiable wife who would provide him with male children. Catherine’s long history with and close proximity to the new King made her a convenient choice for him to choose as his bride. Henry was also anxious to appease Catherine’s powerful father who urged him to marry her.

As for the rest of Catherine’s dowry, Ferdinand never paid it despite promising to Henry VII shortly before the latter’s death that the payment was ready to be sent…

On 11 June 1509 Henry and Catherine were married at Greenwich Palace. Two weeks later they were crowned King and Queen of England in a joint ceremony at Westminster Abbey.

In May 1533 Henry VIII had his marriage to Catherine annulled on the grounds that she was never really his wife because she had been married to his brother.

Catherine spent her final years at Kimbolton Castle attended by a handful of her most trusted ladies and servants. Mary’s plea to see her dying mother was denied by her father, who feared that a meeting between Mary and Catherine would result in the latter’s nephew Charles V the Holy Roman Emperor, declaring war on England.

Meanwhile, Henry was cavorting with one of Catherine’s former ladies: the young and seductive Anne Boleyn. He had destroyed his marriage and broken with the Roman Catholic Church in order to make Anne his Queen.

On 7 January 1536 Catherine of Aragon died at the age of fifty. She was buried on 29th January at Peterborough Cathedral, not as the Queen of England but as the Dowager Princess of Wales.

While the rest of the country mourned the loss of their beloved Spanish Queen, Henry and Anne reveled in it. According to the Spanish Ambassador Eustace Chapyus, shortly after the news broke that Catherine was dead, the King and Queen celebrated by throwing a lavish soiree at court.

Gossip began to spread that Anne Boleyn poisoned Catherine in order to rid herself of her greatest rival. Though no charge was ever brought against Anne, the basis for this heinous accusation rests largely in the results of Catherine’s autopsy. Eustace Chapyus wrote to Charles V that the chandler reported that “he found inside the heart something black and round, which adhered strongly to the concavities” [53]. Today, medical historians believe that the blackness and growth on Catherine’s heart was most likely caused by a cancerous tumor.

Catherine death and Anne’s execution weighed little on Henry’s conscience. Instead, his energy was expended elsewhere, mainly in his pursuit to produce a son to succeed him to the throne. On October 12 1536 Henry VIII’s wish was granted when his third wife Jane Seymour gave birth to Prince Edward.

Jane died twelve days later from puerperal fever, and over the next three years Henry married Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Katherine Parr. But none of his wives lasted as long or loved him more than Catherine of Aragon did.

On 28 January 1547 Henry VIII died on the anniversary of his father’s birth. He was interred beside his third wife Jane at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.

XIII

Catherine of Aragon experienced many trials and tribulations in order to become Queen of England, and unfortunately her story ended in tragedy. But was her bad luck predestined?

There is an interesting passage in historian Julia P. Geraldo’s book: “In Triumph’s Wake: Royal Mothers, Tragic Daughters, and the Price They Paid.” Geraldo writes that before Catherine and her attendants reached the city of Coruna, “[they] visited Santiago de Compostela: one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Christendom. Inside the city’s cathedral, Catherine witnessed the famous butafumerio being swung. The rope holding the massive censer filled with incense broke. It was considered an ill omen for the Princess, for the story went that whenever the rope of the butafumerios snapped while the censer was swung, bad luck would follow.” [54].

Shortly after Catherine’s excursion to the Cathedral, she set sail for England to marry Arthur Tudor…

Note: Mary Tudor (daughter of Henry VII) never married Charles of Ghent aka Charles V the Holy Roman Emperor; in 1514 she married King Louis XII of France, and later Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk in 1515. Catherine’s of Aragon sister – known in history as “la Loca” – Juana, was imprisoned in the castle of Tordesillas (with her youngest daughter) by Ferdinand as he continued to rule Castile in her name. Juana never remarried.

References

  1. 37. 49. 53. “Calendar of Letters, Dispatches and State Papers Relating to the Negotiations Between England and Spain Preserved in the Archives at Simancas and Elsewhere” Volume 1. Longban,1862

2. “The Book of the Princes of Wales, Heirs to the Crown of England” Dr. Doran  (John)/ Richard Bentley, 1860

3. “A History of Plymouth” Llewellynn Frederick and William Jewitt

4. “Monarchs, Murders & Mistresses: A Calendar of Royal Days” David Hilliam

5. 9. 14. 39. 42. “Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII” Robert Hutchinson

6. “Heirs to the Throne: The Story of the Prince of Wales” Annette Joelson

  1. “Royal Weddings” Emily Brand
  2. “The Virgin Queen: A Personal History of Elizabeth I” Christopher Hibbert

10. 26. 50. “Catherine of Aragon: An Intimate Life of Henry VIII’s True Wife” Amy Licence

11. “Elizabeth of York” A. Okerlund

12. 27. “Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile” Julia Fox

13. https://archive.org/stream/cu31924027958879/cu31924027958879_djvu.txt

15. “Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses” Sarah Gristwood

16. 17. “House of Tudor” Alison Plowden

18. “Henry VII” Stanley Bertram Chrimes

19. 26. 48. 51. 54. “In Triumph’s Wake: Royal Mothers, Tragic Daughters, and the Price They Paid for Glory” Julia P Geraldi

20. “Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England” Thomas Penn

21. “Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen” Anna Whitelock

22. “A New History of England from the Earliest Accounts of Britain to the Ratification of the Peace of Versailles, 1763” Thomas Mortimer

23. “Henry VII: The Maligned Tudor King” Terry Breverton

24. 30. “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” Alison Weir

25. 52. “The Tudors” Timothy Venning

28. “The French Queen’s Letters: Mary Tudor Brandon and the Politics of Marriage in Sixteenth-Century Europe” E. Sadlack

29. 39. 40. 41. 43. 46. “Catherine of Aragon” Patrick Williams

31. Hanson, Marilee. “Letter of Katharine of Aragon to her father, King Ferdinand II of Aragon  2 December 1505″ <a href=”http://englishhistory.net/tudor/letter-of-katharine-of-aragon-to-her-father-king-ferdinand-ii-of-aragon/”>http://englishhistory.net/tudor/letter-of-katharine-of-aragon-to-her-father-king-ferdinand-ii-of-aragon/</a&gt;, February 24, 2015

32. http://www.kateemersonhistoricals.com/TudorWomenM.htm

34. “The Wives of Henry the Eighth and the Parts They Played in History” Martin Andrew and Sharp Hume

  1. “The Tudors: A Very Short Introduction” John Guy

36. “Lives of the Queens of England from the Norman Conquest” Agnes Strickland and Elizabeth Strickland

38. “The Reign of Henry VII from Contemporary Sources” Albert Fredrick Pollard

44. “Margaret Pole Countess of Salisbury 1473-1541: Loyalty, Lineage and Leadership” Hazel Pierce

45. “The Royal Doctors, 1485-1714: Medical Personnel at the Tudor and Stuart Courts” Elizabeth Lane Furdel

47. “The Illustrated Six Wives of Henry VIII” Elizabeth Norton

48. “Calendar of State Papers, Spain: Supplement To Volumes 1 and 2, Queen Katherine; Intended Marriage of King Henry VII To Queen Juana” ed. G A Bergenroth (London, 1868)

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Karlie is a college student from the U.S. who has many interests, including reading, writing, drawing and painting. Her passion, however, is history. She loves to read about every period in history, but is most interested in the Tudor period. She is intrigued not only by the Tudor dynasty, but also by the world in which they lived; the people, the religion, the politics, the conflicts, the events, the castles, the beautiful clothes and just their overall way of life.

You can follow Karlie on twitter @HistoryGal_

 

 

Catherine of Aragon’s First Meeting with the Tudors

The following is an exclusive extract from Catherine of Aragon, An Intimate Life of Henry VIII’s True Wife by Amy Licence, available now by Amberley Publishing.

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By Amy Licence

The man that Catherine met on the evening of November 6, 1501, was approaching forty-five and had been on the English throne for sixteen years. He was described extensively by the Italian Humanist Polydore Vergil, who first came to England in 1502, just short months after Catherine’s arrival, and was welcomed at court, with ample opportunity to observe the King at this time in his life. Henry was above average height, with a slender but strong, well-built body. Vergil judged him to be “remarkably attractive” in appearance “and his face was cheerful, especially when speaking,” his eyes were “small and blue,” his complexion sallow and, by this age, his hair was grey, turning white, and his teeth “few, poor and blackish.” Two years earlier, his clothing had been described by Trevisa, another foreign visitor, who was impressed that “his Majesty wore a violet-coloured gown, lined with cloth of gold, and a collar of many jewels, and on his cap was a large diamond and a most beautiful pearl.”

Vergil also commented at length on Henry’s character, finding his “spirit distinguished, wise and prudent, his mind was brave and resolute and never, even at moments of the greatest danger, deserted him.” He had a good memory and was shrewd and prudent, so that “no one dared to get the better of him through deceit or guile” and knew well how to maintain his royal majesty “in every time and place.” No doubt he made Catherine fell welcome, as Vergil claimed him to be “attentive to his visitors an easy of access,” adding that “his hospitality was splendidly generous (and) he was fond of having foreigners at his court and he freely conferred favours on them.” Vergil was also critical of Henry’s harsh judgement of transgressors and his avarice, but these would only become relevant to Catherine in the coming years.

Henry was delighted with what he saw, although communication proved a little difficult. He hurried away to bring Arthur to her side and, finally, after years of correspondence, planning and anticipation, the young pair stood face to face. It was not how Catherine had imagined it, thinking she would first see her husband at the altar, dressed in her wedding finery, lifting her veil when the vows had been exchanged. Into the room came a boy who did not look unlike his father, with a long, thin face and dark eyes, sensitive mouth and fashionably cut dark hair, if his portrait of around 1499 is to be believed. In that, he poses with a white rose between his fingers, dressed in a gown of cloth of gold lined with fur, over a red doublet with gold edging, a jewelled pendant of black stones set in gold and a black hat and jewel, from which hang three pearls. Painted in oil with gold leaf on a wooden panel, it is the only surviving portrait painted during the boy’s lifetime, the closest impression of what Catherine saw at Dogmersfield.

An altarpiece depicting Henry’s family which was painted a couple of years after Arthur’s death, shows a youth with a somewhat generic face, the copy of his father’s long dark hair and eyes, wide mouth and strong nose. Other contemporary images, in a Guild Book of Ordinances and at prayer in a window at Great Malvern Priory, are similarly general and lacking in personal detail, even touched up in later years. A final image of Arthur from the 1520s depicts a more mature face, with strong nose and small mouth, the sitter wearing a gold chain of office and a red hat with a pilgrim badge, his empty right hand open before him, where the previous portrait had held a flower.

From these three images, it seems likely that the fifteen-year-old Arthur was dark in colouring, with a longish, slender face and nose, thin lips and a sensitive expression; a young king-in-waiting, wearing his learning and legacy as visibly as the marks of his status. There are definite facial similarities with a 1509 portrait of Arthur’s younger brother Henry, the future Henry VIII, about the eyes and mouth, with the boys having the same blunt, straight-cut bobbed dark hair under a black hat of Arthur’s 1499 portrait and the red gown with brown fur shown in the 1520 work. One key difference is the flower held between Henry’s fingers, which is red rather than white, emphasising his Lancastrian roots. There is no evidence to suggest that Arthur was in anything other than good health, or that his health during childhood had been poor: he was a tall, slender boy who elicited nothing but compliments from his contemporaries.

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Amy Licence is an historian of women’s lives in the medieval and early modern period, from Queens to commoners. Her particular interest lies in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, in gender relations, Queenship and identity, rites of passage, pilgrimage, female orthodoxy and rebellion, superstition, magic, fertility and childbirth. She is also interested in Modernism, specifically Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, Picasso and Post-Impressionism.

Amy has written for The Guardian, The TLS, The New Statesman, BBC History, The English Review, The Huffington Post, The London Magazine and other places. She has been interviewed regularly for BBC radio, including Woman’s Hour, and made her TV debut in “The Real White Queen and her Rivals” documentary, for BBC2, in 2013. She also writes literary fiction and has been shortlisted twice for the Asham Award.

Her website can be found at amylicence.weebly.com and her new book can be found at the following Amazon link;

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Catherine-Aragon-Intimate-Henry-VIIIs/dp/1445656701/ref=la_B008GEGNV2_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479806880&sr=1-2

 

William Brandon; Henry VII’s Standard Bearer

By Sarah Bryson

On the 22nd of August 1485 King Richard III met his death at the Battle of Bosworth field. With his death ended the rule of the Plantagenet Kings. Yet only a short time earlier in the battle anotherman had died by the very lance of Richard III. His name was Sir William Brandon and it would be his son, almost thirty years later that would become King Henry VIII’s most beloved and closest friend.

When Sir William Brandon died it is reported that he was close to Henry Tudor, proudly holding Henry standard high. Richard III charged at Henry’s standard bearer with his lance, the lance piercing through Brandon and breaking in half. History records that William Brandon ‘hevyd on high’ Henry Tudor’s standard, ‘and vamisyd it, tyll with deathe’s dent he was tryken downe’. William Brandon drew his last breath fighting for Henry Tudor to become King. Little would he know the great legacy that his death left his one-year- old son Charles Brandon the future Duke of Suffolk.

There appear to be very few facts related to William Brandon. His father was Sir William Brandon of Wangford and Southwark (b. approx. 1425 d. 1491). William Brandon Snr rose from relative security under the service of John de Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk. Before the Duke died in 1476 he granted Sir William a seat in the local Parliament and also the marriage to Elizabeth Wingfield (d. 28th April 1497). William had a long list of accomplishments including becoming Marshal of the King’s Bench, Burgess (M.P) for Shoreham, Knight for the Shire of Suffolk and Collector of Customs at Kings Lynn and Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. William Brandon was also present at the battle of Tewkesbury. The battle of Tewkesbury was one of the most decisive battles in English history where Prince Edward, Henry VI’s son, was killed and the Lancastrian forces, of which William was a part of, were decisively defeated. Despite their loss William Brandon was knighted for his efforts. William must have been able to come to terms with the Lancastrian loss as he was present at the coronation of Richard III, brother of Yorkist King Edward V.

Sir William and Elizabeth Wingfield had three sons, Robert Brandon, William and the youngest Thomas. It has also been proposed that the couple also had several daughters two of those being Anne and Elizabeth although there is contradictory evidence to support this claim. William Brandon Junior was born around 1456.

There appears to be some scandal surrounding William Brandon Junior. In 1478 Sir John Paston wrote that:

‘yonge William Brandon is in warde and arestyd ffor thatt he scholde have fforce ravysshyd and swyvyd an olde jentylwoman , and yitt was nott therwith easysd, butt swyvyd hyr oldest dowtr, and than wolde have swyvyd the other sustr bothe; wherforr men sey ffowle off hym, and that he wolde ete the henne and alle hyr chekynnys; and som seye that the Kynge ententdyth to sitte upon hym, and men seye he is lyke to be hangyd, ffor he hathe weddyd a wedowe’

John Paston’s letter suggests that sometime during or before 1478 William Brandon forced himself upon an older woman and also made an attempt to have some sort of relationship with the woman’s daughters. In addition to this great offence, the letter claim’s that the King, Edward IV was not pleased by this news and that the punishment for such horrible crimes was to be hanged. It is interesting to note that despite the required punishment there does not seem to be any record of William Brandon serving time in prison or being punished accordingly. It could be that they were mere gossip or hearsay or that those that were alleging these crimes did not have enough power behind them to see Brandon fully punished. Whatever the case Brandon was not punished and he managed to return to King Edward IV’s good graces.

William had strong Lancastrian ties and supported Henry VI during the Wars of the Roses. However when Henry VI was defeated and eventually murdered and Edward IV came to the throne, the Brandons changed sides. They pledged their support to the new Yorkist King Edward IV, however upon his death his brother Richard III came to the throne and the Brandon’s loyalty quickly began to fade. William Brandon and his brother Thomas soon became dissatisfied with the new King and the shock deposition of the future Edward V and decided to join The Duke of Buckingham’s rebellion in 1483. The rebellion was led by Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and aimed to have Richard III removed from the throne and replaced by his nephew Edward, oldest son of Edward IV. However, rumours abound that Edward was dead and the plan was changed to replace Richard III with Henry Tudor. It was at this time that Henry made his first attempt to lay claim to the throne. He sailed with a small army from Brittany. However due to poor weather Henry and his men had to return. Without Henry Tudor’s men, Buckingham’s own army floundered and a bounty was put upon his head. He was eventually captured, convicted of treason and beheaded in Salisbury on the 2nd of November 1483.

Despite supporting the Duke of Buckingham and his failed rebellion both William and Thomas Brandon managed to remain in England, however by 1484 both became dissatisfied with Richard III once more and left England. The brothers headed to Brittany to join with Henry Tudor and support his claim to the throne. In the spring of 1484, King Richard III issued a general pardon to several men that had rebelled against him, one of those being William Brandon. It is unclear if this pardon was issued before or after William Brandon left to join forces with Henry Tudor. If it was indeed before William may not have trusted the King’s words after the failed rebellion and the execution of the Duke of Buckingham. If the pardon had been issued after William had left for Europe it may be that he had no knowledge of the pardon or if he had then he might have felt it simply too late as he had already hedged his lot with Henry Tudor. Whatever the reason for not accepting this pardon it was believed at this time William’s wife Elizabeth was pregnant with their son Charles.

Elizabeth Bruyn of South Ockendon was the daughter and co-heiress of Sir Henry Bruyn. Elizabeth was first married to Thomas Tyrell Esquire who had died in 1473. Sir Bruyn died in 1466 leaving Elizabeth a portion of her father’s wealth. Elizabeth and William Brandon married sometime between 1473 and 1476. Elizabeth survived the death of her husband William in 1485 and lived on until March 1493/4.

To William and Elizabeth Brandon Henry Tudor must have signified hope and a future. The Wars of the Roses had brought a great deal of upheaval to England and now leaving the country they placed all their hope in Henry Tudor and his campaign. Laying claim to the English throne was one thing but obtaining it was another. Throughout 1483/84 Henry and his ever-growing group of supporters relied heavily upon Duke Francis of Brittany for support and received payments from the Duke to help pay for their day to day upkeep. In September 1484 Henry Tudor threw himself upon the mercy of King Charles VII of France and begged him for support for his campaign. The King agreed and helped Henry and his supporters purchase resources and mercenaries for the campaign ahead.

The 1st of August 1485 was to be the day that Henry Tudor would finally leave France after fourteen years of exile in Brittany and France aiming to lay claim to the English throne. He set sail from Harfleur, France accompanied by approximately 2000 soldiers. The exact number of men is hard to estimate as different reports record different numbers. What is known is that this would be Henry’s greatest push to date and by his side would be William Brandon.

cover-charles-brandon-the-kings-man

Landing on the 7th of August at Mill Bay six miles west of Milford Haven located along the Pembrokeshire coastline it is said that when he reached the coast Henry knelt down and kissed the sand reciting Psalm 43 ‘Judge me, O Lord and favour my cause’. He then made the sign of the cross.

At Mill Bay Henry was met by his half Uncle David Owen, the illegitimate son of Tudor Owen, Henry’s grandfather. Gathering his men Henry headed off to lay claim to the English throne. Their first stop was the village of Dale of which its castle surrendered easily. Henry and his men camped here and the future King made sure to remind his men not to get up to any trouble. The troops then moved on through Haverfordwest and Cardigan then northward to Llwyn Dafydd. After this, they claimed the garrison at Aberystwyth Castle and then turned to march inland. On August 13th, they reached Machynlleth and the next day they made a thirty-mile trek across rough terrain to Dolarddun. Following this the growing army headed to Long Mountain where Henry met with Rhys ap Thomas, an important man who carried a great deal of sway with the Welsh people. Rhys pledged his loyalty to Henry and brought approximately 2000 troops to Henry’s cause.

With his growing number of troops, Henry then headed to Shrewsbury. However the portcullises were closed and Henry and his men were not given permission to pass. The next day Henry sent a messenger to negotiate with those in charge at Shrewsbury and after a mysterious message from an outside source was sent to the head bailiff Henry and his men were allowed to pass through and a number of men from the town joined Henry’s forces.

From Shrewsbury Henry travelled through Shropshire and Staffordshire. It was here at Staffordshire that Sit Gilbert Talbot and a troop of about 500 men joined with Henry. The men marched to Stafford where Henry would meet Sir William Stanley, younger brother of Henry’s stepfather.

From Stafford Henry and his men marched through Lichfield arriving at Tamworth on the 20th of August. The next day his men marched over the River Anker to Atherstone where Henry is reported to have had a secret meeting with his father in law. It was at this meeting that allegedly Thomas Stanley pledged his formal support for his stepson.

However the next day, on the 22nd of August Henry Tudor sent a message to his stepfather asking him to send his men to join Henry’s troops. To this Stanley replied that he needed to prepare his men and for now it would appear he was keeping his distance. Also on this day Henry chose to knight several men who had shown great loyalty to him throughout his time in exile. These men included Sir Richard Guildford, Sir John Jastoy, Sir John Sisley, Sir John Trenzy, Sir William Tyler, Sir Thomas Milborn and now Sir William Brandon.

At the Battle of Bosworth, it is estimated that Henry Tudor had an army of approximately five to eight thousand soldiers to King Richard III’s twelve to twenty thousand men. Thomas and William Stanley had a combined force of approximately six thousand men however neither brother had made a definitive move as to which side of the battle they would join. Richard III held the higher ground upon Ambion Hill while Henry and his men were on the lower ground next to marshes.

Henry Tudor appointed the Earl of Oxford to command his troops and lead the Vanguard. Behind the vanguard was Henry, flanked by Gilbert Talbot and Sir John Savage and the rest of his men. Close to Henry was Sir William Brandon. Brandon had been chosen to be Henry’s standard bearer, a great honour for a man who continued to display his loyalty.

A standard bearer is ‘one who bears a standard or banner’. It was Brandon’s duty to carry the flag that represented Henry and his troops. The standard that Henry chose was white and green representing the Tudor colours. Upon this was the red cross of St George, patron saint of England and soldiers and the red Dragon of Wales. Henry Tudor had strong ties with Wales through his grandfather Owen Tudor as well as his uncle Jasper Tudor. This identification with Wales and its people helped Henry to recruit many Welsh men and soldiers along his campaign towards London.

Upon King Richard’s side he ordered the Duke of Norfolk and Sir Robert Brackenburry to lead his vanguard. The rear guard was commanded by Richard III and compromised of his personal bodyguard and other soldiers. Behind him was the Earl of Northumberland and his men.

When the battle cry was called arrows fired and then Oxford’s men clashed with the Duke of Norfolk’s. Both sides then paused, perhaps to regain their breath and positions. Oxford formed his men into a wedge and charged forward. At this second charge Henry’s French troops joined the battle and joined the attack on Norfolk’s men. Soon Norfolk’s men were in trouble and many were killed including the Duke himself, others fled while some defected to Henry Tudor’s side.

Northumberland and his men did not move into the fight and it is believed that at some point the Earl decided to leave the battle without employing any of his men into the fray. Amongst the chaos some of his loyal supporters begged Richard III to flee but the King would be no coward. Oxford’s men had pushed forward leaving a gap. Seeing his gap Richard III saw an opportunity to get to the man who caused such a great threat to his throne and he and his men charged forward aiming to strike Henry Tudor down.

It was here that William Brandon met his death at the end of Richard III’s lance. The Battle of Bosworth is remembered for the tragic death of King Richard III and the rise of the Tudors. Sir William Brandon, standard bearer seems almost insignificant amongst a battle that changed the course of English history yet one must not forget his story. While little is known about his life he was fiercely loyal to a man he believed was the true King. He gave his life for Henry Tudor and it was his son Charles Brandon that would continue the Brandon legacy.

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Graham’s Turner’s Painting of William Brandon’s Death

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Sarah Bryson is a researcher, writer and educator who has a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education with Honours. She currently works with children with disabilities. She is passionate about Tudor history and has a deep interest in Mary Boleyn, Charles Brandon, the reign of Henry VIII and the people of his court. She is the author of Mary Boleyn in a Nutshell and Charles Brandon: The King’s Man.

Visiting England in 2009 furthered her passion and when she returned home she started a website, queentohistory.com, and a Facebook page about Tudor history. Sarah lives in Australia, enjoys reading, writing and Tudor costume enactment.