As we continue in our Tudors series, we take some time to discuss the life of Henry VIII’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon. She was born from royal stock, had a wicked awesome role model for Queenly duties in her Mama, and lived the life that was planned for her from a very young age. Ok, so maybe she didn’t have exactly a storybook Queen’s life, but a Queen she was born to be, and a Queen she became.
Born in 1485, Katherine (“Catalina”) was the youngest of five surviving children of King Ferdinand of Aragon, and Queen Isabela of Castille. Joint rulers of Spain. (And honestly, Isabela had a bigger piece of the pie.) Isabela was smart and fearless and lived her early years under the control of an older brother. She fought off arranged marriage after arranged marriage and eventually created a betrothal of her own on the sly, snuck out of the castle and married Ferdinand.
Once crowned joint rulers, this power couple took the fam on the on the road and began to acquire real estate all over what is modern day Spain. They tossed out Moor ( the Muslims of the area) and Jew alike in a period called, The Spanish Inquisition. We discuss what life was like during this time, the education of a young Princess, and some of the challenges of life, but young Katherine grew up not only on the road, but knowing where she would eventually put down roots. England. From the age of three she was promised to Arthur, first son of King Henry VII and the future ruler of England.
And, BTW, this is the same Queen Isabela who bankrolled a young startup named, Christopher Columbus. (We hear the bells going off in some of you! Nice!)
Eventually, young Katherine left her warm, tropical homeland and set sail for cold, damp England. She was met with much fanfare (after a rather strenuous journey) and married her Prince.
Who died on her a few months later.
But, have no fear, Dowager Princess of Wales! King Henry has another son, you can marry him! In seven years, if we don’t find a better match for him first. And oh, do you mind living in less than regal living conditions until then? Great, thanks.
For whatever reasons, once Papa Henry passed, and Henry VIII was crowned, he made good on his betrothal and married Katherine. For a while they seem quite content. She is advising him on political matters, while sewing his shirts and getting on the Baby Train.
But the tracks are a little bumpy. Of seven pregnancies in nine years, they only have one living child, a daughter named Mary.
But Henry is needing that heir. And he has a woman in his sights who he thinks can provide that. But first, he has to get out of this marriage. He thinks he has a loophole! Katherine had been married to his brother! That makes her his sister! And, yes, the Pope had agreed to the union, but Henry thinks he is being punished by God for it. At least that is what he claims.
Yada Yada…England breaks from the Catholic church, Henry becomes Head of the Church of England and his marriage to Katherine is ended.
Except Katherine is having none of this! Oh, it’s very dramatic, she is trying to save her place with the man she sees as her husband, AND trying to keep her daughter from becoming illegitimate. She tries to holds tight to her title as Queen. Unfortunately, she can’t hold tight enough. Henry is moving on to Wife number two, Anne Boleyn.
As always, we go into much more detail in the podcast, and answer some of the common questions of this time, introduce you to a few more key players (Wolsey) fill in a little more to this very sad, Royal Soap Opera. But Katherine is shuttled from one dark and dreary home to another and dies of a broken heart. Ok, not really, she had a massive tumor on her internal organs. (But our ending is more dramatic, right?)
On the day of her funeral, Wife Number Two, Anne Boleyn gives birth to a stillborn son.
Interestingly, only four months after THAT, Anne Boleyn’s reign as Queen ends. Badly. But that’s a story for another episode!
TIME TRAVEL WITH THE HISTORY CHICKS
We start off our recommendations with some historical fiction.
Non-fiction more your thing? We also liked this one:
Here is a fantastic one…that is in good condition, unlike the one Beckett brought back to the library.
Luminarium.org is a wonderful online resource for all things British history!
BBC’s Supersizesr Go! Elizabethan is on Youtube, here is a link to their channel. The episodes are broken up into parts (Elizabethan is six parts) but well worth the time. Funny and educational you don’t even know you are learning something! We love that!
Music courtesy of Music Alley, visit them at music.mevio.com