Women of Royalty
Catherine of Aragon
Catherine of Aragon
     Catherine of Aragon was born Catalina de Aragon on December 16, 1485 to Queen Isabel I and King Ferdinand of Spain at the archbishop of Toledo's palace in Alcala de Henares. The daughter of the legendary rulers of Spain, she and her brothers and sisters received excellent educations and were brought up very strictly in the Catholic faith, as was their mother, a very devout Catholic. Catalina's siblings had all married off into important families across Europe. Juan and Juana married Hapsburgs while Isabel and Maria would both marry the king of Portugal. Catalina would get England. Before she was 4, Catalina would be betrothed to a Tudor. England had been torn apart between the Lancasters and the Yorks in the War of the Roses, but Henry VII, a Tudor, had managed to grasp England and although he married a Plantagenet, Elizabeth, his dynasty was not stable. However, a tie with the powerful Spanish kingdoms would stabilize the Tudor dynasty. And so Henry's son, Arthur, Prince of Wales, was betrothed to Catalina and at the age of 16, in 1501, Catalina set out for England. 
     Within a week of her arrival, she and Arthur were married. However, Arthur was very sick even before her arrival. The marriage was not consummated and while London rejoiced, Arthur and Catalina left for Ludlow Castle in Wales, the seat of power for the Prince of Wales. Within 6 months, Arthur had died from the sweating sickness, leaving the young Catalina a widow. Catalina left for London, but she did not return home. Henry VII had written to her parents with another marriage in mind: Catalina and Henry VII's son, also named Henry. Although Henry was 6 years younger than Catalina, he was robust and healthy, unlike his brother. He had been taking vows to enter the church, but now he was being called upon to become the next king of England. The plan needed a papal dispension, as Henry would be marrying his brother's widow. Granted by Pope Julius II, Henry and Catalina were now free to wed. Catalina wrote to her father, Ferdinand, that she did not wish to marry Henry, but she would obey his orders. At home, in Spain, her mother was dying and her father was in a state to please England.
For the next seven years, Catalina lived in poverty. All of her expenses had to be paid by the Spanish ambassador, as Henry VII refused to pay for his daughter-in-law. Eventually, Henry VII even went as far as to break the contract between Henry and Catalina. He even forced 14-year-old Henry to repudiate the contract, saying it was made without his knowledge.
      In 1509, King Henry VII died. Eighteen-year-old Henry was now King Henry VIII and the first thing he did as king was marry Catalina. They two were married, and then celebrated a joint coronation as king and queen of England on June 24, 1509.
     Shortly after their marriage, Catalina became pregnant. In January of 1510, she gave birth to a stillborn daughter. Not soon after, Catalina gave birth to a son, Henry, on January 1, 1511. He was christened on the 5th of January, but died 52 days after his birth. Catalina suffered yet another miscarriage and then gave birth to a son who lived not long. Finally in February of 1516, she gave birth to a healthy child. But she was a girl, Mary. Disappointed with the losses of sons, Henry began to grow frustrated. Two more pregnancies followed Mary, the last in 1518. Neither of the children lived. Henry, who had once loved Catalina, now saw her as an enemy. He blamed the loss of children on the fact that he married his brother's widow, which is forbidden in the Bible. He began to take mistresses; the first one was Bessie Blount, who gave birth to a son, named Henry Fitzroy, born in 1519. The second mistress he took was a young girl named Mary Boleyn. Mary was the daughter of Thomas Boleyn and Elizabeth Howard. The Howards were reputed to be more powerful than the reigning Tudors, and Thomas Boleyn wished to rise high at court, which he did thanks to his daughter Mary. Mary had two other siblings. George Boleyn, who was the oldest of the children. And Anne Boleyn.