catherine of aragon

Over the coming weeks I’ll be posting mini-bios
of Henry VIII’s six wives. I hope these will be
of interest to those reading Wife After Wife and pondering on the historical counterparts of
Harry’s wives. So to our first Mrs Tudor, Catherine of Aragon.

Often portrayed in films as a dark-haired, dark-eyed Spaniard, Catherine was in fact a blue-eyed redhead, courtesy of her English ancestry. She was descended from the House of Lancaster (sounds a lot like Lannister, funny dat).

Don’t you just love this painting? It’s thought to be of Catherine, aged about eleven. Auburn hair and blue eyes – not the dark-eyed, dark-haired Spaniard we often see on screen.

This painting is probably of Catherine, though some argue it’s Henry VIII’s younger sister, Mary Tudor. So demure!

Catherine married Henry VIII’s older brother, Arthur, Prince of Wales (King-in-Waiting) when they were both only fifteen, and Arthur died six months later. And of course the BIG question, which caused all sorts of 16th-century shenanigans and still has Tudor Facebook group members arguing the toss on a daily basis, is: did they or didn’t they?

Arthur, the morning after their wedding night, famously announced to his gentlemen courtiers (lads) that he’d been ‘in the midst of Spain’. Teenage bragging? Very possibly. Catherine insisted the marriage was never consummated.

The earliest-known painting of Arthur, Prince of Wales. He’s about fourteen. I think he looks nice. Kind, thoughtful. Different to his little brother, for sure.

SHOULD WE BELIEVE CATHERINE?

For: she was extremely devout, doesn’t strike you as a person who’d lie in front of God. 

Against: would you lie to keep your crown and avoid having your daughter declared a bastard and bumped way down the inheritance chain? 

  • We will probably never know the truth, but Henry VIII divorced her anyway and along the way spectacularly Brexited when the Pope said No. 
  • Henry and Catherine were married for twenty-four years, and had only one surviving child, the fact that this was a girl creating the whole I-need-new-wife scenario. Of course, history has taught us that girls make the best monarchs.

Tune in again – Anne’s next!

Olivia Hayfield Henry VIII Wife After Wife book covers