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Catherine of Aragon: Tragic Queen

Throughout her life, Catherine of Aragon knew many tragedies. She lost her first husband after just five months of marriage and lost five of her children due to miscarriage or stillbirth. Her second husband, and love of her life, divorced her to marry a much younger woman who he thought could provide him a male heir. She was unable to see her only surviving child the last years of her life and died alone in a palace a virtual prisoner.

Catherine of Aragon was born on December 16, 1485 at the Archbishop’s Palace in Alcala de Henares, Madrid, Spain. She was the youngest child of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile. Catherine was from the house of Trestamara (by birth) and the house of Tudor (by marriage).

Growing up Catherine was tutored privately. She studied heraldry, classical literature, history, canon and civil law, philosophy, religion, theology, genealogy, and arithmetic. She could speak, read and write in Latin and Spanish, and spoke Greek and French. She was also taught embroidery, sewing, needlepoint, drawing, weaving, lace making, good manners, dancing, music, spinning and cooking.

On November 14, 1501 Catherine married Arthur, Prince of Wales at Old St. Paul’s Cathedral. Catherine was 16 at the time of her marriage to Arthur and he was 15. The couple where only married five months when Prince Arthur died on April 2, 1502 possibly of the sweating sickness. After the death of Arthur it was unsure what would happen to Catherine, it was later decided that she would marry her late husband’s younger brother Henry, Duke of York.

She and Henry where married on June 11, 1509 in the church of the Observant Friars at Greenwich Palace. At the time of her second marriage Catherine was 23 and he was two days away from his eighteenth birthday. Catherine and Henry where crowned together at Westminster Abbey on June 24, 1509.

Catherine had gotten pregnant many times in her marriage to Henry (many of which ended in miscarriage or stillbirth). There are four known children that survived birth. Only one, Mary, survived until adulthood. Her first born child was an unnamed baby girl who died two days after birth. Her second born was a boy named Henry, Duke of Cornwall, who was born on January 1, 1511 and died on February 25, 1511 (aged 53 days). Her third born was another boy, also named Henry, Duke of Cornwall, who was born and died in December 1514 (aged 1 month). Her fourth and last surviving child was her only child to survive into adult hood, was Mary I of England, who was born on July 19,1533and died on November 17, 1588.

After losing so many children Henry grew tired with Catherine and the love he once had for her faded. Henry needed a male heir to solidify his reign and he began to realize Catherine could no longer bear him the heir he so desperately needed.

Around this time Henry began his affair with Anne Boleyn, who promised him a son if he divorced Catherine ad made Anne his Queen. In order to get rid of Catherine Henry needed to have their marriage annulled. Henry decided that the marriage of Catherine and Arthur (which she claimed was never consummated) was the reason she could not produce a male heir. After the Catholic Church denied Henry the annulment he sought he separated from the Catholic Church and created the Church of England.

After Henry’s divorce from Catherine, their daughter Mary was labeled a bastard and was considered null and void. Mary remained so until after Henry’s marriage to his fifth wife, Catherine Howard when she was restored to the line of succession.

Catherine died on January 7, 1536 at the age of 50 at Kimbolton Castle, Cambridgeshire. Until the day she died Catherine insisted that she was the one true wife of Henry, and on her death bed wrote him saying how much she still loved him. In celebration of Catherine’s death Henry through parties.

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