Katharine of Aragón

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Katharine of Aragón,

1485–1536, first queen consort of Henry VIIIHenry VIII,
1491–1547, king of England (1509–47), second son and successor of Henry VII. Early Life

In his youth he was educated in the new learning of the Renaissance and developed great skill in music and sports.
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 of England; daughter of Ferdinand II of Aragón and Isabella of Castile. In 1501 she was married to Arthur, eldest son of Henry VII. He died in 1502, and the marriage of Katharine to his brother, Henry, was projected. A papal dispensation was obtained, but the marriage was delayed by diplomatic wrangling between Henry VII and Ferdinand and did not take place until the prince had ascended (1509) the throne as Henry VIII. As governor of the realm during Henry's expedition to the Continent in 1513, she organized the successful defense against Scottish invasion that ended in the English victory at Flodden. Only one of Katharine's six children survived infancy (see Mary IMary I
(Mary Tudor), 1516–58, queen of England (1553–58), daughter of Henry VIII and Katharine of Aragón. Early Life

While Mary was a child, various husbands were proposed for her—the eldest son of Francis I of France (1518), Holy Roman
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), and Henry was disappointed at her failure to produce a male heir. The English alliance with Katharine's nephew, Holy Roman Emperor Charles VCharles V,
1500–1558, Holy Roman emperor (1519–58) and, as Charles I, king of Spain (1516–56); son of Philip I and Joanna of Castile, grandson of Ferdinand II of Aragón, Isabella of Castile, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, and Mary of Burgundy.
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, wavered and fell in 1525, and her political importance declined. Finally, Henry became strongly infatuated with Anne BoleynBoleyn, Anne
, 1507?–1536, second queen consort of Henry VIII and mother of Elizabeth I. She was the daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn, later earl of Wiltshire and Ormonde, and on her mother's side she was related to the Howard family.
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. In 1527, with the help of Cardinal Thomas WolseyWolsey, Thomas
, 1473?–1530, English statesman and prelate, cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. Early Career

Educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, Wolsey served for a while as master of the Magdalen College school. He was ordained a priest in 1498.
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, Henry began the attempt to have his marriage annulled. This move precipitated the chain of events that ended in the English Reformation. Katharine steadfastly refused to acknowledge the invalidity of the marriage or to retire to a convent. In 1529 at a trial conducted by cardinals CampeggioCampeggio, Lorenzo
, 1472?–1539, Italian churchman and diplomat, cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He was well known as a jurist before turning to the service of the church (c.1510) upon the death of his wife. He was made bishop in 1512 and cardinal the following year.
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 and Wolsey, she appealed vainly to Henry, denied the jurisdiction of the court because it was under pressure by the king, and withdrew. Pope Clement VIIClement VII,
c.1475–1534, pope (1523–34), a Florentine named Giulio de' Medici; successor of Adrian VI. He was the nephew of Lorenzo de' Medici and was therefore first cousin of Pope Leo X.
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, a virtual prisoner in Rome of Charles V, recalled the hearing to Rome, in effect denying the divorce. Henry then proceeded on his own; after his secret marriage to Anne Boleyn in 1533, a court presided over by Thomas CranmerCranmer, Thomas
, 1489–1556, English churchman under Henry VIII; archbishop of Canterbury. A lecturer at Jesus College, Cambridge, he is said to have come to the attention of the king in 1529 by suggesting that Henry might further his efforts to achieve a divorce from
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 pronounced the former marriage invalid. Katharine refused to accept the decision. The pope's formal declaration for her in 1534 came too late. She was separated from her daughter, Mary, never visited by Henry, and confined with few attendants at various inferior estates. Katharine nevertheless refused, despite all threats and mistreatment, to take the title of princess dowager or to acknowledge the Act of Succession and the Act of Supremacy. Her great popularity with the common people of England never waned throughout the long period of her misfortunes. She died after a prolonged illness.


See biographies by G. Mattingly (1941, repr. 1960), M. M. Luke (1967), and G. Tremlett (2010); A. Du Boys, Catherine of Aragon and the Sources of the English Reformation (1881, repr. 2010).