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Katharine of Aragon
Dutiful, Loyal, Loving, Dignified, Devout, Headstrong.
"Humble and Loyal"
Katharine the Queen was the first of Henry's wives, and one of the most beloved monarchs. A devout Catholic, Katherine was solemn, dignified, loyal, and stubborn, until the day she died. Previously married at 16 to Prince Arthur, Henry VIII's brother, Katharine steadfastly maintained her virginal status was true upon her marriage to Henry after Arthur's death. As Arthur was ill at the time he married Katharine, he likely was unable to consumate the union; Katharine well could have been a virgin on marrying Henry. Katharine was 23; Henry, 18.Although it is quite probable that Henry did love Katharine when they were married, the betrothal would come to a tragic end. The bible states that a man who takes his brothers wife will never bear children, and the union would be unclean- and although Henry maintained this to be his reason for wanting to be free of her (and Henry may well have believed his own rhetoric- he was trained to enter church service, not to be king), the more likely reason was his infatuation with Anne Boleyn.
Katharine suffered many miscarriages, never giving him a son, only Princess Mary (who would grow to become Bloody Mary); Anne Boleyn promised him a son upon marriage. This cemented Henry VIII's resolve, and in 1533, he divorced Katherine, after a seven year battle with the Roman Catholic Church, leading to his excommunication and the Reformation.
Katharine fought Henry tooth and nail, maintaining her virtue was intact when she wed Henry, despite his assertion that she had had relations with Prince Arthur and was therefore unable to have been elligible for marriage. She refused to conceed, no matter what reason Henry appealed to. Even as Henry sent Princess Mary away, ostensibly to be educated as a princess, but really as a form of punishment for Katharine, she would not relent. Henry forbade Katharine contact with their daughter, and in his zeal to be rid of Katharine, inadvertently abandoned Mary.
In a last ditch attempt to be rid of her and free to marry Anne Boleyn, Henry demanded Katherine resign her throne and enter a nunnery. Katherine refused- she was the rightful queen and would not abdicate her crown.
Frustrated, Henry banished Katharine from the castle, sending her to live in isolation, with one lady in waiting and a meager stipend. Sent to a castle so shabby that it leaked water and was crusted in mold, Katherine lived just three years more. She had not seen her daughter Mary in more than five years, and was reputed to have had her daughters name on her lips when she finally died of heartache, stress, and the shabby conditions to which she was exiled.
She wrote a dying letter to Henry professing her love for him had not been changed, and forgiving him for his actions against her. It is unknown if Henry read the letter- he had been rejecting Katharine's mail for years- but her death had a profound effect, and was one of several events that marked the beginning of the end for his marriage to Anne Boleyn.