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King Henry VIII and his Six Wives
Catherine of Aragon
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Catherine of Aragon
(1485-1536)
First Wife of Henry VIII, Divorced

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Catherine of Aragon was the youngest surviving daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain.  At the age of three, she was betrothed to Prince Arthur, a little more than a year her junior, the oldest son of King Henry VII of England.  She and Prince Arthur were married in London in 1501.  Less than six months after being wed, Arthur died suddenly of a fever.  Catherine was now widowed and alone in England.  She had no wish to go back to Spain. King Henry also now needed a bride for his second oldest son, Henry, who would now become King of England.  Catherine seemed the logical choice, but one thing held them back: a passage in the bible that forbade a man to marry his brother's wife.  Catherine played the only card that she had left: she told the King she was still a virgin, therefore her marriage to Arthur had never been valid.  There was no easy to tell if she was lieing, so she was betrothed to Prince Henry.  Being 6 years Catherine's junior, Henry at this time was too young to marry her.
 
But things did not go smoothly.  Suddenly, the King went back on the betrothal, no longer interested in an alliance with Spain.  Catherine lived for four years in England, uncertain what her future held.  King Henry finally died in 1509, and Prince Henry married Catherine the same year.
 
In 1510, Catherine gave birth to a stillborn daughter.  In January of 1511, she gave birth to a son, Prince Henry, but he died 52 days after birth.  Catherine then had another miscarriage, and then another short lived baby boy.  Finally, in February of 1516, she gave birth to a daughter, the only child that survived to adulthood, Princess Mary.  Catherine also had two more pregnancies after this with children that did not survive.
 
Henry longed for a male heir.His mistress, Bessie Blount, gave birth to a baby boy, Henry Fitzroy, not long after Mary was born.  But being a bastard child, there was no forseeable way he would ever be the King of England. 
 
In 1526, Anne Boleyn, Henry's eventual second wife, comes into the story.  Anne Boleyn was one of Queen Catherine's ladies.  Henry's love of Anne, and his desperate desire for a male heir, would push him to do anything to rid himself of Catherine, and marry Anne.
 
Henry petitioned the Pope in Rome for an annulment, claiming that his marriage to Catherine had never been valid because he had married his brother's wife.  Catherine was shocked and dismayed when she heard Henry's plans, she appealed to the Pope directly, and hoped that her nephew, Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, would help.
 
So began the great battle between Henry and Catherine and the church.  Catherine continued to affirm that she was a virgin until her marriage to Henry, making their marriage valid.  Henry continued to fight the other way. 
 
Henry began to get impatient with the Pope, since he still had not granted an annulment.  In 1533, Anne Boleyn became pregnant, and Henry had to act fast.  He did not want another bastard son.  Henry rejected the Pope, and established the Church of England, claiming himself as the head.
 
Catherine was forced to renounce her title as queen.  She was exiled and seperated from Princess Mary, and not allowed to see her.  She died in 1536 at Kimbolton Castle and was buried at Peterborough Abbey.
 
View Catherine of Aragon's Picture Gallery: Catherine of Aragon
Go on to: Anne Boleyn