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Katherine of Aragon (1485)

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Catherine of Aragon (Spanish: Catalina de Aragón) (16 December 1485 – 7 January 1536), also known as Katherine or Katharine, was Queen consort of England as the first wife of King Henry VIII of England and Princess of Wales as the wife to Arthur, Prince of Wales. In 1507, she also held the position of Ambassador for the Spanish Court in England when her father found himself without one, becoming the first female ambassador in European history. For six months, she served as regent of England while Henry VIII was in France. During that time the English won the Battle of Flodden, an event in which Catherine played an important part. The controversial book "The Education of Christian Women" by Juan Luis Vives, which claimed women have the right to an education, was dedicated to and commissioned by her. Such was Catherine's impression on people, that even her enemy, Thomas Cromwell, said of her "If not for her sex, she could have defied all the heroes of History." William Shakespeare described her as "The Queen of Earthly Queens", and during her early years as queen consort she was described as "The most beautiful creature in the world." She successfully appealed for the lives of the rebels involved in the Evil May Day for the sake of their families. Furthermore, Catherine won widespread admiration by starting an extensive programme for the relief of the poor. She was also a patron of Renaissance humanism, and a friend of the great scholars Erasmus of Rotterdam and Saint Thomas More.

At the age of three, Catherine was betrothed to Prince Arthur, heir to the English throne, and they married in 1501, but Arthur died five months later. Catherine subsequently married Arthur's younger brother, the recently-succeeded Henry VIII, in 1509. By 1525 Henry was infatuated with his mistress Anne Boleyn and dissatisfied that his marriage to Catherine had produced no surviving sons, leaving their daughter, the future Mary I of England, as heiress presumptive at a time when there was no established precedent for a woman on the throne. He sought to have their marriage annulled, setting in motion a chain of events that led to England's break with the Roman Catholic Church. When Pope Clement VII refused to annul the marriage, Henry defied him by assuming supremacy over religious matters. In 1533 their marriage was declared invalid and Henry married Anne on the judgement of clergy in England, without reference to the Pope. Catherine refused to accept Henry as Supreme Head of the Church of England and considered herself, as did most of England and Europe, the King's rightful wife and Queen until her death. Now acknowledged by Henry only as Dowager Princess of Wales, she lived out the remainder of her life at Kimbolton Castle, and died there on 7 January 1536.

  Biography  

 early life
Catherine was born at the Archbishop's Palace in Alcalá de Henares near Madrid, on the night of 16 December 1485. She was the youngest surviving child of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile. Catherine was quite short in stature with long red hair, wide blue eyes, a round face, and a fair complexion. She was descended, on her maternal side, from the English royal house; her great-grandmother Catherine of Lancaster, after whom she was named, and her great-great-grandmother Philippa of Lancaster were both daughters of John of Gaunt and granddaughters of Edward III of England. Consequently she was third cousin of her father-in-law, Henry VII of England, and fourth cousin of her mother-in-law Elizabeth of York.

Catherine was educated by a tutor, Alessandro Geraldini, who was a clerk in Holy Orders. She studied religion, the classics, Latin histories, canon and civil law, heraldry, and genealogy. She had a strong religious upbringing and developed a faith that would play a major role in later life. She learned to speak, read and write in Spanish and Latin, and spoke French and Greek. She was also taught domestic skills, such as needlepoint, lace-making, embroidery, music and dancing. The great scholar Erasmus would later say that Catherine "loved good literature which she had studied with success since childhood".

At an early age, Catherine was considered a suitable wife for Arthur, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of Henry VII of England and heir to the throne, due to the English ancestry she inherited from her mother Queen Isabella I of Castile. By means of her mother, Catherine had a stronger legitimate claim to the English throne than King Henry VII himself through the two first wives of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster: Blanche of Lancaster and the Spanish Infanta Constance of Castile. In contrast, Henry VII was the descendant of Gaunt's third marriage to Katherine Swynford, whose children were born out of wedlock and only legitimized after the death of Constance and the marriage of John to Katherine. The children of John and Katherine, while legitimized, were barred from ever inheriting the English throne, a stricture that was ignored in later generations. Because of Henry's descent through illegimate children barred from succession to the English throne, the Tudor monarchy was not accepted by all European kingdoms. At the time, the house of Trastámara was the most prestigious in Europe, due to the rule of the Catholic Monarchs, so the alliance of Catherine and Arthur validated the House of Tudor in the eyes of European royalty and also strengthened the Tudor claim to the English throne via Catherine of Aragon's ancestry. It would also have given a male heir an indisputable claim to the throne. The two were married by proxy on 19 May 1499 and corresponded in Latin until Arthur turned fifteen, when it was decided that they were old enough to be married.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Catherine of Aragon", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.