Catherine of Aragon

Catherine of Aragon was the first wife of Henry VIII, and was married to Henry's older brother Arthur before his death in 1502.

Catherine was the youngest surviving child of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. She was betrothed to Arthur when she was three years old, and Arthur two. When she was fifteen, she was brought to England, and the pair were married on November 14, 1501. Arthur died less than six months later, due likely to "sweating sickness".

The King of England, Arthur's father Henry VII, was interested in keeping Catherine's dowry, so she was betrothed to Henry VIII. But by 1505, when Henry was old enough to wed, an alliance with Spain was not as crucial as it once had been, and the betrothal was repudiated until the death of Henry VII in 1509. They were married - and crowned - in a joint coronation on June 24, 1509.

Over the length of Henry's and Catherine's marriage, Catherine became pregnant six times, but only one child lived to maturity - Mary, who later became Queen and was known as "Bloody Mary".

Henry gradually became frustrated at the lack of a male heir from Catherine, but he remained devoted husband at first. He had two discreet affairs, with Bessie Blount and Mary Boleyn. But by 1526 he had grown distant from Catherine, and had fallen in love with one of her ladies, Anne Boleyn.

By this time, Catherine was in her forties and was no longer able to conceive. Henry began to look for ways to have his marriage annulled, and petitioned the Pope for approval of this action. At first, Catherine was kept in the dark about Henry's plans, but eventually they were made known to her. She fought fiercely against the annulment, petitioning her nephew Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, for assistance. Catherine sought to protect her station, as well as that of her daughter, Mary.

But when Anne became pregnant, Henry became more insistant, eventually rejecting the authority of the Pope in England and establishing the Church of England in order to attain the annulment he sought. Catherine was banished from court and separated from her daughter, was forced to live in dank castles and manors until her death on January 7, 1536.

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