Ten Things I’ve learned about Catherine of Aragon

I took my brother and my sister-in-law on a little walking tour the other day.  We passed the site of Baynard Castle, which was originally a Norman castle in the area that is now Queen Victoria Street in the City of London.  Baynard Castle was, like so much of the rest of the City, destroyed in the Great Fire of London, but well before that, Henry VIII gave it to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon as a wedding present.  Researching that, I found out a few things, so here are ten things I’ve learned about Catherine of Aragon:

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  1. She was the great-granddaughter of Catherine of Lancaster on her mother’s side.
  2. She had a stronger claim to the English throne than Henry VII and Henry VIII – her ancestors were born on the right side of the blankets, the Henrys’ weren’t. That was why they were so keen to make an alliance with her.
  3. She was betrothed to Arthur, Prince of Wales, at the age on only three years.
  4. Had Catherine not married someone else in the royal family after the death of her first husband, Henry VIII’s brother Arthur, her (rather large) dowry would have had to be repaid. Not an appealing thought for the king or his son.
  5. Henry VIII was five years younger than his wife.
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  6. Catherine’s mother died before she re-married, which reduced her “value” as a bride. (Hey, I know it’s sexist, but that was the way of the world then.)
  7. Catherine served as Spanish ambassador to England in 1507 – the first female ambassador in European history.
  8. Although she had six pregnancies, only one of her children survived to adulthood – she later went on to become Queen Mary, also known as Bloody Mary.
  9. When Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn, Catherine was retitled “Princess Dowager,” a huge slap in the face.
  10. When Catherine first arrived in London, she brought her African attendants with her. They were the first Africans to have been recorded as coming to London, and were said to be luxury servants.

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© Susan Shirley 2016

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