Catherine of Aragon’s future with the British throne was sealed as a child. She would be the first of Henry VIII’s six wives.
Her parents, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain—the same couple who financed Columbus’ voyage to the New World—promised Catherine to Arthur, son of Henry VII of England. Catherine was three and Arthur two.
Catherine of Aragon’s First and Second Marriages
Catherine married Arthur 13 years later, however Arthur died less than six months after their marriage. Because Henry VII wanted to keep Catherine’s dowry, he arranged for her to marry Arthur’s brother, Henry. As Henry was only 12, the couple didn’t marry until six years later, on this day in 1509.
Catherine had the misfortune to give birth to a series of sickly children, and only one child, Mary Tudor, survived. Because of Henry’s obsession with having a male heir, he began to petition the Pope for an annulment, thus freeing him to re-marry. At the time, Henry had his eye on Anne Boleyn, one of Catherine’s ladies-in-waiting.
Upon learning of Henry’s plans, Catherine began her own campaign, appealing directly to the Pope who she felt would listen to her plea as he had recently been released as a military prisoner by her uncle, Charles V. However, when Anne Boleyn became pregnant, Henry acted by rejecting the power of the Pope in England and having the Archbishop of Canterbury grant his annulment.
Catherine left the court, leaving Henry free to marry the second of his six wives. Their daughter, Mary, eventually became Queen of England.