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10 Historic Sites That Tell the Story of Katherine of Aragon in England

Explore the significance of places visited or lived in by Katherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII.

Katherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII and Queen of England from 1509 to 1533, played a major role in English History.

She lived in the country from 1501 to 1536, and both shaped the nation and struggled against it. In January 2023, it was announced that a pendant associated with the couple was discovered by a metal detectorist in Warwickshire.

Here we look at 10 of the places she visited or lived in, in England, and why they were so significant.

1. Church of St Andrew, Plymouth

Katherine took a long time to get to Britain. She was betrothed to Arthur, first son of Henry VII, when she was just 3 years old. But it took 12 years before she finally left Spain.

An aerial photograph of A grey church in a town centre.
The Church of St Andrews, Plymouth. © Historic England Archive. 35150/005.

Even then, storms in the Bay of Biscay meant her ship had to return to port for a month. She finally arrived in England on 2 October 1501 and gave thanks at this church. The couple wed soon after in November 1501.

2. Ludlow Castle, Shropshire

A photograph of an old grey stone castle.
Ludlow Castle in Shropshire. Contributed to the Missing Pieces Project by Paul Adams. View the List entry.

Katherine and Arthur, now the Prince and Princess of Wales, were soon shipped off to oversee their responsibility. This duty was carried out from Ludlow, on the Welsh borders.

Unfortunately, the couple both quickly became ill. While Katherine recovered, less than 6 months after the marriage, Arthur died at Ludlow Castle.

3. Fulham Palace, London

A photograph of a three-storey red brick tudor palace.
Fulham Palace in London. Contributed to the Missing Pieces Project by Charles Watson. VIew the List entry.

For the next 7 years, Katherine’s future was uncertain. Her parents and in-laws used her as a pawn in their games of statecraft. She was increasingly put under pressure.

For example, when it became clear that she and Prince Henry were growing close, she was quickly shunted away from London by Henry VII to live at Fulham Palace upriver.

4. Westminster Abbey, London

An illustration of a large gothic cathedral.
Reconstruction illustration showing the Jewel Tower and Westminster Abbey beyond, as they may have appeared in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth centuries, as seen from the south-east. © Crown copyright. Historic England Archive. View image IC110/008.

Katherine’s eventual marriage to Henry VIII on 11 June 1509 was a private affair. It was the subsequent coronation, on 24 June, that truly made a statement.

The young couple were popular and lavish with their spending, resulting in a truly spectacular statement. They were crowned at Westminster Abbey and then celebrated at Westminster Hall.

5. Warwick Castle

A photograph looking across a river towards a large grey stone castle, three turrets are visible above the trees.
Warwick Castle. © Historic England Archive. View image IOE01/09494/03.

In the summer of 1513, Henry VIII left the country to lead troops in France. Katherine served as regent in his stead. When England was invaded by France’s ally Scotland, she mustered troops and supplies at Warwick.

They then went on to defeat the Scots and protect the border. In some ways, their campaign was more successful than her husband’s.

6. Cathedral Church, Oxford

A photograph of an ornately carved marble shrine.
St Frideswide’s Shrine, Christ Church Cathedral, Christ Church college of Oxford University, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, UK. © Jorge Tutor / Alamy Stock Photo.

The couple spent much of their time on royal progresses, touring the country. This allowed them to foster relations with their subjects and see any issues. In 1518 Katherine made a stop at the Shrine of St. Frideswide in Oxford, possibly to pray for a healthy birth in what would be her last pregnancy.

7. Christchurch Cathedral, Canterbury

A black and white aerial photograph of a large cathedral in a town centre.
Christchurch Cathedral and the cathedral close, Canterbury. 25 April 1947. © Historic England Archive. Aerofilms Collection. EAW004808.

One of the reasons for Katherine’s marriage to Henry was her relations with royal families across Europe. Her mother and father had respectively held the thrones of Castile and Aragon, while her nephew would become Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire.

In 1520, Charles met with Henry at Canterbury at Katherine’s urging and the two countries entered diplomatic relations.

8. Ampthill Castle, Bedfordshire

A photograph of a large stone cross.
Katherine’s Cross Ampthill Park. © Historic England Archive. View image IOE01/09891/02.

The couple’s inability to produce a surviving male heir led to Henry seeking to have their marriage annulled in 1525. Pope Clement VII refused, leading Henry to assume supremacy over religious matters.

Katherine was removed from court and stayed at Ampthill Castle for 3 years while the divorce was debated. It was here she found out the decision that the marriage had not been valid, and Henry married Anne Boleyn in January 1533.

While the castle no longer exists, a cross dedicated to Katherine stands on the spot.

9. Buckden Towers

A photograph of a large red brick tower with four turrets.
Buckden Towers. Contributed to the Missing Pieces Project by Steve Turner. View the List entry.

Once again, Katherine found herself being pushed around by the monarch. Henry tried to use the distance from himself and their daughter Mary to try to pressure her into accepting his new marriage.

However, she refused to comply and maintained her faith and devotion to Henry. In retaliation, he pushed her further away, sending her to Buckden Towers in the midsummer of 1533.

10. Peterborough Cathedral, Cambridgeshire

A photograph of a large gothic cathedral with a blue sky behind it.
Peterborough Cathedral. © Historic England Archive. View image DP160810.

Katherine died in Kimbolton Castle in January 1536 and was buried in Peterborough Cathedral. She was still popular with the people and mourned greatly.

Over the years, Katherine’s tomb has been enlarged, her marriage to Henry was confirmed as good and valid, and text was added reading “Katharine Queen of England”.

A photograph of a grave within a cathedral, with a black fence above it with a portrait of a woman on it. 'Katharine of Aragon' is in gold lettering above the grave.
The grave of Katherine of Aragon at Peterborough Cathedral in Cambridgeshire, England. Source: Wikimedia Commons

(To note, there are many different spellings of her name in historical documents, even when signed by her own hand.)

Further reading

15 comments on “10 Historic Sites That Tell the Story of Katherine of Aragon in England

  1. “In 1587 her daughter Mary I was temporarily entombed there as well after her execution”. Really? someone doesn’t know one Mary from another!!

  2. Alan Crosby

    Mary I died in 1558 and was the daughter of Katharine of Aragon. The Mary who was executed in 1587 was Mary Queen of Scots! It is deplorable that Historic England allows such basic mistakes to pass apparently un-noticed – after all, these are some of the most famous and best-known peoiple in our history.

  3. Angela Owens

    Katherine’s daughter Mary was NOT executed as it says she was in the paragraph on Peterborough Cathedral. How could Historic England get this wrong?

  4. Jane Griffin-Ash

    Mary 1 was not executed- paragraph about Kimbolton and Peterbourgh


    Yogge’s House (known as “The Prysten House” (NHLE 1067152) and the so-called “Blackfriars Distillery” (NHLE 1386410) are both surviving buildings from the time that Katherine stayed in Plymouth. Both are very fine Grade II* buildings.

  6. Susan Lindley

    Helpful to fill in the blanks of ones knowledge with people and places. It is easy to forget that Katherine was Queen of England for a significant length of time before the problems of the lack of a male heir became acute.

  7. People who visit Peterborough Cathedral to visit Katherine’s tomb, sometimes leave a pomegranate as it was one of her symbols

  8. I’m glad to see the portrait of young Katherine with strawberry blond hair by her tomb. So often in films she’s portrayed with black hair and “swarthy” features — not historically accurate, as best I understand.

  9. Wasn’t mary called bloody Mary, the queen of England.

  10. Nora Butler

    I am astonished at your failure to give greater prominence to Kimbolton Castle, where Katherine of Aragon spent the last twenty months of her life. Although the Castle was subsequently remodelled by Vanbrugh, it retains doorways and windows from Sir Richard Wingfield’s Tudor rebuilding in the 1520s. Kimbolton Castle will next be open to the public on Sunday 5th March.

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