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(To note, there are many different spellings of her name in historical documents, even when signed by her own hand.)