Biography of Queen of Inglaterra Catalina de Aragón y Castilla (1483-1536)

Princess Spanish and Queen Consort of England born in Alcalá de Henares (Spain) December 15, 1485 and died at Kimbolton (England) 7 January 1536.

It was the fifth and last daughter of the Catholic monarchs, Isabel and Fernando, who, within its double foreign policy aimed at isolating to France of the international concert, agreed the Catherine link with the heir to the English Crown. This question, after some becomings of life, was, in essence, the factor that the Princess, owes his fame as it is your direct connection to the schism of the Anglican Church with Rome, event which, should not forget it, the Queen Catherine was totally alien, in this perspective, used as a pretext to settle a political dispute affecting the English monarchy with the papacy.

Early years and first wedding (1485-1503)

Although alcalaina of birth, children of Catherine went on Grenadian territory, since there was transferred, along with the rest of the Royal Court, due to the war of Granada lived the last phase of the reconquest, expiring in 1492, after which, and until 1501, Catherine abandoned that had been his residence in Santa Fe camp to live in Granada. As for the rest of their children, the Catholic monarchs had to his daughter an exquisite education, under the admonition of his nurse, Doña Aldonza de la Vega, sister of Lorenzo Suárez de Figueroa, count of Feria, one of the more Allied nobles to Royal policy of the time. For their intellectual education, Catherine had two of the closest collaborators of the Catholic Kings: fray Diego de Deza (educator of his brother, the Prince don Juan) and fray Hernando de Talavera, responsible for religious and humanistic education respectively.

It was precisely in this last year, 1501, when did the marriage negotiations between British ambassadors sent by Henry VII and the Catholic monarchs, with the object of the liaison between Catherine and the eldest son of Enrique, Arturo, Prince of Wales, and therefore, heir to the English throne. The matrimonial clauses established a high amount of dowry, as well as a number of territorial provisions in favour of the Spanish Princess, to change that never be forth, under any circumstances, a political union of Spain with England, so Catherine and the Catholic monarchs had decline the rights of succession unless was some descendant of marriage, while the British Parliament reserved the right of veto to preserve the political integrity of his Kingdom. In essence, the Covenant of marriage, with the logical qualifications, was one of the most immediate predecessors of conjugal political agreements in such profusion in the modern age.

Shortly after the signing, the Princess Catherine, accompanied by a large retinue of donceles and ladies of the Court, moved to La Coruña to travel by sea to the British Isles. Courtship landed in Plymouth in October of that same year, and various entertainments and parties occupied the life of England for a period of twelve months. Finally, and with the traditional Abbey of Westminster as a formal framework, the marriage was held on October 2, 1502. Just six months later the happiness of the couple was cruelly truncated as Prince Arturo, on whom so many hopes and quasi-messianic devotions (its name is the clearest example) they had been deposited, he/she died in circumstances difficult to clarify, so Catherine, with just seventeen years old, was widowed. Almost no time to react, and to safeguard the integrity of the Kingdom, the political parts began to move to the link between the widowed Princess and the new heir to the throne, Enrique Tudor, the future Henry VIII, whom the death of his older brother walked away from their primitive destination (Archbishop of Canterbury) to sit on the English throne.

The wedding at the start of the tensions (1503-1530)

In principle, the link did not appear to present major problems, every time that the family of the Catholic monarchs had a precedent occurred a few years earlier, that of Princess Isabel (1470-1498), sister of Catherine, (1490) first married Miguel of Portugal (d. 1491), heir of Juan II, and after his death (1497), uncle of her former husband and new Portuguese King, Manuel I. In the case of Catalina, it was nonetheless obliged to marry a wayward teenager who just thirteen years old, had already given signs of a proverbial promiscuity and an insolent arrogance. In spite of this, the marriage was officially announced through the betrothal celebration the following year of the death of Prince Arturo, and celebrated solemnly, previous papal dispensation from Pope Julius II of kinship that connected to the spouses, in 1509, when Enrique was King of England. Although the difficulty of finding reliable sources concerning the private life of the couple is remarkable enough, does not seem that the first years of their marriage is caracterizasen by the fighting, despite the different nature of the couple: lover of women, hunting and parties ostentatious, in the case of the British monarch, and a fervent religious spirituality combined with strong ethical convictions, in the case of Queen Catherine.

The contrast between the two can be summarized, in short, through the adoption of separate lives. The Kings resided in Windsor Castle, but practically almost never coincided in their itineraries, as, for example, in 1513, when Enrique VIII, led by their desire for expansion and imitation to the exploits of the hundred years ' war, initiated a complimentary trip to France with overlapping aiming to win adherents to a hypothetical and future British intervention in the continental country, traditional enemy of England. That same year, on the contrary, the Catalina Queen spent it practically traveling throughout the country, as a Regent, to dignify your figure and, incidentally, increase the popularity of a not-too-acclaimed monarchy. At the turn of Enrique VIII, however, were problems, mainly culminated by the first meeting of the monarch (1522) with the woman who was to precipitate the events: Anne Boleyn. Obsessed in morbid way for its beauty and youth, Enrique, his courtiers nobles and their agents in the Royal Council began to expand all sorts of rumours contrary to Queen Catalina. The first, issued even before the meeting with Ana Bolena, was one of the most painful for his Spanish wife: the inability to conceive a son. Indeed, the few moments in which the monarchs had "cohabited" had not resulted in an heir, and the panorama was not displayed nor too rosy for the Queen, who had always had difficult pregnancies and births, because of his five daughters only María Tudor, born in 1516, had managed to survive childhood. It is quite possible that the popularity of the Queen, as well as the brakes to Lord Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York and fervent Catholic, put to this campaign, they turn on the supports of the Queen to calm the first stake, although after the death of the once great collaborator of Henry, Wolsey, left the matter in the hands of several nobles without scruples which were provided to the regia hoax thanks to his lust for power.

The main of these agents were Thomas Cromwell, former member of the Entourage of Wolsey, and Thomas Cranmer, whose divorce support earned him to be elected Archbishop of Canterbury in 1533. At the head of the political Council and the religious affairs of the Kingdom, respectively, led the crusade in favor of divorce focusing on two issues: the age of Catalina, as well as its antecedents, incapacitating it to have more children (argument at the popular level to weaken the Queen); and the accusation of incestuous relationship of the spouses, argument used to the Holy see in order to declare the marriage null. The first attempt took place may 29, 1529, in a court in which, in addition to Cromwell and Cranmer, was also, to ultimately was the only support of Catherine: Thomas More, above even of the legacy of the Pope Clement VII, the cardinal Campeggio, appointed supervisor of the process. During the trial, Catherine of Aragon showed all his fortitude to refuse not to farce, but to discredit the legitimacy of the Court and its competences on the subject, which should only be judged by God. The four clerics showed his surprise, although only the later canonized Tomás Moro took acutely aware of the damage which, in the name of God himself, was going to do about the Queen.

Divorce and the schism of the Anglican Church (1530-1534)

Far from abandoning the idea of divorce, Enrique VIII clung to new patterns of behavior, both in the private and public land. In the first, is not recataba declare the goodness of his wife Catalina, but not as virtue but as a way to denigrate it. In this sense, was confident the orondo monarch that his Christian piety would make it understand that it should comply with the wishes of her husband, extremely erroneous position. In the flat public, King Henry began a series of consultations the most prestigious faculties of Canon law and theology of Europe with a view to knowing, for certain, what was the official position of the law before its demand for divorce. Not saying that most of the queries resulted in their favor, mainly by the weight that the two great English universities, Oxford and Cambridge, had in the intellectual world of the 16th century, which made it possible that, in addition to not displease their furious monarch, students and teachers of English training spread across Europe they pressured the teaching establishment in their favor. Another factor to take into account for the positive validation of other universities was that the Roman Papacy, controlled at the time by the Emperor Carlos V (nephew of Catherine), began to be suffocating. Ultimately, reformation and counter-reformation were beginning to play the first cards of the religious game that absorbed much of the 16th century, political and sociological context that the episode of the divorce of Catherine of Aragon has to be framed for his correct observation.

And, as it is logical to think, were Englishmen, the hands of Cranmer and Cromwell, the first to open fire. Leaving aside the entire cast of previous laws by which Enrique VIII, with the consent of all levels, and to submit the question as an insult to British sovereignty, is titled Supremo of the Church of England, the death of the only two defenders of Queen Catalina precipitated events: William Warlam, Archbishop of CanterburyHe died in 1533 and the own Cranmer, held his position which meant a turn towards Protestantism and, therefore, contrary to the interests of Catalina. Tomás Moro, for his part, friend and effective collaborator of Enrique VIII, tried to resign, but was executed by direct order of the monarch. Eliminated competition and with all British, secular and ecclesiastical institutions, dominated by allied to the obsession of the monarch, the two last steps were taken without just difficulty: 25 January 1533 Enrique VIII was married to Ana Bolena, while a month later, an ecclesiastical court, met in Dunstable and chaired by Cranmer, declaring null the marriage between Catherine and Enrique by incompatibility of kinship. The later threat of excommunication by the Pope, as well as the persecutions to the supporters of the Queen and the adjacent schism of the Anglican Church, although vital events for the history of England and Europe, do not already belong to the biographical profile of Catherine of Aragon, undoubtedly the character most affected by them and the only alien to a completely different destination to which had been prepared.

Recent years and historiographical assessment

Abandoning the field of foreign policy and the ecclesiastical power struggles, it seems this the right time to weigh, but without effective documentary evidence, the personal impact of all the circumstances described. The three few years Catalina survived divorce were marked by the collapse and poverty, in addition to by the close monitoring, quasi prison, the Queen on the strengths of Bedford, Buckden, and, finally, Kimbolton, where he/she died in 1536. Although it never really harbored special craving for power in their midst, it refused firm willing to stop using the title of Queen of England, and led it until his death in order to preserve the fate of his daughter and heiress, María Tudor, who never returned home to see, despite pleas from his first exile in Bedford Castle. Just exquisite education, their strong Christian beliefs, and its moral force to the injustice he/she committed appeared to be their support in the last fifteen years of his life, characterized by the strong fight against all the elements to your around. In the same way, and in a cursory review of his biography, there is mention the total lack of support for their cause among the English (with the exceptions discussed, and not too strong), mainly between his nephew, Emperor Carlos. Both kingdoms seemed busier in bright events, in foreign policy and in the shimmering glow of the Renaissance which provide relief to his Queen, in the first case, or her aunt, in the second.

Within historiography appraisals on your person, the same issue reported in the previous paragraph can also serve culmination of studies that, over the time and the Queen Catherine, has been carried out since the two historiographic schools capable of doing them, this is, the British and the Spanish. The English historiography tends to go on tiptoe by his figure, and focuses mainly on the confrontation between Enrique VIII and Tomás Moro, or own Anglican schism, one of the hallmarks of his country. In the case of Spanish historiography, the new era marked by the Empire of Carlos V, especially in the economic and political Outlook, seems to have forgotten the impolite and unfair episode of the daughter of the Catholic monarchs. Only some small contributions from the historiography of gender have bailed out Catherine of Aragon a historiographical oblivion which, at present, is a sad sequel to the objectification that, for political and religious reasons suffered in life.


HACKETT, F. Henry VIII and his six wives. (Barcelona, 1976).

MORGAN, K.O. The Oxford History of Britain. (London; Oxford University Press, 1988).