The Burial of the “Constant Princess”

COA 5
Although Philippa Gregory’s book on Katherine of Aragon is purely fictional, the title is more than fitting. Katherine had waited seven years, almost as much as Anne is reputed to have waited, to marry Henry, who was next in line to the English throne after his older brother passed away.
"Not for my Crown" had been her motto when she was Princess of Wales. She changed it to "Humble and Loyal" to parallel her mother in law's which had been an example of queenly chastity and behavior. But "appearances" as Fox states in her dual biography of her and Juana were indeed "deceiving". Katherine was a headstrong woman, a pioneer of female education as her mother, a great tactician, leader, Regent, and notable religious and humanist matron. In her death however, her achievements were forgotten and she was buried with the honors of a Princess, not a Queen.
“Not for my Crown” had been her motto when she was Princess of Wales. She changed it to “Humble and Loyal” to parallel her mother in law’s which had been an example of queenly chastity and behavior. But “appearances” as Fox states in her dual biography of her and Juana were indeed “deceiving”. Katherine was a headstrong woman, a pioneer of female education as her mother, a great tactician, leader, Regent, and notable religious and humanist matron. In her death however, her achievements were forgotten and she was buried with the honors of a Princess, not a Queen.
On January 29th, 1536 Katherine of Aragon was buried on St. Peterborough Cathedral. She had been laid under a canopy of state the previous day which had included the royal arms of England and Spain and her personal emblem, the Pomegranate and eighteen banners to illustrate her connection to other royal houses in Europe.
Eustace Chapuys was not present for the ceremony but from the reports he received afterward, he found it shameful.
The chief mourner was Frances Brandon, Henry VIII’s niece. With her were her husband Henry Grey, and her sister, Eleanor Brandon. Mary was not allowed to attend her mother’s funeral but if she had, she would have found it shameful as well.
Perhaps it was better that she didn’t because she would have no doubt felt the same outrage.
At the ceremony, Katherine was referred to as the “Princess Dowager” not  as the Queen of England as she and her supporters had always maintained. The priest performing the ceremony was none other than the John Hilsey, the Bishop of Rochester who had replaced Fisher after the latter’s death.His eulogy condemned Katherine for standing against her sovereign and reiterated many times that her marriage had been an affront to God, and that she was never truly Queen, but only the King’s sister. Representing Henry VIII, her “brother-in-law”, was Sir William Paulet. Maria de Salinas and her daughter, the new Duchess of Suffolk, Catherine Willoughby were also present. 

Katherine of Aragon tomb

Visitors to the UK today are drawn to her tomb. It is marked by golden letters on top, on the gate, KATHARINE OF ARAGON: QUEEN OF ENGLAND, and two flags, flying horizontally. These letters were added many centuries after her funeral, as a way to honor her. Regardless of who she was, what everyone’s views of her are or remain, she was married to Henry for more than twenty years, served as his Regent (distinguished herself in that position) and was mother to England’s first Queen, and the youngest daughter of two of the most celebrated –and also infamous- monarchs in Western Europe.

Sources:
  • Katherine of Aragon by Patrick Williams
  • Sister Queens: The Noble and Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana I of Castile by Julia Fox
  • The Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII by Amy Licence
  • Inside the Tudor Court by Lauren Mackay
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