Katherine of Aragon: A Humble & Obedient Wife

Katherine of Aragon kneeling before Henry VIII by Henry Nelson O'Neil.
Katherine of Aragon kneeling before Henry VIII by Henry Nelson O’Neil.

On June the 21st 1529 Katherine made her appearance before the Parliament Chamber of Blackfriars. Henry spoke of his mortal sin (being married to his brother’s wife for so long) and keeping his silence out of love for her but he could do so no more because it weighed heavily on his conscience.
It was Katherine’s turn. An excellent actress and politician like her father, she out-performed him. According to contemporaries, after she rejected the legality of the Legatine Court, she rose and crossed the floor then fell on her knees and declared before Henry and all the witnesses:

Katherine of Aragon (Maria Doyle Kennedy) in
Katherine of Aragon (Maria Doyle Kennedy) in “The Tudors” s.1

“Sir, I beseech you for all the love that there has been between us, and for the love of God, let me have justice and right, take of me some pity and compassion, for I am a poor woman and a stranger born out of your dominions, I have here no assured friend and much less indifferent counsel: I appeal to you as to the head of justice within this realm. Alas! Sir, wherein have I offended you, or what occasion of displeasure have I given you? Have I acted against your will and pleasure, so that you should intend -as I perceive- to put me from you?
I take God and all the world to witness that I have been to you a true humble and obedient wife, ever comfortable to your will and pleasure, that never said or did anything to the contrary thereof, being always well pleased and contended with all things wherein you had any delight or dalliance, whether it were in little or much, never grudged in word or countenance, or showed a glimpse or spark of discontentment. I loved all those whom you loved only for your sake, whether I had cause or not and whether they were my friends or my enemies.
These twenty years I have been your true wife or more, and by me ye have divers children, although it hath pleased God to call them out of this world, which hath been no fault in me.
When you had me first, I take God to be my judge I was a true maid without touch of man; and whether it be true or no, I put it to your conscience if there be any just cause by the law that you can allege against me, either of dishonesty or any other impediment, to banish me and send me away from you, I will happily go to my great shame and dishonor; but if there be none, then here I most humbly beg you to let me remain in my former state and receive just at your hands.”

She was challenging Henry and telling him that everything that would happen from this point would be his doing and right or wrong, it would weigh on his conscience. In an era where women were expected to be submissive or passive, Katherine’s performance gave her supporters exactly that. By kneeling in front of Henry, appealing to his conscience and listing everything she had done for him, she had portrayed herself as the wounded wife and Henry as the aggressor. We all know that Katherine was weak or submissive, but she knew how to use these stereotypes to her advantage.

Afterwards, she went further and added how he would be insulting the memory of their respective fathers if he went ahead with this, then she rose and with her assistant walked out of the room, never looking back.

Sources:

  • Sister Queens:The Tragic & Noble Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana of Castile by Julia Fox
  • Tudor. Passion. Manipulation. Murder by Leanda Lisle
  • Katherine of Aragon by Patrick Williams.
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3 thoughts on “Katherine of Aragon: A Humble & Obedient Wife

  1. Tess June 25, 2015 / 7:20 am

    Poor Catherine. She was humiliated publicly by Henry, she was entitled to defend himself.

    Liked by 1 person

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