On the 30th of November 1529, Queen Catherine of Aragon confronted her husband and spared no punches, telling him that she’s had enough of his abuse and demands to be treated better.
According to the new Imperial Ambassador –Eustace Chapuys (who has substituted Inigo de Mendoza in September)- Catherine “said to him that she had long been suffering the pains of Purgatory on earth, and that she was very badly treated by his refusing to dine with and visit her in her apartments.”
This act reflects greatly on her character, revealing that Catherine was not the type of woman to sit quietly and wait for someone to rescue her. She was very influential in the first years of her husband’s reign and tolerated most of his affairs but she had her limits and Henry often pushed the boundaries of their relationship with his affairs. Her first protest came when she found about Lady Anne (Buckingham’s sister) in 1510, after she suffered her first miscarriage. The second and less well known was after Henry Fitzroy’s ennoblement was made public. The fact that he was illegitimate and was given so many titles that were associated with royal legitimate heirs, put him in an almost equal position to her daughter, and that alarmed her. The third and best known is this one.
The Blackfriars trial was one thing. Speaking to Henry in private was another. She was a great actress and her works of charity and regency in 1513 had endeared her with the common people but behind close quarters she was going to speak more frankly than she’d ever done with him.
On St. Andrew’s Day after they feasted, she reproached Henry and told her to be a “good prince and husband” to her again and abandon his mistress and recognize her as his “true and lawful wife”. Henry coldly replied that she had no cause to complain and that she
was mistress of her house and could as she pleased” and had treated her with respect throughout the years (conveniently forgetting all these past incidents) and added that “as to his visiting her in her apartment and partaking of her bed, she ought to know that he was not her legitimate husband, as innumerable doctors and canonists, all men of honor and probity, and even his own almoner, Doctor Lee, who had once known her in Spain, were ready to maintain.”
But Catherine, who did not flinch as others would have done at his cold words, calmly replied that for every doctor or lawyer he found “I shall find a thousand”.
Anne, who had served Catherine and knew she wasn’t the type of woman to shy away from an argument, reproached Henry and said: “Did I not tell you that whenever you disputed with the Queen she was sure to have the upper hand?”
Catherine had won yet another verbal battle, but she knew this was far from over. Catherine wrote many letters to her nephew and to the pope exhorting them to act. To the latter she was very bold with, she was a loyal Catholic but she was not averse to use strong language when it suited her and it wasn’t just her future that was at stake but her daughter’s as well.
- Sister Queens: The Noble and Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana I of Castile by Julia Fox
- Katharine of Aragon by Patrick Williams
- On this day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway
- Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII by Amy Licence
- Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser