Charles V’s visit to England (1522): Part I

Henry Viii and Charles V meeting

Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire and I of Spain arrived at Dover, England on the 26th of May 1522, where he was greeted by Cardinal and Archbishop of York, Thomas Wolsey and an entourage of 300 select Englishmen. Henry VIII met with him two days later “with much joy and gladness” while he was still at Dover.

Charles V and Henry VIII WH and CRE and historical portraits collage
Charles V from Carlos, Rey Emperador (2015) opposite an early portrait of Charles as King of Spain. Below, a middle aged Henry VIII and next to him is Damien Lewis who played him in Wolf Hall (2014).

Henry VIII had been eager to meet with his nephew since he saw him as a powerful ally against France, and his vehicle to regain some of the territories his country had lost under Henry VI. Like many Englishmen, Henry VIII had a romantic idea of the past, where he aspired like his namesake, Henry V, whose victory and conquest of France was legendary. Calais was the last of England’s stronghold in France and Henry was anxious to make a name for himself as when he went to war with his wife’s father, Charles V’s grandfather, Ferdinand II of Aragon.

Unfortunately for Henry, once the war started, he would discover that not much had changed and just as before, he would become disillusioned with Catherine’s family.

To seal their alliance, Charles V agreed to marry Henry VIII’s only heir, his first cousin, Princess Mary. Mary was six at the time while Charles was twenty-two. The legal age for men and women to marry would be in their early teens. Given Mary’s age, both parties agreed that it would be better to way until she was twelve or older.

Henry VIII and Charles celebrated the Feast of the Ascension there and afterwards, Henry VIII gave him a private tour on board one of his greatest ships “Henry by the Grace of God” and the “Mary Rose”. Charles V marveled at these two ships, something that The Tudors, despite all its inaccuracies, accurately depicted when Charles tells Henry that it surpasses every ship he owns.

After the naval tour, Henry took his guest and his entourage to Canterbury where they were greeted by the city mayor and the aldermen before they went inside the cathedral, their swords of state carried before them.
On the 31st he was Sittingbourne. On the 1st of June, Rochester, on the 2nd, Gravesend where he traveled by barge to the Palace of Placentia, otherwise known as Greenwich. There, he met what would in alternate universe would have been his future wife, his cousin, Princess Mary.

Mary Tudor and Charles V portraits
Mary Tudor as a child wearing a brooch/insignia that says Emperor, symbolizing her betrothal to Charles (pictured on the right).

The Holy Roman Emperor was first greeted by his uncle and then at the hall door by his aunt, Queen Katharine and Princess Mary in the Spanish custom -which was Katharine giving her blessing to her nephew to marry her daughter after he had asked for it.
Since day one, Katharine encouraged her daughter’s enthusiasm. This was the union that she always hoped for, and one would that strengthen ties between England and Spain against what she saw as their common enemy -France.
For Henry, this must have felt momentous as well. Since Katharine was unable to provide him with any more heirs. His hope of securing the throne for his descendants now rested “for the birth of a male heir in the next generation”.*

As previously stated, Princess Mary was six-years-old at the time and it is hard to know what she must have felt. Perhaps she felt happy at being betrothed to someone of such importance, or perhaps being the princess that she was and her father’s heir, she put on a plastic smile to please her mother.
From early childhood, she had been taught that one day she would be Queen -until her mother gave birth to a son, that is- and as Queen Regnant she would have to produce sons. And who better than with someone of impeccable royal descent as Charles?

Charles was enchanted with his little cousin. He gave her a pony to ride and a goshawk and she in turn led him to a window so he could see his presents -horses, of the finest breed, she boasted. She then entertained him and his entourage by showing off her musical skills, playing the spinet and performing a galliard (a French dance).

“Perhaps when Charles arrived she wore some of the jewelry that had been specially made for her, an impressive brooch with the name Charles on it, or another with The Emperor picked out in lettering.” (Porter, The Myth of Bloody Mary)

Charles stayed in Greenwich for four more days. On the 6th he and Henry VIII emerged from the Palace of Placentia and rode through London on a magnificent procession that was akin to the Field of Cloth and Gold that had taken place two years earlier between Henry and Francis I of France.
Before arriving to the city they stopped at a tent of cloth and gold where they donned their clothes for something more flamboyant. To demonstrate their commitment and mutual friendship, the two dressed identically in suits of cloth of gold lined with silver decorations. They were preceded by English and Spanish courtiers riding side by side as equals, just as their sovereigns. Sir Thomas More greeted them, delivering a speech in which he praised in a style similar to when he praised Katharine and Henry on their joint coronation.

At Southwark, the two were welcomed by the representatives of the clergy. When they reached King’s Bench, the Emperor asked Henry VIII to pardon as many prisoners as they could. This was similar to what his aunt had done in the aftermath of the Evil May Day Riots, even after some of the rebels protested against foreigners, including the much beloved queen. And just as before, Henry conceded. As they resumed their progress, they were met by nine pageants. One pageant impressed the Emperor. This one features the monarchs’ emblems, next to each were two of the greatest heroes of Greek and biblical mythology: Hercules and Samson. Charles was compared to the demigod Hercules while Henry VIII was compared to the equally strong and fearsome Samson.

Charles V later in life c. 1548
Charles V c.1548, by Lambert Sustris. Although he never married Mary, choosing his other first cousin, Isabella of Portugal, Mary grew to rely on him, at times forcing his hand when he was unwilling to act on her behalf. When she became Queen, she married his son, Philip.

Charles wrote to the Abbot of Najera the following day, describing to him his experience, noting that after seeing Henry’s fleet, he had become convinced that the two could take on France easily.

On the 8th of June, Henry and Charles made their last stroll through the city before they retreated to their respective quarters. It was during his stay at Greenwich and his processions through London that Charles got to know his betrothed and make up for lost time with his aunt, with the two growing very fond of one another.

On the 9th, Charles traveled to Richmond Palace and on the 10th on Hampton Court, which was one of Henry’s favorite residences and one of the architectural jewels from the Tudor era that still survives. Charles V would continue to be greeted by grand ceremony, and move from palace to palace, in an effort to make the young Emperor and King of Spain feel at home. His journey would come to an end on the middle of July, with both parties swearing to honor their agreement by pledging ships, men and a hand in marriage to seal the deal.

Sources:

  • Porter, Linda. The Myth of Bloody Mary. St. Martin Press. 2008.
  • Whitelock, Anna. Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen. Random House. 2010.
  • Williams, Patrick. Katharine of Aragon: The Tragic Story of Henry VIII’s First Unfortunate Wife. Amberley. 2013.
  • Fox, Julia. Sister Queens: The Noble Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of  Castile. Ballantine Books. 2012.
  • Weir, Alison. Henry VIII: The King and his Court. Ballantine Books. 2001.
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Henry VIII & Katherine of Aragon: The Rose and the Pomegranate’s Coronation

Henry VIII and KOA coronation

On Sunday June the 24th 1509, Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon were crowned jointly at Westminster Abbey. The procession began three day before when they took possession of the Tower. After seven long years of living in a political limbo, waiting in vain to marry the next in line to the throne, her dreams had finally come true. She and Henry had taken everyone by surprise with their marriage. The handsome boy who had accompanied her to the altar when she married his eldest brother Arthur seven years ago took after his maternal grandfather, Edward IV. Like him, he was determined to show everyone that he was his own man and that he would marry the woman of his choosing. Although he claimed that his father had made him promise to take his brother’s widow as his wife, not many believed this tale, yet they were all eager to please their new King who was a great contrast from his late father. When he and Katherine were married, the ceremony had been very low key; their coronation was however was beyond splendid. For Katherine, this must have all seemed remotely familiar. When she married Prince Arthur, she had been greeted with pageantry that lasted for days. This was no different. Henry wanted to spare no expense. The King, as one of his courtiers [Lord Mountjoy] said, was not after “gold, gems, or precious metals, but virtue, glory, and immortality.”

Westminster Hall where the royal couple processed to on the eve of their coronation.  After hosting a great dinner, the two retired to the Painted Chamber.
Westminster Hall where the royal couple processed to on the eve of their coronation. After hosting a great dinner, the two retired to the Painted Chamber.

Two days after Henry and Katherine took possession of the Tower of London, the city of London prepared to welcome their new king and queen-to-be. At about four o’clock the celebrations began with guildsmen lined in the streets. The Lord Mayor (Stephen Jennings, once a merchant) was among them, standing erect, wearing his golden chain of office while the other aldermen were close by alongside the guards who were in charge of crowd control. Henry and Katherine emerged from the Tower wearing resplendent gowns, each with their separate entourages. Henry beneath a canopy of cloth and state, wearing a crimson robe, golden coat studded with precious gems, mounted on a huge worse draped in golden fabric. Katherine followed him, riding in a litter borne by white horses, and wearing a beautiful white gown, similar to what she wore when she married Prince Arthur. Her hair was loose, as was the tradition of Consorts to symbolize their purity. Around her head was a golden and pearl circlet.

Among her retinue was none other than the newly knighted Thomas Boleyn. Henry VIII made it his duty to continue the tradition of creating new Knights of the Bath on the eve of their coronation. Besides him was the King’s best friend, the rakish Charles Brandon, the ambitious Duke of Buckingham who was dressed for the occasion, wearing gold and diamonds.

The two empty thrones were waiting for them in the Abbey where they would be crowned the following day. No doubt, they were eager to get it over with as a heavy rain poured down on them that Saturday. Many of their courtiers took shelter until the shower stopped. But Katherine –as her new husband- did not. They were born royals, and Katherine above all, trained to be Queen all her life. She had seen her mother ride through the camp, greeting soldiers, putting aside her servants’ discomfort as they saw her injured men. In Isabella, Katherine had learned that a Queen was Queen not just because of her lineage, but because of her bearing. And Katherine was ready to show that as her mother before her, she was going to take on her new role seriously. However, seeing her ladies’ discomfort and acknowledging that she could not let her litter be more ruined (her dress and hair were already ruined, Katherine like so many was drenched in rain water); she took refuge with them on a nearby tavern called the Cardinal’s Hat.
Despite Katherine’s greatest efforts; she could not avoid the superstitious ideas that were running through everyone’s mind. A rain on a day like this, on the eve of their coronation, on mid-summer’s day was seen as a bad omen. This was an age where omens were taken seriously, where superstition was seen as logic, and were the former were used as evidence of God’s anger or discontent.
The royal entourage managed to reach Westminster Palace where they dined with their guests before retiring to the Painted Chamber.

Westminster Abbey.
Westminster Abbey.

The following morning was better than expected. The ceremonies were resumed and they were crowned at Westminster Abbey.  As the day before, the two were splendidly dressed and as with Henry’s father and namesake, his grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, wept. Only this time they were of relief and joy because her son’s dynasty –against all odds- had survived and now the new generation would be crowned.

“Westminster Abbey was a riot of color. Quite in contrast with the somber, bare-stone interiors of medieval churches today, these pre-Reformation years made worship a tactile and sensual experience, with wealth and ornament acting as tributes and measures of devotion. Inside the abbey, statues and images were gilded and decorated with jewels, walls and capitals were picked out in bright colors and walls were hung with rich arras. All was conducted according to the advice of the 200-year-old Liber Regalis, the Royal Book, which dictated coronation ritual. The couple were wafted with sweet incense while thousands of candles flickered, mingling with the light streaming down through the stained-glass windows.” (Licence)

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Catholic Church in England, William Warham, conducted the ceremony. In a demonstration of precedence, Henry’s throne was raised higher than Katherine’s. “Like his father” Patrick Williams writes in his biography on Queen Katherine, “Henry VIII was crowned not just King of England but also King of France.” An ancestral title stretching all the way to Edward III who started the one hundred years war with the intention of winning more French territory. His descendant Henry V had conquered France with his son becoming the first English King of France. But he had also lost it. England had no French territory left except Calais, a small province that still served to remind England of its days of glory. Henry VIII would prove to be like many of his Lancastrian relatives, a man who ambitioned too big, but too soon.

Buckingham as Lord High Steward carried the Crown of St. Edward which was used to crown Henry, on his right, the Earls of Surrey and Arundel carried the scepter and the orb. After Warham made the traditional speech, reaffirming Henry as King of England and asking the people if they accepted their new king; he anointed Henry with the holy oils then placed the crown on his head. Then it was Katherine’s turn. Seated in her smaller throne, she was anointed on the breast and forehead, then given the scepter and rod, and finally had the crowd of St. Edith placed on her head.

After the Mass they went to St. Edward’s shrine behind the high altar to change their garments of state for more adequate clothing for the banquet that was waiting for them at Westminster Palace.

Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon from Henry VIII and his Six Wives (1971). In the middle is Katherine of Aragon's coronation robe.
Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon from Henry VIII and his Six Wives (1971). In the middle is Katherine of Aragon’s coronation robe.

There was no one in the realm that didn’t praise their new king and Queen. Besides Lord Mountjoy, Thomas More, who was young at the time, wrote extensively on the virtues of the new king and queen, adding a year later that “this lady, prince, vowed to you for many years, through a long time of waiting remained alone for love of you.” Days after their coronation, the King and Queen moved to Greenwich to enjoy a series of jousts that were made in their honor, seated in a wooden box with their royal devices, the rose and the pomegranate engraved there as well as the letters H and K intertwined.

Sources:

  • Katherine of Aragon by Patrick Williams
  • Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII by Amy Licence
  • Sister Queens: The Noble and Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana I of Castile by Julia Fox
  • The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser

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.

The Marriage of Henry VIII and Infanta Catalina: The Rose & the Pomegranate

KOA and Henry VIII 2

On June Eleventh 1509, Henry VIII married the Spanish Princess, Katherine of Aragon at the Friary Church at Greenwich. It was a modest ceremony. Katherine’s confessor wrote to her father that “His Highness loves her and she loves him”. Katherine of Aragon had been his brother’s widow. There was that issue of the papal dispensation which her mother had taken care of before her death, five years prior. But Isabella’s death split the country in two and Katherine was no longer a valuable asset. Henry VII made his son publicly repudiate his intended bride, yet Henry continued to be infatuated with her. Katherine always made sure she got to see him as much as she could so Henry’s interest in her would remain. People tend to forget how long the two waited to be married and furthermore, how long they were married.

Katherine of Aragon Magdalene

Nobody expected Katherine to become Queen. Henry had been kept from other people, except a select few. Henry VII wanted to make sure that his son would become the perfect Prince, one who would listen to his father and his advisers. Henry VIII however was determined to be his own man. David Loades said it himself, that Henry’s decision to marry Katherine echoes his maternal grandfather’s decision to marry an impoverished Lancastrian widow. As with the latter, Katherine did not have anything more to recommend her other than her name. Her credentials were impeccable (and she was also the first female Western European ambassador) but other than that, her country had been torn up by civil war, and she was no longer a bride who was considered desirable on that prospect. But more than that, Henry was determined to her. Like Edward IV, nobody was going to tell him what to do. The council wanted Henry to marry Katherine’s niece or someone else who would bring a larger dowry with her and who was younger, but Henry said no claiming that on his deathbed, his father made him swear that he would look after his late brother’s wife by marrying her.

HenryVIII_1509

In completely fairness, Henry was acting in the chivalric traditions where a knight rescues his fair maiden and protects her from all harm. His declaration does have some truth in that sense; but the part about his father making him promise to marry Katherine is unbelievable. It is true that Henry VII had grown into a very avaricious man towards the end of his reign; but much as he coveted Katherine’s dowry, he was more interested in his son marrying a bride who would bring more to the table.
The council didn’t believe his story either, but he was their King and they could do nothing to dissuade him.

Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon in the Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970)

When Katherine was told of the news, no doubt she felt a sense of fulfillment, because at last her seven long years of waiting to wear the crown of Edith, was becoming a reality. And there was also another aspect to their union: Henry was attracted to her, not just because she was beautiful, but because she was intelligent and because despite Spain being in a tough situation, his alliance with Ferdinand fed into his ambitious to conquer France. Ferdinand like Henry was no friend of the Valois and he encouraged his son in law (through Katherine) to join him against France.
During the first years of their marriage, Katherine was extremely influential. The two were crowned together, and Katherine would oversee many things and as Queen she had her own household and she proved to be an excellent administrator, and also a great leader. When her husband left to aid her father in the war against France, she was left in charge of his realm. Under her Regency, the Scots were defeated and their king, James IV, was slain. And she became very loved by the people by striking a harmonious balance between her fashions, piety, and devotion to her husband.
At the same time, there is also one detail that many people forget and that is Katherine’s reaction to her husband’s infidelities. By the time Anne Boleyn came into the fold, Katherine had learned her ‘lesson’ and turned a blind eye to them. As long as her position was safe, she would not have to worry about the rest. But in the beginning Katherine was very upset of his affairs, and more than one occasion she voiced her displeasure. And on another, she made it very clear how she saw her husband’s illegitimate son as a threat to her daughter, the Princess Mary.
But whereas Anne was said to have been outspoken in front of many of her ladies and his closest friends; Katherine unleashed her anger when they were in private, and in other ways through cold looks and sarcastic remarks.

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 Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser
  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII by David Loades
  • Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII by Amy Licence