Daughter of Tragedy: The Birth of Margaret Pole

Margaret Pole

Margaret Pole was born at Farleigh Hungerford Castle in Bath on the 14th of August in 1473. Her parents were George Plantagenet -the younger brother of Edward IV- and Isabel Neville -the eldest daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, better known as the “Kingmaker”. As a daughter of York, Margaret Plantagenet was entitled to a life of privilege, however her mother’s sudden death in childbirth and her father’s arrest and execution (after he took the law by his own hands and punished two of his servants whom he suspected had been bribed by the Woodvilles to poison his wife) changed everything. Even before Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond became King; Margaret’s position was very delicate. Her custody, along with that of her brother, was given to Anthony Woodville. After Richard became King, he and her brother were placed under a new protective custody. Although Richard III was the youngest brother, Margaret and Edward, Earl of Warwick were barred from the line of succession since their father died as a traitor.

George Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville in
George Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville in “The White Queen”

Nevertheless, Margaret enjoyed a comfortable living. Had Richard not died, it is safe to speculate that he might have married either one to one of his loyal subjects to neutralize possible threats? Perhaps to someone of lower rank whom he knew would not use their spouses’ positions to incite rebellion. With limited data, it is impossible to know for sure. But with Anne Neville being very protective of her father’s legacy and highly popular in the North, it is very plausible that he showed more affection towards them than to his other nieces and nephews.

Margaret was the only one of her siblings to live to old age. During Henry VII’s reign she was married to Sir Richard Pole. The marriage was a happy one, and the couple had many children. Her brother was not so lucky. Being one of the Plantagenet males, Henry was fearful that he could be used against him as he  was used against Richard III, so he placed him in the Tower of London. He remained there until his execution in 1499, after he was implicated in a plot with the pretender Perkin Warbeck.

There is no record of what Margaret felt or if she was present for his execution. Probably not. Given all that she had been through, she could say very little for fear of upsetting the new regime. Oddly enough, his death was also the result of the King of Aragon’s insistence. His youngest daughter, Katherine, was betrothed to the Prince of Wales and Henry needed this marriage to secure his dynasty but Ferdinand felt that the Tudor dynasty would never be secure as long as one of the Yorkists lived.

Katherine of Aragon and Mary Tudor in
Katherine of Aragon and Mary Tudor in “The Tudors”

Regardless of this, Margaret became a good friend of the Spanish Princess since her arrival until her death. As a reward for her friendship, she was awarded the Earldom of Salisbury, becoming Countess in her own right. In 1538 however she and several members of her family were implicated in the Exeter plot and three years she was executed in one of the most gruesome scenes in Tudor history. As Lady Mary Tudor’s governess, the Countess influenced her in more ways than one and the former Princess never forgot about her and neither did she. During her execution, Margaret’s last words were about the King, his son and of course, her former charge the Lady Mary.

Sources:

  • Blood Sisters by Sarah Gristwood
  • Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones
  • Tudor by Leanda de Lisle

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

Katherine of Aragon: The Politics of Queenship & the Evil May Day Riots

Katherine of Aragon as played by Natalia Rodriguez in the Spanish series Isabel.
Katherine of Aragon as played by Natalia Rodriguez in the Spanish series Isabel.

A year after Queen Katherine of Aragon had given birth to Princess Mary, a riot broke out in London on the first of May, composed of young laborers and apprentices against foreign merchants whom they claimed were stealing their jobs. The day became known as the “Evil May Day Riots”. The rioters broke out into the houses of these merchants and attacked everyone who stood in their way or they perceived as a foreign sympathizer. Before this could get more out of hand the King sent the Duke of Norfolk to arrest the men responsible. On May 4th, thirteen people were executed, three days later John Lincoln (who had written a treatise along with his associate Doctor Bell, inciting people to violence) was executed. This would not be the last xenophobic episode on English soil. After the divorce, England would become more isolated and more nationalistic. National pride in Tudor times would reach its apex after the defeat of the Armada in 1588. However, the roots of national pride can be traced way back to the Hundred Years War with France.

After their leaders were executed, the remaining rioters prepared to die when Catherine of Aragon appeared on the scene with her two sisters in law, and begged Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey to show them mercy. They did.
Some see this as a great act of humility on Katherine’s part, born out of kindness and the empathy she felt for the common people. But there is another element to this that it is often forgotten. Queen Consorts were expected to emulate every virtue of the Holy Mother (the Virgin Mary), they were expected to be humble, kind, and gracious. As such acts as these were required of them. Another reason is that Katherine understood the politics behind queenship very well, having learned from the best. Her mother was well-known for her popularity and Catherine likewise learned the value of making good relations with the common people.

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
  • On this day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway

Arthur Tudor: Forever Young, the Death of the Camelot dream

Arthur Tudor (b.1486), was the Prince of Wales and Lord of Snowdonia and he was named after the legendary Welsh and English hero. He represented the hopes and dreams that Henry had for his realm and the future of his dynasty. His death was a huge blow to everyone.
Arthur Tudor (b.1486), was the Prince of Wales and Lord of Snowdonia and he was named after the legendary Welsh and English hero. He represented the hopes and dreams that Henry had for his realm and the future of his dynasty. His death was a huge blow to everyone.

On the 2nd of April 1502, Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales and Lord of Snowdonia died at the age of fifteen at Ludlow Castle in the Welsh Marches. No one knows exactly what the cause of his death was, but mostly agree it was this one. Contrary to what’s shown in popular culture, Arthur Tudor was not a sickly teen. In fact, he was very sheltered, reared with a very religious and rigorous regime that included the latest Humanist books and of course,  classical texts. His tutor Andre remarked that he was a bright pupil who absorbed everything that was taught to him immediately. Clearly, he represented a dream, the chosen Prince who would herald a new era into England. A new Camelot, and would make the Tudor dynasty the most famous dynasty in history. His father was a quarter Welsh through his half-Welsh/half-French father Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond.  Through his mother (Margaret Beaufort) he inherited the claim to the throne as she descended from the eldest son of John of Gaunt, first Duke of Lancaster and his mistress (and later his wife) Katherine Swynford. When Henry went into battle, he came with a red dragon as his emblem and incorporated it into the royal arms. The red dragon represented none other than Cadwalladr. It won Henry many Welsh allies, who since his birth had begun making poems of him since his father and his uncle were very loved there. Henry never forgot his Welsh roots and naming his firstborn after this legendary hero and being born at Winchester (where Camelot was reputed to have been) was a statement that he intended to make the Tudor Dynasty immortal, and like his son’s namesake, bring a new Camelot.

Sadly, this was not to be. Arthur died and with him, Henry’s dreams. He and his wife, Elizabeth of York, received the news two days later on April 4. The council deemed it appropriate to have Henry’s confessor tell him the news.

"If we receive good from the hand of God, should we not also tolerate the bad?’ It was then that he ‘showed his Grace that his dearest son was departed to God." -Henry's confessor to the King.
“If we receive good from the hand of God, should we not also tolerate the bad?’ It was then that he ‘showed his Grace that his dearest son was departed to God.” -Henry’s confessor to the King.

The news shocked Henry so much that he went into full despair. Elizabeth, equally heartbroken, but nonetheless stoic as she’d aways been; took him in her arms and reminded him of his position and that they were still young  and could have more children.

Elizabeth "did her best to comfort him as they took ‘the painful sorrow together’" writes Licence. And that "God had left him yet a fair prince, two fair princesses" and that they were still young and could have more children. Afterwards, she went into her rooms to cry, and he comforted her as well.
Elizabeth “did her best to comfort him as they took ‘the painful sorrow together’” writes Licence. And that “God had left him yet a fair prince, two fair princesses” and that they were still young and could have more children.
Afterwards, she went into her rooms to cry, and he comforted her as well.

Perhaps the one who took his death the hardest was Katherine of Aragon, the young Infanta who was not yet seventeen and who had come from Spain with the mindset that she woud become the future Queen of England.

Katherine of Aragon as a widow Portrait by Michael Sittow. Arthur's death left her in a political limbo for seven years.
Katherine of Aragon as a widow Portrait by Michael Sittow. Arthur’s death left her in a political limbo for seven years.

Katherine had been trained  almost as a renaissance Prince. She was taught the same subjects as Arthur and furthermore was taught canon and civic law and had been with her mother on her military campaigns. No other princess was better prepared. Arthur’s death left her in a political limbo and although her mother secured a papal dispensation before she died (1504) and made Henry VII agree to a betrothal, she was still left in despair. Her father made her into his ambassador to increase her allowance and that helped and gave her a taste of the intrigue of the Tudor court. For five more years she waited, and what seemed in vain at last took fruit when the friendship she had formed with the new Prince of Wales (Harry Tudor) convinced him that she was the only wife for him. After the death of his father, the new King, Henry VIII, told his council that he would take no other wife but Katherine of Aragon. At last Katherine fulfilled her life’s dream, becoming Queen of England.

Sources:

  • Sister Queens: The noble and tragic lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana I of Castile by Julia Fox
  • Six Wives of Henry VIII by David Starkey
  • The Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII by Amy Licence
  • Henry VII by SB Chrimes
  • Elizabeth of York by Amy Licence
  • Tudor by Leanda de Lisle

Katherine of Aragon’s First Miscarriage

On the 31st of January, 1510, Katherine suffered her first miscarriage, giving birth to a still-born daughter.
Henry and Katherine were married on the eleventh of June 1509 and crowned thirteen days later. Henry wrote enthusiastically to Ferdinand of his joy of being married and on November the first informed him that “the Queen is pregnant, and the child in her womb is alive.” At the end of January Katherine went into confinement. When they learned of the tragedy, they did their best to cope with their disappointment but soon their grief was abated when her physician informed them that she had been carrying twins and one of them was still alive. Ecstatic, Katherine and Henry’s hopes were renewed and Henry ordered the nursery to be refurbished but on March when she went into confinement once more, her swelling began to decrease and it became clear to everyone that she had never been carrying twins.  
To make matters worse for her, people began to talk that she could not bear anymore children and she caught wind of her husband’s first affair with Lady Hastings, the Duke of Buckingham’s sister. Caroz, the Spanish Ambassador at the time tried to placate Katherine who (unlike the passive woman she is often believed to be) was livid and made her “ill will” very plain to William Compton (who had been the first to receive the blame for Henry’s attentions to Lady Hastings) and her husband and very soon the whole court knew. Very soon she put the whole episode behind her when she learned she was pregnant again by the end of May. She wrote to her father (who had been left completely in the dark regarding the status of her first pregnancy) informing him that she had miscarried “some days before” but she was pregnant again and that she and the King could not be happier.
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
  • On this Day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway.

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

10 January 1480: Margaret of Austria is born

Margaret of Austria was born on January 10th 1480 to Mary Duchess of Burgundy and Maximilian Habsburg. As such she and her brother were the most sought-out brides and grooms.
Margaret of Austria was born on January 10th 1480 to Mary Duchess of Burgundy and Maximilian Habsburg. As such she and her brother were the most sought-out brides and grooms.

On this day in history Margaret of Austria was born. She was youngest sister of Philip “the handsome”. Her parents were Mary Duchess of Burgundy and Maximilian Habsburg. As a result, she was one of the most sought-out brides. Both she and her brother grew under the supervision of their step-grandmother Margaret of York, Duchess Dowager of Burgundy who had married Charles “The Bold” their grandfather in 1468. After he died, their mother had become the ruling Duchess but greedy nobles sought to ally themselves to France and France itself, believed that it could take advantage of the situation and claim Burgundy for his own but to the surprise of everyone, Margaret proved to be made of sterner stuff. Her father’s daughter after all, she took charge of the duchy and arranged for her stepdaughter’s marriage to none other than Maximilian. (Previously, there had been talks to marry her to France, and her older brother, George Duke of Clarence after he had become a widower. Edward IV opposed this match and proposed his brother in law, Lord Rivers instead. Though Margaret was fond of Anthony, having chaperoned her to Burgundy when she went to marry Charles, and staying with him before her visit to England in 1480 concluded ; and sharing a passion for letters, religion and the arts; she felt that he was not the ideal choice for her stepdaughter who was after all one of the most sought out royals.)

“The duchy of Burgundy was rich in trade and culture. It had also once been huge, originally straddling much of the northeastern France and most of what we now think of as the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. Geography alone made Burgundy and France uneasy neighbors…” (Fox)

Mary of Burgundy unfortunately died in 1482 when Margaret (named after her step-grandmother) was only two and her brother three. Her death left Margaret of York in a weak position since she believed she was better equipped to be regent for her step-grandson who was now Duke of Burgundy but her stepson-in-law won the upper hand and with little support from her brother Edward IV who had signed a treaty with France at the time, Margaret had no choice but to see her beloved new home be signed over to the French. But luckily for her, her step-granddaughter’s betrothal to Louis XI’s son Charles did not last. Maximilian was then kidnapped and had to be ransomed, and although the two reached a truce and split their duties, ruling the duchy in the name of Philip; Margaret Habsburg was sent to France so she could be reared to become the future Queen of France. However once Charles became King, he abandoned the match in favor of Anne of Brittany and Margaret was returned to Burgundy along with her dowry (which included some of the lands that had been ceded to France) and her education was once again under the supervision of her indomitable step-grandmother.

Around this time, the 1490s, Margaret and her brother became betrothed to King and Queen of Aragon and Castile’s offspring, Juan and Juana. While Juana was sent abroad to marry Philip, Juana was sent to Spain to marry her charming husband, Juan, the heir of the Catholic Kings.

Philip "the Handsome" and Margaret of Austria
Philip “the Handsome” and Margaret of Austria

“It was these children [Margaret and Philip] who Ferdinand and Isabella thought would be suitable partners for Juan and Juana … Conveniently sited on France’s doorstep, Burgundy was a promising ally for Spain, and Maximilian hoped to count on formidable support should the French attack those lands that remained.” (Fox)

In addition, Margaret was asked to help her youngest sister in law whom she instantly formed a friendship with, Katherine of Aragon, to practice her French since Elizabeth of York advised the Queen of Castile that it would be easier for their offspring to communicate .

“In July 1498, the Spanish ambassador reported, “The Queen and the mother of the King wish that the Princess of Wales [Catherine] should always speak French with the Princess Margaret who is now in Spain, in order to learn the language, and to be able to converse in it when she comes to England. This is necessary, because these ladies do not understand Latin, and much less, Spanish.” (Gristwood)

The match was a happy one.  It was later said that Juan who was always weak, died because of the number of times the couple had sex. This is likely false, but at the time it was believed that too much sex could weigh down on the couple, especially on a young man. After Juan’s death, the Catholic Kings were devastated since he was their only son. They made Margaret stay since she was not Dowager Princess of Asturias and was pregnant wit their grandchild. Unfortunately the child was a stillborn girl. Margaret returned home, devastated. However she soon recovered, putting on a brave face for her brother and his wife Juana whom she seemed to be good friends with. But Juana unlike Margaret who had enjoyed a happy (albeit short) union with her brother; did not have that luxury wit Margaret’s brother. Philip was not only abusive but he also sent home more than eighty of her servants after she became his wife and locked her up and had one of his former nannies and governesses abuse her by giving her complete mastery over his wife’s household. He cut back on her expenses and at one point, even Isabella of Castile was worried that he could be physically abusing her though Juana was careful not to say anything to her mother’s confessor.
In spite of this, the couple had many children and Margaret was present during her nephew Charles’ christening and presided over many of the ceremonies celebrating his birth.

Her second (third if you count her betrothal to Charles before he was King) marriage was to the Duke Philibert of Savoy. There she became an influential figure, the one she has come to be known by now. At Mechelen she established a great court and was known for being a great religious matron and matron of the arts and letters as her step-grandmother and namesake had been.

When he died in 1504, she continued to rule his dukedom and two years later when her brother died, she took up the mantle of Charles’ protector and Regent. As one of the most learned women of her day, she held one of the greatest European courts in Savoy in the renovated palace of Mechelen. Anne Boleyn was sent there in 1513 to be part of her household. And it was here where Anne first learned about refinement and started her education; but she was eventually recalled by her father after England had severed its ties from Spain temporarily in favor of France.

In Isabel, Margaret of Austria is portrayed as a vivacious, well-intentioned young woman who wins the hearts of everyone. This is not very far from the real Margaret who was known to be very charming and elegant.
In Isabel, Margaret of Austria is portrayed as a vivacious, well-intentioned young woman who wins the hearts of everyone. This is not very far from the real Margaret who was known to be very charming and elegant.

Margaret died in November 30, 1530 at the age of fifty.

Sources:

  • Blood Sisters by Sarah Gristwood
  • Sister Queens: The Noble and Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile by Julia Fox
  • The Anne Boleyn Files and On This Day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway
  • Freelance History Writer blog

Death & Rebirth: The Celebration of Katherine’s Death

In the "Tudors" Anne and Henry joyfully celebrate, however it is only Anne that wears yellow, deviously showing off her smile and mirth for Katherine's death while Henry shows himself a bit sad. In reality it was the complete opposite. There is no record of how Anne felt. According to Hall and others she wore yellow, according to Chapuys she didn't.
In the “Tudors” Anne and Henry joyfully celebrate, however it is only Anne that wears yellow, deviously showing off her smile and mirth for Katherine’s death while Henry shows himself a bit sad. In reality it was the complete opposite. There is no record of how Anne felt. According to Hall and others she wore yellow, according to Chapuys she didn’t.

On the day of Katherine’s death, a letter was sent to her husband which expressed her true feelings regarding his reformation and his other actions which she stressed that he should repent, but furthermore she pleaded with him that he should look after their daughter and that in spite of his treatment of her, she still loved him and that she would always be in the eyes of God his true wife. She signed the letter ‘Katherine the Quene’. Some romanticists like Tudor chronicler and propagandist Polydore Vergil, attest that once Henry finished reading the letter, he went down on his knees and cried. In the “Tudors” this is exactly what happens while in another scene we see Anne flashing her cat-like smile, deviously concocting ways to celebrate her dreaded rival’s passing. As beautiful as this image sounds, it is largely fictional.

Edward Hall and Chapuys corroborate the story that Henry wore yellow and threw as many masquerades and jousts to celebrate his first wife’s death on the eighty or ninth of January (depending on the source). But it’s only Chapuys who lays the blame entirely at Henry’s doorstep . Even if Anne had worn yellow, she would have done so to please her husband. Henry had more reason to celebrate Katherine’s death than Anne.

He declared on one of the feasts that he was deeply overjoyed because Katherine’s death meant the threat of war was over. (This was wishful thinking on his part. Although some were encouraging the Emperor to invade on his aunt and cousin’s behalf, Katherine had no desire to see more blood spilled on her adoptive country in her name. She had said so to Chapuys two days before her death, on his last visit.)

“Thank God, we are now free from any fear of war, and the time has come for dealing with the French much more to our advantage than herefore, for if they once suspect my becoming the Emperor’s friend and ally now that the real cause of our enmity no longer exists I shall be able to do anything I like with them.” (Henry VIII)

The color yellow which has been commonly associated with Spanish mourning, was in fact a symbol of rebirth. Henry was making a statement. By showing off his wife and his daughter Elizabeth, he was emphasizing their positions and his: Anne as his true wife, Elizabeth as his heir apparent, the true Princess of England while his eldest daughter remained a product of incest, a bastard. And himself as the head of the Church and the unchallenged sovereign of the realm, its supreme ruler.

Sources:

  • On this day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway
  • Tudor by Leanda de Lisle
  • Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII by Amy Licence
  • Katherine of Aragon by Patrick Williams
  • Inside the Tudor Court by Lauren Mackay