London Welcomes the Spanish Princess

Katherine of Aragon by Sittow

On the 12th of November 1501, Katherine of Aragon arrived to the city of London. She had met her future brother in law, Henry Tudor Duke of York, days prior. He and his party escorted the Infanta to the city. The roads were sanded and graveled to prevent horses from sliding and everywhere she turned there was a new pageant. The city was joyous to see their new princess. The Spanish Infanta was everything they hoped for in a consort. She was shy, humble with her eyes cast downward, looking away whenever she was paid a compliment but most of all she was beautiful with red-golden hair, fair skin and blue eyes. “But appearances” as historian Julia Fox points out in her dual biography on her and her sister, “can be deceiving”. 

Katherine had her mother’s warrior spirit. The Lord Mayor, Sir John Shaa was in charge of the celebrations. According to the ‘Receyt of the Ladie Catheryne’, Katherine wore her hair loose “down to her back through a specially designed gap in her headdress” which consisted of a wide-brimmed hat that looked like a cardinal hat that was “held in place by a golden lace.”

Tudor Rose

There were twelve pageants in total and the first she came across was the one on the bridge where she and Arthur were marvelously represented by actors that also celebrated their future marriage. Laden with symbols, she would have recognized the Tudor rose, the Beaufort portcullises, the Welsh red dragon of King Cadwalldr that Henry VII had used as his main standard when he fought Richard III at Bosworth field (and was now part of the royal coat of arms), and last but not least the ostrich feathers which represented the Prince of Wales.

The other pageants consisted of historical and celestial figures which approached the Spanish Princess to talk of the joys of marriage. One of these was Saint Ursula who was a British saint and who had accompanied thousands of young girls on a pilgrimage to Rome. She was the epitome of virtue and piety as they hoped Katherine would be. Then there was her namesake, St. Catherine, who had also been a princess in addition to being a church scholar and highly revered. She told the Infanta that she would have two husbands, a celestial one in God and an earthly one in Prince Arthur. (Ironically, Katherine would have two husbands). The next one paid homage to her native ancestor, the revered King of Castile, Alfonso the Tenth better known as “El Sabio” (the wise) who stood next to the biblical figures of Raphael and Job and the philosopher Boethius. The Castilian King told her that a “princess young and tender” was fated to come to England to “marry a noble prince” and that from her many kings would follow.

When her party reached Cheapside for the fourth display, she saw an actor playing Arthur. This amused her as she saw him standing in between the pillars decorated with red and white roses that symbolized the dynastic conflict between the Houses of York and Lancaster. The penultimate pageant was the most important as its great structure depicted the Temple of God with heavenly figures giving their approval to the marriage and comparing the king and founder of the Tudor dynasty to God himself.

“The actors declaimed that while God has bestowed matrimony as a sign of the union between Himself and human beings, Henry had bestowed matrimony on Katherine and Arthur to bring peace and prosperity to the realm.” (Fox)

Last but not least, the final pageant was set up in the churchyard of Saint Paul where three golden thrones were erected representing Katherine and Arthur with Honor in the middle.

Arthur Tudor 2

Although she couldn’t see them, the King and Queen and her betrothed were nearby, watching everything unfold.

When the ceremonies ended she received gifts from the Lord Mayor and the Archbishop of Canterbury and made offerings to St. Erkenwalkd then retired to the Bishop’s Palace. The following day she would meet her mother and grandmother in law and entertain them at Baynard Castle and the day after that, she would marry Arthur becoming Princess of Wales.

Sources:

  • Sister Queens: The Noble and Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana I, Queen of Castile by Julia Fox
  • Tudor. Passion, Manipulation and Murder by Leanda de Lisle
  • Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII by Amy Licence
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Mary I takes possession of the Tower of London

Mary I Tudor tudor rose

On the 28th of September 1553 Mary, her sister, her stepmother and her cousin Margaret Douglas, departed from St. James Palace to Whitehall where they boarded the royal barge to the Tower of London. Mary was accompanied by the Lord Mayor of London “and the aldermen and all the companies in their barges with streamers and trumpets, and waits, shawmes and regals, together with great volley shots of guns, until Her Grace came into the Tower, and some time after.'”

Hans Holbein's Portrait of Anne of Cleves
As previously discussed, many of those around her were women. Her closest family members no doubt enjoyed the attention, especially her sister and cousin the ladies Elizabeth Tudor and Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox who had often been referred by Mary’s father as the ‘natural’ daughter of Margaret Tudor, Queen Dowager of Scotland. But now with her cousin on the throne, she was going to receive a better treatment than that of the previous reign and slowly, she would become one of Mary’s most trusted ladies.

Elizabeth Tudor Lady Princess w

As for Elizabeth, her sister had bought clothes for her. In spite of her illegitimate state, which she still viewed her, she wanted everyone to know that she was her sister and most importantly the daughter of their late father and king, Henry VIII, and as such she would be placed above other ladies.

Two days later the sisters, cousin, and their stepmother would emerge for the pre-coronation celebrations and the following day Mary would be crowned Queen, becoming the first Queen of England.

Mary Tudor coronation engraving painting

There is a lot of opinions regarding whether Mary was just a puppet or a true politician in every sense of the word and the truth was that she was. In Porter’s words “The picture of Mary as a woman who had little grasp of what was going on, who could not work with her politicians is entirely false. From the very beginning, the queen had a clear idea of what she wanted to do and the utter determination to achieve it. She never, even when unwell, shrank from the business of government, and she knew that she must draw on the experience of the men who had tried to deprive her of her throne. Without thier expertise nothing could function.” Furthermore, she was outright mad when Scheyfve and Renard advised her not to trust the lady Elizabeth and banish her from court. They didn’t believe in any of Elizabeth’s excuses for not attending mass, but Mary never wavered in her judgment which proved bad in the end, but her firm opposition to them in this and other matters proves that she was her own person and determined not to be influenced by anyone.

Sources:

  • The Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter
  • Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen by Anna Whitelock
  • Bloody Mary by Carolly Erickson
  • Mary Tudor by David Loades

Lady Elizabeth’s daunting experience:

Elizabeth and Bess real one
18 March 1554: Elizabeth Tudor was arrested for her alleged involvement in the Wyatt Rebellion. Though nothing was ever proven, and Bess never gave her support to them as bluntly as others had done, she still came under her sister’s radar. She was twenty one years old. The young princess wrote a frantic letter to her sister, Queen Mary, appealing to her good conscience and reminding her of the bond they shared together as sisters and begging her not to believe any rumors regarding her involvement.

Elizabeth‘I humbly crave but one word of answer from yourself. Your Highness, most faithful subject that hath been from the beginning and will be to my end, Elizabeth.’
Elizabeth was desperate and afraid that the same fate that had befallen on her mother, would now fall on her. After all, while she was lodged in the Bell Tower and had more comfortable surroundings than other prisoners, the royal apartments she was in, were none other than the same Anne Boleyn had been in.
Sources:
  • Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne by David Starkey
  • Tudor. Passion. Murder. Manipulation by Leanda de Lisle
  • Mary Tudor by Anna Whitelock
  • Elizabeth I by Jasper Ridley