Part 2: Catherine of Aragon
The marriage of sixteen year-old Spanish princess Catherine of
Aragon in 1501 to Henry's elder brother, Arthur Prince of Wales, had
allied England to the most powerful royal house in Europe. Catherine
was the daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castille,
one of the great military partnerships in history. She was
impressively educated and prepared for power.
They got on well, and unusually for a couple so young, she and
the fourteen year-old prince lived together at Ludlow, Arthur's seat
as Prince of Wales. But within four months disaster struck, when
they both became ill and Arthur died.
Catherine's fate swung in the balance until a betrothal was
formalised in June 1503 to his younger brother Henry, now heir to
the throne of Henry VII. They were to marry two years later once
Henry was fourteen.
The arrangement was all but ended by Henry VII when Queen
Isabella died a year later and Spanish power weakened, but upon his
succession to the throne in 1509, the now Henry VIII asked Catherine
of Aragon to be his wife and queen.
For Henry the marriage assured her father Ferdinand of Spain as
an ally in the war that he was determined to fight against the
French. For Catherine, it was her destiny to be queen of England.
'She is descended from great kings,' wrote Sir Thomas More, 'and
she will be the mother of kings as great as her ancestors.'
But Catherine failed to produce an heir. Repeated miscarriages,
a stillbirth, and a christened prince dead at 52 days were a cruel
blow to Henry's hopes.
As a ruler she fared better when in June 1513 Henry launched his
invasion of France and appointed Catherine as Regent of England.
Armies under her command defeated the Scots, and when writing to Henry to
compare her successes with his, the competition was clear.