So what does everyone know about KOA (Katherine of Aragon)? Henry’s first wife. Stubborn. Proud. Arrogant. She should’ve taken the deal and save her daughter years of miserable treatment at the hands of his courtiers? If you believe this trash then go. This is not the place for you. I mean it.
Katherine of Aragon was neither a dowdy old wife or ugly shrew. She didn’t complicate matters for her daughter. If she had accepted Campeggio’s offer to retire to a nunnery, it would’ve hardly solved matters. Henry was convinced *deeply* convinced that his marriage was an aberration to god and man. He wanted power, absolute power and clear his conscience. Right or wrong, Henry was right, at least in those times. He needed a son and he needed it now! If Katherine was going to remain firm in her position she didn’t consummate her marriage to Arthur then so would he. But suppose she had accepted, would Henry had accepted his councilors’ advice to admit the ‘good faith’ argument that said that even when one or two parties agreed on the annulment (and that’s what Henry was after), Mary could still be recognized as his heir presumptive since he and Katherine lived for so many years under the belief they were legally married. Sounds very fat fetched but at the time it was seriously considered, and Chapuys and so many others thought it would be a good way to salvage this situation even if Katherine still refused to give in. Henry didn’t want to accept this, he wanted Mary and Katherine out of the way. Henry had always been a scholar at heart, he read and made a special treatise where he had attacked Martin Luther years before earning the title “Defender of the faith”. He wasn’t going to let this matter go until he got the result he wanted since he thought that God spoke through him (something that he later emphasized on the Tudor coat of arms where it bears the Latin motto 'God and my right’).
Katherine wasn’t going to go down so easily. When she had been summoned to Blackfriars to face her accusers, her husband and many others, she rose up and crossed the room and then in a dramatic gesture (we must remember she was a good actress) fell at Henry’s feet and gave the performance of her life, forcing him to sit down when he attempted to raise himself up. Such was her conviction, such was her character that everyone *Absolutely Everyone!* was both shocked and moved. And when she rose she gave him one last look and said “The rest I leave it to your conscience”. And just like that she turned around and with a servant left the room like a boss, ignoring the judge’s reprieve.
Katherine was widely cheered by the commoners. They regarded her as their queen of hearts. And she was. Katherine had been prepared for the role since she was a baby. She grew up believing that it was not her duty but her *destiny* to be queen! She couldn’t see her life in any other way. And being the baby of the family, her parents paid special attention to her and just like her parents, she was a skilled politician. She knew what people expected from her so she played the role of the damsel in distress during her trial to perfection and lived up to everyone’s expectations. In an era where women were supposed to emulate the virtues of the Virgin Mary, the holy mother who gave birth to humanity’s savior; Katherine did her best to exemplify these. Her charity work, her kindness, her sweetness and her motto “Humble and loyal” won her the support of the common people and the approval of the more conservative groups at court.
But Katherine was far from the Christian submissive figure she emulated. She could be fierce and just as her rival, Anne Boleyn, she could be very outspoken. When she found out about her husband’s first affair with the Duke of Buckingham’s sister, she was enraged and railed out at Henry. We always think Anne was the only one who demanded fidelity out of Henry, but that’s not true, Katherine did on many occasions. But like Anne she learned she had to put up with it. Katherine had royal training unlike Anne, she knew that it was normal for kings to have mistresses but she was also human and very happy when she had been crowned alongside him. Henry, a lover of chivalry, said he had come to rescue her from bondage and make her his wife based on his promise to his dying father (a promise most of his council did not believe but went along with their young king). Henry VIII’s reign was predicted to be glorious, Thomas More and many others praised him, not just for his looks but for his love of books, and surrounding himself with scholars. Katherine was only 23 when she and Henry were crowned in 1509. The happiest moment of her life, she believed she was going to share some of his glory and they would live happily ever after. Her father was known for his mistresses, she believed Henry would be different. She was soon disappointed.
Henry continued to have mistresses and Katherine could do nothing about it, she was the queen, he was the king. That is how things worked and Katherine learned to accept it *except* for one minor thing. None of his mistresses had given him children, at least none that Henry recognized. The affair with Bessie Blount gave Henry his long-sought-for-son except he was illegitimate. But this didn’t stop him from showering him with gifts, titles, and positions which made Katherine angry because there was talk he could usurp her daughter’s position. And there was nobody Katherine loved more than her daughter and she wasn’t going to let anyone take her rights from her.
That’s why she fought Henry so fiercely. Her mother was queen regnant of Castilla. Castilla unlike England had a long history of queens regnant, and she believed that Mary had every right to succeed him as any male. When she realized her time was near she asked to see Chapuys and she asked him news about her daughter. She had been so worried about her health two years prior when he told her that Henry denied her request to bring Mary to her so she could look after her. She worried daily for her and to comfort his ailing master’s aunt, he lied to her and said that Mary was faring much better and likely to be back in favor. Katherine died less than week later. She had written two letters, one to Mary where she told her to be good to her father and obey him in all things and another to Henry where she told him that in spite everything he had done to her, she still loved him and to be good to Mary. In her will she left furs and other valuables to Mary (which she didn’t get because Henry didn’t let her have them).
Beyond the Spanish stereotype, Katherine was an attractive blue eyed, auburn haired, round faced, girl. Every series starts at the end of their marriage, saying the story begins when Henry met Anne Boleyn but that’s not true. It began much earlier. Even the first version of the BBC’s drama about Henry’s wives, leaves out many significant parts, jumping straight to his courtship of Anne Boleyn after he marries Katherine. It’s like there is little to Katherine’s story that doesn’t involve her divorce. She was just as interesting as any of Henry’s wives and she deserves to be seen as much more than just an extension to either Anne or Henry. As Henry’s wife and daughter of the Catholic kings, she did much for education and she didn’t disappoint her country when Henry appointed her his Regent after he went to fight off the French in 1513. While her role is exaggerated, no one can deny she displayed great leadership and rallied most of the men to fight for her husband and gave a great speech in his name. And true to her motto, she displayed complete humility setting herself aside when she attributed the victory solely to her husband. When she learned of Henry’s actions against Luther, she also did her part composing a letter in defense of her church and this also earned her the title “Defendress of the Faith”, andd last but not least she earned the praise of many humanists, including Reformists like Luther himself who she had so fiercely opposed!