January 7th 1536: Catherine of Aragon dies
this day in 1536, Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of King Henry VIII, died aged fifty. Born near Madrd in 1485, Catherine was a noble in her own right as the daughter of the Catholic monarchs of Spain - Ferdinand and Isabella. By the time she was three years old, she was already betrothed to Prince Arthur, oldest son of King Henry VII of England. The pair married when Catherine was sixteen, but Arthur’s premature death led to her betrothal to his brother Henry, the new heir to the throne. Henry became King Henry VIII in 1509 upon the death of his father, and married Catherine the same year, once her short marriage to his brother was annulled. Catherine and Henry lived happily for several years, but their inability to produce a male heir - their three sons died at a young age, leaving the couple with just their daughter Mary - caused tension in the marriage. Henry took up with his mistress, Anne Boleyn, and sought to have his marriage to Catherine annulled so that he could marry Boleyn, who, he hoped, would give him a male heir. Catherine, who had already proved herself a competent ruler while the king was abroad, refused to acquiesce to Henry’s wishes, and fought for the rights of her and her daughter. In desperation, Henry married the pregnant Anne in secret, and passed the Act of Supremacy in 1533, declaring himself head of the English church, allowing his mariage to Catherine to be annulled. After the end of the marriage, Catherine lived in semi-exile, unable to visit her daughter, and continued to protest the annullment. Catherine of Aragon died at Kimbolton House in 1536, best remembered today as the first of Henry VIII’s six wives, and for her valiant defiance of the infamous monarch.