Katherine of Aragon
Katherine was sent to England by her parents, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, to marry the heir to the English throne, Prince Arthur. Accounts of the little fifteen-year-old princess describe her as ‘fair-coloured’ with a neat, regular oval face, and thick reddish-gold hair. ‘There is nothing wanting in her that the most beautiful girl should have’, wrote Thomas More.
She was pious, well-educated and politically aware. Even when Prince Arthur died, a few short months after their marriage, she remained in England, committed to her English destiny, and eventually married Arthur’s younger brother, Henry, when she was 23. Katherine and Henry VIII remained married for 24 years.
It was Katherine’s tragedy that, despite many pregnancies, only one of her children, Princess Mary, survived. As she reached 40, Katherine began to turn increasingly to religion - ‘Why had God not granted her a son ?’ – as Henry began to look elsewhere for a solution to his dynastic quest. But, when Henry asked for an annulment to their marriage, Katherine summoned up every drop of pride and determination to protect her status as English queen.
She failed. Henry got his divorce – eventually – and married again. Katherine, separated from her daughter, and exiled from court, died, probably from cancer, aged 49.