Katherine of Aragon was not a brotherfucker.

Once upon a time in a little land called “Sixteenth-century Europe,” the lines of succession in England and Spain were all kinds of fucked up thanks to a few wars, intermarriage, and some big ol’ coups d’etat (not sure if that’s the plural, this is America, DAMMIT. Deal with me). Then the royal mommies and daddies in both countries boned, bringing Spain a sweet baby girl and England the heir presumptive to the throne. And faster than you can say “marriage by proxy,” Ferdinand and Isabella arranged that marriage right up and little Katherine of Aragon and strapping young Arthur of England were hitched.

SCREEEEEECHHHHHHHH. Wait, MRG, I thought this week was all about Henry’s wives…who’s this Aruthur motherfucker? Well I’m so glad you asked.

Arthur, Prince of Wales wearing a beautiful necklace.

Hey I'm Katherine of Aragon, I'm fucking tragic and beautiful.

Dear Arthur was the eldest son of Henry VII, and due to the aforementioned European shitshow, Henry wanted to get his son betrothed real quick while simultaneously taking a huge shit on France. Literally (not literally). And the best way to do that was to secure a marital alliance with the other country who hated the Frenchies, Spain. It didn’t hurt that young Katherine had a lot of English royal blood in her due to  inbreeding similar arranged marriages, thus giving any offspring all kinds of legitimate claims to the throne.

On paper, the practice of arranged marriage seems sort of icky. But Katherine and Arthur really liked and respected each other. Sure, they were married by proxy when they were fifteen, but that was only after they exchanged letters in Latin for years and Arthur felt like he knew her well enough. Why Latin? Because they didn’t have any other language in common. And when they finally met in real life, they couldn’t even use the Latin because they’d learned different pronunciations. Anyway, I’m digressing, big-time. They met, they had an un-proxied wedding, they had a few months of marital bliss, and then they both got the sweating sickness in Wales. He died in April 1502, and she recovered only to find out her new hubby didn’t make it.

A woodcut of the coronation of Henry VIII and his wife Katherine.

And that motherfucker Henry VII was like, “HELL NO. Not returning that sweet-ass dowry back to Spain. France probably had something to do with this. SON, GET THE FUCK OVER HERE.” So to avoid the “complications” of “reasonably allowing Katherine to return to her homeland with her stuff,” Henry VII decided that the seventeen-year-old widow would marry his TWELVE-year-old son, Henry VIII. Ostensibly, they would wait until Henry was a little older, but also until Katherine’s mom died and her inheritance fucking ballooned to include lots of Spanish lands.

OKAY. They finally got married on June 11, 1509. And they got right to the business of baby makin.’ But although poor sweet Katherine got knocked up six times, only her fifth child, Mary, survived to adulthood (and turned out to be a real bitch, but that’s another story). As a result, she became a lot more religious (in the Catholic persuasion, which will be important later) in a scholarly way as well as in practice. She was just a good, good woman, she was virtuous, well read, beautiful, smart, modest. The English people just loved her. And despite his numerous affairs, Henry loved her too. And they were very happy together for a long time.

UNTIL 1525, THAT IS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

That’s when Katherine was like, “Hey, I need a new lady-in-waiting. LET ME CHOOSE THIS FOXY REDHEAD WHO’S SUPER SEXY AND SMART AND EVERYTHING MY HUSBAND COULD EVER WANT IN A SEXUAL/LIFE PARTNER.” And by this time, Katherine is 50. She’s really not looking her best. And she can’t have kids anymore, which means no legitimate male heirs for Henry. And that whole male heir thing was sort of a big deal for him, as you’ll see in the next few posts.  Anne Boleyn was a very sassy, very fertile, first-class minx, and poor Katherine, although she was a strong, beautiful, moral, dignified woman, just didn’t stand a fucking chance once Anne Boleyn and her French hood hit Whitehall.

This pre-coital photo of Anne Boleyn and Henry is NOT a publicity still from The Tudors.

And seeing that Anne was smoking hot and that poor Katherine was as barren as Death Valley in August (there was a lot more going on, but I don’t want to prematurely steal LHB’s Boleyn-loving thurnder), Henry was like, “Hmmmm…how the fuck can I get out of this whole multiple-decade, formerly-loving, non-heir-producing marriage thing I got going on here?” So he skipped on over to his favorite Bible, found a passage that could kind of sort of be interpreted as proof that his marriage to Katherine was cursed because she had already boned his brother, and tried to get a good ol’ fashioned annulment from the Holy Roman Emperor.

EXCEPT said Holy Roman Emperor was Katherine’s nephew, and girlfriend swore up and down that she and Arthur had never ever done it. And they probably hadn’t, because 1) Arthur was mortally ill for like 80% of their marriage and 2) she was really really really Catholic, and apparently the lying is frowned upon in the whole Catholic theology.

Now, if you’ve been in a history class past the eighth grade level, you’ve probably heard of The King’s Great Matter or The Act of Supremacy. And guess what? BOTH of those things have to do with this sexy scandal. The sexiest scandal of all time, probably. Anyway, your education has come full circle. You’re welcome.

So no one wants to give Henry his annulment. And he’s like, “FUCKKKK I just wanna bone Anne but she won’t let me until she’s queen and I just want Katherine to go become a nun or something and get the fuck over herself and why is it so harddddd to rule a country and get laid at the same time?” And sneaky little Anne Boleyn’s like, “Hey boii, why don’t you read these Protestant texts that I like? They’re so hot. And they’re also your window out of this miserable situation and subsequently into my vagina.”

So Henry says, “Suck on this, Rome!” and writes up this little ditty called The Act of Supremacy that makes him the Supreme Head of the Protestant Church of England and forces everyone and their mom to swear by it. And as head of the Church he gives himself that annulment and said sayonara to poor Katherine. Well, that makes it sound like she died. She didn’t. Lots and lots and lots of other Catholics did, including Thomas More, the writer and theologian expertly played by Mr. Knightley in The Tudors. But no, Katherine was sent to live in Kimbolton Castle, where she pretty much confined herself in one room, prayed nonstop, and continued to refer to herself as the Queen. She and her daughter Mary weren’t allowed to see each other until they each acknowledged Anne Boleyn as the rightful Queen. To which both said “Hahahahaaaa NO.”

Katherine pre-annulment, pre-exile.

Katherine’s health deteriorated rapidly, and knowing she was going to die soon, she wrote this fucking tragic and beautiful letter to her ex:

My most dear lord, King and husband,
The hour of my death now drawing on, the tender love I ouge [owe] thou forceth me, my case being such, to commend myselv to thou, and to put thou in remembrance with a few words of the healthe and safeguard of thine allm [soul] which thou ougte to preferce before all worldley matters, and before the care and pampering of thy body, for the which thoust have cast me into many calamities and thineselv into many troubles. For my part, I pardon thou everything, and I desire to devoutly pray God that He will pardon thou also. For the rest, I commend unto thou our doughtere Mary, beseeching thou to be a good father unto her, as I have heretofore desired. I entreat thou also, on behalve of my maides, to give them marriage portions, which is not much, they being but three. For all mine other servants I solicit the wages due them, and a year more, lest they be unprovided for. Lastly, I makest this vouge [vow], that mine eyes desire thou aboufe all things.
Katharine the Quene

She was such a great bitch, right? A little delusional about the whole annulment thing, but I mean, just a really good person trying to do things the right way. She was literally royally screwed. Even though she only screwed one royal.

Moral of the story: don’t marry your dead husband’s brother, and don’t hire slampieces to work at your house.

MRG



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