period: Catherine of Aragon

Catherine of Aragon

Henry VIII (1491–1547) was king of England and lord of Ireland, later king of Ireland, from 1509 until his death. He is famous for having been married six times, and almost by accident founding the Church of England. He wielded perhaps the most unfettered power of any English monarch, and brought about the dissolution of the Monasteries and the union of England and Wales.

Catherine of Aragon (Catalina de Aragón y Castilla, 1485–1536) was the daughter of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile, the Catholic Monarchs who completed the Reconquista of Spain. She was described as being quite short in stature with long golden auburn hair, wide blue eyes, a round face, and a fair complexion.

In 1502 she married Arthur, Prince of Wales, following the granting of a Papal dispensation because of the couple’s close relationship. He died less than six months later and Catherine later testified that the marriage was never consummated. Thereafter, she became a problem for Henry VII; he didn’t want to return her dowry so it was agreed that she would marry Arthur’s brother but the death of Isabella also reduced Catherine’s market value. It was not until 1509 that she married Henry.

By 1525 Catherine was no longer able to bear children and Henry was pursuing Anne Boleyn and becoming increasing desperate to produce a male heir to secure the Tudor succession. And thus began the protracted politicking that eventually led to the annulment of the marriage in 1533 and England’s break with the Catholic church. Catherine refused to accept Henry as Supreme Head of the Church of England and continued to consider herself, as did most of England and Europe, the King’s rightful wife and Queen until her death. Despite continuous pressure she refused to acknowledge herself as the Dowager Princess of Wales. She died at Kimbolton Castle on 7 January 1536.

The movies & TV shows

The Other Boleyn Girl (2008): This might have set out to be a ‘sumptuous and sensual tale of intrigue, romance and betrayal’ as two beautiful sisters, Mary & Anne Boleyn, compete for the love of King Henry VIII – it was a boring waste of good actresses. Ana Torrent played Catherine of Aragon. Ivana Primorac was the hair & makeup designer.

The Other Boleyn Girl (2003): This was a no-budget BBC mini-series and was as boring as the big budget version but was at least cheaper. Yolanda Vazquez portrayed Catherine of Aragon and Jodhi May was Anne Boleyn. Daniel Phillips was the makeup designer.