Michael Sittow Oil 1500-1505
There are few subjects I can talk about more than Henry VIII and his wives. I’m pretty convinced I’m probably the premiere expert in at least a six block radius. Of course, I have no way to prove this. It’s probably better that way.
Generally, this portrait is considered to be Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII. Today is the anniversary of their marriage. The daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella (yes, THAT Ferdinand and Isabella), she with betrothed to Prince Arthur at the age of three.
What most people don’t realize, is although she was a princess of Spain, Aragon, and Castile, she also had a strong claim to the English throne in her own right. Some historians would suggest she actually had a better claim than either of her husbands or her father-in-law, Henry VII. Her ancestry goes back to John of Gaunt, the Plantagenet Duke of Lancaster, son of King Edward III.
If you take even a short look through her ancestry you’ll see that her heritage is more British, and certainly more royal, than practically anyone in history. And although popular culture likes to portray her as dark complected with black hair, she actually had a very Anglican appearance with a pale complexion and red hair. Yep, red hair.
She was married to Prince Arthur at 16 years old for less than six months before his death. Both succumbing to a sickness shortly after they wed, the marriage was never consummated. She became a pawn between her father, King of Castile, and her former father-in-law, King Henry VII of England.
Catherine was raised to be a queen. She was well-educated and extremely smart. She would not be played. To support herself and her ladies-in-waiting she became the official Spanish ambassador to England. She was the first female ambassador in all of Europe.
After several years of limbo between the two fathers, everything changed when Henry VII died suddenly. There are many conflicting opinions as to Henry’s opinion of Catherine before their marriage, but he married her immediately after he became king. That was this day, June 11, 1509.
I happen to be of the opinion that Henry was quite fond of Catherine at this point. They had known each other well during his most formative years. I believe he felt a sense of protectiveness for his brother’s young widow, but also respected her lineage and intelligence.
Like I said, I could yap about this for days. I’ll save some for another day and choose to just remember the happy occasion of their wedding today. Happy anniversary King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon!