Catherine Of Arragon

, Queen Of England, and first consort of Henry VIII. was the fourth daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, king and queen of Castile and Arragon. She was born in 1485. In the sixteenth year of her age, Nov. 14, 1501, she was married to Arthur, prince of Wales, son of Henry VII. who died a few months after. The king, either from political reasons, or, as some think, because he was unwilling to restore Catherine’s dowry, which was 200,000 ducats, obliged his second son Henry, whom he created prince of Wales, and who was then in his twelfth year, to be contracted to the infanta. The prince resisted this injunction to the utmost of his power; but the king was invincible, and the espousals were at length, by means of the pope’s dispensation, contracted between the parties. Immediately after the accession of Henry VIII. to the crown, in 1509, the king began to deliberate on his former engagements, to which he had many objections, but his privy council, though contrary to the | opinion of the primate, gave him their advice for celebrating the marriage. Even the prejudices of the people were averse to an union betwixt such near relations as Henry and his brother’s widow; and the late king is thought to have had an intention to avail himself of a proper opportunity of annulling the contract. In 1527 several circumstances occurred which combined to excite scruples in the king’s mind concerning the lawfulness of his marriage, but probably the chief were what arose from his own passions. The queen was six years older than the king; and the decay of her beauty, together with particular infn-mities and diseases, had contributed, notwithstanding her blameless character and deportment, to render her person unacceptable to him. Though she had borne him several children, they all died in early infancy, except one daughter, Mary; and it was apprehended, that if doubts of Mary’s legitimacy concurred with the weakness of her sex, the king of Scots, the next heir, would advance his pretensions, and might throw the kingdom into confusion. But most of all, Anne Boleyn had acquired an entire ascendant over his affections, and he was now determined on a divorce, and upon consulting them, all the prelates of England, except Fisher, bishop of Rochester, unanimously declared that they deemed his marriage unlawful. In this they were supported by cardinal Wolsey, who had political purposes to answer in breaking off the match with Catherine, although he was no friend to Anne Boleyn. Accordingly Henry determined to apply to the pope, Clement VII. for a divorce, who, though at first disposed to favour Henry’s application, and had actually concerted measures for its successful issue, was overawed by the interference of the emperor, Charles V. Catherine’s nephew; and when the negociation was protracted to such a length as to tire Henry’s patience, the pope, importuned by the English ministers, put into their hands a commission to Wolsey, as legate, in conjunction with the archbishop of Canterbury, or any other English prelate, to examine the validity of the king’s marriage, and of the late pope’s dispensation. He also granted them a provisional dispensation for the king’s marriage with any other person; and promised to issue a decretal bull, annulling the marriage with Catherine; but he enjoined secrecy, and conjured them not to publish these papers, or to make any farther use of them, till his afflxirs with regard to the emperor | were in such a train as to secure his liberty and independence. After considerable hesitation and delay, the legates, Campeggio and Wolsey, to whom the pope had granted a new commission for the trial of the king’s marriage, opened their court in London, May 31, 1529, and cited the king and queen to appear before it. They both presented themselves, and the king answered to his name, when called; but the queen, instead of answering to her’s, threw herself at the king’s feet, and appealed to his justice, declaring that she would not submit her cause to be tried by the members of a court who depended on her enemies; and making the king a low reverence, she departed, and never would again appear in that court.

Upon her departure, the king, after acknowledging that she had ever been a dutiful and affectionate wife, and that the whole tenor of her behaviour had been conformable to the strictest rules of probity and honour, insisted on his own scruples with regard to the lawfulness of their marriage; and craved a sentence of the court agreeable to the justice of his cause. The legates, after citing the queen anew, declared her contumacious, notwithstanding her appeal to Rome, and then proceeded to the examination of the cause; but while the king was all impatience for a sentence, Campeggio suddenly prorogued the court to a future day. This threw the king into the utmost perplexity, from which he was relieved by Dr. Cranaaer, who suggested, that the readiest way, either to quiet Henry’s conscience, or to extort the pope’s consent, would be to consult all the universities of Europe. If they agreed to approve of the king’s marriage with Catherine, his remorse would naturally cease; if they condemned it, the pope would find it difficult to resist his majesty’s solicitations. In consequence of this application several of the foreign universities gave an opinion in the king’s favour; as did Oxford and Cambridge, although subsequently, and with more reluctance; and the convocations both of Canterbury and York, pronounced the king’s marriage invalid, and contrary to the law of God. But pope Clement, still subject to the influence of the emperor, continued to summon the king to appear, either by himself or proxy, before his tribunal at Rome; and the king, apprized that no fair trial could be expected there, refused to submit to such a condition, and would not admit of any citation, which he regarded as a high insult, and a violation of his royal | prerogative. In the progress of this business, the queen’s appeal was received at Rome. The king was cited to appear; and several consistories were held to examine the validity of their marriage. The king retained his purpose of not sending any proxy to plead his cause before this court, and alleged, that the prerogatives of his crown must be sacrificed if he allowed appeals from his own kingdom. For the purpose of adding greater security to his intended defection from Rome, he procured an interview with Francis at Boulogne and Calais, and renewed his alliance with that monarch; and it is said that he even persuaded Francis to follow his example, in withdrawing his obedience from the bishop of Rome, and administering ecclesiastical affairs without having further recourse to that see. In the mean time he privately celebrated his marriage with Anne Boleyn, Nov. 14, 1532; and in April of the following year he publicly owned it, and prepared measures for declaring, by a formal sentence, the invalidity of his marriage with Catherine. Catherine, however, did not quit the kingdom; but fixed her abode for some time at Ampthill, in Bedfordshire, where, after several preliminary steps, Cranmer pronounced a sentence which annulled the king’s marriage with her. Catherine still continued obstinate in maintaining the validity of her marriage; and she would admit no person to her presence who did not approach her with the customary formalities. Although Henry employed menaces against such of her servants as complied with her commands in this particular, he was never able to make her relinquish her title and pretensions.

After this Catherine retired to Kimbolton castle, in Huntingdonshire, where she led a life of constant devotion and remarkable austerity, for the space of three years, when she fell dangerously ill, about the latter end of December, 1535. Six days after which, being very weak, she dietated the following letter to the king

"My king and dearest spouse,

"Insomuch as already the hour of my death approacheth, the love and affection I bear you, causeth me to conjure you to have a care of the eternal salvation of your

soul, which you ought to prefer before mortal things, or all worldly blessings. It is for this immortal spirit you must neglect the care of your body, for the love of which you have thrown me headlong into many calamities, and your own self into infinite disturbances. But I forgive you | with all my heart, humbly beseeching Almighty God, he will in heaven confirm the pardon I on earth give you. I recommend unto you our most dear Mary, your daughter and mine, praying you to be a better father to her than you have been a husband to me: remember also three poor maids, companions of my retirement, as likewise all the rest of my servants, giving them a whole year’s wages besides what is due, that so they may be a little recompensed for the good service they have done me; protesting unto you, in the conclusion of this my letter and life, that my eyes love you, and desire to see you more thau any thing mortal."

This letter is said to have drawn tears from the king. In a few days after, she died at Kimbolton. In her will, she appointed her interment to be private, in a convent of Observant friars, who had done and suffered much for her: the king complied with her request in regard to her servants; but would not permit her remains to be buried as she desired. The corpse was interred in the abbey church at Peterborough, with the honours due to the birth of Catherine, between two pillars, on the north side the choir, near the great altar. Her hearse was covered with a pall of black velvet, crossed with cloth of silver, which was afterwards exchanged for one of black say. It is recorded by lord Herbert, in his “History of Henry VIII.” that, from respect to the memory of Catherine, Henry not only spared the abbey church at the general dissolution of religious houses, but advanced it to be a cathedral.

All historians seem to agree in their praises of the personal character of Catherine. Notwithstanding her subsequent fate, she by her sweetness of manners, good sense, and superior endowments, engaged the affections of her husband, and contrived to retain the heart of this fickle and capricious monarch for near twenty years. Catherine, devoted to literature, became the patroness of learned men: the celebrated Erasmus and Ludovicus Vives were more particularly distinguished by her favour. She engaged the latter to draw up instructions for the assistance of her daughter in the study of the Latin. This essay, written by her command, is dedicated to the queen, by an epistle, dated from Oxford, 1523, under the title of “De Ratione Studii Puerilis.” The same year Ludovicus also addressed to his patroness a work entitled “De Institutione Feminæ Christianæ, lib. 3.” The queen was one of | his auditors when he read the cardinal’s lecture on humanity, in the hall at Christ-church college, which she had recently founded. Ludovicus Vives was also appointed by her, Latin tutor to her daughter, the lady Mary. Several foreign authors have asserted that Catherine composed “Meditations upon the Psalms” also a book entitled “The Lamentation of a Sinner” but these productions belong to Catherine Parr. In “Burnet’s History of the Reformation,” are two letters from Catherine of Arragon to her husband; and, in “The Life of Henry V.” by Livy, one addressed to the king, then in France, on a victory gained over the Scots, 1513; and another, requesting permission to see her daughter, the princess Mary. 1


Ballard’s Memoirs.—Hume’s and other Histories of England.—Herbert’s Life of Henry VIII. &c. &c.