Meet the Wives Handbook: Catherine of Aragon

Role as Queen

Wearing a gown of embroidered white satin, with her hair loose, 23-year-old Catherine had represented the ideal queen upon her coronation in June 1509. "There were few women who could compete with the Queen in her prime," the writer Sir Thomas More would recall.

During her early years with Henry, Catherine acted as the king's most influential advisor. Her goal in this was not only to support her spouse, but to advance the interests of Spain. In 1511, Catherine saw the culmination of her influence with the signing of the Treaty of Westminster, an agreement that pledged Henry and Ferdinand of Aragon to work together against France. Convinced of Ferdinand's support and that of Holy Roman Emperor Maxmilian I, the 22-year-old king set off in 1513 for France, determined to claim control of the French throne.

He left Catherine as regent. Two months after Henry's departure, the Scots invaded England. At the Battle of Flodden in September 1513, the English dealt the Scots a crushing defeat, killing James IV. Catherine sent on the Scottish king's banner and bloodied coat to her husband in France, rejoicing in a letter that "to my thinking, this battle hath been more than should you win all the crown of France."

It was the last time Catherine would exercise such influence. The Treaty of Westminster had proven a sham, and as the star of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey began to rise, Catherine was relegated to primarily domestic concerns - first and foremost, bearing children.

The queen's interest in learning, however, continued to set an example for the Tudor court. Catherine encouraged Henry's sister, Mary, Duchess of Suffolk, to study Latin and herself acted as the benefactress of two Cambridge University colleges.

In piety, she knew no equal. Catherine attended midnight masses regularly, fasted on Fridays and Saturdays, kneeled for hours at prayer in her chapel and made frequent pilgrimages to religious shrines.

Pious and charitable, Catherine of Aragon enjoyed a healthy popularity throughout her marriage to Henry VIII. As a popular poem would relate, she "lived beloved all her days."

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