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Art Show: Much Ado about Shakespeare

The Exile of Catherine of Aragon

by john christopher borrero

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Art: The Exile of Catherine of Aragon by Artist john christopher borrero

From Henry the VIII

Act 4. Scene II

"I thank you, honest lord. Remember me In all humility unto his highness:

Say his long trouble now is passing Out of this world; tell him, in death I bless'd him,

For so I will. Mine eyes grow dim. Farewell, My lord. Griffith, farewell. Nay, Patience,

You must not leave me yet: I must to bed; Call in more women. When I am dead, good wench,

Let me be used with honour: strew me over With maiden flowers, that all the world may know

I was a chaste wife to my grave: embalm me, Then lay me forth: although unqueen'd, yet like

A queen, and daughter to a king, inter me."

This passage from Shakespeare’s Henry VIII makes reference to this part of history:

Catherine of Aragon was the youngest surviving child of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. When she was three year old, she was betrothed to Arthur, the son of Henry VII of England. Arthur was not even quite two at the time. At 16, Catherine made the journey to England. It took her three months. Catherine and Arthur were married in Old St. Paul's Cathedral, London.

Less than six months later, Arthur was dead. Henry VII, the English king, was interested in keeping Catherine's dowry, so 14 months after her husband's death, she was betrothed to the future Henry VIII, who was too young to marry at the time.

She was crowned Queen of England 8 years later with her husband Henry VIII.

Shortly after their marriage, Catherine found herself pregnant. She bore seven children, only one of which lived to adulthood; Mary Tudor. Henry grew frustrated by his lack of a male heir, and by 1526 had begun to separate from Catherine because he had fallen in love with one of her ladies. Catherine was 42 years old and was no longer able to conceive.

With the goal of producing a male heir, the King petitioned the Pope for an annulment. When the news got to Catherine, she was very upset. The political and legal debate continued for six years. Catherine sought not only to retain her position, but also that of her daughter Mary. The pope refused. Things came to a head in 1533 when Anne Boleyn became pregnant. Henry had to act, and his solution was to reject Catholicism and to have the archbishop of Canterbury grant the annulment.

Catherine was forced to renounce the title of Queen and would be known as the Princess Dowager of Wales, something she refused to acknowledge through to the end of her life. Catherine and her daughter were exiled. She lived for the next three years in several dank and unhealthy castles and manors with just a few servants. Catherine was buried at Peterborough Abbey with the ceremony due for her position as Princess Dowager, not as a Queen of England.


Detail Images


Detail Image for art The Exile of Catherine of Aragon

Her surviving child, Mary.

Detail Image for art The Exile of Catherine of Aragon

The children she left behind.

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