Katharine of Aragon: the Story of a Spanish Princess and an English Queen

Jean Plaidy

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I used to wonder about Katherine of Aragon. Why couldn’t she be sensible like Anne of Cleves? Why not just give the king an annulment like he wanted and live in comfort as his not-wife? Part of it was, I think, due to her pride as a Spanish princess. She felt she would be betraying the legacy of her mother, Queen Isabella, and part due to her fears for the future of her daughter Mary. If she allowed an annulment, where did that leave her daughter? In limbo, neither legitimate nor a bastard but something else.

There also is element of pride being the only thing Katherine had that couldn’t be taken away from her. Left stranded in England after the death of Arthur, Prince of Wales, and the death of her mother, Queen Isabella of Castile, two years later, she was left in a life of penury and uncertainty. Her father wasn’t interested in taking  her back to Spain. She had only her pride to protect her until Henry VIII married her and raised her to the highest position in the land. She never shirked her duty and did her best to give him a son, undergoing several miscarriages and deaths of boy babies. She was pregnant six times and gave birth to one healthy child, a girl, the future Queen Mary I of England.

She had always done her duty, attempted to fulfill her responsibilities as a queen for nearly 20 years and didn’t take to the idea of being tossed aside for a new wife. She fought back as best she could, and scored points against Henry when she looked him in the eye and dared him to say she didn’t come to him a virgin. She knew her cause was hopeless, but she fought to the end anyway.

I used to get impatient with Queen Katherine, but after reading this book I am filled with nothing but respect. She behaved with honor and dignity under impossible conditions, all for the sake of  her own self-respect and the benefit of the only person left who loved her—her daughter.

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