Yesterday I was so busy trying to make sure there were no errors I managed to suggest that Catherine was born in 1489. She was of course born in 1485.
By the time she was thirteen she was living at the Alhambra and it was from here that she exchanged letters with Arthur. He, writing from Ludlow in 1499, described their letters as a “sweet remembrance.” Tremlett reveals that Henry VII and Elizabeth of York were just as excited by this exchange of letters. Of course, given that the writers were thirteen at the time and that they were written in Latin it may be assumed that tutors were involved and so was the game of courtly love.
In the meantime Roderigo De Puebla, the Spanish ambassador, was keeping the Spanish court informed of events in England. De Puebla complained that the English changed their minds rather often and that the water wasn’t safe to drink.
On 27 September 1501 Catherine set sail for England, crossed the Bay of Biscay, got caught in a storm off Brittany and arrived in Plymouth on October 2nd 1501. News of her arrival had come before her as it is noted in the margin of Margaret Beaufort’s Book of Hours. In total the journey across Spain from the Alhambra to England had taken four months. It would be another month before Catherine reached Hampshire and on November 6th she arrived at Dogmersfield where she met her prospective father-in-law and husband which ran counter to Spanish custom – there was, of course, a language difficulty.
On November 12 1501 Catherine entered London accompanied by the ten-year-old Duke of York, Prince Henry, a papal legate and an entourage composed of both nationalities. Tremlett and Penn describe the pageant, the gifts and the politics. Two days later she was married at St Paul’s Cathedral. The wedding dress which was white caused some comment and then it was on to business. First an announcement was made as to the size of Catherine’s dowry and then it was over to the eighteen bishops and abbots. John Fisher revealed that Margaret Beaufort cried rather a lot and rather oddly to modern eyes that the newly married Catherine was led from the cathedral not by her husband but by her brother-in-law, Prince Henry.
There then followed a ritual involving the earl of Oxford testing the bed of state, on both sides, to make sure it had been made properly and a sprinkling of Holy Water from the assembled bishops. The following morning Arthur announced that being married was thirsty work and in so doing unleashed centuries of speculation that an inspection of the bed sheets, another traditional pastime, should have confirmed…but in this instance didn’t. In any event the couple were young. They had their whole lives ahead of them.
By late December Catherine and Arthur were in Ludlow on the Welsh borders…very different from the Alhambra. We know that Catherine formed a friendship with Margaret Pole the daughter of the Duke of Clarence and sister of the Earl of Warwick executed to facilitate the wedding of Catherine and Arthur. What we don’t know is how close Arthur and Catherine were as husband and wife. Once again Tremlett provides both sides of the later argument. Catherine insisted that Arthur came to her room on only seven occasions whilst a member of his own household suggested that the pair were frequently together. We do know that Arthur was smitten when he first met his bride and by all accounts Arthur, though shorter than his petite bride, was a kind and well educated young man.
And then sweating sickness arrived or possibly tuberculosis. In any event on April 2nd 1502, approximately six months after her marriage Catherine found herself widowed at the age of sixteen. Arthur’s heart was buried in Ludlow whilst the rest of him was interred in Worcester Cathedral. Elizabeth of York, who got on well with Catherine, sent a litter to fetch her daughter-in-law back to London.
Double click on the image of Prince Arthur to open up a post by The Freelance History Writer about Prince Arthur and more about his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.
Thomas Penn’s book is about Henry VII and called Winter King. See the bibliography for more details of his work and also of Tremlett’s.