On the 11th June 1509 Henry VIII married his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, in a church just outside Greenwich Palace.
Catherine was the widow of Henry’s brother Arthur and because of that a special dispensation was required from the Pope in order for them to be allowed to marry. This stated that Catherine’s first marriage had ‘perhaps’ not been consummated, a rather ambiguous turn of phrase. Henry could never have imagined at the time that this dispensation or the use of that little word ‘perhaps’ would be the subject of much argument later on in his marriage!
Despite the legalities Henry was officially betrothed to Catherine on the 23rd June 1503 but Henry VII then spent the next few years arguing over the terms of her dowry with Catherine’s father, Ferdinand of Aragon. He basically made her life a misery in a bid to persuade Ferdinand to send more money!
Henry VII had also been widowed in 1503 which put him back on the marriage market. By the summer of 1505 he was rumoured to be seeking a triple Habsburg alliance, marrying his daughter Mary to the future Charles V, Henry to Charles’ sister Eleanor or Austria and himself to Charles’ aunt, the Archduchess Margaret of Austria. Catherine was basically left hanging whilst Henry VII toyed with these various marriage alliances and argued over money. She was left isolated, made all the worse by the fact she couldn’t yet speak English fluently and could barely provide for her own household because of the situation with her dowry. Catherine’s health started to fail with the stress and she finally wrote to her father in the spring of 1509 saying she could no longer take being persecuted by Henry VII and wanted to return to Spain. As it turned out there would be no need for this as Henry VII died on 21st April 1509, releasing Catherine from his clutches after nearly 7 years. Henry VIII was now King and his marriage to Catherine could finally move forward! Continue reading