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Catherine of Aragon statue at Archibishop´s Palace, where she was born...

Catherine of Aragon (Spanish: Catalina de Aragón y Castilla, 16 December 1485 – 7 January 1536, also known as Katherine or Katharine) was Princess of Wales as the wife to Arthur, Prince of Wales, and Queen of England as the first wife of King Henry VIII of England. For six months, she served as regent of England while Henry VIII was in France. During that time the English won the Battle of Flodden, an event Catherine played an important part in. The controversial book "The Education of Christian Women" by Juan Luis Vives, which claimed women have the right to an education, was dedicated to and commissioned by her.

Henry VIII's move to have their 24-year marriage annulled set in motion a chain of events that led to England's break with the Church of Rome. Henry was dissatisfied because their sons had died in infancy and others were stillborn, leaving their daughter, the future Mary I of England, as heiress presumptive, at a time when there was no established precedent for a woman on the throne, although there was no Salic law in England. When Pope Clement VII refused to annul the marriage, Henry defied him by assuming supremacy over religious matters. This allowed him to marry Anne Boleyn on the judgment of clergy in England, without reference to the Pope. He was motivated by the hope of fathering a male heir to the Tudor dynasty. Catherine refused to accept Henry as Supreme Head of the Church of England and considered herself, as did most of England and Europe, the King's rightful wife and Queen until her death.

Catherine was born at the Archbishop's Palace in Alcalá de Henares, in Madrid, on the night of 16 December 1485. She was the youngest surviving child of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile. Catherine was quite short in stature with long golden auburn hair, wide blue eyes, a round face, and a fair complexion. There are a number of portraits by court painters which probably show her as a girl and teenager, but she is not certainly the subject in any of them. She was descended, on her maternal side, from the English royal house as her great-grandmother Catherine of Lancaster, after whom she was named, and her great-great-grandmother Philippa of Lancaster, were both daughters of John of Gaunt and granddaughters of Edward III of England. Consequently she was third cousin of her father-in-law, Henry VII, and fourth cousin of her mother-in-law Elizabeth of York.

She was educated by a tutor, Alessandro Geraldini, who was a clerk in Holy Orders. Catherine studied religion, the classics, Latin histories, canon and civil law. She had a strong religious upbringing and developed a faith that would play a major role in later life. She learned to speak, read and write in Spanish and Latin, and spoke French and Greek. She was also taught domestic skills, such as needlepoint, lacemaking, embroidery, music and dancing. The great scholar Erasmus would later say that Catherine "loved good literature which she had studied with success since childhood".

At an early age, she was considered a suitable wife for Arthur, Prince of Wales, eldest son of Henry VII of England and heir to the throne due to her overwhelmingly prominent English ancestry inherited from her mother Queen Isabella I of Castile. By means of her mother, Catherine had a stronger legitimate ancestry to the English throne via the two first wives of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster; Blanche of Lancaster and the Spanish Infanta Constance of Castile, by whom John hoped to claim the Crown of Castile. On the other hand Henry VII of England was the descendent of Gaunt's third marriage to Katherine Swynford whose children were born out of wedlock and only legitimized after the death of Constance and the marriage of John to Katherine. The children of John and Katherine, while legitimized, were barred from ever inheriting the English throne. Because of this, the Tudor monarchy was not accepted by all the European kingdoms. At the time, the house of Trastamara was the most prestigious due to the great rule of the Catholic Monarchs, so the alliance of Catherine and Arthur validated the House of Tudor in the eyes of European royalty and also strengthened the Tudor claim to the English throne via Catherine of Aragon's ancestry. It would also have given a male heir an indisputable claim to the throne. The two were married by proxy on 19 May 1499, and corresponded in Latin until Arthur turned 15 and it was decided that they were old enough to be married.

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Additional Photos by Manuel Mayorga (ManuMay) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2439 W: 282 N: 4271] (34357)
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