Grave of Katherine of Aragon in Peterborough
While we had come so far as the break between the Church of Henry’s England and the Papacy, we still have a long way to go: Henrician Catholicism, The Protestantizaiton of England under Edward VI, the Marian Catholic Restoration, Elizabeth’s Church, the Puritan ascendancy, Archbishop Laud and Stuart Episcopalianism, Cromwell and the dissolution of Anglicanism and—well, about twenty more topics to bring us up to the beginning of the 20th century where I intend to leave off. But to start to dig into this mountain of history, let’s pick up the fate of Henry’s Queen, Katherine of Aragon.
We left off with our story when Henry failed in his attempts to win an annulment from the Legatine Court under the joint presidency of Cardinals Wolsey and Lorenzo Campeggio—sent by Clement VII from Rome to hear the case. While Wolsey would have done anything to keep on Henry’s good side, Campeggio was under secret instructions to drag the matter out and give no judgment. After the better part of a year dragging out, the case was prorogued to Rome for the judgment of the Pope. (We had covered in earlier postings the connivance of Clement and Katherine’s nephew, the Emperor Charles, to insure that Katherine was not disgraced by having her long-time marriage annulled. Check out the entry of September 7, 2013.) Henry knew that he had lost in the game of international politics and we can see from this time that he laid the groundwork for separation of the Church of England from its bonds of Communion with the Roman Communion. (You can check the blog entry for October 3, 2013 to see the gradual process beginning in 1529 and culminating with the 1536 Act in Restraint of Papal Authority by which Henry—with the help of Parliament—severed the cords of Roman communion.)
The Pope could prevent Henry from getting his annulment; he could not prevent Henry from ending his marriage. In 1531 Henry banished Katherine from court, giving the Queen’s apartments to Anne Boleyn. It is unclear if Anne was yet Henry’s Mistress—it probable that they did not sleep together until 1532 and perhaps—though I think doubtfully—until after their secret marriage in January of 1533. But we will deal with Anne in a future posting. Katherine was sent to exile at More Park, a palace belonging to Wolsey until his disgrace. It was a fine house, one of the most elegant great houses in England. Actually it was such a fine house that Henry and Anne regretted its being turned over to Katherine and the following spring (1532) she was removed to more spartan lodgings Kimbolton Castle in Cambridegshire. At Kimbolton, Katherine remained in her chambers, leaving only to hear Mass. She laid aside all fine clothes and wore the simple habit of the Secular Franciscan Order to which she belonged. She gave herself, in the Spanish manner, to rigid fasting and penances. But she would not yield on the point that she was Henry’s Wife and Queen.
Henry’s parliamentary legislation in 1533 empowered the Archbishop of Canterbury to perform—by royal warrant—certain duties and powers previously reserved to the Holy See. The dutiful Archbishop thus, in May 1533, supplied the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Katherine that Clement had been unwilling to give. Henry had secretly married Anne the previous January and by May she was clearly pregnant with Cranmer decreeing the January wedding to have been valid since the marriage to Katherine had been invalid.
Henry decreed that Katherine should henceforth be known and addressed as the Dowager Princess of Wales since she was the widow of Henry’s older brother, Arthur who had been Prince of Wales in the reign of their father, Henry VII. Katherine would not accept this and Henry prohibited her from seeing their daughter, Mary, until she accepted her own reduced status and Anne as Queen. Neither Katherine nor Mary would ever acknowledge Cranmer’s annulment proceedings and thus never saw each other again. Though they were forbidden to correspond, various Ambassadors passed letters back and forth between mother and daughter. Katherine soon began to suffer from serious stomach ailments and the unhealthy marshy atmosphere of Cambridgeshire was particularly unconducive to her health. By December 1535 she clearly was dying.
Katherine wrote Henry shortly before her death:
My most dear lord, King and husbandThe hour of my death now drawing on, the tender love I owe you forces me, my case being such, to commend myself to you, and to put you in remembrance with a few words of the health and safeguard of your soul which you ought prefer before all worldly matters, and before the care and pampering of your body, for the which you have cast me into many calamities and yourself into many troubles. For my part, I pardon you everything, and I desire to devoutly pray God that He will pardon you also. For the rest, I commend unto you our daughter Mary, beseeching you to be a good father unto her, as I have heretofore desired. I entreat you also, on behalf of my maids, to give them marriage portions, which is not much, they being but three. For all my other servants I solicit the wages due them, and a year more, lest they be unprovided for. Lastly, I make this vow, that mine eyes desire you above all things.
Katharine the Queen.
The letter went unanswered.Katherine died on January 7th 1536. The same day Anne Boleyn miscarried a boy, sealing her fate with Henry who had begun taking an interest in one of Anne’s maids—even as Anne had been one of Katherine’s—Jane Seymour. Katherine’s embalmed body was carried in procession the fifty miles from Kimbolton to the Abbey of Saint Peter at Peterborough. On January 29th, in the presence of 200 mourners and illuminated by a thousand candles lit for her soul, Katherine was buried, not as Queen but as Dowager Princess of Wales.
Her rightful title was denied her in death but not in history. Her grave today in Peterborough Cathedral is marked as “Katherine, Queen of England.” Five years after her death, the monastic community was expelled from Peterborough when Henry dissolved the last of the monasteries. The former monastic church became the Cathedral for a new diocese Henry established as one of his (very needed) reforms of the Church. Today, Katherine’s death and funeral are commemorated every year at Peterborough Cathedral with Anglican Evensong and Procession the night before and a Catholic Mass in the morning—a sign of the growing reconciliation in the split Henry’s divorce from Katherine caused almost five centuries ago.