Henry VIII of England marries Catherine of Aragon.
Catherine and Arthur met on 4 November 1501 at Dogmersfield in Hampshire. Little is known about their first impressions of each other, but Arthur did write to his parents-in-law that he would be “a true and loving husband” and told his parents that he was immensely happy to “behold the face of his lovely bride”. The couple had corresponded in Latin, but found that they could not understand each other, since they had learned different pronunciations. Ten days later, on 14 November 1501, they were married at Old St. Paul’s Cathedral. A dowry of 200,000 crowns had been agreed, and half was paid shortly after the marriage.
Once married, Arthur was sent to Ludlow Castle on the borders of Wales to preside over the Council of Wales and the Marches, as was his duty as Prince of Wales, and his bride accompanied him. The couple stayed at Castle Lodge, Ludlow. A few months later, they both became ill, possibly with the sweating sickness, which was sweeping the area. Arthur died on 2 April 1502; Catherine recovered to find herself a widow.
At this point, Henry VII faced the challenge of avoiding the obligation to return her 200,000 ducat dowry, half of which he had not yet received, to her father, as required by her marriage contract should she return home. Following the death of Queen Elizabeth in February 1503, King Henry VII initially considered marrying Catherine himself, but the opposition of her father and potential questions over the legitimacy of the couple’s issue ended the idea. To settle the matter, it was agreed that Catherine would marry Henry VII’s second son, Henry, Duke of York, who was five years younger than she was. The death of Catherine’s mother, however, meant that her “value” in the marriage market decreased. Castile was a much larger kingdom than Aragon, and it was inherited by Catherine’s mentally unstable elder sister, Joanna. Ostensibly, the marriage was delayed until Henry was old enough, but Ferdinand II procrastinated so much over payment of the remainder of Catherine’s dowry that it became doubtful that the marriage would take place. She lived as a virtual prisoner at Durham House in London. Some of the letters she wrote to her father complaining of her treatment have survived. In one of these letters she tells him that “I choose what I believe, and say nothing. For I am not as simple as I may seem.” She had little money and struggled to cope, as she had to support her ladies-in-waiting as well as herself. In 1507 she served as the Spanish ambassador to England, the first female ambassador in European history. While Henry VII and his councillors expected her to be easily manipulated, Catherine went on to prove them wrong.
Marriage to Arthur’s brother depended on the Pope granting a dispensation because canon law forbade a man to marry his brother’s widow. Catherine testified that her marriage to Arthur was never consummated as, also according to canon law, a marriage was not valid until consummated.
Catherine’s second wedding took place on 11 June 1509, seven years after Prince Arthur’s death. She married Henry VIII, who had only just acceded to the throne, in a private ceremony in the church of the Observant Friars outside Greenwich Palace. She was 23 years of age. The king was just days short of his 18th birthday.