The Tudors Wiki
Advertisement


"As long as I am alive, I will call myself 'the Queen of England." -Catherine of Aragon

Catherine of Aragon was the first wife and Queen Consort of King Henry VIII of England and the mother of Princess Mary Tudor.  She appears in Season 1, Season 2 and the finale episode of Season 4 in 16 episodes total; she is portrayed by award-winning Irish actress Maria Doyle Kennedy.

Catherine is a direct descendant of the Spanish royal line, the youngest daughter of Queen Isabella of Castille and King Ferdinand of Aragon. Crowned in 1509 before her marriage to Henry was annulled in 1533, she was a charitable and popular queen, a pious Catholic, and a devoted mother and wife. While she was cheated on by her husband many times, his infidelities even resulting in a son by her maid Bessie Blount, she never called him out on it and confides to her maids that he blames her for being unable to produce a son. However, his obsession with the beautiful Anne Boleyn ultimately destroyed their marriage. After a long and hard struggle, she is eventually sent away from court to live, lonely and desolate, and banned from seeing her beloved daughter. Her only friend in reach is Elizabeth Darrow, her devoted maid who refuses to leave her.

In late season two, not long before Henry becomes infatuated with Jane Seymour, Catherine becomes sick and succumbs to her illness, even having hallucinations of Mary. While supported by Elizabeth Darrell in her death bed, Catherine writes Henry a letter, asking to provide for her servants and their daughter, pledging her forgiveness, and praying for his soul. He tearfully reads the letter, while Anne Boleyn is unfazed and simply states that now she is finally the Queen, even though Catherine remains Queen of England in the nation's eyes. Mary is devastated, collects a box of her mother's things and even though she comes to love her father's third, fourth and sixth wives, she never forgets her mother.

Season One[]

Early in the first season Catherine is introduced. Very much in love with her philandering, spoiled king of a husband who blames her for not giving him a son, she is a very popular and charitable queen to the common folk, adored by the entire nation, and also a very dutiful mother. She tries to her best to advice Henry in forming an alliance with Spanish Empire instead of France and is forced to endure the hardship of being unable to give Henry a son when he gets her trusted lady-in-waiting, Bessie Blount, pregnant. As his conscience is supposedly affected by the fact that Catherine was married to his deceased brother, Arthur, she pledges that she never slept with Arthur and was thus a virgin when she married Henry.

To Catherine's jealousy and anger, Henry shows his bastard son, Henry Fitzroy, more favor over their legitimate daughter, granting him many titles and lands. She increasingly blames Cardinal Thomas Wolsey for her separation from her daughter and for Henry's cruelty towards her, thinking that he is manipulating Henry. After meeting Anne Boleyn, Henry soon becomes infatuated with her and chases her, unable to shake his desire for her until she gives in.

A few nights later, Henry comes to Catherine's chambers, where he is happily greeted. However, he bears the news he is divorcing her, chokes on his words, and leaves. She sinks to the floor and cries, devastated. There comes to be tension between Catherine and Anne Boleyn, who firmly states her belief in Henry's love for her. Catherine shuts this down and is sure Henry will choose her over Anne, but she is soon proven wrong, even though she dismisses Anne from her entourage in episode 1.06. In 1.07, Catherine is sent by Henry to join their daughter Mary at Ludlow Castle in Wales to keep them safe from the outbreak of sweating sickness.

Despite her fall from Henry's favour, the whole of England continues to love and respect Catherine. She has strong supporters abroad in Spain, Rome and the Holy Roman Empire as well as England itself; Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher remain her devoted friends. However, she has few powerful allies at court except Inigo Lopez de Mendoza, the ambassador to her nephew Charles V, the King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor. She pleads for Mendoza to alert Charles to Henry's attempts to divorce her, since he holds the Pope (the only one who can decide if the marriage may be annulled) hostage after sacking Rome in 1.05. She wins a significant moral victory near the end of the season, when an ecclesiastical court headed by Wolsey attempts to justify Henry's desire for a divorce. The Pope's representative, Cardinal Compeggio, had already heard her confession (that she had married Henry a virgin despite having briefly wedded his brother first) and Bishop Fisher argued gamely in her defense, supported by her own impassioned testimony. Compeggio suspended the hearing until October when it would be resumed in Rome, effectively deciding in her favor, and she left the court to the cheers of the people.

Wolsey attempts to browbeat Catherine into submission, but she refuses to be intimidated, knowing that as long as she continues to thwart Wolsey she endangers his standing with Henry, which he is effectively dependent on for survival. However, once Wolsey was deposed near the end of the series, the Boleyn Family began to rise in court, advocating for her displacement, Anne Boleyn - now Henry's official mistress - urges him to reform the Church so he can make his own annulment, and Mendoza is recalled to Spain, though he assures Catherine that his replacement, Ambassador Eustace Chapuys, will fight for her just as fiercely.  Catherine is offered an alliance by her now-disgraced rival Wolsey in the season finale, but their communication is intercepted and Wolsey is arrested for treason before she can accept.

Season Two[]

Catherine dictates her will despite suffering from her illness

Catherine remains at court for the start of the second season. She continues to make Henry's shirts, deeply offending Anne. When Anne spots someone carrying linen to Catherine for this purpose, she finally persuades Henry to banish Catherine to the Manor of the More where she would live out the rest of her days in exile. While Anne takes over most of her estates and property, Catherine proudly refuses to return the Queen's jewels. More and Chapuys continue to visit her when they can, but Fisher is unable to as he is first weakened by a poisoning attempt and is later put under house arrest. Catherine tells Chapuys to send her nephew a message, pleading with him not to use military force against Henry or England on her behalf, saying it would be a sin. Chapuys, who deeply admires Catherine, also smuggles an occasional letter between the exiled Queen and Mary.

By episode 2.03, the clergy in England have mostly submitted to Henry, and the new Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer declares Henry's marriage to Catherine null and void, while declaring his recent marriage to Anne legal. Charles Brandon — visibly pained, since he admires Catherine's courage — is forced to deliver these news. Pained but unbroken, Catherine continues to recognize herself as the Queen.  While most Catholic countries continue to recognize Catherine as the Queen, Anne's coronation in England means she must accept the title of Dowager Princess, since she was briefly married to Henry's brother. In Episode 2.04, Henry receives a letter from Catherine (brought by Chapuys) pleading for him to let her tend to Mary, who is ill. Henry sends his royal physician to see Mary but adamantly refuses to let mother and daughter see each other; knowing Catherine's charismatic and brave personality, he fears (probably influenced by Anne) that she would conspire against him to restore Mary to the throne through force, despite the absurdity of this suggestion. While Catherine is forbidden to see her daughter, Chapuys and Thomas More continue to help the two as best they can, although More is imprisoned at the end of 2.04.

Catherine hallucinates that she is visited by her daughter, Mary, and they embrace

By episode 2.05 Catheine's health is declining rapidly despite the loving care of her remaining maids and dictates her will on her deathbed, pleading with Henry to show mercy and care to their daughter Mary. Moments before her death in episode 2.07, Catherine hallucinates that she is visited by her daughter.  Her handmaidens are so heartbroken by her death that one of them, Elizabeth, commits suicide.  Meanwhile, Mary clutches a box of her mother's things, and cries, devastated by her mother's death. The court seems unaffected by Catherine's demise despite the popularity she endured as Queen, although the Catholic commonfolk display mourning for her.  Henry is stricken when he receives her will and weeps (perhaps for the sake of the love they formerly had) but Anne Boleyn receives the news calmly, remarking to herself, "And now... I am indeed Queen." Episode 2.07 marks the last live appearance of Catherine.

Catherine's season two appearances occur from 1532–1536. Strangely, she dies the same year that Anne is executed, only months before.

Season 4[]

Catherine has a brief appearance in the final episode of the series. Her ghost appears in a dream sequence to reprimand Henry, who is plagued by guilt over his treatment of all his wives and their children. At the side of Mary, Catherine berates his poor treatment of their daughter, lamenting that she has neither a husband or children of her own. He feebly tells her to go away, calling her a 'shade' but Catherine cooly replies, "You sent me away before, even though I loved you.  But I was still your wife, in God's eyes- and still am." Catherine is briefly seen during his flashback sequence in the final scene, watching him hugging a much-younger Mary.

Quotes[]

  • (In Spanish) "Be strong, my daughter. Remember who you are: the descendant of Isabella and Ferdinand of Castille, and the only daughter of the King of England.  Be strong and be true, and one day... one day you will be Queen."
  • Catherine: "That necklace—who gave it to you? (Anne remains silentAnswer me." Anne Boleyn: "His Majesty." (Catherine lifts the pendant to examine it) Catherine: "Expensive, eh? (in Spanish, to herself) {An expensive whore}." Anne Boleyn: "I am no whore, Your Majesty. I love His Majesty; I believe he loves me." Catherine: (laughs mockingly) "He's infatuated with you, as men often are by new things. Soon, he will see you for what you really are—and he will tire of you, as he has of all the others." Anne Boleyn: "... And, what if he does not?" Catherine: "I did not give you permission to speak! You are a servant! (Anne lowers her gaze) Leave, now!" (Anne gets up and leaves, Catherine stares after her in anger.)
  • "Sir, I beseech you. For all the love that has been between us. Let me have justice and right. Give me some pity and compassion for I am a poor woman and a stranger born out of your dominion. I have no friend here, and little counsel. I plea to you as head of justice in this realm. I call God and all the world to witness that I have been to you a true humble and obedient wife ever compliant to your will and pleasure. I have loved all those whom you have loved for your sake whether or not I had cause. Whether they be friends or enemies. By me you have had many children. Although it has pleased God to call them from this world. But when you had me at first, I take God as my judge, I was a true maid without a touch of man. And whether or not it be true, I put it to your conscience."
  • "This court has no meaning to me, therefore I will not stay here."
  • "You dare speak to me of chastity?! Have you not a mistress and two children, your Eminence?!"
  • "I have nothing against His Majesty, whom I love with all my being—only against his advisors, and a certain... woman whose ambition would ruin the kingdom."
  • "Poor Bishop Fisher... he was a lion in my defense."
  • "If I had to choose between extreme happiness and extreme sorrow, I would always choose sorrow. For when you are happy, you forget about spiritual things, you forget about God. But in your sorrow, He is always with you."
  • "I was still your wife in God's eyes and still am."

Physical Appearance[]

Catherine has long black hair, an olive complexion and eyes of a green and blue colour, although in real life she had auburn-golden red hair and was very pale as the native Spaniards were actually pale in contrast to common belief due the moors who lived and still live in Spain. She is said to have been beautiful and petite in her youth.

Catherine looks very attractive and stands at 5′ 6″ in the series. At 51, however, she was, in fact, under five foot in height, overweight and most likely not as beautiful as she might have been at a younger age, especially after repeated childbirth, six times; but she still had a dignified bearing. In 1528, a spiteful Francis I reportedly said that Henry was "young and handsome" and that Catherine was "old and deformed".

Personality[]

Catherine was a well-educated, graceful and kind woman aware of politics. She often performed generous acts of charity on behalf of both the church and the royal family, which made her a queen very beloved by the people, who cheered whenever she paraded on the streets and hated Anne when she was displaced. She educated her beloved daughter right and took great pain in not seeing her for four years. Even her Protestant opponents like Thomas Cromwell admired and respected her dedication, and she had few real enemies; the main exceptions were Wolsey and the Boleyns.

Catherine's devotion to God was very evident, something she passed on to Mary. She often went to church to pray and stated several times that if she could choose great happiness or great sorrow, she would always choose great sorrow, because in great happiness "You forget the Lord." Her devotion to her Catholic faith in the face of her loss of power earned her sympathy and admirers across Europe, even from Martin Luther, ironically, the greatest critic of the Catholic Church of that time period.

However, Catherine's extreme love for her bad-tempered husband often blinded her to the wrongness of his infidelity, made her weak against his demands, and unable to stand up to the few enemies that she had despite her immense rank. Had their positions been reversed at the time of the argument, Anne would probably have had her beheaded; there was never anything restrained about her hatred for Catherine once she came into Henry's favor.

Relationships[]

Henry Tudor[]

Catherine and Henry

Henry was Catherine's second husband, and the love of her life. The two had a caring relationship until their marriage went sour over the years with their failure to sire a surviving male heir. She was distraught to discover he had gotten Bessie Blount pregnant, and many more infidelities followed, but she never confronted him about his affairs except for Anne Boleyn, whom he planned to make his queen. Catherine's unwavering affection for Henry was where her stubborn side arose when she refused to divorce him. As the series progressed, he became crueller to her, banning her from seeing their daughter and banishing her from court. Despite the unpleasant conditions she endured near the end of her life, her love never wavered and her final letter to him before her death wrote that she forgave him for his actions against her.

Mary Tudor[]

Catherine and Mary

Mary was Catherine's daughter. Catherine was deeply devoted to Mary above all things, especially because she was her only surviving child. The two had a mutual love and respect for each other, as Catherine nurtured Mary from a young girl to a woman. When Henry got Elizabeth Blount pregnant and placed their illegitimate son above Mary, the usually calm Catherine was enraged. Catherine missed her daughter terribly when she was banned from seeing her, expressing concern when she discovered her daughter was ill and missing Mary so much that she eventually hallucinated that Mary visited when she died.

Gallery[]

Advertisement