Happy Birthday Catharine of Aragon!

Since this month I’m talking about Henry VIII, I thought I’d celebrate his first wife, widely considered a model of duty, fortitude, and power! Below is a video about Catherine (who spelled her name with a K and a C by the way).

The Life Of Catherine Of Aragon

Catherine’s signed command to get armor made for her upcoming engagement with the Scots at the Battle of Flodden (1513).
Catherine’s grave at Peterborough Cathedral.


Shakespeare’s Katherine

Queen KatharineSir, I desire you do me right and justice;
And to bestow your pity on me: for1370
I am a most poor woman, and a stranger,
Born out of your dominions; having here
No judge indifferent, nor no more assurance
Of equal friendship and proceeding. Alas, sir,
In what have I offended you? what cause1375
Hath my behavior given to your displeasure,
That thus you should proceed to put me off,
And take your good grace from me? 

Henry VIII, Act II, Scene iv.

Shakespeare treats Katherine as a living saint- kind, pious, and devoted to her husband, yet accutely aware of the manipulations of Cardinal Woolsey, and the lack of justice in her divorce trial. Just like in real life, Catherine leaves the trial and appeals to the Pope himself!

In her final scene, Katherine is dying on the island of Ely, having lost her crown, her husband, and her home. She is nonetheless still beloved by all in this world and the next. Shakespeare writes a dream sequence for Katherine, where she is visited by angels holding palm branches, signifying that Catherine will be welcomed into Heaven.

[The vision. Enter, solemnly tripping one after]
another, six personages, clad in white robes,
wearing on their heads garlands of bays, and golden
vizards on their faces; branches of bays or palm in
their hands. They first congee unto her, then
dance; and, at certain changes, the first two hold
a spare garland over her head; at which the other
four make reverent curtsies; then the two that held
the garland deliver the same to the other next two,
who observe the same order in their changes, and
holding the garland over her head: which done,
they deliver the same garland to the last two, who
likewise observe the same order: at which, as it
were by inspiration, Katherine makes in her sleep signs
of rejoicing, and holdeth up her hands to heaven:
and so in their dancing vanish, carrying the
garland with them. The music continues]- Stage Direction, Act IV, Scene ii.


Open Source Shakespeare: “Henry VIII”



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