Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Burial of Katherine of Aragon

Portrait of Katherine c.1520 by an unknown artist
Having breathed her last on the 7th January in banishment at Kimbolton Castle in the Cambridgeshire fens Katherine of Aragon was laid to rest on this day in 1536. Her body had been treated by an embalmer who "found all the internal organs as healthy and normal as possible, with the exception of the heart, which was quite black and hideous to behold". Investigating this further he dissected her heart, washed it through and examined the black growth clinging to its outside. Its strange appearance led some contemporaries to conclude that she had been poisoned, although modern medical opinions have indicated that a secondary melanotic sarcoma is a more likely cause. So it seems as though Katherine died of a broken heart.

Peterborough Cathedral
Katherine had wished to be buried in the Chapel of the Observant Friars with appropriate respect paid to her position as Queen of England, which she had died staunchly professing herself to be despite Cranmer's pronouncement on her marriage. Sadly her wishes were not respected and Henry VIII ordered that she be interred in Peterborough Abbey (as it was then known) as Dowager Princess of Wales. The funeral was an elaborate and solemn affair with the royal banners of both England and Spain being displayed and Francis Brandon, daughter of the Duke of Suffolk, acting as chief mourner. Katherine's daughter Mary was not allowed to attend and her close friend Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial ambassador, refused to attend due to her not being buried as Queen.

In 1541 after the Dissolution of the Monasteries Peterborough was deprived of its status as an abbey but it was made the Cathedral of the Anglican Diocese of Peterborough, allowing it to survive and prosper. Some say that Henry VIII chose to save Peterborough out of lingering respect and affection for the woman that he spent over twenty years of his life with.

Katherine's tomb lies in the North Presbytery Aisle, to the left of the altar and in place of any grand monument or effigy she lies beneath a plain granite slab. In the early 20th century Mary of Teck ordered the royal arms of England and Spain to be displayed above her tomb, and they are there to this day, proudly declaring her pedigree. The railings behind her tomb are decorated with large gold letters declaring that it is the resting place of 'Katherine the Queen', defying Henry VIII's desperate attempts to deny her the title of queen. Affection for this neglected Queen has passed down through the centuries with Englishwomen also named Katherine raising money in the 19th century to replace the stone on her tomb and to hang a wooden plaque which declares her to be "A queen cherished by the English people for her loyalty, piety, courage and compassion". Evidence of her being 'cherished' is further shown through the Katherine of Aragon Festival which is held in Peterborough ever year in late January (for more information click here) and the way that her tomb is usually surrounded by floral tributes and pomegranates.

Further reading:
- Sister Queens by Julia Fox
- Catherine of Aragon by Giles Tremlett
- Catherine of Aragon by Garret Mattingly
Katherine's tomb in Peterborough Cathedral

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

15 Facts about Mary I

Portrait of Mary aged 9
1) Mary was born on the 18th February 1516 and was the only surviving child of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon.


2) She was named after Henry VIII's favourite sister.


3) She was fluent in Latin, French, Spanish and could read/write in Italian.


4) Despite often being considered as a bitter old spinster Mary had over 11 suitors throughout her life including: Francis, Dauphin of France; Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor; James V, King of Scotland; Charles, Duke of Orleans; Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon; Reginald Pole; Thomas Seymour; Philip, Duke of Bavaria; Dom Luis of Portugal; William, Duke of Cleves and Philip II, King of Spain (who she actually married).
The chair that Mary is said to
have sat on at her wedding in 1554
(in a collection at Winchester Cathedral)


5) She seems to have been the virtuoso of the Tudor family; excelling at the spinet, lute and virginals. She first performed at the virginals aged four for the French ambassadors to great acclaim and is thought to have taught her younger sister Elizabeth.


6) In 1523 the Spanish humanist Juan Luis Vives wrote his book 'The Education of a Christian Woman' as a guide for constructing a curriculum for Mary's education.


7) She was the first crowned Queen regnant of England.


Portrait of Mary aged 28
8) She was very charitable. In the memoirs of her close friend Jane Dormer, Jane describes how Mary would go into poor areas of her kingdom to visit the people in their homes and give alms while dressed as a lady of the court in order to conceal her identity.


9) While visiting the royal court, aged two, Mary ran after Dionysius Memo, a Venetian organist, shouting "Priest! Priest!" to get him to play for her.


10) Mary was a keen gambler (though not always a good one) at one point she was spending almost a third of her income on gambling and in 1540 she had to bet the next day's breakfast after she lost her money.


Woodcut from Foxes' Book of
Martyrs showing the burning of
Bishop Farrar in 1555
11) Her favourite foods were wild boar and strawberries, with people often sending them to her as gifts.


12) She was a very devout Catholic who would hear mass several times a day and over the course of her brief reign 283 Protestants were burned at the stake for heresy leading to her becoming known as 'Bloody Mary'.


13) Despite her devotion to Catholicism she was close friends with several notable Protestants, such as Anne Stanhope. Anne was the wife of Edward Seymour and a keen reformer who gave patronage to several Protestant writers but she had a reputation for being incredibly proud, arrogant and snobbish which put her at odds with many people including Katheryn Parr who referred to Anne as "that Hell" ('Hell' being Tudor slang for the vagina...) Despite their differing religious views and personalities Mary and Anne were close friends with Mary affectionately referring to Anne in letters as her "good gossip Nan".


Stunning replica of Mary's wedding dress which was
made for the 450th anniversary of her marriage at a cost
of £3,000.
14)  She became very short-sighted in later life so she had to squint/stare to see things properly. This led to the Venetian ambassador reporting that "her eyes are so piercing that they inspire not only respect, but fear in those on whom she fixes them".


15) She was a bit of a fashionista. Mary adored sumptuous fabrics and jewels with her accounts demonstrating the huge sums of money she spent on clothes cut in the latest European styles. After her death her collection of jewelry and clothes was passed on to Elizabeth who reused some of the gowns, such as Mary's coronation robes.