After negotiations that would win prizes, it was finally time for Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth’s pride and joy Prince Arthur to marry the Spanish Princess, Catherine of Aragon.
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Catherine of Aragon
Catherine was the daughter of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, and came from a large family. She seems to have been something of a favourite with her parents; Ferdinand declared he loved her entirely and forever because
‘she hath loved me better than any of my other children’
Letters from Isabella to Henry, and between Elizabeth of York and Isabella often have pleas for Henry and Elizabeth to love their daughter and treat her well, even if that meant spending less time on preparing a magnificent wedding.
Her education reflected to a degree her mother’s character; Isabella was fiercely pious, and became more and more so in later life. Isabella was influenced by the New Learning that had spread from Italy; but although Catherine had a good classical education, learning Latin and Greek, the emphasis of the authors she read was more on the morally safe and less risqué. A lot of emphasis was placed on the learning of the church fathers. None the less, she was very well educated; the famous exponent of the New Learning, Erasmus, was to be delighted with her saying
She loves good learning, which she has studied with success since childhood
Catherine was taught to dance and to sing, but there were odd gaps in her educations; as David Starkey notes, she appears to have been steered away from anything to do with the more risqué subject of Courtly Love – the courtly arts of music, poetry and the game of love. Physically, she appears to have been short of a length, fair with Auburn hair and blue eyes. About 9 years later she was described by her confessor thus:
Her highness is very healthy and the most beautiful creature in the world, with the greatest gaiety and contentment that ever was.’
The magnificence of her dress and attendants struck everyone as she arrived in England; and indeed the group of African attendants, including a black musician, John Blanke caused quite a stir, being something of a rarity in England.