203 The Spanish Princess

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-of-aragonCatherine 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.

 

7 thoughts on “203 The Spanish Princess

    1. Yes indeed. When very young I always got confused…whey was everyone so keen on going to see Blenheim Palace? (which is at our Woodstock). Eventually I was enlightened.

  1. Hi David,

    Another cracking episode; slightly different to the usual political narrative but a kind of like these slight diversions.

    Just to pick up on a couple of points: Although Young Henry met Catherine at St Georges Fields, it wasn’t the site of Bedlam for another 300 years. At this point, Bedlam was still in the City on Bishopsgate (just behind the White Heart pub on Liverpool St). It moved to Moorfields in the 1670s and then to St Georges Fields in 1815.

    The crossing London Bridge must have been chaos, given it was single lane traffic at the time. Pete Brown’s book on the history of the George pub in Borough, Shakespeare’s Local, gives a really good description of the bridge and the length of time it would take to cross.

    Finally, on the wedding itself, one of the odd things that I learnt about it from the Winter King, as that King Henry didn’t actually attend in person but hid himself away and watched unseen. An odd chap indeed.

  2. Also, I forgot to mention that the Temple Bar lives on in the shape of the Temple Bar Tandoori, a fine city establishment (I measure my life in pubs and curry houses, obviously).

    1. What a great post – except that darn, I thought I’d done my research on Bedlam, clearly not. And I’m going to have to visit the Temple Bar Tandoori…good excuse for a Chicken Tikka Masarla, pilou rice and a naan. Thanks for the book recommendation; planning an episode on London bridge and the rather wonderful church of St Magnus the Martyr, so this’ll be good! I also read the bit about Henry; and wasn’t his mum there with him? He was an odd bloke – funny combination of charm and the slightly creepy. I really enjoyed Winter King too – he did a brilliant job of making him feel really sinister.

    1. Mr, um, Greenhaven, you are not alone in dismissing the quality of my pronunciation of the town in question. I will relay your thoughts to my mother. OK, Peter?!

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