Following the death of Prince Arthur Tudor Katherine of Aragon returned to London and her future was left undecided. Henry VII did not want to send her home to Spain but equally he did not want her to remarry, Henry was still arguing with Katherine’s father, Ferdinand, over Katherine’s dowry and did not intend to return it. After 14 months Henry VII decided that Katherine could marry his other son, Prince Henry but they would have to wait until Henry was old enough to marry.
On 23rd June 1503 a marriage treaty was signed and the two were officially betrothed on 25th June. It was decided that the couple would marry on Henry’s 15th birthday on 28th June 1506 giving the two countries enough time to get the papal dispensation required as Katherine and Henry were related in the first degree of affinity. In 1504 the Pope was willing to grant the required dispensation and sent it to Katherine’s mother, Isabella, in Spain but she died shortly after receiving it.
With Spain no longer as strong as they were with the death of Isabella Henry VII believed that the alliance was not as attractive to England as a country and so began persuading Henry to declare that he did not want to marry Katherine. The evening before the marriage was meant to be solemnized Henry declared that he wanted it called off and so Prince Henry was now free to marry who he wanted and Katherine was now about to lead a life in virtual poverty.
Upon his deathbed it was said that Henry’s dying wish to his son was that he married Katherine, whether this was true or if Henry truly loved Katherine enough to marry her is debatable and so one of Henry’s first acts as King was to declare his intention to marry Katherine. On 8th June 1509 the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Warham, issued a marriage licence.
The couple were married in a private ceremony in the chapel of the Franciscan Observants at Greenwich on 11th June 1509, there were two witnesses to the ceremony; Lord Steward Shrewsbury and groom of the privy chamber, William Thomas. Katherine was 23 years old and Henry was on the verge of turning 18.
The wording of the ceremony was;
“Most illustrious Prince, is it your will to fulfil the treaty of marriage concluded by your father, the late King of England, and the parents of the Princess of Wales, the King and Queen of Spain; and, as the Pope has dispensed with this marriage, to take the Princess who is here present for you lawful wife?
The King answered: I will
Most illustrious Princess, &c. (mutatis mutandis)
The Princess answered: I will”
The couple went on to be married for 24 years before Henry divorced her to marry Anne Boleyn.
King Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon
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