Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Question from Nan - Catherine of Aragon vs. of Castile

This might be an odd question, but why was Catherine of Aragon referred to as being "of Aragon" and not "of Castile"? Castile was the bigger and more powerful nation, and from what I've seen, her sister Juana was known as "Juana of Castile" not "Juana of Aragon." Did Isabel and Ferdinand divide up their children?


Foose said...

It is, technically, Catherine's patronymic - just as Catherine the daughter of Ferdinand Brown would be Catherine Brown, so Queen Catherine is the daughter of Ferdinand of the House of Aragon.

Both Isabel and Ferdinand were of the House of Trastamara, sharing the common ancestor Henry of Trastamara, King of Castile; a Trastamara of Castile was chosen to become King of Aragon when the original line became extinct. Hence the need to distinguish between the two houses of Trastamara, the House of Castile and the House of Aragon.

Catherine's sister Juana, however, started out as "Juana of Aragon" but was promoted to "(Queen) Juana of Castile" as she inherited the kingdom of Castile following her mother's death. She did not inherit Aragon, as Ferdinand was still alive (until 1516) and the Aragonese, unlike Castilians, did not accept the right of a woman to rule. (Ferdinand tried to work out a deal, but I think the result was that Juana's son Charles was recognized as King of Aragon following Ferdinand's death, and even then there was trouble.)

Some writers and narrative historians also like to call Juana "of Castile" before she inherited the kingdom, simply because there were several Juanas of Aragon running around at the time - her aunt the Queen of Naples, her cousin also the Queen of Naples, and some other Italy-based cousins as well - and it's an easy way to identify her.

Foose said...

Also, looking at it from the perspective of Catherine's contemporaries, I'm not sure she was ever referred to in her lifetime (or referred to herself, or signed herself) as "Catherine of Aragon." "The Infanta" was the usual title for her before her marriage, and subsequently, "Princess of Wales," "Princess Dowager of Wales," "the Queen" or "Queen Catherine," and then again, "Princess Dowager." Her sisters seem also to have been referred to as "Infantas" while unmarried and subsequently by their married titles (or regal titles, in the case of Juana).