Monday, October 12, 2009

Question from Helen - Catherine's first pregnancy

Was Catherine of Aragon's marriage to Arthur Tudor ever consummated? Alison Weir's book 'The Six Wives of Henry VIII" implies that the marriage between Catherine and Arthur had not been consummated: "she was a religious woman of sound principles; it is far likely therefore that she was guilty of deception than she was telling the truth". However, Joanne Denny provides some evidence that the marriage was consummated "for clearly somebody [Arthur] had been worried enough about the fact that the bride was not yet pregnant to write to Rome" about her excessive "religious" practices that might have prevented pregnancy ('Anne Boleyn: A new Life of England's Tragic Queen'). Denny also mentions that Catherine might have lied to Henry VII and the court about her first pregnancy - is it possible that Catherine was not truthful?

[The majority of this question was answered in previous threads (see below), but I wasn't sure about the last part on Catherine's first pregnancy. - Lara]


  1. If you are referring to the fact that after Arthur's death the king and council anxiously awaited word from Katherine as to whether or not she might be pregnant, I don't think I've ever read anywhere that she lied. I've read that she stayed silent, and then through one of her ladies came the story that she stuck to until her dying day: that the marriage was never consumated, so there could have been no pregnancy. If you're asking if there was a possibility she was pregnant and hid the pregnancy, I would have to say no. Henry VII, like any monarch who fought his way to the throne, was very careful with his heirs. Katherine could not have hid a pregnancy from the entire court.

    Katherine's first pregnancy came after her marriage to Henry VIII which didn't occur until after the death of Henry VII.

  2. Laura,

    Thank you for your response. I posted the original question, and there was a typo - I meant Henry VIII, not Henry VII when I spoke about her first pregnancy - sorry! So the question was whether she lied to her husband Henry VIII and the court about her pregnancy. I was surprised to read about this in Denny's book (considering that Catherine was a very religious woman) : "Whatever her motivation, she most certainly lied to her husband the King, to the court and to the nation, ordering a cradle [in February 1510] to be prepared when she knew for certain that she was not pregnant." There seemed to be some information, according to this book, that she miscarried in January 1510, but this was kept secret, the Spanish ambassador denying that that pregnancy ever existed.
    It was known that she was not pregnant by Arthur. However, if Arthur was concerned about the fact that she was not getting pregnant during their brief marriage, that certainly might imply that the marriage was consummated.

  3. Catherine lied about a miscarriage during her first pregnancy; the miscarriage occurred about in the fifth month or so, according to David Starkey: "Elizabeth: Apprenticeship" (2000/2001). Starkey also critizes Catherine's classic biographer G. Mattingly for hagiography. -- I think one never should preclude that people may have lied etc. only because they were very religious. Religion is a very complicated matter, easily misunderstood in its consequences by people who did not live in those times.

  4. I personally don't believe Catherine was a virgin when she came to Henry's bed. By saying the marriage wasn't consummated, she was putting herself in a much more desirable state. Just because she was religious, doesn't mean that she wasn't looking out for herself. After Arthur's death, she was at the mercy of Henry VII until his death.

  5. Maybe the question here is "What would Isabella (Catherine's mother) have done?" Catherine clearly idolized her mother and wanted to set the same example she did. So - you can go with the fact that Isabella was a very moral Catholic queen who would never have lied, or that Isabella was a canny queen who would do what needed to be done to preserve her name, reputation and the future kings of England. Personally, I believe that Catherine would have done whatever it took to ensure her future - because she believed that's what her mother would have wanted her to do.


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