Monday, January 20, 2020
Question from Salma - Dissertation on Catherine of Aragon's role as wife
Hi, I'm currently in my third year of university and writing my dissertation. I want to focus it on Catherine of Aragon's role as a wife and to what extent she fulfilled this despite not being able to bear Henry sons. I'm struggling to think of a more specific question regarding her role as a wife. I want to focus on her role as a wife rather than just a queen (so expectations of wives in the 16th century). Is there one particular angle of her being a wife I should focus on? I would greatly appreciate any help on this.
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I assume you have done sufficient background reading in the primary sources, especially the body of prescriptive literature on the societal roles of women. Obviously one of the most critical "wifely" roles among aristocratic women was that of providing their husbands with a male heir. I applaud your desire to look beyond that one aspect of Katherine's time as a wife of Henry VIII, but I have to wonder whether there are sufficient extant primary sources that deal with anything other than her role as producer of a male heir. The only area of activity that comes to my mind is that of aiding her husband in the performance of his own duties. Specifically, she did serve as regent during Henry's absences on the continent and notably led an army against the invading Scots (though the decisive Battle of Flodden Field occurred before Katherine's army arrived). This might make for a good topic. Be sure to look at Barbara Harris's book on aristocratic women in the period, as it will be a great help.
It might be useful to look at the roles of queens in encouraging education. Katherine was a big influence, both financially and as a mother, in supporting colleges and in promoting education for women, especially for Mary, her daughter. As a result, it became fashionable for women of the nobility to be highly educated.
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