Catherine of Aragon

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House of Tudor (by marriage)

Catherine of Aragon (Spanish: Catalina de Aragón; Catalina de Trastámara y Trastámara) (16 December 1485 – 7 January 1536), also known as Katherine or Katharine, was Queen of England as the first wife of King Henry VIII of England and Princess of Wales as the wife to Arthur, Prince of Wales. In 1507, she also held the position of Ambassador for the Spanish Court in England when her father found himself without one, becoming the first female ambassador in European history.[2] For six months, she served as Queen Regent of England while Henry VIII was in France. During that time the English won the Battle of Flodden, an event in which Catherine played an important part. The controversial book "The Education of Christian Women" by Juan Luis Vives, which claimed women have the right to an education, was dedicated to and commissioned by her. Such was Catherine's impression on people, that even her enemy, Thomas Cromwell, said of her "If not for her sex, she could have defied all the heroes of History."[3] William Shakespeare described her as "The Queen of Earthly Queens",[4] and during her early years as queen consort she was described as "The most beautiful creature in the world."[5] She successfully appealed for the lives of the rebels involved in the Evil May Day for the sake of their families.[6] Furthermore, Catherine won widespread admiration by starting an extensive programme for the relief of the poor.[7] She was also a patron of Renaissance humanism, and a friend of the great scholars Erasmus of Rotterdam and Saint Thomas More.

Henry VIII's move to have their 24-year marriage annulled set in motion a chain of events that led to England's break with the Roman Catholic Church. Henry was dissatisfied because their sons had died in infancy and others were stillborn, leaving their daughter, the future Mary I of England, as heiress presumptive, at a time when there was no established precedent for a woman on the throne, although there was no Salic law in England. When Pope Clement VII refused to annul the marriage, Henry defied him by assuming supremacy over religious matters. This allowed him to marry Anne Boleyn on the judgement of clergy in England, without reference to the Pope. He was motivated by the hope of fathering a male heir to the Tudor dynasty. Catherine refused to accept Henry as Supreme Head of the Church of England and considered herself, as did most of England and Europe, the King's rightful wife and Queen until her death.

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