It is no secret to Tudor enthusiasts that the nature of the relationship between Katherine of Aragon and her father-in-law, Henry VII was one of turbulence and oppression. The untimely death of Arthur, whom Katherine loved dearly for a short period put pain to her lifelong happiness and further removed her from her royal Spanish roots, this led her betrothal to Henry VII’s younger son, Henry, the future King Henry VIII, which resulted in further tumult for the senior Spanish Princess.
Katherine was the daughter of a powerful Spanish couple; Queen Isabella of Castile and King Ferdinand of Aragon, whose own marriage had united the once divided Spain. With Ferdinand as an ally against the French this proved to be extremely useful for England. After some negotiation over the hefty dowry, Katherine travelled to England in 1501 as part of an agreement with Ferdinand of Spain; she would marry the heir to the English crown to weaken the threat of the French, whom neither Henry VII or King Ferdinand trusted.
Upon meeting Arthur, Katherine was smitten, but this drew short when her husband- to- be and future King died of a sweating sickness in 1502 after only living together for a matter of months, leaving Katherine a widow after just six months, and deeply grieving. As a result, the dowry promised to Henry VII by Katherines father was never granted and Henry took away the privileges the princess Katherine had once enjoyed one by one. Every aspect of her life in England was affected; her clothes were torn and became shabby, she had worn her Spanish dresses out and could not afford to replace them. She did not have access to the divine foods she once had and her ladies in waiting were becoming impatient at their lack of provisions and pay, this paired with the Kings cool attitude towards her made Katherine feel uneasy and unwelcome.
Katherine had begged her father to send the dowry so her life could improve, but with no alliance now to be made, he refused. Consequently, Katherine became unwell in the mind and was sick for over a year. One of her physicians claimed she had at one stage been near to death. In 1504 she was hit by a mysterious sickness that hindered her ability to become accustomed to English food and the English climate. The illness was gastric, and the Princess could eat very little. Her complexion became worryingly pale, and she lay ill in Greenwich for months, until she could be moved to Fulham Palace. Although Henry did write to her parents to inform them of her illness, he did little to enable her to feel much comfort while in a ‘foreign’ land and Katherine became heavily depressed. To add to her sadness, in December 1504 news reached England that Katherines mother, Isabella, had died and Henry saw this as a complete devaluation of any marriage alliance that had now been proposed to his younger son, Prince Henry.
Katherine did not at first realise how her mothers death had devalued her on the marriage market and she could not understand why the prince she was due to wed was ignoring her at court, but one things was certainly clear, Henry VII cared very little for Katherine and the eventual union between the Spanish princess and his own son was selfishly devised for greed, leaving Katherine in a very compromising position in over the next few and final decades of her life.