Katharine was only six years older than Henry. If she was “pathetic and old,” he was, too. Especially since he was chasing around his wife’s maids of honor, who weren’t even born yet when he first got married.
Katharine was only twenty-four when they married, a beautiful young princess in the prime of life. And let’s not forget, Henry chose her, not vice-versa. Whether he did it for love … or because she was the daughter of the powerful “Catholic Kings” of Spain … or because Katharine’s ancestral claim to the English throne was actually stronger than Henry’s … Henry was the one who decided they should marry. He wanted to marry her so badly, he lied about his father begging him on his deathbed to marry the Spanish princess and fulfill the betrothal.
In her youth, Katharine was lovely. We don’t see it often, because most of her widely-known portraits were made after Katharine was in middle age, her body worn out by numerous pregnancies. And in the movies, she’s always portrayed as a dark-haired, middle-aged woman. But when she was young, Katharine was regarded as a beauty, with strawberry blonde hair and blue eyes.
Artist Michael Sittow seems to have seen Katharine as a muse. He painted several portraits of the princess.
Katharine as the Virgin
Katharine as the Magdalene
During her marriage to Henry, Katharine was pregnant at least six times - possibly eight. As she told Henry during the Great Matter, “By me you have had many children, though it has pleased God to call them from the world.” Katharine’s only “failure” was that her three baby boys died, either before birth or shortly thereafter.
Katharine was an amazing queen and a strong woman. As much as I love Anne Boleyn, I admire Katharine for her virtues and regal fortitude. She died fighting for her rightful title, and the inheritance rights of her daughter. Because of her refusal to capitulate, she never got to see her daughter again, a terrible price for any mother to pay.
In the end, it really wasn’t about having a son for Henry. It was about his own desires. An heir was only an excuse. That’s why he executed Anne Boleyn when she still had plenty of fertile years left, and annulled his marriage to Anna von Kleefes without even trying. Not to mention his final marriage to Kateryn Parr, widely regarded as being infertile after not producing any children in either of her previous marriages.
If anyone was pathetic, it was Henry, whose mid-life crisis shattered a thousand years of religious tradition and led to oceans of spilled blood. Not to mention his horrific lack of concern for the lives of anyone who got in the way of his immediate desires.