Catherine of Aragon by Joannes Corvus
“Catherine of Aragon” depicts the first wife of King Henry VIII. The daughter of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, Catherine was betrothed to Arthur, Prince of Wales, heir apparent to the English throne. They married in 1501, but Arthur died five months later. Catherine subsequently married Arthur’s younger brother, King Henry VIII, in 1509.
By 1525, Henry VIII was dissatisfied that his marriage to Catherine who had produced no surviving sons. He sought to have their wedding annulled and when Pope Clement VII refused to annul the marriage; Henry defied him by assuming supremacy over religious matters. In 1533 their marriage was declared invalid on the judgement of clergy in England, without reference to the Pope.
The artist is unknown, but the painting has been attributed to Johannes Corvus, a Flemish portrait painter and native of Bruges, who came to England and Latinised his name to Jan Rave. Several other English painting of this period has been attributed to him.
Catherine of Aragon
Catherine of Aragon (1485 – 1536) was Queen of England from 1509 until 1533 as the first wife of King Henry VIII. She was previously Princess of Wales as the wife of Henry’s elder brother Arthur. The daughter of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, Catherine was three years old when she was betrothed to Arthur, Prince of Wales, heir apparent to the English throne. After Arthur died, Catherine stated that the marriage had not been consummated. Catherine subsequently married Arthur’s younger brother, the recently ascended Henry VIII, in 1509.
Sixteen years later, Henry VIII was infatuated with Anne Boleyn and dissatisfied that his marriage to Catherine. Catherine had produced no surviving sons, leaving their daughter, the future Mary I of England, as heir presumptive at a time when there was no established precedent for a woman on the throne. He sought to have their marriage annulled, setting in motion the events that led to England’s schism with the Catholic Church. When the Pope refused to annul the marriage, Henry defied him by assuming supremacy over religious matters. In 1533 their marriage was declared invalid, and Henry married Anne.
Catherine refused to accept Henry as Supreme Head of the Church in England and considered herself the King’s rightful wife and queen. After being banished from court, she lived out the rest of her life at Kimbolton Castle and died there in 1536. She was a patron of Renaissance humanism and a friend of Erasmus of Rotterdam and Thomas More.
After Catherine’s death, there were rumours that she was poisoned. The rumours spread after the discovery during her embalming that there was a black growth on her heart that might have been caused by poisoning. Modern medical experts believe that her heart’s discolouration was due to cancer, something which was not understood at the time.
- She was the first female ambassador in European history.
- Was she poisoned, three years after her marriage was annulled by Henry VIII?
Catherine of Aragon
- Title: Catherine of Aragon
- Artist: Attributed to Johannes Corvus
- Date: Early 18th century
- Medium: Oil on panel
- Dimensions: 55.9 × 44.5 cm (22 × 17.5 in)
- Museum: National Portrait Gallery, London
- Name: Joannes Corvus or Johannes Corvu
- Born: 1512
- Died: 1544
- Nationality: Flemish
Explore the National Portrait Gallery, London
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“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”
– William Shakespeare
Photo Credit: 1) By It may be by a painter called John Taylor who was an important member of the Painter-Stainers’ Company. (Official gallery link) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons