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Catalina de Aragon
I did not love him, not yet, but maybe I would have. Maybe we would have ruled England happily together; maybe we would have had dozens of children, all of them boys and all of them Tudor princes. But now I will never know what might have happened, because this has happened. My husband, my king, my fate is dead.
My body seems to be unable to hold me up under the weight of my pain, and I crumble to my knees. Arthur’s younger brother, Henry, kneels down and grasps my hand tightly in his. If I were to look at his face, I know what I would see: despair at the loss of a sibling, but overwhelming joy. Now, he shall be the King of England. I shall be the lost Spanish Infanta, the insane spinster who once had everything to play for.
“Catharine,” he whispers, calling me by my English name. I’ve been in this cold, uninviting country for what seems like a long while, but nothing in England seems right to me. And at the moment, nothing in the world could ever be right again.
But I am a Princess of Spain, the Princess of Wales, and the Queen of England. I am royalty three times over, and I have lived through more than most people can dream. If I am with Arthur’s child, I will remain queen. With that thought, I hold all my tears within me, a desperate struggle it proves to be, and meet Henry’s warm blue eyes.
He pulls me upward blindly and into my private chambers and smiles at me sympathetically. “It will all work out. I swear.”
Then my mask cracks. The tears flow like a waterfall down my round, pale cheeks. Henry wraps his arms around my small, shaking body and allows me to stop being queen for a moment.
The following weeks pass with sheer sorrow in the air. The entire court is dresses in blacks, dark blues, and deep, rustic reds. I wear nothing but the darkest gowns, with a black veil hiding my face. For the veil I am grateful, as it hides my tear streaked face and puffy eyes. How will my country stay strong if they know not even their queen can?
I am left out of all important meetings as if I was a peasant woman, mourning the death of her lover. I know that arrangements are being made for me to return to Spain. This morning I awoke with stained sheets. Arthur’s child is not within me; I have no heir for the kingdom. So, I will be sent home and Henry will take the throne. A pretty girl, probably French, maybe German, will take my place and will never know the pain I feel. She will be a real queen and do queenly things. She will watch as her husband laughs with maidens at balls and sit anxiously during jousts. She will feel the joy that I have not felt. The joy I never will feel.
My ladies avoid me as often as possible, as if death is a plague that will surely affect them and their family. If I call one of them to assist me in something, she will stand as far away as possible without being rude, and make our encounter as brief as she can.
But through all the worries and darkness, we move court for the autumn, and life goes on. As we travel between castles, I see fat red apples blossoming on trees, and the leaves changing from vibrant green to deep gold to decaying brown. Masques and feasts are held; balls and jousts take place. I sit alone, observing my laughing, carefree court as they hold witty conversations and smile their courtier smiles.
Henry comes to sit beside me; not on the throne, but on the ground. He bows shortly and falls to my feet. He is only a child, at eleven years old to my sixteen years, but he is taller than I am and maturing quickly. Soon he will be a man.
“I know that you think I am not sorry for my brother, for your husband,” he begins, “but I am.”
I start to object, but he continues on.
“Truly, I am glad I will not be sent off to be a priest, and I am glad I will have a chance to be king. But I would never wish this upon my late brother, and I would surely never wish this on you.”
Silence is heavy between us. We watch the happy court dancing. After a while, I say nothing, so he questions me, “You do believe me, don’t you?”
And for a moment I stop and look at Henry, for honest and for a good amount of time. He is blond and handsome, but he is spoiled. He has always gotten what he wanted, always been praised and bowed to. He is the spitting image of a prince. Now I see the impatience and anxiety behind his bright eyes.
“Of course I do, Henry,” I reply informally. “I understand. Honestly.”
And I do.
They come to me not long after. Arthur’s father, Henry VII tells me that I can stay in England. On one condition, of course. I will have to marry Henry, the boy who held me as I wept on that terrible, dark day not so long ago. I will stay queen.
My first thoughts are ones of pure joy. I can remain in this country, one where I am powerful and beautiful. I will marry someone who loves me.
But then I see the negative. I cannot marry Henry, for it against the law for me to marry my late husband’s brother. Henry is five years younger than I, he is only a child. I will have to wait until he is of age before I am wed. Until then, where will I reside? For I know the former King Henry VII will not allow me to stay with his family.
I’m aware he just does not want to return my dowry, as it was a good one. And if I am gone, any alliance with Spain will be no more. I am the tie that holds this country of England together.
Despite my fears, I know the decision whether to return to Spain or be Henry’s bride is not mine to decide. My father will take care of that. I am a girl, and women are thought to have no valuable opinion. The men say we are soft, swayed easily by emotion. I find that the opinions of my older, wise female peers are often times more logical then those of the men who think they rule me.
I am sent to the Durham House, away from court, and soon I find out that my father has agreed to the terms. I will be Henry’s wife.
Away from the constant activities at court, I am very lonely. I see not my betrothed, nor the women I have began to think of as my friends. I have a small amount of money, and am locked inside the dark rooms for more days than I can count. I write to my family, my parents and sisters. My sisters’ responses are long and detailed about their children, whereas my mother’s and father’s letters are short. They tell me nothing, even when I long to know everything that is happening outside this stuffy area. The letters I write are endless. I know I complain often in them, which is not desirable in the least, but I cannot help myself. I fear I shall go mad if I don’t see the light of day soon.
For six years, six extremely long years, I stay in that horrid house with my ladies in waiting. I must pay their way through life as well as my own. Rarely am I allowed to go to the market like a common woman, or even for a brief walk through the garden.
But I will not complain. Finally – finally – I am out.
The reasons I am out are not of my liking. I must lie. I must tell the Pope himself that the marriage between Arthur and I was never consummated. If I do not, then I will not be allowed to marry Henry, who I have not been able to lay eyes upon since our final meeting, mere weeks after Arthur’s death.
So I lie indeed. I do not crack even the smallest smile, but I do meet the Pope’s eyes. I lie through my teeth and say our marriage was not official in any way. I am a clean, pure woman, and I should be allowed to re-marry. Honestly.
The Pope takes my words into consideration, and I can tell he is going to accept my plea. I know I will not be an insane old spinster in the country.
As I am leaving the old, marble building, I see my husband-to-be for the first time in a long, long time. The very sight of him takes my breath away.
He has gone from a young boy of eleven to a stunning man of nearly eighteen. He is fair haired with lovely blue eyes. On his face is a smile that could make the entire world grin against their will. Most and least surprising of all is his height. He is well over six feet tall, perhaps closer to seven feet tall.
I suddenly feel insecure. I have been told my whole life that I am beautiful, with my red curls and dimpled, round face, but I feel I haven’t changed in the least. How will I appear to this man, when I still look like the woman who married his brother?
When he sees me, his face positively lights up. He clears the room in a few long strides and snatches up my hands and looks down at me. I peer up at him with wide blue eyes, and a smile enters my face without my willing it to.
“My father tells me that we shall be wed before the end of the month,” he informs me with pride.
“But what if the Pope denies my request?” I say, stupid with disbelief.
Henry laughs a loud, booming laughs that bounces of all of the walls in the building. “He will not. We are royalty and he wants a stable kingdom just as much as the next person,” he announces quietly, confidently.
I grin, once again not being able to help it. This man could make the saddest peasant joyful.
And it is done within the week. It seems that the Tudor family is, indeed, the exception to every rule known to man.
On June 11, we are married. I wear my hair down, cascading over my shoulders, like a virgin who has known no sorrow. My husband looks exceedingly handsome in his wedding attire and smiles sincerely like he must in order to survive.
We are in a private chapel, with few in attendance. We say our wedding vows quietly, eyes never leaving each other’s face. Henry slides the rich, heavy ring onto my finger and it is official. I am married to the most handsome man in England, the country in which I will reside as queen for the rest of my days.
I could not be happier.