What Happened To Catherine Of Aragon After Henry VIII Left Her?

It started when Catherine was but a child. The daughter of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile, she was betrothed to the future King of England, Arthur, eldest son of King Henry VII, and moved to England to marry him when she was still a teenager. Unfortunately, just a year into the marriage, Arthur died before ascending to the throne. Next up: Henry. After obtaining special permission from the Pope to marry his brother's widow, Henry and Catherine became husband and wife, shortly after Henry was crowned. She was five years older than he.

There's a common misconception that the marriage went south almost immediately. In fact, they were married for about 23 years before Henry, frustrated with their inability to produce a male heir, decided to break with the Catholic Church and thereby have his marriage annulled. Catherine disagreed with the decision, pointing out to him that she had been everything she was supposed to be as a good and obedient wife. She was also concerned about the impact the annulment would have on their only living child, Mary. Henry wasn't moved. The marriage was annulled and he went on to marry Anne Boleyn, a favorite mistress.

Her marriage to Henry was no flash-in-the-pan

Unlike Anne, and other wives, Catherine lived on, "demoted," as History phrases it. According to the UK's History Learning Site, Catherine was given the title "Dowager Duchess of Wales," though she (and her servants) continued to consider herself Queen of England until her death. She refused to acknowledge Anne's place in the monarchy, going so far as to refuse to send the crown jewels to Henry's second wife. Catherine was well-beloved by the people of the kingdom — Anne wasn't — and Henry tried to remove her from the public eye and acclamation by essentially banishing her to a series of castles and estates. She was forbidden to see their daughter. Her final resting place was Kimbolton Castle, where she lived out her days, according to Britannica. She did penance and refused to leave her room, except for prayer. It was there she died, age 50, of cancer. Neither Henry nor Anne attended her funeral, and he forbade Mary to attend.

There's a fair body of scholarship out there that suggests Henry genuinely loved Catherine, and never stopped loving her — at least, in his fashion.