Ludlow Castle, Shropshire where Arthur and Katharine spent their married life
The Marriage of Arthur Tudor and Katharine of Aragon
On the 14th of November, 1501, Arthur and Katharine arrived at Old St. Paul’s Cathedral to be married.
They walked on a raised platform the length of the aisle so that the great and the good, and the every day people of London could see the couple, and the triumph of Henry VII.
It was his triumph as it was the culmination of his successful securing of Katharine of Aragon, daughter of the great Spanish monarchs Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castille, for his son and heir Arthur, the future of his dynasty.
It was also a victory in securing the legitimacy of the Tudor succession in the eyes of Europe.
Background to the Marriage
From the age of 2 years old, Arthur must have known he was destined to marry Katharine. His father had begun negotiations with her parents in 1488.
Katharine was seen as a suitable wife for Henry’s son, due to her prestige and lineage, but also as it could solidify a treaty with the Spanish to form an alliance against the French.
Their marriage was confirmed in a treaty called the Treaty of Medina del Campo in 1489, stating that the couple would be married as soon as they came of age.
Arthur and Katharine were married by proxy in 1499 after a dispensation from the Pope.
Ferdinand and Isabel were wary of the circumstances in which Henry was King, and they wanted to be assured that his accession was truly secure, making sure that Katharine’s future would be assured as eventual Queen of England.
Henry saw rebellion in his reign, and pretenders, including Perkin Warbeck who declared himself as the young Richard, Duke of York who was the younger Prince who disappeared in the Tower.
Perkin Warbeck was executed in 1499, along with Edward, Earl of Warwick, the last direct male descendant of the House of York and this lead to Katharine’s parents being comfortable enough for Katharine to leave Spain.
Arrival of the Bride and Wedding Celebrations
16 year old Katharine arrived in Plymouth, England on the 2nd of October, 1501 after an arduous journey from her home in Grenada.
The journey had taken a total of 6 months, a ca. 600 mile trek over land from Grenada to the port of Corunna, and was delayed after the party had to return to port due to bad weather.
Arthur and Henry first met her at Dogsmerfield, Hampshire on the 6th of November, rather impatiently instead of greeting her in London.
This was a departure from the Castilian custom that Katharine would have been used too – the groom was not supposed to see the bride before the wedding day. However, Katharine surprised her attendants by agreeing to meet with them.
10 days later they were married in a grand ceremony at Old St. Paul’s cathedral. Katharine was escorted by Henry, Duke of York (later Henry VIII) and wore a dress of white satin, her hair loose with a jeweled veil. Arthur met her at the altar, also wearing white satin.
After the ceremony, the party traveled to Lambeth Palace, where a traditional wedding feast was held, and later that evening the couple were put to bed in a ceremony devised by Lady Margaret Beaufort, the Prince’s Grandmother.
The issue of whether or not their marriage was consummated would become one of great debate and became an intense topic of discussion in the 16th century – but that is a story for another day.
At the time, it was generally thought consummated, with Arthur supposedly famously boasting the next morning that he ‘had been in the midst of Spain’
Celebrations continued for days, with pageants, tournaments and banquets.
The Prince and Princess of Wales
The decision was made for Katharine to accompany Arthur back to Ludlow to begin their married life and they left for Ludlow via Bewdley in December, 1501.
Arthur returned to governance of Wales, and Katharine must have struggled to settle in to the cold damp castle in the middle of a Welsh winter, after all she had only ever known the heat of Spain.