Interlude: The death of Katharine of Aragon.
December 1535- January 1536.
Katharine of Aragon, the daughter of their Most Catholic Majesties of Spain, lay dying in Kimbolton Castle. The past decade had been a horrible one of suffering for her. It had begun when Henry had declared the son of his mistress, Elizabeth Blount, to be his heir and given him a grander household than her daughter, Mary, the true princess. The chants in the street of ‘Bless’ee, Bessie Blount!’ had taunted the queen. Katharine had protested Fitzroy’s rise, and in response, Henry had removed her three most cherished ladies-in-waiting and returned them to Spain. Even when Henry had begun a public and humiliating affair with the bewitching Anne Boleyn, Katharine had remained hopeful. But then he had left her and separated her from her beloved Mary, her only child.
Katharine, like Anne, had loved the man who had turned against her. Even now, she remained in her gray castle at Kimbolton, with little to do but remember the days that Henry had loved her. She remembered the day she had borne him a son, and he had jousted in her honor, as ‘sir Loyal Heart.’ Katharine shed tears, for Anne had borne him a son who had lived! Why? Katharine held onto her title of queen, knowing she must fight for her daughter. When Katharine asked her servants of the princess Mary, she was met with silence.
“Tell me of my daughter!” the dying Katharine begged her servants. But no words were spoken. Katharine was reminded, in fear and anxiety, of the death of her first husband in 1502, when she had shouted up and down the halls of Ludlow ‘Will no one tell me of my husband’s fate?’ At the time, they had withheld the news from her. Katharine feared that Mary was dead, but she would not allow herself to believe it. Besides, as long as no news was given, Mary was all right, Katharine told herself. Katharine prayed and asked God for Mary’s health, for Mary must live and become queen. She must be to England what Katharine’s mother, Isabella, was to Spain. She must save the souls of the English people. As Isabella had expelled Spain of the Jews and Moors, Mary must return England to the true church in Rome. She must be queen! She must!
December turned to January. Katharine thought of Henry, trying not to think of Anne and him celebrating the Christmastide season together. Long ago, it had been her and him. The winds howled. Katharine’s physician, Dr. Firth, urged her to eat, but Katharine had no appetite for food.
“I must write to my daughter.” Katharine stated, asking for quill pen and parchment. As Katharine spoke these words, there was a notice from one of her servants.
“The queen has a visitor.”
It was Maria de Salinas, her oldest and dearest friend. Maria had come with her from Spain many years ago, in 1501, when Katharine had been a joyous Infanta and the intended betrothed of Arthur, Prince of Wales. Oh! Had Arthur only lived! Katharine had never known him carnally, but she knew him well enough to know he would have been kind to her. Maria and Katharine embraced.
“Maria, it is so good to see you. Please, do tell me, bring me news of my daughter. I have heard of what the Concubine has done to her, but I remain steadfast. She must be queen.” Katharine said.
Maria inhaled deeply. Katharine was still queen, Maria knew, regardless of what Anne Boleyn said. But did Katharine not know of her daughter’s death?
“Has no one told you?” Maria de Salinas asked.
“I am met with silence when I ask my servants. They still call me queen. What do they hold from me?” Katharine asked.
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