In 1489, Henry VII had reigned for only four years. To solidify his somewhat shaky hold on the throne, he sought to arrange an illustrious marriage for his three year old son, Arthur. And he found one.
The four-year-old Princess Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Queen Isabella of Castille and King Ferdinand of Aragon, was the perfect choice. The family was one of the most powerful in Europe. Isabella was descended from Edward III of England – some said that she had a better claim to the English throne than Henry VII himself. Indeed, Henry VII was thrilled to secure such a bride for his son.
The betrothal was formally confirmed in 1497, when Arthur was eleven and Catherine was twelve. The couple were married by proxy on May 19, 1499, but it was not until 1501 (when Arthur turned fifteen) that Catherine left Spain to take up residence in England. The two were formally married on November 14, 1501, and for the next five months all was well.
It is such a strange thing to think back to this time, when the world expected a future King Arthur to rule justly over England with his Spanish bride. It is so difficult not to let subsequent events creep into our minds – either to add a sense of wistfulness for what might have been, or simply sadness over what was to happen later. The betrothal of Arthur and Catherine is another occasion that calls us to wonder about an alternative history…
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