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June 27, 1505 – Prince Henry Renounces Betrothal to Catherine of Aragon

Henry and Catherine, from The Spanish Princess
Henry and Catherine, from The Spanish Princess

Woof. This was a huge – though at the time secret – step mid-way through the seven years that Catherine of Aragon spent in England waiting to marry the future Henry VIII.

First, a little context: Catherine of Aragon was the living representation of the alliance between Spain and England, an alliance which strengthened the house of Tudor in the eyes of the world. She had been married to Arthur Tudor for six months before he died – a short enough time that her full dowry had not yet been paid. Right after Arthur’s death, the parents all decided that the sixteen-year-old widow should marry Arthur’s ten-year-old brother Henry, and a betrothal was formalized. There was no rush – the plan was to wait until Henry turned 14 and use the time to obtain a papal dispensation. Unfortunately, while they were waiting, Catherine’s mother died – changing the power dynamics and making Catherine a less attractive bride.

So in a move designed to keep England’s option open, Henry VII had his son appear secretly before the Bishop of Winchester and other witnesses to secretly renounce the betrothal on the grounds that it was made when he was a minor and incapable of deciding such things for himself. This way, if a better match came along, England could take it without violating the marriage treaty.

So, on the day before he turned 14, the day before he would have become an “adult” and therefore bound by the agreement. Henry made a simple declaration, which he read aloud and then signed. The full text is in Latin, this is the version that appears in the Calendar of State Papers, Spain (even though they didn’t find out about it until later).

Henry, Prince Of Wales. His protestation against his marriage with Princess Katharine of Spain.
Declares before Richard, Bishop of Winchester, that he has been contracted in marriage during his minority to Katharine, Princess of Wales. As he is now near the age of puberty, he declares that he will not ratify the said marriage contract, but, on the contrary, denounces it as null and void.
[Signed]
Per me, Henricum Walliæ Principem.
This declaration was made and read by the Prince of Wales on the 27th of June 1505, before Richard, Bishop of Winchester, in one of the lower chambers of the Palace of Richmond, in the eastern portion of it.
James Read
Giles Dobney
C. Somerset
Thomas Rowthal
Nicolas West
Henry Marney

https://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol1/pp353-361

Oh, Henry….

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Published inOn This Day

2 Comments

  1. Banditqueen Banditqueen

    Did Henry Vii ever really consider marriage to Katherine himself? I know the Spanish Princess is fictional but Philippa Gregory must put history in occasionally. I also read that he looked to a match with Burgundy for Prince Henry also.

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