Queen of Henry VIII Remembered in English City Where She Is Buried
PETERBOROUGH, England (AP) _ A Spanish-born queen divorced by King Henry VIII because she did not bear him a son was commemorated 450 years after her death as a brave woman who was ″shabbily treated″ by both her husband and history.
Clergy, civic dignitaries, citizens and guests from Spain and Portugal crowded into Peterborough’s 868-year-old Anglican cathedral Wednesday for a ceremony beside the grave of Catherine of Aragon.
The congregation included foreign diplomats, descendants of families and successors of parish clergy who were at Catherine’s burial, which took place in 1536, 4 1/2 centuries ago to the day.
Mayor Bob Burke got hundreds of Peterborough schoolchildren to walk through the city to the cathedral, some in Tudor-era costume and carrying banners like those paraded at the queen’s burial. He invited all girls named Catherine or Katharine to attend the service, and to have tea with him at the city hall.
The ceremonies were the idea of Peterborough councilwoman Diana Howden, who told The Associated Press, ″I have always felt that Catherine was shabbily treated by Henry, and has been treated shabbily for the past 450 years.″
Catherine, Mrs. Howden said in a telephone interview, ″has always been seen as a troublemaker for England and Henry, and we hope the record has now been put straight.″
The daughter of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, Catherine became Henry VIII’s first queen consort in 1509. Disappointment at her failure to produce a male heir and Henry’s infatuation with Anne Boleyn led the king to seek an annulment of the marriage with the Roman Catholic Church.
That move precipitated the chain of events that ended in the English Reformation. Catherine, however, steadfastly refused to acknowledge the invalidity of the marriage or to retire to a convent. When Pope Clement VII recalled the divorce hearing to Rome, in effect denying it, Henry secretly married Anne.
After an English court pronounced the marriage invalid in 1534, Catherine was held prisoner in Kimbolton Castle, 18 miles south of Peterborough. She died there two years later, refusing despite her mistreatment to take the title of princess dowager.
In April, the Peterborough municipal council approved a motion by Mrs. Howden that a ″suitable if modest commemoration be made by the city of a queen whose courage and compassion remain an evergreen inspiration to all our citizens.″
Each visitor to the Peterborough cathedral was presented with a Spanish- donated pomegranate, the fruit that was the symbol of the House of Aragon.
After the service, officials of the eastern England city of 49,000 signed a treaty of friendship with Arsenio Eugenio Lope Huerta, mayor of Alcala de Henares, the city 15 miles east of Madrid where Catherine was born in 1485.
″I think we reinstated Catherine today and formed interesting links with Spain,″ Mrs. Howden said. British diplomats in Madrid said the pact was the first to link a Spanish and a British city.
Catherine’s remains lie in the Peterborough cathedral’s north aisle under a black marble slab surrounded by a railing. The ceremonies included the dedication of a graveside tablet inscribed with the queen’s history.
Anne Boleyn, whose daughter by Henry would become Queen Elizabeth I, also failed to give the English sovereign a male heir, and was convicted of adultery and incest and beheaded. By the time he died in 1547, Henry had had six wives.