7 January 2023


On January 7, 1536, Queen Catherine of Aragon, Spouse of Henry Tudor but repudiated by him, died. She was buried in the mighty Abbey of Peterborough, which was to be erected by Reginald Cardinal Pole (24 December 1554), by his legatine powers, into a Cathedral Church.

A few months later, Anne Bullen, AKA Boleyn, by Parliamentary enactment Spouse of Henry Tudor but repudiated by him, died in her own very unique way.

Henry Tudor ("Tudor mi", as I tend to think of him) was a generous man to his repudiated 'wives'. It was his (unexecuted) intention to erect for Catherine "one of the goodliest monuments in Christendom". For the (executed) execution of Bullen, he secured the services of a world-class swordsman from Calais. 

I have a personal theory that Bullen had quite a pretty neck, and that Tudor minor couldn't bear the thought of spoiling it too much. Those Renaissance Men were aesthetes, y'know.

G H COOK records that the day before Bullen died, "the tapers that stood about Queen Katherine's sepulchre kindled of themselve, and after matins were done the said tapers quenched of themselves".

Cynics may conjecture that covert human agency was responsible. I have no doubt whatsoever that this was a matter of enthusiastic divine intervention.

Despite all of Tudor's machinations, he was eventually succeeded by a woman and, to boot, a woman born of ... Catherine of Aragon!

Among so many historical possibilities, I like to fantasise about an England in which Tudor was followed by a happy string of Spanish or half-Spanish successors, binding this Sceptred Isle ever more closely into the glorious world-wide Spanish Empire ... perhaps an England in which we would all have Spanish as our first language ... and the Drakes and the Raleighs would have secured fame by their doughty naval deeds preventing dirty proddy  pirates from attacking the Spanish treasure-galleys ... 

Peterborough Abbey/Cathedral might not have survived. It might have been rebuilt in the finest Spanish baroque style.

Bloody Bess? I suspect she was a bit of a plotter. She might have needed to be beheaded. There are so many figures in History of whom this is true.




Albertus said...

It is indeed very unfortunate that Queen Mary did not bear an heir to the throne of England, but, since the Spanish King her husband was a Habsburg, and thus of Germanic (German Swiss) origin, i do not think that he, nor Mary, nor their descendants would have been keen to introduce the castillian tongue into England: baroque yes, castillian no. Even more unhappy the fact that King James Stuart, son of the Catholic martyress Mary Queen of Scots, reigned as a protestant: to the dishonour of the memory of his martyred mother, and to the harm of his own soul and that of Englishmen.

vetusta ecclesia said...

Kingsley Amis : The Alteration

Grant Milburn said...

I have been listening, on my Bible app, to the Gospels read aloud in various languages that I know. I must say, the Bible sounds magnificent read aloud in Spanish.

armyarty said...

They were not speaking Spanish in all of Spain, and there are several persistent dialects, even languages, still holding on in Britain today.

I suspect that if there were no reformation, there would be more language diversity in Britain, not less (and not Spanish)

Richard said...

Should faithful Catholics have cheered for the Armada in 1588? That's a tough one for me. Didn't I hear that the English College in Rome sang a Te Deum on learning of the defeat of the Spanish?

Bill Murphy said...

I visited Peterborough Cathedral some years ago. One of the clergy told me that there is still an annual service in memory of Catherine of Aragon. The local Spanish community turn up and the Spanish Embassy send a representative.

Grant Milburn said...

Armyarty: I was reading Entwistle's "The Spanish Language" and noted that for a long while it was an open question as to which Iberian language would win the title of "The Spanish Language." Aragonese, Castilian and Leonese were all contenders, and of course the peninsula was also home to Portuguese,  Galician, Catalan, Arabic, Mozarabic, Basque and more.

Similarly in the island of Britain  circa 800, you had speakers of Cumbric, Welsh, Cornish, Gaelic, Pictish, Anglo-Saxon and  Norse, and if you went back in your time machine and told the inhabitants of the island that one of those languages would one day be spoken all around the world, would they guess correctly which one? Vikings are well-travelled: maybe Norse? Gaelic is expanding into Pictish territory: maybe Gaelic?

Percy said...

It's perhaps curious that neither Mary I nor Elizabeth I sought to give their respective mother's tombs more eminence. I am not even aware of royal visitations being recorded.