Katherine of Aragon: Marriage, Scholarship and Remembrance

  • Charlotte Bracchi

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    This masters by research observes how the scholarship and political successes of women in Tudor England are undermined by the overwhelming importance of marriage. This will be shown through the case study of Katherine of Aragon, who was a highly acclaimed and virtuous woman of her time. Katherine’s unusual education led her to be active in political capacities usually expected of men. These included being chosen to represent Spain as the first Ambassadress of Europe and later counsel the young King Henry VIII in foreign policy and be entrusted as his regent in 1513. Perhaps because of her foreign status, or her intellectual merit, Katherine succeeded as a queen consort, surpassing what was expected of her as a political tool of democracy.

    Instead, Katherine is often remembered as the loyal and stubborn first wife of Henry VIII, divorced for her inability to bear Henry a surviving son and heir. Unlike Castile, England was not ready for a female regnant monarch that Katherine had seen rule first-hand and having no male heir would lead to her downfall. As Katherine realised this, she became more concerned with the education of her only daughter, Mary. Katherine enlisted the help of humanist scholars to ensure that Mary would receive the ‘New Learning’ as it became known in England, so that she would receive a new view of the classics which combined their study with the importance of religion. This method became the set way for future monarchs, and this can be attributed to Katherine.

    The first chapter will look at Katherine’s contemporaneous presentation through her representation which survives on artifacts and portraits made during her reign and the iconography surrounding her emblem of the pomegranate. The second chapter will look at recreations of Katherine in verse, plays and artworks, beginning with recreations made closest to her death, continuing to the Victorian era. The last chapter will look at modern recreations of Katherine within films and historical fiction and her annual commemoration. This thesis will look at how Katherine’s memory has changed over time and show that her scholarly and political achievements have been overshadowed by the dynamics of her turbulent life and the romantic reputation of her marriages.
    Date of Award2021
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJonathan Durrant (Supervisor) & Diana Wallace (Supervisor)

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