Victoria Eugenie: The English Queen of Spain

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In honor of King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia’s upcoming trip to the UK for an official state visit at the invitation of the Queen, we’re taking a beat to take a look at the ties between the two royal families, of which there are a few. While French and German blood have permeated the English line far and above everything else, there have been a few notable Anglo-Spanish alliances over the course of history.

The first was that of Eleanor of Castile to Edward I in 1254. Then there was the famous union of Katherine of Aragon and Henry VIII, cemented in 1509. Finally, there was the inauspicious marriage of their daughter, Mary I, to Philip II of Spain in 1554. These were supplemented by the reverse, too – English princess who became Castilian or Spanish queen consorts. Henry II’s daughter, Eleanor, married Alfonso VIII in 1177. And Edward III’s granddaughter, Katherine of Lancaster, ended a civil war by marrying  Henry III in 1388.

The last of these matches worth noting was not between an “English princess,” per se, but she was an Englishwoman all the same, and one with deep-rooted familial ties to the Houses of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Windsor. Her name was Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg and she was the only daughter of Princess Beatrice, youngest daughter of Queen Victoria. She was born on October 24, 1887 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, the same year her grandmother was celebrating 50 years on the throne. Victoria referred to her as “my little Jubilee grandchild.”

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The Phantom Pregnancies of Mary I

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Mary I’s brief reign is best remembered for the burning of Protestants, acts which earned her the lasting moniker, “Bloody Mary.” But her five years on the throne were also marked by personal, as well as public, loss. When Mary claimed her throne in 1553 and put down the rebellion of Lady Jane Grey and the Dudley family, she quickly moved forward with marriage. She was 37, her childbearing years were numbered and it was her primary duty to not only re-connect England to Rome, but ensure a Catholic succession.

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The Death of Katherine of Aragon

On this day, January 7, in 1536, Katherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII, died at Kimbolton Castle in Cambridgeshire. Her body was buried in the nearby Peterborough Castle with all the honors accorded to a Dowager Princess of Wales, as the widow of long-dead Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, and, markedly, not as a queen consort.

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Katherine’s signature: “Katherine the Queen”

In the last days of December 1535, Katherine wrote her will and one last letter to Henry VIII that read:

My most dear lord, king and husband,

The hour of my death now drawing on, the tender love I owe you forceth me, my case being such, to commend myself to you, and to put you in remembrance with a few words of the health and safeguard of your soul which you ought to prefer before all worldly matters, and before the care and pampering of your body, for the which you have cast me into many calamities and yourself into many troubles. For my part, I pardon you everything, and I wish to devoutly pray God that He will pardon you also. For the rest, I commend unto you our daughter Mary, beseeching you to be a good father unto her, as I have heretofore desired. I entreat you also, on behalf of my maids, to give them marriage portions, which is not much, they being but three. For all my other servants I solicit the wages due them, and a year more, lest they be unprovided for. Lastly, I make this vow, that mine eyes desire you above all things.
Katharine the Quene.

News of her death reached Henry VIII and the royal court the next day. According to certain chroniclers, Henry and his second wife donned yellow, which was viewed by some as a disrespectful sign of celebration, and by others as a respectful nod to yellow as a traditional color of mourning. Regardless, on the day of Katherine’s funeral, Anne suffered a miscarriage and four months later she would be arrested, charged with treason, divorced and beheaded on Tower Hill.

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