The service on January 27 was led by the clergy of St Peter and All Souls Church, who were joined by the priests of Peterborough’s other Catholic parishes. Fr Adam Sowa MS in his homily said: “For the last 487 years faithful Christians have sheltered in the shade of Katherine, to appreciate the grace of God given to her and the Church.”
Katherine of Aragon was born on the December 16, 1485, and passed away on January 7, 1536. Although born a Spanish Princess, by marriage she was the wife of King Henry VIII and thus Queen of England from the June 11, 1509. Katherine was the daughter of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon. She was three years old when she was betrothed to Arthur Tudor, the then heir to the English throne.
They married in 1501, but Arthur Tudor was a sick man and died five months after the wedding. Katherine’s place in England was now unclear. Deprived of her status as Princess of Wales, she now served as the ambassador of her homeland to England, becoming the first known female ambassador in European history.
In 1509 Henry Tudor, now King Henry VIII, fell deeply in love with Katherine, and took her as his wife and Queen. In her time as Queen of England she was diligent and dutiful, as she governed the Kingdom as regent while Henry VIII was leading a military campaign against France. During her regency, and with the focus of England on France, the Scottish took the opportunity to invade northern England. Undeterred, Katherine played a leading role in commanding the English army and defeating the Scottish at the Battle of Flodden. She also led the new fashion for women to be educated and often gave large donations to English universities. Furthermore, she was known to be kind and generous towards the poor.
“Despite having a very impressive character,” comments Oliver Wessex, “Katherine did have pain in her personal life. Of all her children, only her daughter Princess Mary lived until adulthood. Wanting a male heir to the House of Tudor, Henry VIII began to lust after Anne Boleyn. He sought to have their marriage annulled, which would lead to the horrors of the English Reformation. When Pope Clement VII refused to annul the marriage, Henry VIII defied him by establishing the Church of England. In 1533 Henry had his first marriage declared null and void and then proceeded to take Anne Boleyn as his wife.”
“Kathrine always refused to accept that Henry could claim the place of the Pope in England and also defended the sanctity of the holy sacrament of marriage, never doubting her place as the king’s rightful wife and queen. For these convictions, Katherine was held in great affection by huge numbers of the people of England, a true Queen of hearts.”
Henry saw that Katherine was banished from the royal court and she lived out the rest of her days at Kimbolton Castle, passing away there in January 1536 of cancer. The English people held Katherine with great love and admiration. When her death became known, many of the English people went into a state of deep mourning. Katherine is buried in Peterborough Cathedral.
Pictured above are clergy from Peterborough at the Katherine of Aragon Mass.