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The Trial of Queen Catherine of Aragon, by Henry Nelson O'Neil (1846–1848, Birmingham Museums) (Public Domain)

Queen Katherine Of Aragon – Old And Deformed Wife Of Henry VIII?

In 1519, the French King Francis I quipped that Henry VIII had “an old deformed wife, while he himself is young and handsome”. It is generally assumed that the French King was referring to Katharine’s corpulent figure - several years later one eyewitness described her as “of low stature” and “rather stout”. Yet there is evidence that King Francis was referring not only to Katharine’s bulky figure but also to a deformity of her jaw—a deformity that has been overlooked by modern historians until now.

Complimentary portrait of Katherine of Aragon, with a slightly protruding jaw (1560) (Public Domain)

Complimentary portrait of Katherine of Aragon, with a slightly protruding jaw (1560) (Public Domain)

Spanish Katharine, England’s Queen

Katharine of Aragon was born in December 1485 as the youngest daughter of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon. In 1501 she was sent to England where she married Henry VII’s firstborn son and heir, Arthur Prince of Wales. Arthur died six months after the wedding and Katharine remained a widow until Henry VII’s death in 1509. One of the first decisions Henry VIII made on his accession was to marry Katharine. They were married privately on June 11, 1509 and jointly crowned on June 24. As a young girl Katharine was praised for her beauty but multiple pregnancies and losses of her children aged her prematurely. In 1515, when she was only 30 years old, the Venetian ambassador made a snide remark: “The Queen is rather ugly than otherwise, and is supposed to be pregnant. The damsels of her court are very handsome.”  By 1531, when she was 45, she was described as “of low stature, rather stout with a modest countenance.”


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