The Tudor monarchy

The Aragon alliance

Henry VIIIn 1485, Henry VII came to the throne of England, the first of the Tudor dynasty of monarchs. His elder son, Arthur, was born in 1486 and betrothed as a child to Katharine of Aragon, daughter of the King of Spain. They were married in 1501 when she was sixteen and he was fifteen. However, Arthur died in 1502. Negotiations then took place to enable Henry VII's second son, Prince Henry, to marry Katharine instead, the alliance between Spain and England being seen as politically desirable.

More on Katharine's first marriage: Annulling the marriage. In order to do this, a special dispensation had to be obtained from Pope Julius II, since the marriage of a woman with her deceased husband's brother was within the relationships prohibited by the Church. Such concerns are reflected in Hamlet (see Themes and significant ideas: Incest).

The dispensation was granted because the marriage to Arthur had not, according to Katharine's sworn declaration, been consummated – that is, the couple had not had sexual intercourse — and so it could be annuled.

Henry VIII becomes king

In 1509, Henry VII died and Henry VIII came to the throne. Shortly afterwards he married his brother's widow. They had seven children, but only one survived – a daughter, Mary. Henry felt that she could not possibly follow him in the line of succession to the throne:

  • There had not been a queen as ruler of England for 400 years
  • At that time the accession of a woman had led to civil war.
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