Today’s match-up is one that a number of people have been waiting for. In a round between Mary I’s mother and her husband, who would you want on your side if you could rely only on her or his wits?
Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England
Date: December 16, 1485 – January 7, 1536
Brief blurb: Catherine was the daughter of the powerful “Reyes Catolicos,” Ferdinand and Isabella. At the age of three, she was engaged to the heir of the English throne, Arthur Tudor. Married by proxy in 1499, the two were publicly wed at Old St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1501. The marriage was not a long one, as Arthur died on April 2, 1502. Arthur’s death turned Catherine’s world upside down – although the Pope issued a dispensation so that Catherine could marry her brother-in-law, the Duke of York (canon law forbade the marriage of a widow to her husband’s brother), Henry VII was in no rush to see his only remaining male heir married to a woman whose political usefulness had waned (this due to the death of her mother, Isabella). Upon Henry VII’s death, however, the former Duke of York became Henry VIII, and he wasted no time in making Catherine his bride. Although she would be pregnant numerous times, many of Catherine’s and Henry’s children were either stillborn or died in infancy. One daughter, Mary, survived to adulthood.
Strengths: Catherine was no shrinking violet. She persevered through mistreatment to become Henry VIII’s queen. While Henry went to war with France in 1513, Catherine was appointed Regent. The defense of the realm rested in her hands when Scottish forces invaded, and she both raised an army and rallied the troops. Years later, when Henry decided that his marriage to Catherine was unlawful (based on his belief that Catherine was not a virgin when they wed – a belief that Catherine denied to her dying breath), she steadfastly refused to accept his ruling that she was merely “the Dowager Princess of Wales.” She was backed by a host of supporters, including (amongst many) Henry’s sister Mary, Thomas More, and the Pope.
Weaknesses: Despite her tenacity, Catherine ultimately did not regain her position as legitimate queen in Henry’s eyes. She raised no army against him to press her claim, and was restricted from ever seeing their daughter, Mary, before her death in 1536.
Manner of death: Natural
Philip II of Spain, King of Spain, Portugal, Naples, and Sicily
Date: May 21, 1527 – September 13, 1598
Brief blurb: Philip was the son of Catherine’s nephew, Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire, and Isabella of Portugal. As his father’s heir, and as the heir of “Los Reyes Catolicos,” Philip viewed himself as the defender of the Roman Catholic faith. It was under his tenure that Spain entered a “Golden Age” of exploration, literature, and music (yes, Elizabeth I was not the only European monarch to enjoy such a distinction in this period). During his lifetime, he would have four wives – Maria Manuela of Portugal, Mary Tudor of England, Elizabeth of Valois, and Anna of Austria. It’s thanks to his relationship with Mary Tudor and her sister, Elizabeth, however, that he is included in this tournament.
Strengths: Philip’s nickname was “the Prudent.” Over his lifetime, he increased the security of ships carrying precious cargo from the Americas, which went to funding his military. It was during his time as king that Spain won a decisive victory over the Ottoman empire in 1571. It was in this battle, the Battle of Lepanto, that the Ottoman fleet flirted with complete destruction. Overall, Spain was never more powerful than when Philip was its monarch.
Weaknesses: Philip constantly dealt with local assemblies who challenged his authority. Bankruptcy dogged Philip throughout his reign, despite the riches that came from Spanish exploration. Philip’s military exploits did not help matters, and his domestic policies increased Spain’s debt as well. While married to Mary I, their attack on France resulted in England’s loss of Calais. He failed in his attempt to halt Protestantism’s influence, and he never regained complete control of the Netherlands after war broke out in 1568. On four separate occasions, the first and primary attempt occurring in 1588, his Spanish Armada failed to storm English beaches.
Manner of death: Natural