Do you remember studying the infamous King Henry VIII and his six wives in high school history? You may remember Catherine of Aragon as Henry’s first wife.
But did you know she was an incredible, strong, Catholic woman who supported the arts and defended the faith? Here are six things you need to know about Catherine:
1. She was the daughter of Queen Isabella
Catherine was born in 1485, the daughter of Queen Isabella I of Castile. Isabella is famous for her support and financing of Christopher Columbus’s 1492 discover of the Americas. Isabella also strove to unite the country under one faith of Catholicism, along with her husband, Ferdinand.
In 1974, the Catholic Church recognized Isabella as a Servant of God.
2. Catherine was a third order Franciscan
Catherine took vows as a third order of Saint Francis as Queen of England. She integrated her duties as a Franciscan into her life in the royal court.
After King Henry VII divorced her, Catherine said, “I would rather be a poor beggar’s wife and be sure of heaven, than queen of all the world and stand in doubt thereof by reason of my own consent.”
3. Her coat of arms was full of Christian symbolism
The pomegranate is an ancient symbol for fertility and regeneration. In Christian tradition, the pomegranate also symbolizes Christ’s resurrection.
In the 20th century, her grave was redecorated, and Mary of Teck added banners to mark her grave site. Every year, people gather to place candles, flowers, and pomegranates on her grave.
4. Saint Thomas More counted her as a friend
Catherine was a supporter of the Renaissance, and great scholars called her a friend. One of these men who stood beside her throughout her divorce experience was Saint Thomas More.
After the divorce, Thomas refused to take the Oath of Supremacy, which acknowledged Henry as the head of the Church of England. Because of his refusal, Thomas was convicted of treason and beheaded.
He was canonized in 1935.
5. She was nominated as a defender of the faith
Many honored Catherine as a faithful Catholic woman throughout her lifetime. Alfonso de Villa Sancta, a monk of the Friars Minor dedicated his book to her. Alfonso also nominated her for the title of “Defender of the Faith” for her public denial of Martin Luther’s arguments against Catholicism.
6. She fought for women’s education
Juan Luis Vives dedicated his book, The Education of Christian Women, to Catherine. She also commissioned Juan’s book project. The work argued that women have the right to receive an education. Catherine commissioned the book in defense of her daughter, Mary’s education.
Catherine also fought for the rights of the poor and for their proper treatment.