Wednesday, May 22, 2013

King Henry’s Wives and Family Values: Catherine of Aragon

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King Henry's Wives and Family Values: Catherine of Aragon
"O ye people! fear your Lord, Who created you from a single soul and created therefrom its mate, and from them twain spread many men and women; and fear Allah, in Whose name you appeal to one another, and fear Him particularly respecting ties of relationship. Indeed, Allah watches over you." (Al Quran 4:2)

Catherine pleading her case against divorce from Henry. Painting by Henry Nelson O'Neil
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD
Queen Catherine of Aragon was the daughter of Queen Isabella of Spain and the first wife of King Henry VIII.
What does she or her biography have to teach us about the family values, especially the contrast of Christianity and Islam or the Bible and the Quran?
Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand are known for completing the Reconquista, ordering conversion or exile of their Muslim and Jewish subjects and in supporting and financing Christopher Columbus1492 voyage that led to the opening of the "New World." Isabella was granted the title Servant of God by the Catholic Church in 1974.
On 2 January 1492 Isabella and Ferdinand entered Granada to receive the keys of the city and the principal mosque was reconsecrated as a church.[83] The Treaty of Granada was signed later that year, and in it Ferdinand and Isabella gave their word to allow the Muslims and Jews of Granada to live in peace. However they broke their promise soon after, and then began the Inquisition.
Isabella and Ferdinand had seven children. Five survived infancy and lived to adulthood.  Queen Catherine of Aragon was the youngest.
She was the first of the six wives of King Henry VIII, whom he married one after another.
His six wives are six opportunities to contrast the teachings of Islam and Christianity about Family Values.
The six women to hold the title "queen consort" of King Henry VIII, between 1509 and 1547, were:
  1. Catherine of Aragon (marriage annulled; died while detained under guard at Kimbolton Castle);
  2. Anne Boleyn (executed);
  3. Jane Seymour (died days after giving birth, widely believed to be following birth complications);
  4. Anne of Cleves (marriage annulled);
  5. Catherine Howard (executed);
  6. Catherine Parr (widowed).
A common mnemonic device to remember the fates of Henry's consorts is:
'Divorced Beheaded Died;
Divorced Beheaded Survived.'
There is also a rhyme:
King Henry the Eighth,
to six wives he was wedded.
One died, one survived,
two divorced, two beheaded.
However, Henry did not "divorce" two wives; he had the marriages annulled.
This article is about his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.
She has two lessons to teach us in our comparison of Islam and Christianity, regarding family values, as will become apparent during the reading of this article.
She was the youngest surviving child of Ferdinand and Isabella, the joint rulers of Spain, who successfully defeated and pushed out the last of the Muslims or the Moors from Spain.  As was common for princesses of the day, her parents almost immediately began looking for a political match for her. When she was three year old, she was betrothed to Arthur, the son of Henry VII of England. Arthur was not even quite two at the time.
When she was almost 16, in 1501, Catherine made the journey to England. It took her three months, and her ships weathered several storms, but she safely made landfall at Plymouth on October 2, 1501. Catherine and Arthur were married on 14 November 1501 in Old St. Paul's Cathedral, London.
After the wedding and celebrations, the young couple moved to Ludlow Castle on the Welsh border. Less than six months later, Arthur was dead, possibly of the 'sweating sickness.'  She insisted all her life that her marriage to Arthur was never consummated.
She had to do that to justify her marriage to Arthur's younger brother, King Henry the VIII, as there was a prohibition in the Old Testament, against marrying a brother's widow:
If a man marries his brother's wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonored his brother. They will be childless. (Leviticus 20:21)

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