Arthur and Catherine

Very soon after Catherine arrived in England she was married to Arthur, Prince of Wales, son of King Henry Vll….now read on….

Her wedding to Prince Arthur – a few days later – was no less theatrical but, considering it had been so long in coming for the young couple and so long in the planning, it all passed in something of a blur. Catherine could recall brief snippets of conversation, some even in English which, by now, she was beginning to understand little by little. It was, however, all a bit more overwhelming than she had anticipated, not least because the bedding of the princess with her new husband took place, of course, in public to show the world it was official and properly done.

Once the couple were actually in the bed the curtains were tactfully drawn around them but they both knew they were surrounded by ladies and gentlemen in waiting and would be throughout the night – many of them staying awake for a long time in case they were needed, of course.

All nearby sets of ears would be attuned to the least indication of need – which also meant that everyone would be able to hear all the exchanges between them too, except, perhaps, the softest of whispers. Both parties could barely understand a word of the other’s language though – so soft whispers proved to be of no use whatsoever – and on more than one occasion the mechanical logistics of lovemaking proved to be beyond them, unpractised and embarrassed as they both were.



The morning after……

They both woke early the following morning and Arthur, giving his new bride a quick buss on the cheek, leapt out of bed through the curtains before he could appear too embarrassed and speechless (as he knew himself to be).

Catherine heard him call his menservants to him loudly and imperiously (as only a fourteen-year-old could) and heard a huge laugh when he said, “So, gentlemen, I have been in Spain for the night”. Even after she had managed to work out what the individual words actually meant she had no idea why this could have caused such uproarious laughter as it did, and it took some considerable explaining from the slightly more worldly-wise Maria de Salinas to fix in her mind the ‘double-entendre’ of being “in Spain” all night.

When the penny finally did drop for her, she blushed beetroot and Maria had to work very hard not to upset her mistress further by breaking into the laughter she felt bubbling up. As it was, Catherine was cross with Maria for a full twenty-four hours before she began to see the funny side if it herself and let Maria talk to her again.

Indeed, it would be yet another full day before Catherine brought herself to make light of her first night of matrimony and confide to Maria that “not only had Arthur not been “in Spain” at all but had found himself quite a long way from the Spanish border before he let loose his cannon”. She “…hoped for a more intimate military encounter in due course!

Nevertheless, on the morning of the first day of the marriage itself, as soon as Catherine had vacated the heavily curtained bed three learned doctors had been sent by the king and the Count de Cabra jointly (two English doctors and one Spanish man of medicine) to inspect the bed.

As they hoped, they found some signs of semen on the bed and since Arthur’s signet ring, set with garnets, had severely scratched Catherine’s inner thigh during their fumblings, they found several small drops of blood, again as they hoped, although they clearly thought it was from somewhere other than Catherine’s thigh. The good doctors, after some mumbling discussions between them, felt able to go back to their respective masters and report, on the basis of their forensic evidence, that the princely marriage was off to an appropriate start. It was, however, a conclusion with which, had Catherine been privy to it, she would not have concurred.

The next few weeks consisted of much to-ing and fro-ing of the child bride and her child groom, getting ready to move their extended household to Wales as the king had ordered, with only an occasional foray into the recesses of the four-poster bed. Outside of the bed’s curtains Arthur was much given to noisy shows of boyhood bravado, heavy with innuendo and braggadocio, but behind the darkened screen, Catherine (and depending upon the timing of said episodes of melodrama, minutes or hours later, Maria de Salinas too) knew the story to be rather different. Arthur was either too quick or too soft, or as yet, too inept to conquer his maiden’s true virtue.

Catherine’s quiet requests for Maria’s help fell on stony ground too, since she could only provide theoretically sound advice, being unpractised herself – and Catherine forbade her friend to seek more mature advice. Indeed, probably the only sound counsel Maria felt seriously able to give was to “be patient – it will sort itself out”.

In fact it became a problem of diminished importance, anyway, since Arthur busied himself with plans to move to ‘take charge’ of the Welsh Marches at the behest of his father the king. And so the newlyweds only shared a bed every ten days or so.

Arthur hid his embarrassments behind a farrago of hinted claims, so was in no position to seek real help or counselling even if he had wished to. And, thus it went, that his personal courtiers, many of them only a little older than the prince himself, though, no doubt well versed in matters of lust as some of them were, allowed themselves to assume everything was rosy in the prince’s bed.

Sadly the issues never did get sorted out satisfactorily. Only a few weeks afterwards they moved to a different – but damp – household, which made the prince’s breathing much worse. And his sickly state became more worrisome to both his doctors and to his young bride.

To the great shock of his parents they received the unwelcome news of his untimely death, delivered by fast courier, only just a few hours after they had read, with amusement, of his rather grandiose plans for the enhancement of his household, in a letter whose journey had been started at a more normal speed some days earlier. The boy-prince was embalmed and rushed by chariot to the Abbey of St Wolfstan’s in Worcester where he was buried with but modest ceremony.


About Keith Melton - Green Lib Dem

Retired English liberal environmentalist living in Nottinghamshire; spent six years in Brazil. Author of Historical Novel - Captain Cobbler: the Lincolnshire Uprising 1536. Active member of the Green Liberal Democrats - (pressure group in Liberal Democrats) - was Founding Chair of GLD in 1988
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