Study Guide

Katherine of Aragon in The Other Boleyn Girl

By Philippa Gregory

Katherine of Aragon

Born: Dec. 16, 1485, Died: Jan. 7, 1536
Known for: Being a widow, being divorced by Henry VIII, being exiled, praying a lot. (Source)

Starter Wife

Katherine is Henry's first wife, but Henry is not her first husband. She was previously married to Henry's brother, who died unexpectedly. Henry married her, but she failed to produce a male heir, causing him to stray.

Being a woman, Katherine is entirely blamed for the lack of a male heir. People don't seem to realize that it takes two to horizontal tango. Despite this, or maybe because of this, Katherine is extraordinarily strong-willed and willing to fight for her rights and her position. "She's not a woman who crumbles into distress. She's a woman of most powerful will" (9.72).

Katherine has the drive of Anne, but she is also able to be meek and obedient like Mary. For Henry, she is the best of both worlds. Mary sees Katherine as a classy dame, on top of it all: 

He might summon me or any other girl to his room, without disturbing the constant steady affection between them which had sprung from her ability, long ago, to love this man who as more foolish, more selfish, and less of a prince than she was a princess. (3.245)

Katherine cares for Henry for some reason, and she believes he will eventually return to her. "He would tire of her, as he tired of them all. Bessie Blount, you, Anne is only one of a line" (26.66).

She's right, but her big mistake is not including herself in this list: thee king gets over her, too.

The stress of her situation eventually becomes too much for Katherine to bear. "She could no longer summon any joy into her eyes. He had knocked it out of her, perhaps forever" (29.2). Although she is good at bending to Henry's will to keep him happy, she makes a conscious decision to stop babying him when he prevents her from seeing her daughter. Like Mary, Katherine will risk anything for her child.

The king turns against Katherine, of course, by banishing her in favor of Anne. Before she is kicked out of the castle for good, in fact, Katherine lives in fear—for example, she's constantly worried Anne might poison her to get her out of the picture forever. You know your life isn't going too hot when you need a dog to taste-test your food.

Throughout all this, however, Katherine clings to her faith and her daughter. These two things give her the strength to persevere through Hurricane Henry.

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