21st June 1529: Katherine of Aragon’s Famous Speech
On this day in history Queen Katherine of Aragon gave a passionate speech to her husband King Henry VIII at the Legatine Court at Blackfriars. The Legatine Court was set up to examine the validity of King Henry VIII’s marriage to Queen Katherine of Aragon. The court was presided over by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey from England and Cardinal Campeggio, the Popes representative from Rome. At the opening of the court Henry VIII declared his love for Katherine but also his concerns about the validity of their marriage as he felt he had disobeyed God by marrying his brother’s widow. When it came turn for Katherine to speak she did not stand and defend herself to the Court, instead she went to Henry and fell to her knees before him saying….
“Sir, I beseech you for all the love that hath been between us, and for the love of God, let me have justice. Take of me some pity and compassion, for I am a poor woman, and a stranger born out of your dominion. I have here no assured friends, and much less impartial counsel…
Alas! Sir, wherein have I offended you, or what occasion of displeasure have I deserved?… I have been to you a true, humble and obedient wife, ever comfortable to your will and pleasure, that never said or did anything to the contrary thereof, being always well pleased and contented with all things wherein you had any delight or dalliance, whether it were in little or much. I never grudged in word or countenance, or showed a visage or spark of discontent. I loved all those whom ye loved, only for your sake, whether I had cause or no, and whether they were my friends or enemies. This twenty years or more I have been your true wife and by me ye have had divers children, although it hath pleased God to call them out of this world, which hath been no default in me…
When ye had me at first, I take God to my judge, I was a true maid, without touch of man. And whether it be true or no, I put it to your conscience. If there be any just cause by the law that ye can allege against me either of dishonesty or any other impediment to banish and put me from you, I am well content to depart to my great shame and dishonour. And if there be none, then here, I most lowly beseech you, let me remain in my former estate… Therefore, I most humbly require you, in the way of charity and for the love of God – who is the just judge – to spare me the extremity of this new court, until I may be advised what way and order my friends in Spain will advise me to take. And if ye will not extend to me so much impartial favour, your pleasure then be fulfilled, and to God I commit my cause!”
After her speech, instead of returning to her seat Queen Katherine of Aragon turned and left the court ignoring the calls for her to return. Apparently as she left Katherine stated that “On, on, it makes no matter, for it is no impartial court for me, therefore I will not tarry. Go on.”
Talk about a brave woman!