A special owner: Catherine of Aragon’s breviary

On 14 November 1501, Catalina de Aragón, daughter of Isabel of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragón, was married to Arthur, Prince of Wales, at old St Paul’s Cathedral in London. The couple lived in Ludlow Castle on the Welsh border for several months, until in Spring 1502 they both fell ill, probably to the ‘sweating sickness’. Arthur died on 2 April 1502; Catherine recovered to find herself a widow. She resided in virtual imprisonment in Durham House in London while her relations on both sides determined what was to happen to her and her dowry. On 11 June, 1509, she was married again to Arthur’s younger brother, who had just ascended the English throne as Henry VIII. She was by now twenty-three years of age; the king was a few days short of his eighteenth birthday. The Pope granted a dispensation for Henry to marry his brother’s widow, which was illegal, on the grounds that the marriage to Arthur was never consummated. The rest, as they say, is history. The book shown here is a Breviary (see ‘Ritual and Liturgy’), which contained all the liturgical texts for the Roman office. It is a small 16o, for devotional rather than ritual use. In the fly-leaf it bears the inscription: ‘este libro es de la p[rince]sa de galis’. While nothing else attests to the ownership of Catherine of Aragon, the date fits the year of her first marriage and brief ownership of the title ‘princesa de galis’. Later, by a nice irony of history, it bears the marks of the censorship of the word ‘Pape’, which was one of the consequences of her ill-fated second marriage. In the eighteenth century it was purchased by Marmaduke Fothergill, who left his large collection of liturgical books to York Minster. BC

Breviarium secundum consuetudinem usus Romanum. [Paris], p[er] Thielma[n]nu[m] Keruer Parisiis impressum. [1502].


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