Peterborough Cathedral: Catherine of Aragon’s final resting place
Dr Nicola Clark explains why Peterborough Castle is a place of pilgrimage for Catherine of Aragon fans…
The heritage space connected to Catherine of Aragon that I would recommend people to visit is Peterborough Cathedral, as this is where she's buried. Peterborough Cathedral, originally an abbey, is a Norman cathedral that’s very old – it was originally founded in AD 654. It has stood since then, or parts of it have anyway.
Catherine of Aragon was buried there in January 1536. Catherine died at Kimbolton Castle, and Henry VIII was then left in a quandary. Normally a queen consort would be given a very high-status burial somewhere in London, such as at St Paul's Cathedral or Westminster Abbey.
But Catherine was no longer a queen consort – she was a dowager princess. Henry didn’t want to bury her with all of the honour that he would give a reigning queen consort, but he also couldn’t do nothing, as he didn't want to annoy the Spanish monarchs.
Peterborough Abbey, as it was known at the time, was the nearest and biggest religious institution to Kimbolton Castle, where Catherine died. And so Henry ordered that she should be buried there. This happened at the very end of January 1536. There was a very big funeral cortege: there were lots of noble women acting as chief mourners, a lot of black cloth, a lot of candles. And Catherine was buried under a big tomb in the nave.
The abbey was dissolved in 1539, and it later became a cathedral. Catherine's tomb was then vandalised by Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers in the English Civil War. So the tomb slab that's there now is not the original – it was installed in 1895. But it's still a big site of pilgrimage for people who admire Catherine of Aragon. You can still go and lay flowers at her tomb today.
- Video | Catherine of Aragon: A woman born to rule
- Profile | Your guide to Catherine of Aragon: Henry VIII’s first wife and mother of Mary I
- Quiz | Henry VIII’s wives: how well do you know the six women he married?
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Dr Nicola Clark is a senior lecturer in early modern history at the University of Chichester whose books include Gender, Family and Politics (Oxford University Press, 2018)
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