Haiku: King of the World

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Nature of the realm

I dispute – your sovereignty

indisputable

Copyright Francis 2021

On This Day: The Birth of Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England

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On this day in 1485 was born the ‘Spanish’ princess, Catalina de Aragon near Madrid, known in the English speaking world as Catherine of Aragon.

Catherine married the heir to the English throne, Arthur Prince of Wales, in 1501. However, Arthur died soon afterwards. When Arthur’s brother, Henry ascended the throne on the death of his father in 1509, he quickly married his brother’s widow, forging an important alliance between England and Spain.

However, over the course of the next twenty years, Catherine failed to deliver Henry a living male heir, her only major ‘crime’. Following a long protracted dispute between Henry and Papal legates, during which the Pope refused to annul the marriage, Henry declared himself Head of the Church of England, allowing him to divorce Catherine and marry his mistress, Anne Boleyn in 1533.

Catherine died in January 1536 at Kimbolton Castle, and is buried in Peterborough Cathedral.

copyright Francis Barker 2019

Pictures of Peterborough Cathedral No.1

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Peterborough is a modern city, with a population well over 200,000. After WW2 Peterborough was no bigger than a large market town – with one of the best cathedrals in England.

Until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the late 1530s, Peterborough Abbey was one of the largest monasteries in the whole of eastern England. Luckily, at the time of the Dissolution. Henry VIII granted Peterborough city status by allowing the abbey church to become a cathedral. We should at least be grateful for that and that it is still a magnificent structure today, with modern elements incorporated inside.

copyright Francis Barker 2019

England’s Heritage, Peterborough Cathedral Part III – Some special features

Peterborough Cathedral is probably one of the most underrated churches in England.

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The Gothic fan vaulting at the east end of the cathedral is remarkable.

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The cathedral also has three notable shrines to saints. The one above is Saint Oswald’s chapel, an old English saint, whose remains (reputedly an arm) were brought here.

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There is also a shrine to Saint Benedict with a beautiful wood carving at the entrance. Peterborough Cathedral is in fact the Abbey church of the former Benedictine Abbey, dissolved by Henry VIII when he became head of the Church of England.

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Most interestingly, there is a shrine to three old English (Anglo-Saxon) saints, Kyneburgha, Kyneswitha (spelling varies) and Tibba, unusual but fascinating names of a largely forgotten era.

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The spacious choir has some wonderful wood carving.

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words and photographs copyright Francis Barker 2019

England’s Heritage, Peterborough Cathedral Part II – Two Famous Queens

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Peterborough Cathedral in the east of England is one of the country’s biggest and most beautiful churches, with an association with two famous queens.

The long nave is quite stunning, with a beautiful roof and with a modern golden image of Christ suspended high as a focal point.

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The cathedral is dominated by Norman and early English architecture, with numerous examples of Norman arches, such as these interlacing examples above.

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Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England, is buried here.

The cathedral is also notable for its association with two famous queens.

The first was Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England when she was married to Henry VIII. Catherine was buried here in 1536 and her tomb is still something of a shrine to her memory, with pomegranates very prominent as her symbol because the fruit appears on her badge. Pomegranates are an ancient symbol for fecundity and regeneration.

Catherine certainly suffered much during her husband’s long and protracted break with Rome, in which she was the innocent victim, her only crime it would seem was not being able to produce a living male heir for Henry to perpetuate the Tudor dynasty. This was how she was treated after being completely dutiful to the king, but Henry had to have his way. Her motto, which translates as ‘humble and loyal’, is a phrase she very much lived up to.

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There is a portrait of Catherine by her tomb.

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Pomegranates have had a long association with Catherine of Aragon.

The second queen associated with Peterborough Cathedral is Mary Queen of Scots.

Mary inherited the Scottish throne after only a few days of being born, thrusting her into a world of political intrigue and shenanigans which she was never able to control.

She essentially became a pawn of more powerful rulers and some despicable characters. However, in 1559 she duly became Queen Consort to Francis II of France, solidifying Scotland’s long alliance with France.

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Scottish symbols hang in honour of Mary who was initially buried here in 1587.

Sadly within 18 months the young kind died prematurely. Had he lived, Mary’s life would have turned out entirely differently. As it was, she became a teenage widow and a long series of political and personal disasters ensued when she returned to Scotland. Eventually she fled to England and came under Elizabeth’s control.

After many years’ imprisonment in England, during which the still substantial Catholic faction within England with aid from Spain continually conspired to depose Elizabeth and put Mary on the English throne, she was finally executed at nearby Fotheringhay Castle in 1587.

She was initially buried in Peterborough Cathedral, but her son, James I of England, had her remains transferred to Westminster Abbey in London.

words and photographs copyright Francis Barker 2019