Weak as Steel

Although I think Katherina of Aragon was daffy to risk so much just to fight her divorce from Henry VIII so long, I have all kinds of respect and admiration for the strength and smarts it took to do so. Occasionally I stumble onto things that remind me of how effect her tactics were – especially the “poor little silly me” ruse she employed to great effect to disarm those who would bully her. I hit one today in Giles Tremlett’s biography of her – which I highly recommend by the way.

In the summer of 1529 and in the midst of the Blackfriars ‘trial’ about her marriage’s validity, Cardinals Wolsey and Campeggio were sent by Henry to try badgering Katherina one more time, much to their exhausted dismay. They were supposed to get her to agree to a divorce, and her aim was to delay the sentence at Blackfriars long enough to get an answer back from her appeal to the Pope. Thus, she stonewalled them and when they tried to press her she declaimed, “Alas my lords! I am a poor woman, lacking both wit and understanding sufficiently to answer approved wise men as ye both, in so weighty a matter … I am a simple woman, destitute and barren of friendship and counsel here in a foreign region.” She then spoke with them at length in privet.

Campeggio, won over by Katharina and fearful of having the responsibility of declaring her marriage void, found an excuse to delay his formal ruling on the matter. Thus, the Pope’s agreement to her appeal arrived in time to take the matter out of England’s hands and move it back to the Holy See where she had a better chance of winning her case. Katherina had yet again stooped to conquer.

You go, girl.

For more information about Katherina, whom I both admire for her strength and condemn for her fanatical resistance to Henry’s attempted annulment to the detriment of her daughter, I also strongly suggest you read the excellent biography of this complicated queen written by Amy Licence:

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