Catherine was the youngest child of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. She came to England in 1501 at the age of sixteen to marry Prince Arthur, but only months after the marriage Arthur died. In 1509 she married Arthur's younger brother Henry VIII, and she bore him five children, of whom only Princess Mary, later Mary I, survived. Longing for a son and keen to marry Anne Boleyn, Henry questioned the validity of their marriage, which was finally annulled in 1533. Described as 'prudent and good', Catherine gained respect for her dignified behaviour during many years of humiliation. This portrait of Catherine, in which she holds a bunch of lavender, matches the description of her given by an Italian visitor to London two years before the annullment: 'If not handsome she is not ugly; she is somewhat stout and has always a smile on her countenance.'
Where to see this painting?
National Portrait Gallery, London
St Martin’s Place, London, Greater London, England, WC2H 0HE
If you are planning a visit to see this painting, check with the collection first. Paintings can be moved at short notice.