Letter from Katherine of Aragon to Queen Claude of France

Field of the Cloth of Gold

Field of the Cloth of Gold

There is a surviving letter written by Queen Katherine of Aragon of England, wife of King Henry VIII to Queen Claude de Valois, wife of King Francis I of France. It reads as follows:

“My good sister and cousin,

I have by your esquire of the stable received your good and affectionate letters, and I assure you that I have been much and very greatly consoled at having heard the good news, health, estate, and prosperity in which is my very dear and most beloved good son, and yours the dauphin. And believe what by your said esquire you will similarly hear, not only of the good health, estate, prosperity, and news of the King my husband, of me and of my daughter the princess, but also the affection, good will, and very great desire that the King my said lord and husband and I have to the good and continuance of the good love, friendship, and fraternal intelligence and alliance which now is between the two Kings our husbands, and their kingdoms, which I hold inseparable, and ever pray God that it may continue, which I desire above all things, and for my part shall exert myself for it as I have always done and shall do.

However, I will cease writing you a longer letter, except praying you that from time to time I may be participant of your good news, and of those of my said son the dauphin. Also, if there be any thing in which I could do you pleasure, I will do it with very good heart, as she who considers herself and wishes ever to continue.

Your good sister and cousin,
Katharine”

Katherine writes with the usual standard blandishments dictated by the etiquette of the time, mostly speaking of her own and Claude’s health and their children. Katherine was always an advocate for having England allied with Spain and her nephew the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. She would have found an English alliance with France to be distasteful and not in her nephew’s best interests. Her impersonal approach in the letter makes this clear.

It is also interesting to note that around the time this letter was written, plans were being formed for a meeting between Katherine’s husband Henry and Claude’s husband Francis to further their friendship and cement their alliance. This meeting, which took place between June 7th and 20th in 1520 between the village of Guines in the English held territory of Calais and the French village of Ardres. Katherine and Claude met in person during this meeting. This spectacle became legendary and would go down in history by the name of the “Field of the Cloth of Gold”.

Further reading: “Golden Age Ladies: Women Who Shaped the Courts of Henry VIII and Francis I” by Sylvia Barbara Soberton

17 responses

  1. I am just amazed that the physical letter survived. So much of history, factual and otherwise, has been lost that when something like this is known today, it is an informative and enjoyable view.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Is this a transcription of the original “physical” letter? Where is the physical letter to be found? Is there a reproduction on the internet somewhere? Source documents are so important in history.

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  2. I’m curious about Katherine’s referrals to “my son the dauphin”. To whom was she referring? Obviously not her biological son nor son in law; and although I’ve seen sister/brother/cousin used metaphorically (as Katherine addresses Claude in this letter), I’ve never seen that usage for son.

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  3. Thanks for the clarification! Honestly, in spite of the inaccuracies, I liked “The Tudors.” Since I’m not really a historian, I was able to take the incidents with a grain of salt and enjoy the interiors, the costumes and above all the acting. The show’s producers said they were going for impressions of the period, like the feelings of exhilaration followed by disappointment and dread during Henry’s reign, and I looked at the show that way.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As I read the different comments on your posts and others dealing with this period, to say nothing of the histories and novels’ I am continued to be amazed. Is there any other period in history that exacts as much romance as the late 14th and early 15th centuries?

    Liked by 1 person

    • The 11th century is quite amazing for the sheer variety of character interactions and events, especially in England and northern France. Very interesting people were having adventures in a succession of countries from Spain to Britain to Germany, Italy, Greece and the Middle East. This is true of both aristocrats and many commoners.

      This is why biographies of people of that time cannot be constructed from the history of one country alone.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I didn’t know Katherine was present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. It seems like one more historical inaccuracy of the series “The Tudors.” That show had Anne Boleyn accompanying Henry and making quite a show of herself, appearing as a scantily clad dancer (which we all know did not happen). But could Anne AND Katherine both have been present?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Claudia, I didn’t see “The Tudors” and I’m glad I didn’t. I know there were a lot of inaccuracies in the show. However, there was a meeting with Henry and Francis after the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Henry ennobled Anne with the title of Marquis of Pembroke in 1532 to give her the status she needed to appear on the European stage with him. They traveled together to France that same year so that may be the episode depicted in the show. Ironically, none of the titled French ladies agreed to meet with Anne during that meeting. In 1520, Anne was serving as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Claude so it is definitely possible Anne was at the Field of the Cloth of Gold with Queen Claude and Queen Catherine.

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    • As far as the show, the episode with The Field of Cloth of Gold, did not, in fact include Anne being there. At this time he wasn’t seeking to leave Katherine. I believe her sister Mary was portrayed as being with the French retinue. I don’t remember Anne. There is a scene where Henry sees Mary and the French King basically describes her as “his English mare”, intimating that he sleeps with her often.

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