The unexpected death of Prince Arthur threw the plans of Henry VII into disarray. Henry VII wanted a strong bond with Spain so that France would feel surrounded by two potential enemies. This, Henry believed, would stop France helping claimants to the throne such as Perkin Warbeck. Opponents to the Tudors had gathered in Paris to plan their next course of action and Henry wanted to put a stop to this by ‘leaning’ on the French monarchy. Spain also feared a French attack especially over border issues in and around the Pyrenees. Therefore an ally to the north of France, Spain hoped, would act as a deterrent. This was much of the rationale behind the marriage between Prince Arthur and Catherine of Aragon. By cementing a relationship between both nations and with France sandwiched in between, Henry hoped that he could fully concentrate on domestic issues.


The sudden death of Arthur upset these plans. Would Catherine return to Spain as a widow thereby possibly ending the relationship that had been created? Henry VII saw an easy solution to the problem. Catherine would marry Prince Henry, the future king of England. However, for this to happen an annulment had to be granted by the Pope or it would never have taken place. Below is a summary of the Papal Bull by Julius II issued on December 26th 1503 that allowed the marriage to go ahead.


“That the pope, according to the greatness of his authority, having received a petition from prince Henry and the princess Catharine (sic), bearing, That whereas the princess was lawfully married to prince Arthur (which was perhaps consummated by the carnalis copula) who was dead without any issue, but they, being desirous to marry for preserving the peace between the crowns of England and Spain, did petition his holiness for his dispensation; therefore the pope, out of his care to maintain peace among all catholic kings, did absolve them from al censures under which they might be , and dispensed with the impediment of their affinity, notwithstanding any apostolical constitutions or ordinances to the contrary, and gave them leave to marry; or if they were already married, he confirming it, required their confessor to enjoin them some healthful penance for their having married before the dispensation was obtained.”


The summary was done by Bishop Burnet of Salisbury during the reign of Charles II. The Papal Bull was written in Latin but Burnet wrote his summary in English. The Bull was about three times longer than the summary and though written in 1503 was not published until 1505.

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