After a hit season on West End, ‘Six’ recently debuted in Australia and on Broadway. A historically inspired musical, it reimagines Henry VIII’s wives as a pop group, telling their funny and heart wrenching stories through song. In this series, discover more about the real-life figures behind the show, with “Six Facts” for each of the Six Queens.
The first Queen, and Henry VIII’s first wife, is Katherine of Aragon.
Katherine of Aragon
‘Married 24 years I was a paragon of royalty, my loyalty is to the Vatican, so if you try to dump me, you won’t try that again.’
(Katherine of Aragon in the musical ‘Six’)
Katherine was a Spanish Princess, who first married Arthur Prince of Wales and then, after being widowed, married his brother Henry VIII. Despite giving birth to a healthy girl, the future Mary I, she displeased Henry by not producing a male heir. The Pope refused to allow Henry VIII a divorce, so, in order to marry Anne Boleyn and secure his succession, he broke from the Catholic Church and annulled his marriage to Katherine.
Fact 1 – Daughter of a Warrior Queen
Katherine’s mother Queen Isabella was the ruler of Spain, alongside but not subordinate to, her husband King Ferdinand. She was not only heavily involved in politics, but also contributed strategically to battles. At times, she would accompany her armies and even gave birth during campaigns.
Fact 2 – Almost married Henry’s father
After Henry VII was widowed in 1503, he asked Katherine’s parents for permission to marry her, likely in order to keep her large dowry. The 28-year age gap, and the greater benefits of marrying Prince Henry, probably made Katherine’s mother Isabella dismiss it as ‘a thing not to be endured’.
Fact 3 – Produced a male heir
Katherine was condemned for not having a boy, but she actually did give birth to a prince in 1510. England celebrated the securing of the succession with fireworks, gun salutes and feasting. Henry and Katherine were at first overjoyed but then devastated when the baby died two months later.
Fact 4 – Repelled a Scottish invasion
When the Scottish invaded in 1513, Henry was overseas and Katherine was temporarily ruling England. She was in charge of the war effort, organising supplies, leading strategy and inspiring her troops to victory. The resulting Battle of Flodden ended with 10,000 Scottish deaths, including King James of Scotland.
Fact 5 – Nephew to the Pope’s Jailer
While the Vatican was considering Katherine’s divorce, the troops of the Holy Roman Emperor sacked Rome, taking the Pope prisoner. While there were valid religious justifications for him to refuse, fear of Katherine’s nephew was likely a contributing factor.
Fact 6 – Imprisoned for her Convictions
After Katherine rejected the annulment, the King’s councillors tried to force her agreement with harsh and aggressive tactics. She was subject to house arrest, imprisonment of servants, death threats and permanent separation from her daughter. Regardless, she conducted herself as Queen until her death.
In the musical ‘Six’, Katherine of Aragon was renowned for being ‘humble and loyal… all along’ except when it came to God or her conscience. She is portrayed as an utterly determined woman and there was ‘no way’ that she would stand aside.
Evidently, ‘No Way’ is Katherine’s anthem of determination. This upbeat and sassy song reiterates her refusal to accept divorce and her insistence that she had done nothing to deserve it. Check out the Studio Cast Recording by Renée Lamb on Spotify.
“So excited to work with these QUEENS on this awesome show.”
Chloé Zuel is playing Katherine of Aragon in the currently postponed Australian Tour of ‘Six’. Most recently seen as Anita in the National Tour of West Side Story, Chloe began her professional career after graduating from EDI5 International in 2007. She spent more than two years performing in Japan with Universal Studios, before making her National Tour Debut as Dynamite in ‘Hairspray’. Her other highlight roles include Pilar in ‘Legally Blonde’, Eponine Understudy in ‘Les Miserables’ (National Tours) and Reno in ‘Dusty’ (Hayes Theatre Company).
For more on ‘Six’, you can follow the musical on Facebook and Instagram, listen to the cast recording on Spotify or see the National Tour in Melbourne, Adelaide or Wellington, which will recommence at an unconfirmed date. To learn about Katherine of Aragon, browse the historical fiction novels ‘Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen’ by Alison Weir and ‘The Constant Princess’ by Philippa Gregory, as well as the television series ‘The Tudors’.
Photos sourced via Facebook and the Daily Art Magazine.