Sweetbriar Dreams

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Sunday, 29 January 2017

An Audience with Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon

It's been quite a while since I last blogged about the wonders of Peterborough Cathedral, and I apologise.  This weekend marks an important date in the Cathedral's diary, the date of  Henry VIII's first wife's burial.  Katherine of Aragon was buried on the 29 January 1536 and the Cathedral celebrates this with various activities and events.  With the new Visitor Centre now open, part of this Festival was to attend an audience with the Royal couple.  So, hold on to you heads, let's be careful how we tread around him, grab your flask of ale and let's go on a historical tour of this beautiful place.

If you visit Peterborough Cathedral, I would suggest that you visit the Visitor and Learning Centre first.  As you go through the Norman Arch from Cathedral Square and the magnificent Cathedral is set in front of you, walk towards it and you will see the Centre to your right.  Entrance is free, however with the amount of history you are about to see, don't forget a donation on your way out!

The reason I suggest to see this new gem on the Cathedral grounds, is because it sets you up to understand the history of the Cathedral, along with the story of Catherine of Aragon, Mary Queen of Scots, and the timeline of this area of Peterborough.  One amazing document behind one of the panels of glass is this, the original letter from King James I requesting that his mother, Mary of Queen of Scots, be exhumed so that he could bury her at Westminster Abbey.  I can only make out certain words, but there it is, a historical document that blows my mind!

As a result of this letter, his mother was exhumed and the grave in the Cathedral now lays empty.

Do you see now why I say to visit the Visitor Centre first?  

We were here for Katherine of Aragon though and one of the rooms in the Centre has a reproduction of a dress that she would have worn, handstitched in the same way that would have been created back in her day.  The room was plain, but excellently presented, the walls adorned with information on her life timeline, all surrounding the dress with its intricate detail.

Catherine of Aragon's grave lays proudly below her standard.  She was after all, Queen of England.  Her grave is usually adorned with one or two pomegranates which are depicted on her coat of arms, however, with the significance of this anniversary, candles were lit, many pomegranates and flowers had adorned her tomb stone.  Unlike Mary, Katherine is still here, below this marble slab which was placed over her grave in 1895 after donations were made to reinstate this (the original destroyed and by Oliver Cromwell's men and used in the Dean's summerhouse!).

Either side of the tomb were placed candles depicting the pomegranate, her heraldic symbol.

However, we had come for the main event, the Audience with King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon which was set in the Knights Chamber, built around 1220 and a place where the Knights Templar used to meet.  Once again the pomegranates were on show.

The audience was informative and the Q&A was incredibly interesting, varying from the shapes of the bonnets, the amount of clothes they wore from one outfit, how they whitened their shirts with urine and the lack of bathtimes they had!  The three of them, Henry VIII, Katharine of Aragon and the Lady in Waiting were asked questions and without a bat of an eyelid they gave the most interesting and detailed answers.  A really fantastic half an hour finishing off with a chance to photograph the pair of them.

Once finished here we headed down the stairs and across to the Cathedral, almost 900 years old!

This building is a kaleidoscope of wonders.  So enough of the commentary, the shots I took hopefully will give you their own story...

I leave you with a shot I took that made me smile!  The choir stalls, Old Scarlett's painting on the wall (the gravedigger who buried three Queens, Catherine of Aragon, Mary Queen of Scots and ... his wife!, and then can you make out the monks?!!

If you are in the Peterborough area please take some time to visit this amazing place, oozing history from every piece of stone and, if you don't mind heights, book a place on a tower tour, you won't be disappointed!

Have a wonderful week ahead.


  1. I am ashamed to say I have never been to Peterborough. After reading your blog and looking at your photos I intend to make sure I visit this year.

  2. How wonderful it would have been to hear the presentation of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon. The Cathedral is a beautiful place, full of stories of people both great and small. Lovely.

  3. Thank you so very much for this post. I am enamored with that time period and the Tudors in particular. Seeing this was so interesting.

  4. Fascinating! What a wonderful photo tour and information. I'm always amazed to see such magnificent architecture and learn the history behind it. Imagine whitening your clothing with urine! Oh my.

  5. Wow, you certainly took us on a wonderful tour, a real delight.

  6. Fabulous, Chel. I STILL haven't made it to Peterborough Cathedral and you keep reminding us what a beautiful, and fascinating, place it is. We are so lucky to have such rich heritage around us; so many cathedrals (etc) - so little time!

  7. Chel you capture these tours so beautifully. Thank you for sharing them with us. What a gorgeous place to visit.

  8. Thank you for the fascinating tour. I can't believe that I've never been before despite often having worked in the Peterborough area

  9. I always appreciate you sharing your talent with us. Amazing photos!
    Thank you for the tour.

  10. I love this! Love English history - it's so fascinating - I wish I could go back to England and spend more time there. Maybe someday!

  11. Wonderful to visit the treasures of the cathedral with you. It is an amazing building. Hope that the new exhibition space is very popular. Your photos are incredible, especially the ones of the ceiling!

  12. I read a book about Katherine of Aragon a while ago and now I think of her each and every time I eat pomagrenate. The dress reproduction is wonderful.

  13. Such a inviting post! I do hope to make it to Peterborough Cathedral one day.


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