Maria decided to defy both Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII, and on 1 January 1536, she travelled on horseback through snowy weather to the remote Kimbolton Castle, Katharine of Aragon’s residence. She reached her destination at six o’clock in the afternoon and knocked at the castle’s doors. Katharine of Aragon’s servants were dismayed to see Maria, whom they did not expect. Maria claimed she had a fall from her horse while travelling. She was distressed and, in a bid for sympathy, told Katharine’s chamberlain that “she thought never to have seen the Princess Dowager again by reason of such tidings as she had heard of her”. But the chamberlain demanded to see the licence, which Maria did not have. “It was ready to be showed”, she replied, but when she left Kimbolton after seeing Katharine for the last time, the chamberlain wrote on 5 January that “since that time we never saw her” nor “any letters of her licence hither to repair”.[vi] Katharine of Aragon died two days later, on 7 January 1536.
[i] I found that the earliest reference to this myth comes from the 1962 biography Catherine, Duchess of Suffolk: A Portrait by Evelyn Read. It was repeated in subsequent biographies including the 1970 A Crown for Elizabeth by Mary M. Luke, 1977 Women of Action in Tudor England by Pearl Hogrefe and 1996 The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser.
[ii] Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 2, n. 238.
[iii] Ibid., n. 201.
[iv] Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 7, n. 1013.
[v] M.A. Everett Wood, Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain, Volume 2, pp. 208-9.
[vi] Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10, n. 28.