These fascinating and deeply personal original letters show what Henry wanted in a new bride after the death of his wife Elizabeth of York. His first choice was his widowed daughter in law Katherine of Aragon, the dowager Princess of Wales, who had been married to the late Prince Arthur. Katherine’s mother writes to her ambassador in England in reply to the offer of marriage:
11th & 12th April 1503: Queen Isabella of Spain to Ferdinand, Duke de Estrada… We have received letters in which we are informed of the death of the Queen of England, our sister. These tidings have, of a truth, caused us much grief… The Doctor has also written to us concerning the marriage of the King of England with the Princess of Wales, our daughter, saying that it is spoken of in England. But as this would be a very evil thing, one never before seen, and the mere mention of which offends the ears, We would not for anything in the world that it should take place. Therefore, if anything be said to you about it, speak of it as a thing not to be endured. You must likewise say very decidedly that on no account would we allow it, or even hear it mentioned, in order that by these means the King of England may lose all hope of bringing it to pass, if he have any. For, the conclusion of the betrothal of the Princess, our daughter, with the (new) Prince of Wales, his son, (later Henry VIII) would be rendered impossible if he were to nourish any such idea…
June 1505: This letter was sent to Henry answering his questions about one of his perspective brides the Young Queen of Naples:
1, Whether the young Queen speak any other languages besides Spanish and Italian: She understands both Latin and French, but does not speak them.
2, To note well her age, stature, and features of her body: The young Queen’s age is 27 and not much more. Could not come to any perfect knowledge of her stature, by reason of her wearing slippers after the manner of her country. A man could not lightly perceive the features of her body, for that she wore a great mantle of cloth.
3, To mark her visage, whether painted or not, fat or lean, sharp or round; cheerful, frowning, or melancholy; steadfast, light, or blushing: Is not painted; of a good compass, amiable, round, and fat; cheerful, not frowning ; a demure shame-faced countenance; of few words, but spoken with a womanly laughing cheer and good gravity.
4, Clearness of skin: Very fair and clear.