On the 3rd July 1533, Katherine of Aragon was told to stop calling herself ‘Queen’. She was to be called ‘Princess Dowager’ from then on, as she was Prince Arthur’s widow. Lord Mountjoy was the one to tell her and he was given instructions in a letter:
‘As the King cannot have two wives he cannot permit the Dowager to persist in calling herself by the name of Queen, especially considering how benignantly and honorably she has been treated in the realm. She is to satisfy herself with the name of Dowager, as prescribed by the Act of Parliament, and must beware of the danger if she attempt to contravene it, which will only irritate the feelings of the people against her. If she be not persuaded by these arguments to avoid the King’s indignation, and relent from her vehement arrogancy, the King will be compelled to punish her servants, and withdraw her affection from his daughter. Finally, that as the marriage is irrevocable, and has passed the consent of Parliament, nothing that she can do will annul it, and she will only incur the displeasure of Almighty God and of the King.’
This did not stop Katherine from calling herself Queen (even in her last letter to Henry before her death). However, she probably knew that she was unlikely to be punished as she was a foreign princess and had powerful allies abroad. This was the report back to Cromwell and even the words ‘Princess Dowager’ was obliterated by Katherine herself. She refused to acknowledge herself as anything other than ‘Queen’:
‘To the effect that on Thursday, 3 July, they found her lying on a pallet, as she had pricked her foot with a pin, and could not stand, and was also sore annoyed with a cough. On our declaring that our instructions were to her as Princess Dowager, she took exception to the name, persisting that she was the King’s true wife, and her children were legitimate, which she would claim to be true during her life. To our assertion that the marriage with Anne Boleyn had been adjudged lawful by the universities, the Lords and Commons, she said the King might do in his realm by his royal power what he would ; that the cause was not theirs but the Pope’s to judge, as she had already answered the duke of Norfolk. To other arguments, that she might damage her daughter and servants, she replied she would not damn her own soul on any consideration, or for any promises the King might make her. She did not defend her cause upon obstinacy, nor to create any dissension in the realm, but to save her own rights ; and as for the withdrawing of the King’s affection from her, she would daily pray for the preservation of his estate ; but as she sues by his licence, she trusts in so doing to lose no part of his favor. In fine, she will not abandon the title till such time as a sentence is given to the contrary by the Pope. She asked for a copy of these instructions, which she would translate into Spanish, and send to Rome.’
LP VI. 759
Katherine of Aragon in The Tudors.