Did this once belong to Katherine of Aragon?
I received an intriguing email today. John Roberts, of Victoria, British Columbia, wanted to tell me about something he had bought at an auction and his subsequent research, sparked by the discovery of symbols under the initials ‘H’ and ‘C’ on the settle relating to fertility and featuring the pomegranate, leading him to believe he may have in his possession a piece of furniture once belonging to Katherine of Aragon.
He is hoping to have his belief confirmed so the piece can find its rightful place with other Tudor artefacts.
Over to you, John. Please tell my readers about why you think Katherine of Aragon once owned this bench.
I am John Roberts, and I live in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. I have an adult daughter, Melanie, who also lives in the capital city on Vancouver Island.
In mid 2016, Melanie purchased an historic two-piece cabinet with the year 1704 featured in the carvings. Thus began a search for more historic pieces.
In December, 2016, we both attended a regular weekly auction in Victoria where a bench described as being 19th century was being auctioned.
I was the winning bidder.
There was evidence of a 19th century alteration on the bench where the seating boards had been changed to allow for a hinged trap door to allow storage under the bench. The hinges could be traced to a foundry in Stourbridge, England.
The rest of the bench (or settle) remained much older, and there began our search for evidence of age.
The initials ‘H’ and ‘C’ underneath two central wooden heads gave some indication of Christian names.
As the four heads seemed to suggest Elizabethan era, it eventually dawned on Mel and I that they referred to Henry and Catherine of Aragon.
Further research suggests that the two outer heads are those of Sir Richard Guildford, courtier to Henry VII. He became courtier and guard for Catherine of Aragon who was quickly widowed after her marriage to Prince Arthur in 1501.
Catherine’s parents Ferdinand and Isabella then betrothed her future to the hand of Prince Henry, Arthur’s brother. There began a most intriguing period of time when she remained in England to await Henry’s coming of age, and marriage.
Ferdinand and Isabella provided a dowry of valuables that included gifts and horses that were sent to England. It is our belief that the bench was included among those gifts.
Ferdinand had promised Henry VII a gift of thousands of gold sovereigns to be presented in two shipments. The first had been delivered, but the second never showed up.
Catherine was treated harshly during her years awaiting the wedding, simply because the second payment of gold sovereigns never arrived.
Henry VII isolated her and required her to pay for her attendants. This alone caused Catherine to sell off her treasures, and I believe the bench, or settle, was one of those treasured items.
The bench includes many references to Spanish history. The scallop shells refer to St. James, the patron saint of Spain. The lions’ paws, the pomegranates, and other symbols of Spanish culture that includes Islamic designs in the carvings suggest that a Muslim carver was kept behind after the expulsion of other Muslims in 1494.
A rather secret signature of the carver is included in a corner of the bench that shows a five vertical lined flag indicating Granada in 1494.
I hope you find our findings interesting.
It is our hope that the bench becomes an important part of Spanish history – if not, English history and is eventually returned.
If you can help John confirm his findings, please contact me at email@example.com