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Catherine of Aragon, One 'Quietly Fierce' Queen

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(Read caption) Author Giles Tremlett says Catherine of Aragon was "an immensely strong, stubborn and, in some ways, fundamentalist character."

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King Henry VIII's first queen was anything but a 16th-century feminist. She firmly believed in two things: the tenets of the Catholic Church and the supremacy of men.

But then the king met a hot young thing and demanded a divorce. Catherine of Aragon had to choose between the wishes of two masters: her husband and her religion. She said no to the man wearing the crown, setting off a battle whose repercussions – including a rift in the church she loved so deeply – remain with us today.

Giles Tremlett, a reporter for a British newspaper who's based in Madrid, tells the Spanish queen's story in an immensely readable new biography called "Catherine of Aragon." In an interview this week, I asked him about the foreign queen who gained the affections of a nation by courageously standing up for herself and her beliefs.

Q: Why do we still care about the Tudors, especially Henry VIII, his six wives, and his children who became monarchs themselves?

There's a very strong connection with the characters. Henry himself is such a massively larger-than-life figure, someone who did everything in multitudes, including wives.

We have a king who is influenced by women, who then goes on to be the father of the first two female monarchs in England, the first two queens regnant. You have a powerful current of female history: women who were power players.

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