Diplomacy, Conflict and Katherine of Aragon: why Chapuys brought a Fool to Kimbolton

Activity: Talk or presentationTalk or presentation at a conference


Ambassador Chapuys’ failed attempt to visit Katherine of Aragon in Kimbolton Castle in July 1534 was recorded by the Spanish Chronicle of King Henry VIII. According to the chronicle writer, Chapuys had taken with him a large entourage which included Spanish merchants, almost a hundred horses, and heraldic musicians so that ‘when they rode into the places on the road it was like the entrance of a prince’. Henry VIII, no doubt fearful of the visual and auditory impact this procession would make had a messenger intercept the visitors while they were on their way, prohibiting the ambassador from speaking with Katherine. Henry, however, could not have foreseen that a party would continue to Kimbolton taking with them ‘a very funny young fellow who had been brought by the ambassador, and who was dressed as a fool, and had a padlock dangling from his hood’. One of the fool’s antics was to comically draw attention to what Chapuys saw as Katherine’s imprisonment by the king’s order, and her being treated as an enemy rather than a wife. This performance, along with other actions at Kimbolton, contribute to a unique view on a type of diplomacy in which an entertainer could stand in for an ambassador during a moment of political sensitivity, and could provide solace to a queen in conflict with her husband.
Period20 Jan 2022
Event titleUniversity of Southampton Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Culture Conference: The Enemy: a Premodern Perspective, c. 500-1700
Event typeConference
LocationSouthampton, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational