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Katherine of Aragon's Deathbed: Why Chapuys Brought a Fool




This essay examines the presence of a fool in the retinue of Imperial Ambassador Eustace Chapuys at Katherine of Aragon’s deathbed. Did this fool primarily bring comic relief or was he, as Henry VIII’s servants suspected, an intelligencer or spy? Seeking to revisit current understandings of what court fools were expected to be able to do or facilitate, I observe that Chapuys used his fool to underline his own role as a representative of the emperor, and to signal that despite the king’s beliefs that he was now divorced, Katherine’s legal status had not changed in the eyes of Catholic Europe.

Author Biography

Nadia T. van Pelt, Delft University of Technology

Nadia T. van Pelt ( is a lecturer in English and communicative skills at Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands.