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If you love your history, now is a time to celebrate Peterborough’s link with a famous exiled Queen of England and take a trip back in time to the world of the Tudors.

Our iconic cathedral is the key focal point for the Katharine of Aragon Festival running from January 23 to 26 bringing her story to life with plenty for all the family to enjoy with further events at Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery.

Peterborough Cathedral in association with Vivacity have once again organised some fantastic events to bring us her story so there’s plenty to choose from for all ages.

Katharine of Aragon was the first wife of King Henry VIII and Queen of England from 1509 until 1533. After living in exile she died in 1536 and the Festival marks the anniversary of 29th January 1536, when she was buried at Peterborough Cathedral.

The Festival programme features the first ever performance of a Katharine of Aragon monologue by Lesley Smith, Curator of Tutbury Castle, who’ll wear an authentic costume commissioned especially for the occasion. There will also be a talk about Katharine’s daughter Princess Mary by Melita Thomas, as well as music, drama and dance performances.

Why not take the kids along to experience life in Tudor times at living history days at Peterborough Museum or take a tour led by ‘Old Scarlett the Tudor gravedigger’, at the cathedral. There’s even a Family Audience with Queen Katharine in the Cathedral Visitor Centre, when they’ll get to meet Lesley Smith in character as Katharine of Aragon.


Thursday January 23

Candlelight Tour of the Cathedral – 7pm

Take a cathedral tour with a knowledgeable Tudor-costumed guide and meet ‘Old Scarlett the Tudor gravedigger’ as the candlelight flickers.

Friday January 24

Tudor Peterborough Walk – 2pm

Meet at Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery and take a city tour with a costumed guide and find out what the city was like during the time of Katharine of Aragon before heading into Peterborough Cathedral to hear about the funeral of Queen Katharine. Also being held on Sunday January 26.

A Homage to Katharine of Aragon from Spain – 7.30pm

An evening of music, drama and dance at the cathedral from Katharine’s native Spain.

Using period instruments, Spanish musicians will set the scene for the drama that follows with the world premiere of a play by Spanish Canarian author, Neftalí Díaz.

A stylised flamenco dance set in early 20th century Spain is the finale to the evening.

The King’s Pearl, The Queen’s Pride: Katharine, Henry and Mary, The Family Years – 7.30pm

A talk and book signing by Melita Thomas at John Clare Theatre (Peterborough Central Library) looking at how Mary’s education, academic, political, courtly and religious, was shaped by her parents.

Saturday January 25

At Home with the Tudors At Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery – 10am – 3pm

Travel back in time to the 1500s, with a chance to meet Tudor characters such as the Barber Surgeon with his gruesome cures. Mind your manners with a Tudor lady, handle arms and armour with soldiers and try some period food. Take part in family activities and crafts with a Tudor theme. Also being held on Sunday January 26.

Old Scarlett at Peterborough Cathedral

Old Scarlett Tours – 10am, 11am and 1pm

This family friendly tour of the cathedral will be led by ‘Old Scarlett the Tudor gravedigger’, who lived to be 98 and buried both Katharine of Aragon and Mary, Queen of Scots.

A Family Audience with Queen Katharine – 12 noon

Meet Queen Katharine at The Knights’ Chamber, Cathedral Visitor Centre played by Lesley Smith in all her Tudor splendour, who’ll be in character as she tells her story and answers your questions.

Digging Deeper Tudor Tour – 11.30am and 2.30pm

A guided tour of the cathedral interior with a specifically Tudor focus.

An Audience with Katharine of Aragon – 7pm for 7.30pm  

For the first time Lesley Smith, who’s famed for her compelling costumed monologues, will take on the character of Katharine of Aragon bringing her incredible story to life.

Lesley is Curator of Tutbury Castle. She’s a medical historian, has 38 academic publications to her name and has appeared in over 120 television programmes.

See the full Festival programme and book tickets on or call 01733 355315 (for Museum tickets call 01733 864663).

(Photo inside Cathedral of Katharine’s tomb – courtesy of Matthew Roberts )

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