All you need to know about Peterborough’s Katharine of Aragon Festival which starts today

This weekend sees the return of the annual Katharine of Aragon Festival (January 27-30), to mark the date in 1536 when Henry VIII’s first wife was buried at Peterborough Cathedral (which was in those days an abbey).

By Brad Barnes
Thursday, 27th January 2022, 11:52 am
Katharine of Aragon Comemoration Service at Peterborough Cathedral. EMN-200124-190728009
Katharine of Aragon Comemoration Service at Peterborough Cathedral. EMN-200124-190728009

The centrepiece of the festival, which includes events for all ages on a Tudor theme, is an audience with King Henry VIII, in the form of performance historian John White.

‘His Majesty’ will be in contemplative mood in the year 1542, reflecting on recent turbulent events, including the annulment of his marriage to Katharine. The performance will be both in person at the cathedral and also live streamed.

At the start of the festival is a commemoration service and wreath laying tomorrow (January 28) at 11am, when dignitaries will lay tributes on the tomb. Schools would normally attend this service before enjoying a Tudor activity day in the cathedral but due to the pandemic, they have been visiting in smaller groups this week.

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Activities for families over the weekend include ‘At Home with the Tudors’ drop-in sessions at the museum, tours of the cathedral with ‘Old Scarlett the Tudor Gravedigger’ and a short family service on Saturday at 10am, during which children can make a gift to lay on Queen Katharine’s tomb.

A cathedral filled with music and candlelight is a highlight on Friday evening when Vespers, sung by the cathedral choir at 5.30pm, will be followed by a drop-in open evening, which ends at 8.30pm when everyone is invited to take a seat and hear Compline sung by the choir at 9pm.

A variety of tours take place during the weekend, including a Tudor Peterborough Walk from the museum, cathedral tower and upper level tours, and a ground floor tour of the cathedral with a focus on its Tudor history. There is also an online talk about sacred music from Katharine of Aragon’s time this evening.

Katharine of Aragon 
Festival 2022

All events are at Peterborough Cathedral unless otherwise specified.

Today, 7.30pm, online via Zoom, Sacred Music from Katharine of Aragon’s Time:

Canon Tim Alban Jones will take us on an audio tour of the music that would have been sung in church services at the Tudor court, introducing each piece of music and pausing for questions at the end.

Tickets: £7 per viewing + booking fee.

Friday, January 28, 8.30am, Mass:

A Roman Catholic service attended by local congregations.

11am, Commemoration Service with Wreath Laying:

The Very Revd Chris Dalliston, Dean of Peterborough, will lead a short service of commemoration with readings, prayers and wreaths laid by dignitaries on Katharine’s tomb.

2pm, Tudor Peterborough Walk

Meet at Peterborough Museum. Explore Peterborough’s historic city centre with a costumed guide and find out what the city was like during the time of Katharine of Aragon.

5.30pm, Vespers

Worship in a form that would have been familiar in Tudor times, sung by the cathedral choir. All welcome. Around 40 mins.

6.30pm, Cathedral Open Evening

Following Vespers, the cathedral will remain open for visitors to drop in and take time to enjoy the special atmosphere of the building at night. Candles will be lit and there will be background music to listen to.

9pm, Compline

A service at the close of the day, sung by the cathedral choir.

Saturday, January 29 at 10am, Family Service

A short service especially for families with children to commemorate Katharine of Aragon. During the service there will also be an opportunity to make a gift for Katharine to lay at her tomb.

10am – 4pm, At Home with the Tudors

Travel back in time to the 1500s, with a chance to meet Tudor characters at Peterborough Museum & Art Gallery. Mind your manners with a Tudor lady, try period food and find out all about life in the times of Katharine of Aragon. There will also be family craft activities with a Tudor theme.

11am, 1pm and 2pm, Old Scarlett Tours

This family-friendly tour of the cathedral will be led by ‘Old Scarlett’, the Tudor gravedigger.

11am and 2pm, Upper Levels and Tower Tours

Explore the fascinating upper levels of the cathedral. A knowledgeable guide will lead you in this popular tour of the building. Visitors will emerge at the top to take in the views across the city from the central tower (weather permitting). Ages 8+.

11.30am and 2.30pm, Tudor Cathedral Tours

A tour of the cathedral with the focus on its Tudor history, led by a guide in period costume.

7pm, Conflict between Church and State: An audience with King Henry VIII

The year is 1542 and His Majesty, King Henry VIII, despite increasing age, is again engaged upon Royal Progress about his realm. 
His Majesty is in contemplative mood with the events of recent years weighing heavily upon him, the annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon, the break with Rome, the dissolution of the monasteries, the revolt in the north. In the course of the ‘Audience,’ His Majesty (also known as actor John White) will invite his loyal subjects to petition him, or to ask of him a question.

Tickets: £12.50 per person attending at the cathedral, or £10 per live stream viewing.

Around 60 mins.

Sunday, January 30, services at 8am, 9.15am, 10.30am and 3.30pm. All are welcome.

2pm, Tudor Peterborough Walk

Details as Friday.

10am – 4pm, At Home with the Tudors

Details as Saturday .

lTo book and for further details visit