Friend and Supporter of Catherine of Aragon
Maria de Salinas, Lady Willoughby, was the closest friend of the English king Henry VIII's first wife, Catherine of Aragon. She managed to be with her when she died even though Henry VIII forbade it, a daring and courageous act for a sixteenth-century woman. Maria was the daughter of Don Martin de Salinas and Dona Josepha Gonzales de Salas of Spain. As a young girl, she replaced her cousin Maria de Rojas in the retinue of Catherine of Aragon during the reign of Henry VII of England after the cousin returned to Spain to be married. Maria may well have been attractive by the lights of her age because in 1501, at the time of the marriage of Catherine and Arthur, Henry VII's eldest son, Henry insisted that the ladies who served Catherine should be good looking. This was not for his own pleasure but for the pragmatic reason he thought it would be easier to find them husbands and so relieve him of the cost of a large suite of retainers for Catherine.
Maria came during a hard time for Catherine, since she was the widow of Henry VII's eldest son, Prince Arthur, who had died in the spring of 1502 only five months after the wedding, and there were grave doubts about her future. By 1507 the people around Catherine recognized that she considered Maria to be her closest friend. The years of Catherine's widowhood in the reign of Henry VII were very difficult for Catherine and her suite. Her father Ferdinand of Aragon refused to send her money since he expected Henry to take care of her, whereas Henry VII said Ferdinand, rather than he, was responsible for Catherine's household expenses. While Catherine hoped to marry Arthur's younger brother Henry, his father the king kept his options open for the marriage of his only remaining son, and no one knew what Catherine's fate would be. Maria was one of the few who was thoroughly loyal to Catherine, and the bond forged between them was never broken. Catherine wrote to her father about Maria