Anonymous portrait, c. 1501
Arthur Tudor (20 September 1486 – 2 April 1502) was Prince of Wales, Earl of Chester and Duke of Cornwall as the eldest son and heir apparentof Henry VII of England and his wife, Elizabeth of York—daughter of Edward IV—and his birth thus cemented the union between the House of Tudorand the House of York. He was their eldest child and was born months after their marriage. Arthur was viewed by contemporaries as the great hope of the newly established House of Tudor, as his birth symbolised the end of the Wars of the Roses, during which his great-uncle Richard III, the final Yorkist king, had died in battle.
Plans for Arthur's marriage began before his third birthday; he was installed as Prince of Wales two years later. He grew especially close to his siblings Margaret and Henry, Duke of York, with the latter of whom he shared some tutors. At the age of eleven, Arthur was formally betrothed to Catherine of Aragon, a daughter of the powerful Catholic Monarchs in Spain, in an effort to forge an Anglo-Spanish alliance against France. Arthur was well educated and, contrary to modern belief, was in good health for the majority of his life. Soon after his marriage to Catherine in 1501, the couple took up residence at Ludlow Castle in Shropshire, where Arthur died six months later of an unknown ailment. Catherine would later firmly state that the marriage had not been consummated.
One year after Arthur's death, Henry VII renewed his efforts of sealing a marital alliance with Spain by betrothing Catherine to Arthur's brother Henry, who had by then become Prince of Wales. Arthur's untimely death paved the way for Henry's accession as Henry VIII in 1509. His subsequent reign encompassed the separation between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church and Henry's quest for a male heir, which endured six marriages.
Birth and early life
In 1485, Henry Tudor became King of England upon defeating Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth. In an effort to strengthen the Tudor claim to the throne and emphasize his family's Welsh, that is to say Romano-British, ancestry, Henry had royal genealogists trace his lineage back to the ancient British rulers and decided on naming his firstborn son after the legendary King Arthur. On this occasion, Camelot was identified as present-day Winchester, and his wife, Elizabeth of York, was sent to Saint Swithun's Priory (today Winchester Cathedral Priory) in order to give birth there. Born at Saint Swithun's Priory on 20 September 1486 at about 1 am, Arthur was Henry and Elizabeth's eldest child. Arthur's birth was anticipated by French and Italian humanists eager for the start of a "Virgilian golden age". Sir Francis Bacon wrote that although the Prince was born one month premature, he was "strong and able". Young Arthur was viewed as "a living symbol" of not only the union between the House of Tudor and the House of York, but also of the end of the Wars of the Roses. In the opinion of contemporaries, Arthur was the great hope of the newly established House of Tudor.
Arthur became Duke of Cornwall at birth. Four days after his birth, the baby was baptised at Winchester Cathedral by the Bishop of Worcester, John Alcock, and his baptism was immediately followed by his Confirmation. John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford, Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby, William FitzAlan, 16th Earl of Arundel, Queen Elizabeth Woodville and Cecily of York served as godparents; the latter two carried the prince during the ceremony. Initially, Arthur's nursery in Farnham was headed by Elizabeth Darcy, who had served as chief nurse for Edward IV's children, including Arthur's own mother. After Arthur was created Prince of Wales in 1490, he was awarded a household structure at the behest of his father. Over the next thirteen years, Henry VII and Elizabeth would have five more children, of whom only three – Margaret, Henry and Mary – would survive infancy. Arthur was especially close to his sister Margaret (b. 1489) and his brother Henry (b. 1491), with whom he shared a nursery.
On 29 November 1489, after being made a Knight of the Bath, Arthur was appointed Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, and was invested as such at the Palace of Westminster on 27 February 1490. As part of his investiture ceremony, he progressed down the River Thames in the royal barge and was met at Chelsea by the Lord Mayor of London, John Mathewe, and at Lambeth by Spanish ambassadors. On 8 May 1491, he was made a Knight of the Garter at Saint George's Chapel at Windsor Palace. It was around this time that Arthur began his formal education under John Rede, a former headmaster of Winchester College. His education was subsequently taken over by Bernard André, a blind poet, and then by Thomas Linacre, formerly Henry VII's physician. Arthur's education covered grammar, poetry, rhetoric and ethics and focused on history. Arthur was a very skilled pupil and André wrote that the Prince of Wales had either memorised or read a selection of Homer, Virgil, Ovid, Terence, a good deal of Cicero and a wide span of historical works, including those of Thucydides, Caesar, Livy and Tacitus.Arthur was also a "superb archer", and had learned to dance "right pleasant and honourably" by 1501.
Prince Arthur, c. 1500. This is likely the earliest surviving portrait of Arthur
Henry VII planned to marry Arthur to a daughter of the Catholic Monarchs, Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, in order to forge an Anglo-Spanish alliance against France. It was suggested that the choice of marrying Arthur to Ferdinand and Isabella's youngest daughter, Catherine (b. 1485), would be appropriate. The Treaty of Medina del Campo (27 March 1489) provided that Arthur and Catherine would be married as soon as they reached canonical age; it also settled Catherine's dowry at 200,000 crowns (the equivalent of £5 million in 2007). A papal dispensation allowing the marriage[why?] was issued in February 1497, and the pair were betrothed by proxy on 25 August 1497. Two years later, a marriage by proxy took place at Arthur's Tickenhill Manor in Bewdley, near Worcester; Arthur said to Roderigo de Puebla, who had acted as proxy for Catherine, that "he much rejoiced to contract the marriage because of his deep and sincere love for the Princess".
The young couple exchanged letters in Latin until Arthur's fifteenth birthday, when he was deemed old enough to be married. In a letter from October 1499, Arthur, referring to Catherine as "my dearest spouse", wrote that "I cannot tell you what an earnest desire I feel to see your Highness, and how vexatious to me is this procrastination about your coming. Let [it] be hastened, [that] the love conceived between us and the wished-for joys may reap their proper fruit." Catherine landed in England on 2 October 1501, at Plymouth. On 4 November, the couple met each other for the first time at Dogmersfield in Hampshire. Arthur wrote to Catherine's parents that he would be "a true and loving husband"; the couple soon discovered that they had learnt different pronunciations of Latin and were unable to communicate. On 9 November, Catherine arrived in London.
The marriage ceremony took place on 14 November at Saint Paul's Cathedral; both Arthur and Catherine wore white satin. The ceremony was conducted by Henry Deane, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was assisted by William Warham, Bishop of London. Following the ceremony, Arthur and Catherine left the Cathedral and headed for Baynard's Castle, where they were entertained by "the best voiced children of the King's chapel, who sang right sweetly with quaint harmony". What followed was a ceremonial laid down by Lady Margaret Beaufort: the bed was sprinkled with holy water, after which Catherine was led away from the wedding feast by her ladies-in-waiting. She was undressed, veiled and "reverently" laid in bed, while Arthur, "in his shirt, with a gown cast about him", was escorted by his gentlemen into the bedchamber, while viols and tabors played. The Bishop of London blessed the bed and prayed for the marriage to be fruitful, after which the couple were left alone. This is the only public bedding of a royal couple recorded in Britain in the 16th century.
A Flemish tapestry depicting Arthur and Catherine's court.
After residing at Tickenhill Manor for a month, Arthur and Catherine left London and headed for the marches in Wales, where they established their household at Ludlow Castle. Arthur had been growing weaker since his wedding,and although Catherine was reluctant to follow him, she was ordered by Henry VII to join her husband. Arthur found it easy to govern Wales, as the border had become quiet after many centuries of warfare. On March 1502, Arthur and Catherine were afflicted by an unknown illness, "a malign vapour with proceeded from the air".While Catherine recovered, Arthur died on 2 April 1502 at Ludlow, six months short of his sixteenth birthday.
News of Arthur's death reached Henry VII's court late on 4 April. The King was awoken from his sleep by his confessor, who quoted Job by asking Henry "If we receive good things at the hands of God, why may we not endure evil things?" He then told the king that "[his] dearest son hath departed to God", and Henry burst into tears. "Grief-stricken and emotional", he then had his wife brought into his chambers, so that they might "take the painful news together"; Elizabeth reminded Henry that God had helped him become king and "had ever preserved him", adding that they had been left with "yet a fair Prince and two fair princesses and that God is where he was, and [they were] both young enough". Soon after leaving Henry's bedchamber, Elizabeth collapsed and began to cry, while the ladies sent for the King, who hurriedly came and "relieved her".
On 8 April, a general procession took place for the salvation of Arthur's soul. That night, a dirge was sung in Saint Paul's Cathedral and every parish church in London. On 23 April, Arthur's body, which had previously been embalmed, sprinkled with holy water and sheltered with a canopy, was carried out of Ludlow Castle and into the Parish Church of Ludlow by various noblemen and gentlemen. On 25 April, Arthur's body was taken to Worcester Cathedral via the River Severn, in a "special wagon upholstered in black and drawn by six horses, also caprisoned in black"] As was customary, Catherine did not attend the funeral.The Earl of Surrey acted as chief mourner.At the end of the ceremony, Sir William Uvedale, Sir Richard Croft and Arthur's household ushers broke their staves of office and threw them into the Prince's grave. During the funeral, Arthur's own arms were shown alongside those of Cadwaladr ap Gruffydd and Brutus of Troy. Two years later, a chantry was erected over Arthur's grave.
Arthur, as painted by George Perfect Harding, c. 1815
Shortly after Arthur's death, the idea of betrothing the now-widowed Catherine to the new heir, Henry, had arisen; both the King and Isabella were keen on moving forward with the betrothal. After originally rejecting the idea, Henry announced, after his succession on 22 April 1509, that he would marry Catherine. The wedding took place on 11 June. Catherine bore Henry six children: three sons died before reaching three months of age, a daughter was stillborn and another lived for only one day. The couple's only surviving child was Princess Mary (b. 1516), who would one day rule as queen.
After falling in love with Anne Boleyn, the sister of his former mistress, Mary Boleyn, Henry became troubled by what became known as the King's "great matter", that is, finding an appropriate solution for his lack of male descendants. He found several possible options. He could have attempted to legitimise his illegitimate son Henry FitzRoy, but this would not be easy and would require the Pope's intervention. He could have married his daughter Mary off and hoped for a male grandson; this was not seen as a real option, because Mary was a sickly child and was unlikely to conceive before Henry's death. Finally, he could somehow reject Catherine and marry a bride more likely to bear children. Probably seeing the possibility of marrying Anne, the third was ultimately the most viable option to Henry, and it soon became the King's wish to dissolve his marriage.
Henry believed that his marriage was cursed and found confirmation in the Bible, in Leviticus 20:2 Although in the morning following his wedding, Arthur had claimed that he was thirsty "for I have been in the midst of Spain last night" and that "having a wife is a good pastime", these claims are generally dismissed by modern historians as mere boasts of a boy who did not want others to know of his failure, and Catherine maintained the claim that she had married Henry while still a virgin until the day she died. After Henry's constant support of the claim that Catherine's first marriage had been consummated, an annulment was issued on 23 April 1533, while the King had already married Anne on 25 January. Anne was beheaded for high treason in 1536, after which Henry proceeded to marry four more times. At the time of his death in 1547, Henry only had three living children; his only son, Edward VI succeeded but died six years later. His successors were Henry's daughters by Catherine and Anne, Mary I and Elizabeth I. Upon Elizabeth's death in 1603, the male line of the House of Tudor came to an end.
In 2002, following the initiative of canon Ian MacKenzie, Arthur's funeral was reenacted with a requiem mass at Worcester Cathedral, on occasion of the quincentenary of his death. Despite his role in English history, Arthur has remained largely forgotten since his death.