Arthur, Prince of Wales: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Prince of Wales
Spouse Catherine of Aragon
House House of Tudor
Father Henry VII
Mother Elizabeth of York
Born 20 September 1486(1486-09-20)
Died 2 April 1502 (aged 15)
Ludlow Castle, England
Burial Worcester Cathedral

Arthur, Prince of Wales (19/20 September 1486 – 2 April 1502) was the first son of King Henry VII of England and Elizabeth of York, and therefore, heir to the throne of England. As he predeceased his father, Arthur never became king. At Henry VII's death, the throne passed to Arthur's younger brother, who became King Henry VIII.


Early life



In order to strengthen his dubious claim to the throne, Henry VII set his personal genealogists to trace back his heritage to Cadwaladr and ancient British kings. The search identified Winchester in Hampshire as Camelot, and it was there that the first Tudor Prince of Wales, Arthur, was born. He was named after the legendary King Arthur of the Round Table. His christening took place at Winchester Cathedral, his godfathers were Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby and John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford who was late for the ceremony. Elizabeth Woodville, his maternal grandmother, was his godmother and carried him during the ceremony. He was made a Knight of the Bath at his christening. It is not known if Arthur was a robust child when born. In Arthur's Church History it says: ". . . [Arthur Tudor was] yet vital and vigorous" while Francis Bacon describes him as, "Born in the eighth month, as the physicians do prejudge," yet "strong and able". However, some historians suggest that he had been weak his whole life long, and that was what led to his death.

English Royalty
House of Tudor
England Arms 1405-white label.svg
Royal Coat of Arms
Henry VII
   Arthur, Prince of Wales
   Margaret, Queen of Scots
   Henry VIII
   Mary, Queen of France

His only original surviving portrait[1] shows a teenage boy growing into his skin, though some say he looks weak in it. His appearance in the portrait certainly differs from that of his athletic younger brother, the future Henry VIII. There is no evidence to show that Arthur was a sportsman, but he may have been fond of archery. In the portrait he has the red Tudor hair, small eyes, and a high-bridged nose. He bears a resemblance to both his father and brother.

Betrothal and alliance

Arthur's father, Henry VII, was eager to strengthen his kingdom through an alliance with newly-united Spain, seeking the support of the Catholic Monarchs, Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, against French interests and possible aggression. When Arthur was two years old, a marriage with the Spanish princess, Catherine of Aragon (in Spain, Catalina de Aragón) was arranged for him as part of the Treaty of Medina del Campo. The auburn-haired Catherine was the youngest daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand. Isabella and Ferdinand were in no hurry to have their daughter married, and, although the treaty had been made, they were still open to other options. Ferdinand was more than ready to break the treaty if the pretenders to the throne of England did not vanish. Therefore, in 1499, Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick was beheaded, and the pretender Perkin Warbeck, who some contemporaries asserted was Edward IV's illegitimate son, was hanged.


At the age of three, Arthur was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester. At five, he was made a Knight of the Garter.

As heir apparent, Arthur was carefully educated. His tutors were John Rede and the blind poet Bernard André (who in his unfinished biography of Henry VII stated that Arthur was familiar with all the best Latin and Greek authors). When Arthur was fourteen or fifteen years old, Thomas Linacre (or Lynaker) began to teach him. The Prince's governor and treasurer was Sir Henry Vernon, and Arthur may frequently have lived at Sir Henry's residence, Haddon Hall, in Derbyshire: in the house was an apartment, called "The Prince's Chamber", adorned with Arthur's coat of arms.

Some historians maintain that Arthur had a bond with Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, who defended the northern border of England against the Scots.


For two years, Arthur wrote numerous letters in Latin to his bride-to-be, and she would formally reply. However, as the young couple had never met, the letters were written as instructed by their tutors and were more polite than passionate. When Arthur was fourteen, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile promised to send their daughter Catalina (later known as Catherine) to England, but it was not until after Arthur turned fifteen that Catherine and her retinue finally started their journey. The Spanish Infanta (the Spanish title for princess) finally landed in the autumn, and on 4 November 1501, the couple met at last at Dogsmersfield Palace in Hampshire. Little is known about their first impressions of each other, but Arthur did write to his parents in law that he would be 'a true and loving husband' and he later told his parents that he was immensely happy to behold the face of his lovely bride. Ten days later, on 14 November 1501, they were married at St. Paul's Cathedral. At the end of the festive day came the Bedding Ceremony, in which most of the court put the young couple to bed.

Death and aftermath

Catherine as a young widow, by Henry VII's court painter, Michael Sittow, c.1502

The couple soon travelled to Ludlow Castle on the Welsh border, where Arthur resided in his capacity as Prince of Wales and President of The Council of Wales and Marches. He died suddenly at the young age of fifteen. The cause of his death is unknown but may have been consumption, diabetes, or the mysterious sweating sickness, which some modern theorists tie to a hantavirus.[2] Catherine was sick too, but unlike her unfortunate husband, she survived. Arthur's brother, Henry, Duke of York, was not created Prince of Wales until it was certain Catherine wasn't carrying Arthur's child.

Henry became heir upon Arthur's death and would come to the throne in 1509. He was somewhat unprepared for the position, as it had been intended that he would enter the Church and perhaps become Archbishop of Canterbury. This lack of preparation and education is seen in the heavy influence of older statesmen such as Cardinal Thomas Wolsey during the early years of Henry's reign. Catherine would marry Henry (who was six years her junior) eight years later, but in the interim, she lived in relative poverty.


Arthur was buried in Worcester Cathedral where "Prince Arthur's Chantry" stands today. Sir Griffith Ryce, a member of Arthur's household, was an official mourner, and his tomb is located near Arthur's. Arthur's father, the King, did not attend the funeral. The reasons for his absence are unknown, though many conjecture that the journey was too long or that Henry VII was too distressed. Arthur's mother, Elizabeth of York did not attend the funeral either, and as was the custom, Catherine of Aragon also remained at home.

Question of consummation

Immense controversy surrounds the question of whether or not Arthur and Catherine consummated their brief marriage, for the subsequent history of England and even of British Christianity was strongly influenced by the issue. Modern readers may think likely that a teenaged couple sharing a bed would also engage in sexual intercourse. Further, Catherine and Arthur understood the production of heirs as a pressing and essential duty. At the time, a girl often consummated her marriage at a very young age: Margaret Beaufort, was only twelve years old when she married Edmund Tudor.

Catherine's dueña Doña Elvira Manuel said that the marriage was not consummated, though some historians argue that Doña Elvira was never close to the girl, whom she would later betray. Yet Arthur himself, before the wedding night, had stated that he was feeling very 'lusty and amorous', and his friends claimed that on the following day he had proudly called for some water, saying that he had "been in Spain" and that being a husband was "thirsty work." Perhaps Arthur jested merely to cover up a failure in his marital duty.

It is difficult to believe is that the fervently devout Catherine, who insisted that her marriage to Arthur had never been consummated, would lie: Leviticus 20:21 states that it is unclean for a man to take his brother's wife and that, if a man did, the union would be childless. (Contrarily, another biblical passage, Deuteronomy 25:5-10, enjoins a man to marry his childless brother's widow and to father children on her, so that the deceased man's line will officially continue.)

Catherine argued during the divorce case that the verse in Leviticus applies to a living man taking his living brother's wife (not the situation in which Henry and she had found themselves) and the passage in Deuteronomy to a dead brother's wife (which fitted Catherine's marriage to Henry). During the divorce case, Henry VIII looked at the Hebrew translation of Leviticus 25:5-10, which specified that a union with his brother's wife would produce no sons - which had been the case with himself and Catherine. He therefore decided to use Leviticus as the basis of his divorce argument, against the advice of Cardinal Wolsey.

The first time Catherine publicly claimed that her marriage to Arthur had not been consummated was when Henry sought the divorce; the subject had not been mentioned earlier, and it is possible that Catherine lied to protect her reputation, her marriage to Henry, and the rights of her daughter, Mary. To say otherwise would have been an admission of fornication as well as a condemnation of Princess Mary to illegitimacy. Catherine claimed that she and Arthur had shared a bed for only seven days, but this is unconfirmed by any extant records.

What Henry really wanted was a son, since he had historical reasons to believe that England would not accept a female monarch. During his marriage to her, Catherine had given birth to several living children, but only Mary survived infancy. Henry realized with the passing years that the aging Catherine was unlikely to produce a son and heir, and he was having notorious affairs with sisters Mary and Anne Boleyn. His divorce from Catherine and his marriage to Anne were predicated on his claim that he and Catherine had produced no living son because he had disobeyed a Scriptural injunction and married his brother's widow — which Catherine would have been, had Arthur and she consummated their marriage.

This dispute, and Henry's inability to obtain papal dissolution of his marriage, would come to be a major impetus of the English Reformation. Whatever the truth of the matter, whether Henry had found Catherine to be a virgin on their wedding night has never been recorded. However, when he was trying to annul his marriage to Catherine, he ordered bloodstained bedsheets, supposedly from his brother's marriage night, to be paraded around his palace as proof of the consummation. How or why these sheets should have been preserved for so many years was not explained.

Further research

Christopher Guy, the archaeologist of Worcester Cathedral, said he found it odd that, if Arthur had been unhealthy, he was sent to the cold remoteness of Ludlow Castle. Peter Vaughan, of the Worcester Prince Arthur Committee, finds this strange as well. He remarks: "He wasn't a strong character, unlike his younger brother. Could it be that his father was strong enough to see that the best interests of the Tudors were to be served by Henry Duke of York, rather than Arthur?" However, historians such as David Starkey and Julian Litten have dismissed theories of neglect or murder. "There is nothing fishy about his demise", said Litten. "He was in Ludlow as an ambassador for a King setting up a new dynasty." Litten believes that the real mystery in Arthur's death is the disease that killed him. If not consumption or the historical English sweating sickness, it could have been a genetic condition that might have been passed on to his nephews, Edward VI and Henry Fitzroy.[3]

Arthur in fiction

Arthur has appeared in several novels about Catherine of Aragon. Norah Lofts wrote The King's Pleasure in the late 1960s. Katharine, The Virgin Widow by Jean Plaidy has Arthur in it as well. The Constant Princess, by Philippa Gregory, tells the story of how Catherine and Arthur fell in love, consummated their marriage, and how he suddenly died. In it, Katherine promises Arthur she will become Queen of England by marrying his brother in order to fulfill their vision for the future of the kingdom.

Kingsley Amis wrote "The Alteration" (1976), an alternative history novel about the effects of a contested "War of the English Succession" (c 1509 CE), where the birth and reign of Prince Arthur Tudor and Katherine of Aragon's son, "Stephen II", leads Henry VIII to attempt to usurp his nephew's throne.

Award-winning author Sandra Worth presents a sympathetic portrayal of Prince Arthur from his birth to his death in The King's Daughter: A Novel of the First Tudor Queen. The story, narrated in the first person by his mother, Elizabeth of York, is praised by Publishers Weekly as "an impressive feat."



  1. ^ Philip Mould (1995) devotes a chapter to the rediscovery of this portrait and its validation through historical research.
  2. ^ M Taviner, G Thwaites, and V Gant, The English sweating sickness, 1485-1551: a viral pulmonary disease?, Medical History, 1998 January; 42(1): 96–98.
  3. ^ David Derbyshire, Science Correspondent in the Telegraph.

Additional reading

  • Fraser, Antonia, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, ISBN 0-7493-1409-5
  • "Royal Tutors in the Reign of Henry VII", David Carlson, Sixteenth Century Journal Vol. 22, No. 2 (Summer, 1991), pp. 253–279
  • Mould, Philip. (1995) Sleepers. London: Fourth Estate. ISBN 1857022181
  • Weir, Alison The Six Wives of Henry VIII
  • Weir, Alison The Princes in the Tower

External links

Arthur, Prince of Wales
Born: 19 September 1486 Died: 2 April 1502
English royalty
Preceded by
John de la Pole, 1st Earl of Lincoln
Heir to the English Throne
as heir apparent

19 September 1486 – 2 April 1502
Succeeded by
Henry, Duke of York
Title last held by
Edward of Middleham,
Prince of Wales
Prince of Wales
1486 – 1502
Peerage of England
Title last held by
Edward of Middleham,
Prince of Wales
Duke of Cornwall
1486 – 1502
Succeeded by
Henry, Duke of York
later became
King Henry VIII

Simple English

[[File:|thumb|Arthur, Prince of Wales]] Arthur Tudor (19 or 20 September 1486 - 2 April 1502) was the oldest son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.

As the oldest son, Arthur was to be King of England after the death of his father. He was married in 1501 to Catherine of Aragon, a princess from Spain, but died a few months later. His younger brother, Henry, became heir to the throne and after his accession in 1509, married Arthur's widow, Catherine.


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