Arthur TUDOR

Prince of Wales

Born: 20 Sep 1486, St. Swithin's Priory, Winchester, England

Acceded: 27 Feb 1490, Westminster Palace, London, England

Died: 2 Apr 1502, Ludlow Castle, Shropshire

Buried: Worcester Cathedral

Notes: Knight of the Garter.

Father: HENRY VII TUDOR (King of England)

Mother: Elizabeth PLANTAGENET (Queen of England)

Married: Catalina De ARAGON (See her Page) 14 Nov 1501, St.Paul's Cathedral, London, England

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Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales

Eldest son of Henry VII and his wife, Elizabeth of York, was born on 20 Sep 1486, and died on 2 Apr 1502. Henry, in order to strengthen his claim to the throne, set the genealogists to work to trace his descent back to Cadwallader and the ancient British kings: he identified Winchester with Camelot, and therefore he sent his wife to St. Swithun’s Priory in Winchester to nave her baby and the boy was named Arthur after King Arthur of the Round Table, one example of Henry's consciousness of being welsh. Arthur became Duke of Cornwall at birth. Four days after his birth, he was baptised at Winchester Cathedral by John Alcock, Bishop of Worcester, which was immediately followed by his confirmation. His godfathers were the Earl of Oxford, who arrived late for the ceremony, and the Earls of Arundel and Derby. Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV's widow, was the female sponsor, beholding in her little grandchild a bud from the peaceful grafting of the White Rose upon the Red.

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Prince Arthur

The royal nursery was managed by Elizabeth Tyrrell, Lady Darcy, who had served as chief nurse for Edward IV's children, including Arthur's own mother. And Arthur was given a wet-nurse, a lady named Caroline Gibbons. John Alcock, Bishop of Worcester, and Peter Courtenay, Bishop of Exeter, advised the King on Arthur’s upbringing.

There is great controversy about Arthur's health in his childhood and youth. With some conflicting evidence, some suggest that as a child he may have been ill; while other sources claim that he was perfectly healthy.

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The family of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York
All seven of their children are shown, including the three that died very young:
Edmund, Elizabeth and Catherine
Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

When he was three, he was made Prince of Wales. When he was five, he was made a Knight of the Garter, having been made a Knight of the Bath at his christening. Henry saw to it that his son should have the best education which the revival of learning could provide. Arthur's first tutor was one John Rede, but later he was instructed by the blind poet laureate, Bernard André, who wrote an unfinished life of Henry VII, in which he asserted that by the age of fifteen Arthur was familiar with a11 the best Greek and Latin authors. Arthur have shown some aptitude for archery, but there is no evidence that he was ever an athlete like his younger brother, Henry. Sir Henry Vernon was governor and treasurer to Prince Arthur. There is a tradition that the Prince frequently lived with Sir Henry at his house, Haddon Hall, in the Peak of Derbyshire, where there was an apartment called the Prince's Chamber, with his arms cut in several places.

In May 1490 Arthur was created warden of all the marches towards Scotland and Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, was appointed as the Prince's deputy. From 1491, Arthur was named on peace commissions. In Oct 1492, when his father travelled to France, he was named Keeper of England and King's Lieutenant. Following the example of Edward IV, Henry VII set up the Council of Wales and the Marches for Arthur in Wales, in order to enforce royal authority there. Although the council had already been set up in 1490, it was headed by Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford. Arthur was first dispatched to Wales in 1501, at the age of fifteen. In Mar 1493, Arthur was granted the power to appoint justices of oyer and terminer and inquire into franchises, thus strengthening the council's authority. In Nov of that year, the Prince also received an extensive land grant in Wales, including the County of March.

Arthur was served by sons of English, Irish and Welsh nobility, such as Gerald FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Kildare, who had been brought to the English court as a consequence of the involvement of his father, Gerald FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare, in the crowning of pretender Lambert Simnel in Ireland during Henry VII's reign. Other servants were Anthony Willoughby, a son of Robert Willoughby, 1st Baron Willoughby de Broke, Robert Radcliffe, the heir of the Baron FitzWalter and Maurice St John, a favourite nephew of Arthur's grandmother Margaret Beaufort. He was brought up with Gruffydd ap Rhys ap Thomas, the son of powerful Welsh nobleman Rhys ap Thomas. Gruffydd and Arthur were very close, and indeed the two were rumored to be in a homosexual relationship: at one point a rumor spread that Gruffydd had been seen leaving the Prince's room late at night. Gruffydd grew quite close to Arthur and was buried in Worcester Cathedral upon his death in 1521, alongside the Prince's tomb.

In 1488, when Arthur was only two years old, negotiations had begun for his marriage to Catalina de Aragon. Fernando de Aragon was clearly not going to commit himself until he saw whether the Tudor dynasty was going to be securely settled on the throne, therefore he held back for some years; but after the execution of Perkin Warbeck and the Earl of Warwick in 1499 he agreed to the marriage. For two years the Prince of Wales from Ludlow Castle was writing letters in formal Latin and still more formal terms at the age of fourteen to a girl two years older than himself whom he had never seco. The letters are characterized rather by politeness than by passion. At last, in 1500, the terms of the marriage were settled at a meeting outside Calais.

When Arthur was fifteen, Catalina and her retinue finally started their journey to England. The Spanish Infanta finally landed in the autumn, and on 4 Nov 1501, the couple finally met at Dogmersfield in Hampshire.

The marriage took place in Sr. Paul's Cathedral on 14 Nov 1501, both Arthur and Catalina wore white satin. The ceremony was conducted by Henry Deane, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was assisted by William Warham, Bishop of London.

What followed was a bedding ceremony laid down by Arthur's grandmother Lady Margaret Beaufort: the bed was sprinkled with holy water, after which Catalina 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 as 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 XVIth century. They were thought, however, to be too young to cohabit.

After residing at Tickenhill Manor for a month, Arthur and Catalina headed for the Welsh Marches, where they established their household at Ludlow Castle. Arthur had been growing weaker since his wedding, and Henry VII thus seemed reluctant to allow Catalina to follow him, until ultimately ordering her to join her husband. Arthur found it easy to govern Wales, as the border had become quiet after many centuries of warfare. In Mar 1502, Arthur and Catalina were afflicted by an unknown illness, "a malign vapour which proceeded from the air". While Catalina recovered, Arthur died on 2 Apr 1502 at Ludlow, six months short of his sixteenth birthday.

What happened next will have serious consequences, not only for Catalina, but for England and the Papacy, in the near future, and will be debated for centuries. Catalina claimed until the day of her death that she and Arthur never consummated their marriage. The couple spent about half a dozen nights in the same bed, but she, she said, chastely.

Speculation has led to pointing to Arthur's supposedly fragile constitution as the reason the marriage was not consummated, but that has no supporting evidence. Would the Catholic kings of Spain have sent their daughter to marry a man of uncertain health?

Decades later, when Henry VIII was trying to prove that the marriage had been consummated to divorce Catalina, testimonies were found claiming that Arthur had made jokes about being in "the midst of Spain" the night before. But we cannot be sure that these stories are true.

Christopher Guy, Worcester Cathedral's archaeologist, said there were puzzling questions about Arthur's death and why a man reputed to be in poor health was sent to the remoteness of Ludlow, far from the London physicians. Peter Vaughan, of the Worcester Prince Arthur Committee, believes: "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 Dr David Starkey and Dr Julian Litten have dismissed suggestions of neglect or murder. "There is nothing fishy about his demise", said Dr Litten. "He was in Ludlow as an Ambassador for a King setting up a new dynasty". Dr Litten believes the real mystery over Arthur's death was the nature of the disease, and whether it was a genetic condition that was also passed to Edward VI.

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