2 April 1502 – The Death of Arthur, Prince of Wales, at Ludlow Castle

Arthur, Prince of WalesOn 2nd April 1502, fifteen year-old Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, eldest son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, died at Ludlow Castle in the Welsh Marches.

It is not known what Arthur died of. The theories include consumption, diabetes, sweating sickness, testicular cancer and pneumonia. His wife of four months, Catherine of Aragon, also became ill, but fortunately recovered and went on to marry Arthur’s younger brother, Henry, when he became King in 1509.

Arthur was laid to rest in Worcester Cathedral and his resting place and memorial, Prince Arthur’s Chantry, can still be seen today at the Cathedral.

You can read all about Arthur in my article Arthur, Prince of Wales
Prince Arthur's Chantry

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20 thoughts on “2 April 1502 – The Death of Arthur, Prince of Wales, at Ludlow Castle”
  1. I wonder what history we would be reading now if he had lived as long as Henry !i don’t know much about auther his personality e.c.t . I would like to think he did spend a night in the midths of Spain in his such chort life very sad really !!!

  2. If Katherine of Aragon also became ill, it may be safe to assume his death was not due to diabetes or testicular cancer. 🙂 Sorry, couldn’t resist!

    1. A very interesting question. Particularly as his body supposdly lay ins State at Ludlow for 3 weeks, ample time to carry him to London, even then. He was given a Royal funeral however, and the Chancery erected for him in Worcester is maqnificent, but unfinished! However it has been suggested that he may have been the victim of foul play. Henry V11, realising his son was notstrong and believing Henry to be the better option had his heir quietly disposed of. This doesnt seem that likely when you consider he had just married him off to Katherine, unless he was after her dowry and hoped she might produce another heir. Its interesting that they waited a month after Arthur´s death to see if Katherine was pregnant before bestowing Arthurs titles on Henry. Another version is that his father, knowing how weak his claim to the throne was, did not want to draw attention to the fact that he had lost 2 of his heirs in quick succesion. Arthur and Henry´s brother Edmund had died shortly before Arthur. Henry Tudor had tried to claim his win at Bosworth was Divine Intervention and had named his first son Arthur as deliberate propaganda, using the idea of King Arthur To lose him and Edmund so close together could have cast doubt in the minds of the masses. Personally, I dont subscribe to either of these theories, its not as though Arthur is the only Royal entombed at Worcester. King John was brought a considerable distance to be buried there. But it does seem strange that Henry went to great lengths to have his firstborn enter this world in Winchester, the ancient capital of Britain and housing “The Round Table” (fake of course) yet entombed him somewhere less less symbolically significant.

      1. Waiting a month to know whether or not Katherine was pregnant before recognizing Henry as the heir was normal procedure. Henry VIII’s sister Mary had to remain in France after the death of her husband, the King, at least until the issue of pregnancy was resolved.

        I’ve read a fair amount of Tudor history but never come across any suggestion that the death of Arthur resulted from foul play.

      2. I am glad to hear you do not believe Arthur was murdered and there is nothing to support this theory, but I am curious as to where you got this idea or heard this? I think it is just that it was a significant place, being like other places connected with Prince Arthur to do with the old centres of government and burial in England. There were many traditions and beliefs connected to Henry Tudor and prophecies and there must have been some connection with this place in one of those.

    1. Very significant. The mythical King Arthurr was a great hero and seen as a great ruler even then, and it was blatant propaganda by Henry, whose claim to the throne was tenuous in the extreme to bestow it on his firtsborn. It was part of his spin, to convince people he and his dynasty were divinely chosen to rule England andthey would provide another “Golden Age”There has been no historical king before or after called Arthur. It is one of Prince Charle´s names I believe, but certainly not one he will be known by. when and if he becomes king. All of Henry´s other children were given family names.

  3. A very sad thing not just for Author and Katherine but for all the death of this charming and promising young man of 14/15. He was called Arthor obviously as he was the promised Prince of legend and the name had symbolic meaning as the Tudors were the new dynastic hope come to rescue us all or that is the propaganda bit anyhow. Being also big in Welsh and Ancient British folklaw Author was of course the King who gave the country a new start and the dynasty saw itself in this old prophetic light, with Author a new Prince of the Britians to begin a new hope and a new age. Everything about him was done to make connections with the original Author and the old royal places of England: Winchester, Ludlow and Worchester were three of the old centres important to the rule of the older Kingdom of England. They had old royal connections and London was not seen as the most important place in the country for administration or to rule from. The Tudors did make the movement towards London but the older Medieval Kings had their centres in the middle of the country and along her boarder lands. These centres were connecte to Arthur and that is one of the reasons he was buried in Worcester as well as the fact it was closer to Ludlow than London.

    He did have the full royal honours and the funeral was reinacted on the Anniversary of his burial. The book about him written a few years ago has a picture of the reinactment and it was very grand and ceremonial, as he was the heir to the throne. I know some people think all of our Kings and royals should be buried in Windsor or London, but historically this has not always been the case. Westminster is now full, although then of course it would not have been and Windsor has for many been favourite as it is now for or current royals. More Ancient burial sites were used because of their legendary significance: Winchester and Worcester or even Glocester just being some of these alternatives as the middle of the country was the seat of power and not London and some have old and very early religious and ceremonial powerful connections with our very ancient past as well.

    For Katherine this was particularly sad as his widow and losing her husband so young, but also as a Princess she must have feared what would happen next. But it was sad in another way; although for Katherine Henry seemed to be the husband of her dreams; had Author not died, she may have been saved all those years of suffering, exile and sadness that she had in their last years and during the divorce. I wonder just what sort of husband he would have made had he been stronger and would he and Katherine had sons as well as daughters. In some ways Henry made a stronger King, but in others, would Author have made the more sensitive and better balanced man?

      1. Sorry, oops, misspelling: I am always doing it with Arthur. Thanks for pointing it out. Sorry also just seen it as well.

  4. I’ve seen ridiculous theories and insinuations before, but that Henry VII would have killed his firstborn for this ridiculous reason, and risked his entire dynasty, seems taken from a soap opera or wtw, someone who can spread this “theory” as something worth only makes me seriously question the intelligence of these people, and I would seriously question the sanity of Henry if was so. Pleaaase.
    Henry wanted to establish his dynasty, is a fact, he used the legend of King Arthur was smart, given the superstitions of the people of the time (I believe). Henry sought by all means to ensure his reign, everything expected of anyone who wanted to keep his crown on his head and more importantly stay alive in times so troubled.

    1. I agree with your comment. With only two surviving sons, it is absurd to think Henry VII would arrange for one to be murdered.

      1. I agree – I have never heard it suggested that anyone murdered Arthur, let alone his father, who was clearly devastated by his death.

        It seems most likely that Arthur died of the sweating sickness, which was probably a form of influenza that often proved deadly in Tudor times. It has also been suggested that Arthur was suffering from an underlying illness such as tuberculosis or testicular cancer – this theory is supported by the Spanish sources quoted in Giles Tremlett’s biography of Catherine. If so, it would help explain why Arthur died and the previously healthy Catherine survived.

  5. The thought of testicular cancer as being a possible cause is a bit curious. My thought about that is there must have been something abnormal there that made them even suspect it. Is it possible that he may have contracted the mumps? It affects glands and in males can “drop” into the testes sometimes causing sterility. If his case was serious enough, it may have killed him. Catherine may have also become ill with a milder case. If he had an abnormality, or testicular cancer, I could imagine that Catherine’s claim that the marriage was never consummated was probably true. As pious as she was, I can’t imagine her lying about that anyway. Just food for thought.

    1. The theory that Arthur had testicular cancer is based on a contemporary account of his death by the Richmond Herald, which refers to ‘the singular parts of him inward’.

      The disease can affect teenaged boys and often progresses rapidly.

  6. Researching for a book I am writing and can’t seem to find links to any concrete info that Arthur’s Heart was kept at Ludlow. Many references to him, of course being buried at Worcester and his heart remaining at Ludlow. Does anyone have any concrete leads in that direction.
    Just saw a T.V. program this week that showed little shelves, I think at Westminter with small boxes containing various Hearts of Royals, which was very interesting.

    Thanks for your help in this.

  7. Also, does anyone have access to an actual account of Arthur Tudor’s Funeral Ceremony. I know it is in the book mentioned with the reenactment but it is a very expensive book.

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