20 September 1486 – Arthur, Prince of Wales, Born at Winchester

Arthur, Prince of WalesToday marks the anniversary of Arthur Tudor’s birth, According to Lady Margaret Beaufort, his grandmother, he was born at “afore one o’clock after midnight” on 20th September 1486 at Winchester in Hampshire. He was the son of Henry VII and his wife, Elizabeth of York, and was born just eight months after his parents’ marriage.

Henry VII had moved the court to Winchester in early September so that his first-born child would be born in the legendary capital of Camelot, the site of the chivalric hero King Arthur’s castle. If the child was a son, which he was, he would be called Arthur and he would bring about a new golden age for England. Hopes were high for the child.

The fact that the court was not moved until early September, combined with the fact that Arthur was born eight months after his parents’ marriage, suggests that Arthur was born slightly early. It was normal for a Tudor woman to take to her chamber about 4-6 weeks before her due date whereas Elizabeth of York must have only gone into confinement about two weeks before his birth. Perhaps, as David Starkey suggests, the long journey on bad roads caused Elizabeth to give birth early. As far as we know, the birth was straightforward and although Elizabeth did develop some type of fever or infection she was able to fight it off successfully. Mother and baby were healthy, it was time to celebrate!

England celebrated the news of a new prince and heir to the throne by lighting bonfires in the streets. A Teu Deum was sung at Winchester Cathedral and preparations began for a lavish christening.

Notes and Sources

  • Henry VIII: Virtuous Prince, David Starkey

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9 thoughts on “20 September 1486 – Arthur, Prince of Wales, Born at Winchester”
  1. Wow, this is the first time I have ever heard that Arthur was born 8 months after the marriage of Henry and Elizabeth. But Arthur was always frail in life, and I wonder how much of it could be attributed to his early birth. After all, these days, a child could be born early (I don’t know how soon one would actually be viable enough to survive an early birth) and with the right intervention, live a long and healthy life. But this was “back in the day” when illnesses were blamed on “evil vapors” or the devil.

    Had things been different, I wonder how England would have fared under King Arthur Tudor?

    1. Well, if Elizabeth conceived right away (the marriage took place on January 18 1486) Arthur would have been born at about 37 weeks along, which these days is considered just within the boundary of being considered term. How he did would depend largely on how well-developed his lungs were.

      King Arthur Tudor would make an interesting alternative universe for some enterprising novelist — or even a Prince Arthur who managed to have a child with Catherine of Aragon before his death. Who knows, things may well have gone worse.

  2. I am sure it was a joyous, but worrying time with the little mite coming early.
    I wonder if there were any spiteful gossip going about with Arthur arriving early by the ‘losing’ side, or Henry’s enemies at the time, in the context of the baby being conceived out of wedlock, is there any writings of such talk does anyone know?

  3. It must have been a tremendous achievement for Elizabeth to have a healthy baby boy the first time and so quickly after her marriage. if only it had been so straightforward for Henry VIII’s wives. As it was another healthy male heir would not be born for another 50 years.

  4. Henry V 11 must have been so happy he had a prince,but what a shame he died just a young boy of 15 yrs.That must have been so sad for all.In Elizabeths defence she could have conceived the child on the honeymoon and had the baby early.I conceived my first on my honeymoon,then 10 years later on Thanksgiving I conceived my son,there birth days are both on the 27th and that was not planed.Maybe had Arthur lived ,Queen Anne would have lived a long life,with Harry Percy and had many sons and daugthers.But life is fate and timming ,we never know the out come,only when it happens. THX

  5. You have to wonder what kind of king Arthur would have been if he had lived. Would he have beheaded two of his wives as his brother did? Would he have basterderized his daughters as his brother did? And if he had lived would he had have a son or a daughter to succed him, and if it was a daughter would she have been great as his niece Elizabeth?

  6. It is sad this young man died only to live his beautiful young wife to that cold brother of his.Who knows he could have been a loving husband like his father something his young brother lacked,but sometimes life is not perfect.

    1. That cold brother and Katherine had a warm and loving relationship for 20 years. Unlike the marriage of Arthur and Katherine their wedding night left no doubt about consummation. So much for ‘that cold brother of his’

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