Today 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