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

Posted By on September 20, 2015

Arthur, Prince of Wales“Afore one o’clock after midnight” on 20th September 1486, Elizabeth of York, queen consort of King Henry VII, gave birth to a son at St. Swithun’s Priory in Winchester.

The royal court had arrived in Winchester in early September. They had travelled there because Henry VII had wanted his first child to be born in the place believed to have been the capital of the legendary Camelot. He named his son after Camelot’s heroic king, King Arthur, and he was convinced that his son’s future reign would be a golden age. Arthur’s birth was celebrated with bonfires in the streets and the singing of the Te Deum at Winchester Cathedral. Tragically, Arthur died at the age of fifteen, on 2nd April 1502, and it was his younger brother Henry who became King on Henry VII’s death in 1509.

Click here to read more about Arthur, Prince of Wales.

Tudor Society members can view my video about Ordinances by Margaret, Countess of Richmond and Derby, as to what Preparation is to be made against the Deliverance of a Queen, as also for the Christening of the Child which she shall be delivered, a manual written by Margaret Beaufort, Henry VII’s mother, in 1486 when Elizabeth of York was pregnant with Arthur – see www.tudorsociety.com/margaret-beauforts-ordinances-video/

7 thoughts on “20 September 1486 – Birth of Arthur, Prince of Wales, at Winchester”

  1. BanditQueen says:

    Happy birthday Prince Arthur. Henry named this child that he and Elizabeth placed all their dynastic hopes into for the once and future King; the legend of King Arthur was being played out in the symbolism from this choice of name; just as the choice of Winchester is symbolic for the birth. Winchester is the ancient capital of England. There are connections to the legend all around the area; there is ancient British history everywhere; many of the ancient pre conquest Kings are buried here. The ancient royal court of the Saxon Kings met here. Henry is connecting himself to the ancient Kings of Britain and England as the old line of Kings in Wales, the latter by descent, the former by assumed bloodline. His own claim to the crown was tenuious, he has to create a legend and to live that as if it reality. Although his marriage to Elizabeth strenthened his claim, he gained the crown through right of combat, so his marriage does not add to that right on its own. Together with the line from Gaunt via his mother, his claim is made stronger, but still he needs to create a connection to the old lines of Kings in order to enhance his image and of course his own security.

    As Henry and Elizabeth were related the couple had to wait until January 1486 to get married as they needed the normal dispensation from Rome to say it was fine, which of course was granted and they sealed the deal. This, though means that Arthur was probably either a bit early, or that he was conceived before the wedding. Elizabeth of York was a beautiful maturing woman, Henry a mature man of 28, both appear to have been attracted to each other and Elizabeth was also a passionate woman. She was caring and she was compassionate, she was a good match for him; they had a successful marriage. It is possible that they may not have waited to express that love in full. There is nothing to suggest that Henry raped Elizabeth as has been claimed by Philippa Gregory in her novel about Elizabeth; there is nothing in the records that can be used to prove a sexual relationship before marriage; but Henry was not the first royal relative Elizabeth may have had her eye on. There were unproven rumours that Elizabeth had a thing for Richard III and he had to openly deny that he had any intentions towards his neice. There was nothing to say that she had a relationship beyond flirting or a teenage crush on Richard; but she did find him charming and attractive. May-be she was just taken as any eighteen year old girl would be by the danzzel of his court.

    It is more likely, for all of the speculation above, however, that nothing happened beyond courtship before the couple were married and as David Starkey has suggested, the 60 miles that Elizabeth travelled in order to move to Winchester for this symbolic birth played a role in her having Arthur early. The baby and mother came through the birth fine; but it cannot have been good for her to have travelled so far for her lying in and confinement; no matter what connection to history her husband felt. Dutiful as Elizabeth was as a wife and queen, I bet she was thinking: if you were having this baby, Henry I bet you would not be travelling miles for the birth; I don’t know; men!

    1. Sheila says:

      Hi BanditQueen,
      What are your sources for Elizabeth of York? I thought the marriage took place as late as it did so that only Henry VII would be crowned at his coronation. However, that took place on 30th October and so it seems reasonable that they awaited a dispensation.
      I knew that there was talk of Richard III allegedly having his eye on Elizabeth as a bride. The gossip began because Queen Anne and Elizabeth wore identical dresses at the Christmas celebrations of 1484. I had not heard of any speculation that Elizabeth and Henry did not wait until marriage. I have read “The Winter King” but this deals little with the personal relationship between Elizabeth and Henry beyond the fact that Henry was floored by the death of Elizabeth, and marked the anniversary every year. As an aside, I still ponder on Elizabeth’s year of birth. It is documented that her parents were married on 1st May 1464 and yet she is said to have been born on 11th February 1466, precisely 1 year and 9 months later. I still go for 1465 as a birth year.

      1. Hannele says:

        Why would you doubt Elizabeth’s birth year? She was a royal princess, so her birth was certainly noticed. And not every couple beget a child once they are in bed.

        However, as Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodivile married secretly, the date 1st May can be wrong and only chosen because it was a day of love.

        1. Sheila says:

          Warwick the Kingmaker was engaged in negotiations to secure a French marriage for Edward IV. The latter came clean at Michaelmas 1464 that he was not free to marry as he had already married in May of that year. Warwick was furious because he had been made to look a fool, and furious because Edward had thrown up all the benefits of a dynastic marriage. How like his grandson! The point, before I digressed, was that there is documentary evidence of the date of Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville. The marriage was born out of physical attraction, and the couple went on to have 7 children. The queen already had two children from her first marriage. In those circumstances it is more likely than not that a child would be conceived earlier than 1 year after the marriage.

      2. Banditqueen says:

        Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York were related, so needed a dispensation. This was the reason for the delay in their marriage, as I said, all the other stuff was pure speculation. The fact that Anne as Richard lll queen and Elizabeth had matching outfits is interesting but not evidence of anything other than showing esteem and favour to Elizabeth who was the guest of Richard and Anne during the Christmas celebrations at court, along with her sisters. Having been cooked up in sanctuary for several months, once Richard had graciously given the Dowager Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, his guarantee of safe conduct for her and her daughters, the teenagers were glad to be out in the world, at court, were, even with their then illegitimate status, they were now on the marriage market. Anne Neville seems to have taken to Elizabeth, but it was not out of order to present herself and eldest niece in matching outfits. It was a singular honour. This was not the source of the rumours although later historians and chronicles speculate on this. Richard’s own advisors expressed concern that Richard intended to marry Elizabeth. He may have been seriously attempting to prevent Henry Tudor from his expressed vow to take Elizabeth as his quern, but it had been noticed that he paid attention to her while she was at court. There is no evidence that anything went on and Richard published a denouement of his alleged intent to marry Elizabeth. I merely speculate about what Henry believed and if Henry and Elizabeth of York became lovers before the marriage as it has been raised before. Personally I don’t believe that they were, nor do I believe that Henry thought she was the lover of Richard lll. As you state, Henry wanted to be crowned as soon as able and delayed his wife’s coronation for both personal and political reasons. For one thing Henry needed to reverse the Titulas Regus or at least the part which laid out Richard’s title and lawful claim to the throne, this being that the children of his late brother Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville were bastards, that she had tricked him into marriage by witchcraft, that Edward IV was married before and so his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was not lawful but he was the next legal male heir. Henry Tudor then ordered all copies destroyed, obviously not all were. Henry also wanted to make the political point that his claim did not depend on his wife. This was part of the myth. The coronation of Elizabeth of York in fact did not take place until 1487. Again speculation has been suggested in various novels, drama and one or two other authors about this delay, it must have given the wrong impression that Henry had personal doubts about Elizabeth, as she was of the House of York. There is no concrete evidence that confirms this, but it may have been his mother who persuaded him to make sure Elizabeth was crowned. Margaret Beaufort certainly was his chief confidant and he relied on her for many years. Again, much speculation, but most certainly I will check the exact sources for the main information and get back to you.

  2. cleopatra says:

    There are typos on that paragraph. And wasn’t arthur the older brother of king henry the eighth?

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, that’s why I say “and it was his younger brother Henry who became King on Henry VII’s death in 1509.” Arthur had died in 1502 so his younger brother Henry was heir to the throne from then on and became king in 1509.

      Thanks for spotting the typo, I could only fine one – “becasme” – but I’ve corrected it.

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