20 September 1486 – Birth of Arthur, Prince of Wales
Posted By Claire on September 20, 2011
“Afore one o’clock after midnight” on the 20th September 1486 (some say the 19th) Elizabeth of York, wife of King Henry VII, gave birth to a son, Arthur Tudor or Arthur, Prince of Wales, as he would become in 1489.
You can read more about Arthur, his birth, christening, upbringing, marriage to Catherine of Aragon and his death, in my article “Arthur, Prince of Wales”, but here are a few Arthur facts:-
- Arthur was born in Winchester, not London – Winchester was believed to have been the capital of King Arthur’s Camelot.
- Arthur is buried in Worcester Cathedral, not Westminster Abbey.
- He was born around a month premature
- John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford, was meant to be Arthur’s godfather but was late for the service and so missed out!
- He was contracted to marry Catherine of Aragon when he was two years old.
- Arthur was just 15 years old when he died on the 2nd April 1502 and had been married less than 5 months.
- His widow married his brother!
- His marriage to Catherine of Aragon is still causing controversy today with historians and history lovers arguing over whether or not it was consummated.
9 thoughts on “20 September 1486 – Birth of Arthur, Prince of Wales”
I guess because of his early death he now seems nsignificant to the uninitiated, one of those with a tomb that a tour guide rushes we Americans by while intoning that he was just “some prince who died young so let’s keep going” . (The way one did at St. George’s Chapel when asked about the tomb of Princess Charlotte, George IV’s dauther). And yet, because of whatever happened on that wedding night with Catherine so long ago, an entire nation would one day be rocked and torn. To this day, I still wonder why the consummation wasn’t more closely monitored — you know, bloody bedsheets and such, especially since such monitoring wasn’t unheard of and we ARE talking about an infanta of Spain — the most powerful nation on Earth — and the heir to the English throne. Good grief. We know the sex lives of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (didn’t his brother-in-law pretty much have to explain to the young Dauphin how things worked?) but are left with such limited knowledge about Arthur and Catherine. (I guess I still lean towards her being “the married virgin” as she was obviously fertile once she married Henry — her first child was the stillborn daughter born prematurely 7 months later; then Prince Henry is conceived roughly 3 months after that).
Poor Arthur. You do have to wonder “what if.” His birth gets a scene in The Shadow of the Tower, the miniseries I’ve been watching. Henry is amazed by this tiny miracle, which he proclaims now has more power than all the kings, princes and noblemen in Christendom — through Arthur, the white and red roses are even more united. You can’t help but wonder about an England in which he would have lived to become King. What if Catherine’s children had survived to adulthood? No Queen Anne Boleyn. No Henry VIII. No Elizabeth the First. No Church of England and an English Protestant Reformation. It almost makes my head ache LOL
Anyway, Happy Birthday Prince Arthur.
And have any of you visited Worcester Cathedral? Was curious about it and found this on their website, about Arthur and his future nieces, Mary and Elizabeth: http://worcestercathedral.co.uk/index.php?pr=Royal_Visitors
I’ve visited Worcester Cathedral at least twice and visited Prince Arthur’s tomb. I visit all of the sites that I can find associated with the Tudors, so I didn’t bother to take a tour and risk being rushed by Prince Arthur’s tomb and chantry.
Thanks for telling me that! I will have to go there someday. I can’t really blame you about the tours. I’ve been on good ones, and I’ve been on some dreadful ones — the one at the Tower and the one at St. George’s Chapel still stand out to this day! I had already recognized who Charlotte was when I saw her beautiful tomb, so when the guide at St. George’s told these ladies that she was someone of “no significance” I jumped out of my skin.LOL When the guide moved away, I immedately informed them of who she was and both of them were appreciative. It’s guides like that which give tour guides a very bad name.
The chantry looks lovely in the photos. How does it look in person? And does it appear to have survived Oliver Cromwell?
The chantry is lovely when you see it in person, too. As far as surviving Oliver Cromwell, I guess I wasn’t really thinking about that when I was visiting. Some of the statues, etc. are worn, but considering that they’re over 500 years old it’s hard to say.
Regarding going on tours, like you said, there are good ones and bad ones. I’ve always enjoyed hearing the Yeoman Warders at the Tower tell their tales, but you have to take it with a huge grain of salt – they’re great at telling the story of Katherine Howard saying “I die a queen, but I’d rather die the wife of Culpepper” at her execution.
Although Prince Aurther only had a short life, he was part of two major events, his birth, being the first heir born to the new Tudor dynasty,( and to survive after being born a month premature especially in those times of high infant mortality).
And then the poor young Prince’s death, which completely altered the course of history in so many ways .Wonder if he would have ‘Rocked’ the world like his bro. did… some how I doubt it, lol. Happy birthday Aurthur
Nancy — thanks again for telling me about your visit to Worcester Cathedral. I’m also glad to hear that you had a good visit to the Tower, and yes, I remember them telling the Katherine Howard story too — I guess why let a good tale die, even if it’s not true LOL (Hey, it always sounded good to me!) I think that the next time I go, I’ll just do it independently though — I seem to have more fun that way.
But the cathedral sounds wonderful, and I know it sounds weird, but I am fascinated by tombs and mausoleums. Here in my hometown, there is a cemetery — Cave Hill — which is not only enormous, but filled with some of the most elaborate and often symbolic tombs, graves and mausoleums. Some belong to the famous (like Colonel Harland Sanders, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken); others belong to those no one but locals may know; some are only known to their families and friends, but to see these final symbols of love is so breathtaking, which is why I enjoyed wandering about Westminster Abbey and St. George’s Chapel.
Now a general question I’m just throwing out: why WAS Arthur buried at Worcester? Was there a specific connection or expediency due to location?
Oh and in searching around about Worcester Cathedral, I found this bit about Winchester Cathedral, only in that it refers to Oliver Cromwell and the treatment of religious institutions: “In the presbytery there are mortuary chests containing the bones of Saxon kings and bishops. When Parliamentary troops despoiled the cathedral during the Civil War, they used these bones as missiles to break up the stained glass windows.” (From http://www.britainexpress.com/Where_to_go_in_Britain/Cathedrals/Cathedrals5.htm#W). It’ll get too off-track if I tell you exactly what I think about that!
Arthur seems to have been veyr different from Henry–he was the one schooled to be king and seems more serious. Henry, at home with Mama and his sisters, was the indulged ‘spare’ but I think this led him to seek pleasures early on, even though he was training for the priesthood. I do wonder what sort of king Arthur would have made…
Lately I have been wondering what kind of king would have Arthur been. Would he have been a kind and good king, or would he have been a bad king? Would he have married 6 times, or would have Catherine of Aragon been his only queen? There are so may questions about what kind of king Arthur would have been and you have to wonder.
I always feel sorry for Arthur having such a strict upbringing then dying so young. If he is ever shown in films or televison he is always portrayed as a sick, weakling who can barely stand let alone consummate a marriage. Of course Arthur was short and thin but until the illness that killed him he seems to have enjoyed good health. The very fact that he survived being born premature when even babies born full term often died indicates this. Catherine being able to get pregnant with Henry does not neccesarily rule out her first marriage was not consumated. Arthur may have been infertile. I think that Arthur if had lived to be King would have been like his father though perhaps due to his sheltered upbringing a little less stern and ruthless.