20 September 1486 – It’s a boy!

Posted By on September 20, 2017

Arthur, Prince of Wales

On this day in history, Elizabeth of York, wife of King Henry VII, did her duty as queen consort and gave the king a healthy son. She did if first time too!

Yes, on 20th September 1486, just “afore one o’clock after midnight”, Elizabeth gave birth to a baby boy at St. Swithun’s Priory in Winchester. He was baptised four days later at Winchester Cathedral and was named Arthur after the legendary King Arthur whose castle of Camelot was said to be in Winchester.

There were high hopes for Arthur and he was made Prince of Wales in 1489. He married Catherine of Aragon, daughter of the renowned Reyes Católicos (Catholic Monarchs) of Spain, Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, in November 1501 but he died on 2nd April 1502.

Elizabeth gave Henry VII seven (possibly eight) children in all, although only four survived childhood – Arthur, Margaret, Henry and Mary – and Arthur died at the age of fifteen. She died in 1503, a few days after giving birth to a daughter who also died.

Here are some links to find out more about Elizabeth of York and Arthur Tudor:

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12 thoughts on “20 September 1486 – It’s a boy!”

  1. Michael Wright says:

    What a different place England would be today if he had survived and had a son. Would Protestantism still have eventually taken hold or would England still be Catholic. Also, on a lighter note a real flesh and blood historical King Arthur!

    I do wish he had lived longer so we could know more about him.

  2. Christine says:

    Iv always been intrigued about Arthur, iv often wondered what sort of man he would have grown into, what character and traits would have developed, in portraits he is like his younger brother Henry, was he studious or sporty like Henry? He was the first born and fate had mapped out a great future for him, he was named after Britains legendary King and was feted as the heir to the throne, as he grew older he would have been aware of how important he was, his parents were ecstatic with happiness at his birth, as we have seen in the earlier post in that religious age they would have believed that God had blessed their union, and fully approved of the new dynasty, what sort of man would he have grown into we can only speculate and what kind of King would he have made? It’s fascinating to consider what kind of country England would have been as Michael says, what would have happened to the religious structure?, and Katherine of Aragons future would have been so different, we can muse there would have been no lonely death for her, his sudden and unexpected death when he was just on the verge of manhood threw his younger brother into the path to the throne, there was to be no second King Arthur at all.

    1. Banditqueen says:

      Yes, how Arthur would have been is a big question, but to be honest, I am not certain history would be any different. What if Katherine couldn’t give him healthy sons any more than Henry? How do we know any biological causes lay with Henry? We only know that he had one son by another woman, but he may have had more. He had two healthy daughters so could have healthy children, but then he didn’t have a healthy son with Anne either. He did have a son with Jane, but then, as with Arthur and Henry Fitzroy, he died before his seventeenth year. There are arguments for Henry having a biological malfunction and for Katherine having a problem also. There is also an argument for the problem being genetic as all these boys died at a similar age, but what? However, it cannot be effective with every male as Henry was strong enough and other male relatives lived. A couple of possible adult illegitimate sons also lived long lives. Genetic problems don’t affect every child or even every male/female child and we are working out why not, but without any way to test this theory via DNA or blood work it cannot be proven here. A blood disorder has also been suggested, plus a number of known causes of miscarriage today, but we don’t really know why Katherine lost five out of six known children or if her history would be any different with Prince Arthur. I can see why people see Arthur as a different sort of man to Henry and there is evidence that indeed he was, but how different a King he would make is hard to judge. I think Henry was a good husband and King for a number of years and he was much as a King should be. Arthur was raised differently and he didn’t have the same interest in war and tournaments. Would he have been acceptable without those qualities? Within a few years he may have learned to rule, he was being taught how to be King by spending much of his time in Ludlow, but did he have the strength to rule? We know that Henry Viii was a strong character, we know less about Arthur, but he did have some good qualities which made him suitable to rule and his education led him towards ruling. Sean Cunningham has also shown that the traditional view of Prince Arthur as a weak and sickly youth to be incorrect, just a myth. The only evidence for illness is the odd children’s illness, which every child gets, even now and which Arthur survived and recovered from, proving he was robust. The last illness he and Katherine suffered from is named as everything from consumption, which he showed no sign of before early 1502 to the notorious Sweating Sickness which killed within days, not weeks or months. In other words nobody actually knows what he died from. The Sweat is probably the most likely culprit, but it could also be any of the notorious Tudor flues or even plague. TB and the plague gave rise to coughing blood and dark matter. It must have been something catching as Katherine and other staff members were also ill for several weeks. Ludlow itself was no worse than any other palace, despite the marshland, which had been drained and it generally had a mild climate. This winter, however, was particularly wet and cold, but the palace apartments had been upgraded and stories of them being damp and cold are myths. The drains had been done, the apartment was warm and luxurious, the couple stayed in the castle lodge in the town if it was too cold, which had new fires and walls and was away from the moat or marsh. The apartment was also on the second floor and was heated and had glass windows and every comfort. The last illness came suddenly, lasted a few weeks and was terminal. It has never really been satisfactorily identified.

      The Prince showed himself as an enthusiastic young man, boasting he had ‘been in the midst’ of Spain, although in reality he had most likely fumbled around and nothing happened. Witnesses say that he was putting on a public show, but others say Katherine was quiet and looking distressed, as if nothing did happen and the whole thing was awkward. The couple were considered comfortably close enough and healthy enough to live together, so there cannot have been signs he was weak or sickly. Katherine must also have found him a good husband, if not experienced. He may well have been a contented husband had things continued, healthy enough to have children, maybe a gentle ruler and husband, educated, able and wise, but he may just as well have been more like Henry vi, whose gentle nature and mental health problems were a disaster for the country. Both the Tudor and Lancaster Kings had Catherine de Valois in common as mother, grandmother and great grandmother, daughter if the mad King Charles vi of France. Arthur showed no sign of mental health problems, but that does not mean he had the outgoing personality of leadership. On the other hand Henry Viii had all of the outgoing things of kingship and Katherine showed him how to rule, he had many other good qualities, but he lacked wisdom and he was too sensitive. Arthur had some of his mother’s gentleness, but so did Henry at first, although Henry also played to the crowd. Many qualities of kingship are learned with time and experience. Henry Vii wasn’t a great warrior, but he had experienced battle and won because he had the wisdom to leave those who knew about war to order battle for him and took their advice. Henry Viii wanted glory from the word go and launched himself into trying to be King of France like Henry V and Edward iii, his idols, antagonised Scotland and France, was impatient to prove himself a man in battle and bed and came out from his father’s shadow, but made rash decisions and ended up failing in either. Henry Vii showed caution and prudence and it may be that Arthur followed this example. This would have made him a reasonable King as long as he acted decisively if he needed to for the security of his realm. His father invaded France to teach them a lesson, not for glory, but because he had no choice, but he secured an honourable peace in the Treaty of Etaples and he formed an alliance with Scotland and Spain. Arthur may have followed his father’s example, been less over confident, less full of himself and more conciliatory. Had he remained married to Katherine and only had a daughter or two, although this is unlikely, but say Katherine could only have female children, a fact in question because Henry of Cornwall was healthy at birth, then he could not use his brother’s reasoning regarding the validity off their marriage.

      Finally, would Arthur have done as Henry did? He couldn’t argue his marriage had anything wrong with it and it is hardly likely he would become attracted to anyone like Anne Boleyn, whose sophisticated forwardness may have even intimidated him. He may well have seen tge succession differently but there is no way to know any of this. Given he was not Henry, he may well have had a successful marriage, children and been a balanced and popular Tudor King. We have no idea. His health may have been against him or may have made him patient and understanding and compassionate. We really don’t know. The reformation would still have gone on in Europe, but England was forced into it because of Henry’s divorce. While we had reformation ideas and preaching around any reforms would be at grassroots, with England still officially a Catholic country, at least for the time being.

      1. Claire says:

        But Catherine would have had seven more years of child-bearing so she may well have given him a living son. She was just under sixteen when she married Arthur, whereas she was twenty-three when she married Henry. I think it’s highly likely that she would have given Arthur a living son, but we’ll never know what could have been.

        1. Christine says:

          It was a mystery what Arthur died from could it have just been the flu? Katherine caught it too but she survived, if you have a dodgy heart the flu can carry you off suddenly, influenza must have been around for centuries, as well as the plague and sweating sickness, if Arthur although he was robust, had a heart condition that could well have caused his heart to stop, the common cold can do that to according to medical men, the illnesse’s they suffered from in that era are shrouded in mystery as we can only go from the symptoms they suffered from, it was like poor Edward V1 his nephew, he was born healthy and was fine till he caught the awful disease that finally claimed him, the disease which is still the object of debate today, was it tuberculosis or some other deadly infection, certainly it affected his lungs, regarding Katherine giving Arthur a prince, yes she could well have done but according to some of her biographers, after his death and the sudden change of her circumstances she suffered from the eating disorder anorexia, this illness is usually triggered by stress and today although young women do suffer from it its from attaining the perfect body image, some feel they will be happier being thin but then the illness takes control and they look in the mirror and instead of seeing a gaunt wasted figure, they just see fat! Although Katherine was always described as buxom her eating habits were a cause for alarm, and I feel this was down to the misery she must have been experiencing, if a woman starves herself for several years she is putting her health at risk, it leads to fewer periods and the body is starved of vital nutrients, it can even affect ones eyesight, it could be that Katherine unwittingly put her babies lives at risk by not eating enough, but after she married Henry who she adored, she was very happy and so her eating habits must have been restored to normal, but was the damage already done? All we know is that she like her successor was fated never to give her husband a living male heir, her first born Henry died within a few weeks, and Anne never carried a prince to full term, but had she had more time with Arthur she could well have presented him with a son, and English history would have been very different.

        2. Banditqueen says:

          Yes, quite true, forget the time difference and age difference. Yes, very probably she would have, but we will never know, although it is interesting to wonder all these different senarios. I forgot that she didn’t marry again for another seven years.

  3. Ana Gomez says:

    Arthur – yes it would be interesting to know what kínd of King he would have mafe and maybe History would be different indeed today in England— but events happen and shape history –

  4. Laura says:

    I find Arthur less interesting. I am sorry. I think that Henry was more of the Renaissance man than Arthur. But I do think Arthur and Catherine’s brief marriage is fascinating and that it was cruelly cut short.
    I think Henry V11 and Elizabeth of York must have felt blessed and to have a son the first time round. Their union was indeed blessed by God as they believed.

    1. Laura says:

      Add on: Didn’t Arthur die from the sweating sickness? I don’t understand how Katherine survived. Maybe it was just diet. Katherine was definitely a strong woman.

      1. Claire says:

        We don’t know for certain what killed him but if it was sweating sickness young men were actually very vulnerable to it.

  5. Banditqueen says:

    This is a good example of context for understanding the choice of Winchester, the sixteenth century choice of Camalot and it’s Medieval connection to both King Arthur and as the ancient English capital of Alfred the Great, the Kingdom of Wessex. Henry Tudor believed his Welsh ancestors were descended from the legendary King Uthur Pendragon, the father of King Arthur. They were in fact of an ancient line back to a famous King Cadwallador who drove out invaders and ruled both parts of Wales and Britain. There is a connection to Cornwall as well by this link and Henry had been linked to prophecy and stories of a Mabdragoon, or a promised great one, to deliver the people from slavery and darkness. He was meant to be a great promised warrior, which makes its application to Henry laughable as he was no warrior. What Henry had was charm, luck and a good veteran warrior to fight for him and someone to raise a Welsh army to help him. The title Mabdragoon had been applied to Owain Glendowre and Owen Tudor, one a true legend and warrior, the other not so much, but he did try to be both a warrior and a hero. He failed and was captured and beheaded in Hereford. Anyway, I have wandered off.

    My point is Henry was deeply connected to the ancient line of King’s and to these prophetic symbols and to enhance his own reputation and legendary claim he claimed his descent from them as well. He chose to have his son born at Winchester, the ancient capital to make this point. He made his wife go here to have their son because of all of these legends and it enhanced his so called legitimate claim to the crown, won in battle and via his marriage to Elizabeth of York and his coronation. Henry was showing everyone that he was now the only legitimate King and his son was the promised fruit of his union and conquest. It was all feeding familiar legends and poems and giving them power and reality.

    The choice of name is almost saying here is another Arthur, the Once and Future King or even Arthur reborn. Henry would make the legendary King live again. The legend had power in the Middle Ages and Henry Viii was a King who would very much buy into the legendary Camalot and in some ways tried to recreate his kingdom. He played games at tournaments based on the knights and even had the Round Table made and hung at Winchester or at least adapted an earlier one made by Edward iii. Henry copied Edward iii who was obsessed with the Knights of the Round Table but he took his first interest from his upbringing. The symbol of Camelot was a powerful political message and one which strengthened Henry Tudors legitimate Kingship in his supporters eyes and hopefully in the eyes of the people, together with the birth of an heir to a fruitful daughter of York. It’s a little ironic that a few months later the first challenge to his reign appeared in Ireland and was crowned Edward Vi, then found his way to Dalton in Furness and into the North of England. We know him as Lambert Simnel, but he was also believed to be Edward of Warwick or one of the Princes and Henry soon found himself in July, 1487 facing down another army, lead by another claimant, John de la Pole, at East Stoke in the Midlands, and Camalot was not the ideal place he hoped. With the help from Oxford yet again, this army was crushed and Henry made good on his prophetic status yet again, but the reality was he was far secure, no matter how many legendary symbols he used.

    I don’t believe Henry was any fool. He may have used these symbols, but in reality, he was cautious and took every precaution to protect his family and new kingdom and he had a ring of spies the same as every other King, he was aware of a cell in hiding still in contact with the Yorkist opposition in Ireland and the Netherlands and he rooted it out. He faced a sizable army from Switzerland and other places, but he made ready and was prepared for this invasion. Henry had to make certain he was secured and his new son made his Dynasty a bit more secure and he wanted everyone to know it. Thus the Great propaganda machine went to work and Henry’s defeat of a big Yorkist restoration attempt made his claim seem even more blessed by the Lord and legitimate in the eyes of his new people. In a new feeling of peace and hope, Henry now had Elizabeth finally crowned because he had her support and his own claim could now be seen not to soley depend on hers. They were now safely married, had two children, had won another startling victory and their realm at least for now was restored to peace and security. Henry had been crowned, his Parliamentary laws had secured both of them as the legitimate rulers, as he saw things, he had restored her legitimate status, they were married and now had an heir at their first attempt. Now, wuth their enemies vanished, killed or defeated, Elizabeth was fully honoured and the future looked good. The Tudor Dynasty was literally born.

    1. Christine says:

      I adore the Authurian legends and I possess a book with the most beautiful colour illustrations, many of Englands Kings were fascinated by Arthur too, Edward 111 as noted and Henry 11 and his queen Eleanor and some of the French monarchy had a fascination with him to, he is described as the one and only King, the King who brought peace to the realm and his court at Camelot was the most colourful court of all, the Knights were true and bold and their exploits were legendary, there was Merlin the fabled magician who gave counsel to Arthur and who had at first led him to the rock where the sword Excalibur was hidden, there was his vengeful half sister Morgan Le Fey who was the ultimate femme fatale and who seduced him and gave birth to the son who would be his nemesis Mordred, no wonder Henry V11 modelled himself on this King, as Bq mentions he claimed descent from Uther Pendragon but many nobles at court were notorious for claiming descent from historical figures, ( although Arthur is just a myth) it is possible medieval people believed he had been an actual flesh and blood person, it was in Henrys interest to claim descent from him thus confirming his right to the throne, Anne Boleyn herself claimed descent from the Dukes Of Boulogne or was it Earls? Possibly to give her paternal lineage more noble blood, her mothers being in no doubt, yes Henry V11 was not a fool he was a shrewd and cautious man, his victory at Bosworth could nearly have gone the other way and it was only due to the intervention of the Stanley’s that he now wore Englands crown, he built up a huge fortune over the years he was her ruler only for his less cautious son to squander most of it in useless wars against the French, he must have mourned his first born son so deeply, Arthur had been the son to whom he wished to preside over a second Camelot, he was named after her legendary King, he had been his first born and had survived sixteen years just to see fate take him cruelly away, did he tremble now for Englands future, he must have pondered on what kind of King his younger brother would make, Henry was a son to be proud of, it was said he took after his grandfather Edward 1V in looks and was very tall with a marvellous physique, even when very young he was said to have a special bearing about him, he was fond of games and riding and the joust, he was a graceful dancer and was described as so beautiful his face was like a pretty woman’s, Henry V11 after his elder sons death now had to adjust himself to the fact that this younger son of his would be his heir and he jealously guarded him from danger, fearful he would lose him to the grim reaper to, Henry himself suffered several bouts of malaria when young but being robust he soon shook them of, this second son was athletic and kept his muscly body fit and in shape, Henry V11 on his deathbed possibly died secure that his son would make a fine King and he and Katherine would breed a new race of kings, the Tudor dynasty would continue and at that time no one could have guessed that Henry V111 would go down in history as the most notorious King of all, that he would go on to discard his queen and marry five more and have two publicly executed, that this good natured golden prince would turn into an obese old tyrant that people went in fear of, all that was in the long distant future.

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