King Henry VIII
Henry VIII
On 22 February 1511, Henry, Duke of Corwall, son of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, died at the age of just fifty-two days at Richmond Palace. Chronicler Edward Hall records his death:

“After this great joy came sorowfull chaunce, for the young Prince, which was borne upon Neweyeres daye last past, upon the. xxii. daye of February, beyng then the eve of sainct Mathy, departed this world at Rychcmonde, and from thense was caryed to Westmynster, and buryed.

The kyng lyke a wyse prynce, toke this dolorous chaunce wonderous wysely, and the more to comfort the Quene, he dissimuled the matter, and made no great mourning out-wardely: but the Quene lyke a naturall woman, made much lamentacion, how be it, by the kynges good persuasion and behauiour, her sorowe was mytigated, but not shortlye.”

The little duke had been born on 1 January 1511 and had been baptised at the Chapel of Observant Friars, Richmond, four days later. His birth was celebrated with guns, bells pealing, bonfires and an extravagant tournament held at Westminster comprising jousting, pageants and banquets, and you can read all about this in my article Birth of Henry, Duke of Cornwall.

It is not known what little Henry died of, but there is no evidence that he was a sickly baby and his death seems to have been sudden. Catherine of Aragon had at least six pregnancies but only one resulted in a child who survived infancy: Mary. Henry had to wait until October 1537 for a living son and that was by his third wife, Jane Seymour. Click here to read more about Catherine of Aragon’s pregnancies.

The Westminster Abbey website tells of how Henry, Duke of Cornwall was buried there “on the north side of the Sanctuary area near the entrance to the chapel of St Edward the Confessor” and that “When the new High Altar was being constructed by Sir Gilbert Scott in the 1860s a small lead coffin of a child was found to the northern part of the step in front of it. This may have been the young Henry’s coffin but it was not disturbed. There is no marker.”

Notes and Sources

The portrait of Henry VIII is by an unknown artist and dates to around 1520.

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14 thoughts on “22 February 1511 – Henry VIII loses a son”
  1. It sounds like a cot death to me but I often wondered where the babies were buried now I know it was in Westminster Abbey, maybe they were laid to rest in Henry V11s grave? it’s only fitting but are they inscribed on the tombs it’d be nice to go and look, years ago I visited the Abbey but didn’t particularly look at the tombs, it’s so very sad that the little Princes death was just the beginning of a tragic pattern for Henry and Catherine.

    1. I think that could have been a strong possibility too.
      If you think about it, how they swaddled their babies in tight bandages restricting their breathing of those little lungs, keeping them wrapped in blankets near the fire, the poor little mites would have possibly over-heated and become dehydrated. It makes you wonder how many healthy born babies died because of this, things that we all know to avoid now.

      1. Yes could be the method of swaddling did contribute to their deaths, babies are hot blooded their circulation is perfect therefore swaddling was unnecessary, poor little mites must have been very uncomfortable.

  2. I live in Texas. Today my husband and I are flying to the UK. We will spend time in liskeard Manchester and London. I was wondering if you had a storefront that I could visit and look at some of your T-shirts and the bead necklace. This will be my first trip out of the country and I am so excited and I would love to see anything you may have.

    1. Hi Tina Suzanne,
      I hope you have a wonderful time in the UK. I don’t have any physical shops, I just sell our products online – sorry!

    2. Tina,
      Go to the Tudor exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery. It is free and you can see the dbl. portrait ring that Elizabeth I wore. It is wonderful…..the exhibit closes on Mar 1. Don’t miss it! You’ll be glad you went !!!!!!!!!
      I can’t say enough ( obviously 🙂 ) but that ring is exquisite and rarely displayed!

    1. I often wonder that too. If all their children had lived!! It would have changed the whole course of history….and perhaps the Tudors would not have stood out like they do today. No Anne as we know her etc. What would we talk about, lol.

      I received a book for Xmas called The Boleyn King, not read it yet, but that’s a ‘what if’ book. About Anne Boleyn having a son who lived…have you heard of it?

  3. Although one third of all infants died within the first two to three months of birth, this is evidence that parents mourned and found such deaths, traumatic and sad. Evidence from the documentary on Mary Arden has given us details that people wrote that they were sad; they were upset, they may not be expected to be so upset, but they could not hide or deny their grief over the loss of their children. Hall I feel is a bit biased and plays down the Kings grief; I believe Henry was upset and he showed his grief as well as comforting the Queen who was inconsolable at the loss of her first born son. This little boy had been the hope of the future, the joyful heir, the cherished child, the son who held all of their hopes and love; their joy had been evident in the tournaments and the many weeks of celebrations of the birth of Henry, Duke of Cornwall; heir to the Tudor throne. He had been on earth for merely 52 days but his presence could only have given true joy to his mother; given hope and pride to his father; he must have made an impression and found a place in their hearts; his death would have been mourned; if not in public, certainly in private. Just how precious this child was is shown in the choice of his burial place. Henry chose the place with care. By having his child placed close to the sacred almost national shrine of Edward the Confessor in Westminster he was asking that beloved saint to watch over his young soul, and he was giving his son honour. This was the most important place in the old abbey; so important that it has been lovingly restored after the reformation. Henry and Katherine were devout Catholic Christians; they cared as much for the soul of their children as they did for their bodies. By placing Henry here; the King identified with this Anglo Saxon saint; this great learned King and he is placing the coffin in a place of great honour and respect. It is a burial full of symbolism, (I am certain someone with more expertise in burial symbolism will be able to add more to this) and it was evidence that Henry and Katherine missed this child terribly.

    The reason, however that his parents were able to move on was that they needed to. They needed to have more children as soon as possible, England needed an heir; Katherine had to get pregnant as soon as she was able. That does not mean that they were indifferent to their lost child; I am sure that Katherine at least kept him into her heart with warmth; but Henry and Katherine were young; they could look forward to more children, and the fact that one child had been born alive; gave them both hope for the future. At this point neither Katherine or Henry had any reason to doubt that they would not have the joy of many more children; living sons and daughters that would delight them and secure the dynasty and the peace of the realm. It was not a problem at this stage that Katherine may lose other children; it was tragic, but all mothers could be expected to lose some of their children; that was the saddness of the times; childbirth was risky and dangerous and infant mortality high. A thousand theories have been put forward because Katherine’s losses were to be unusually high; and the pattern would tragically repeat itself with Anne; but we will never know for certain how or why Henry and his wives lost so many children. We only recently found out the cause of sudden infant death, commonly known as cot death; we only recently discovered the truth about so called shaken baby syndorome. If until the last few years of the 20th century we only found out how to prevent early infant deaths in their cots; we cannot expect the Tudors to have had a clue. For Katherine, the joy of more children soon followed, but alas only one healthy child was to live, and even then by a miracle: that of Mary. And until Henry became concerned about the security of the throne and fell in love with Anne Boleyn she was the apple of her father’s eye.

    Had this cherished child, Henry lived, how much different would history have been? Had Katherine and Henry been blessed with more living sons and daughters and some lived through adulthood, they would have been devoted to each other for the rest of their lives. Henry was not upset or dissatisfied with Katherine; he was devoted to her for many years; but he became increasingly concerned about the fact that he did not have a male heir. His misreading of the text in Leviticus and ignoring the text in Deuteronomy, led Henry, a devout and pius human being to doubt that his marriage was truly blessed by God; he felt that he had lived in sin with Katherine; the Church and Katherine took a different view; his marriage was sound. Added to this heady miix came Anne Boleyn. Henry, may-be already deciding that he wanted to test the validity of his marriage; followed this by seeing Anne, rather than another Princess as the alternative to Katherine and Anne; tradition holds promised him a son. But all that would be many years in the future. Had Henry and Katherine not had the tragic pattern of loss of so many children; history would have not been changed; and I doubt that even if he became attracted to Anne at some stage, that she would have been anything more than another short term distraction.

  4. Had a child of a royal from Spain lived, the world as we know if would to exist. England would never have been the Empire she was had Henry not have broken with the rest of Europe and needed a sea army to protect her from constant threat of invasion. Certainly the United States would not exist because there would not have been any alienated Puritans departing England for America. Th Dutch, my ancestors, would have been more influential here over a longer period.

    It is interesting to contemplate that More and Wolsey could have been successful in convincing Christians to stop going to war against each other and instead join forces against the rest of the world. A sort of early NATO.

      1. It’s impossible to say how different The world would be, but interesting to guess. For example England may have expanded sooner had Henry not wasted so much time and money on a costly divorce. Henry could actually have been a great king. Mary could have made a spectacular marriage that would have helped to further grow England into a country in charge of her own destiny. She may have had children marrying early, many of whom could have been the foundation for empire. Some of the conflict and discord could have been avoided. More and Wolsey could have been the greatest statesman of the age, Cromwell still a property lawyer and banker, Anne married to her Irish relatives, and so on, many possible alternatives. As to the USA, other people may have come to settle there, more Spanish, Portuguese, and the Dutch expanded not just because of persecution. Also native Americans lived there for thousands of years before the Europeans, they would not have been driven from their homes.

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