On this day in history, 22nd February 1511, 500 years ago today, Henry, Duke of Cornwall, the baby son of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon died at the age of just 52 days old. He had been born on New Years Day and his birth had been met with celebrations throughout the land – bonfires, wine flowing through the streets of London, cannons firing, pageants, banqueting and jousts – He was, after all, the King’s only son and heir.

A few days after his birth, little Henry had been christened at the Chapel of Observant Friars at Richmond. The French King, Louis XII, had been chosen to be one of his godfathers and had sent a golden cup and salt as christening gifts; William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury was the other. Margaret of Austria was his godmother, although she did not attend.

The prince was then put under the care of Elizabeth Poyntz and a staff, who included four “rockers” to rock his cradle and help him sleep, yeomen and grooms, and a physician. All the care in the world could not prevent his death shortly after the celebration pageants at Westminster. It is not known what caused his death but infant mortality was high in Tudor England. Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon were devastated, they had lost their baby, their “little Prince Hal”, and the heir to the throne. Little did Henry know that it would be another 26 years until he had a surviving, legitimate son and heir.

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11 thoughts on “Death of Henry, Duke of Cornwall”
  1. Thank you Claire for spotlighting this. I didn’t know about the godparents and gift, very interesting. The infant was buried at Westminster Abbey.

    1. Indeed! I agree! life would have been so different! as the King would have finally have had a son and heir! I mean he did but it would not last long for him.Well until Katherines passing in 1536 and then he would have probably re-married again but we probably would not of seen a second marriage until then.

  2. I am discovering more and more how one event can alter a life forever. Had the baby lived, who can say what might have happened…I wish we could see all the possibilities–but I guess that’s what novels are for..

  3. This story always breaks my heart no matter how many times I read it. Henry and Katherine were at the peak of their love and happiness during those 52 days of their son’s life.

    Her happy times in life were so brief.

  4. Who is to say what would have happened if Mary Queen of Scots (the correct ruler of England) had not been beheaded by her cousin Elizabeth? According to the Church at the time, Elizabeth was a bastard and could not rule, but somehow she did.

  5. Actually, Henry’s will ruled out MQOS…..and his will was accepted by Parliament, so Elizabeth did have the right to rule England. She was accepted by Parliament, and unlike Mary, managed to keep her throne.

  6. I would like to know where in Westminster abbey he is buried? I have read that it was “to the left of the alter”. But, I cannot find a picture of it anywhere on the several websites I tried. Does anyone have any information to would help me?

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