In this primary document we will read two accounts of the death of Prince Arthur, Henry VII’s eldest son. Why was Arthur’s death such a detrimental loss to Henry VII and how did it shape the future of the Tudor Dynasty?
The Death Of Prince Arthur, Prince Of Wales, 1502 The first account below was taken from a contemporary herald’s report, first published in 1715. The second account was written by Tudor citizen Richard Grafton. Its spelling has been modernized. Arthur was the eldest son of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. He was born on 20 September 1486, barely a year after the pivotal battle of Bosworth Field, and died on 2 April 1502. Arthur was indeed named after the mythical King Arthur; Henry VII was Welsh and the legend was popular in medieval England. In fact, it was generally believed at the time that Winchester was built upon the ruins of Camelot. And so Elizabeth of York was sent to Winchester to give birth and Arthur was christened at its cathedral. He was titled Prince of Wales (and was the first to receive the title) when he was 3 years old.
Negotiations for his marriage to Katharine of Aragon, daughter of the famous Ferdinand and Isabella, began in 1488. The terms were settled in 1500 and the couple were married in London on 14 November 1501. They journeyed to Ludlow Castle, the traditional seat of the Prince of Wales, and established a small court. However, Arthur died suddenly on 2 April 1502, possibly of tuberculosis. The two accounts at right record his parents’ reaction to the news.
When his Grace [Henry VII] understood that sorrowful heavy tydings, he sent for the Queene [Elizabeth of York], saying that he and his Queene would take the painful sorrows together. After that she was come and saw the Kyng her Lord, and that naturall and paineful sorrowe, as I have heard saye, she with full great and constant comfortable words besought his Grace that he would first after God remember the weale of his own noble person, the comfort of his realme and of her. She then saied that my Lady his mother had never no more children but him only, and that God by his Grace had ever preserved him, and brought him where he was. Over that, howe that God had left him yet a fayre Prince, two fayre Princesses and that God is where he was, and we are both young ynoughe. ….Then his Grace of true gentle and faithful love, in good hast came and relieved her, and showed her howe wise counsell she had given him before, and he for his parte would thanke God for his sonn, and would she should doe in like wise.
When the king by his high policy had completed his alliance with Spain in this way, there suddenly came a lamentable mischance and loss to the king, queen and all the people. For that noble prince Arthur, the king’s first begotten son, after he had been married to the Lady Catherine for five months, departed this transitory life at Ludlow on 2 April 1502.
With great funeral obsequies he was buried in the cathedral church of Worcester. After his death the name of prince belonged to his brother the duke of York, since his brother died without his issue, and so without being thus created he ought to be called, unless some apparent cause was a let or obstacle to it. But the duke, suspecting that his brother’s wife was with child, as was thought possible by the expert and wise men of the prince’s council, was by a month or more
delayed from his title, name and pre-eminence, in which time the truth might easily appear to women.
It is reported that this lady Catherine thought and feared such an unhappy chance might come, for when she had embraced her father and taken leave of her noble and prudent mother, and sailed towards England, she was continually so tossed and tumbled hither and thither with boisterous winds that what with the raging of the water and the contrary winds her ship was prevented many times from approaching the shore and landing.
Hanson, Marilee. “The Death Of Prince Arthur, Prince Of Wales, 1502″ <a href=”https://englishhistory.net/tudor/the-death-of-prince- arthur/”>https://englishhistory.net/tudor/the-death-of-prince-arthur/</a>, February 9, 2015