ARTHUR TUDOR, PRINCE OF WALES

BORN: 19 or 20 SEPTEMBER 1486
DIED: 2 APRIL 1502

 

Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales on September 19 or 20, 1486, just 13 months after Henry VII won the throne. Arthur’s parents, Henry VII and Elizabeth of York were married in January of 1486, uniting the houses of Lancaster and York, the rivals of the Wars of the Roses. When their first child was born, he became the physical manifestation of the union of the two houses. The prince was born at St. Swithun’s Priory in Winchester, the ancient capital of England and baptized on September 24 in Winchester Cathedral. His name, Arthur, was purposely chosen to evoke memories of the great British king of the same name. With his birth, the new Tudor dynasty was off to a good start.

In 1488-9, Henry VII negotiated the preliminary treaty of Medina del Campo with Spain which included the proposal that Arthur would be married to Catherine of Aragon, the young daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, the famed monarchs. In 1496, further negotiations were conducted and it was agreed that Catherine would come to England in 1500, when Arthur was 14. Catherine did eventually arrive in October 1501.

After 16 years of negotiation and earlier proxy betrothals and marriages, the Spanish marriage for Arthur finally took place 14th November 1501 in old St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Although Henry VII had (and still has) a reputation for penny-pinching, this wedding was an occasion that he spared no expense. After the wedding, Arthur and Catherine went to Ludlow Castle on the border between England and Wales to set up their household.

In March of 1502 Arthur fell ill, possibly of tuberculosis, the plague or the dreaded “sweating sickness” and died on April 2. Arthur was buried in Worcester Cathedral and the chantry chapel created for him still survives. In 2002, archaeologists used ground-penetrating radar to locate Arthur’s tomb in the cathedral, which is located several feet below the tomb chest that was built several years after his death.

Catherine was left a young widow in a foreign country. The question of whether or not Arthur and his bride ever consummated their marriage became crucial when Catherine’s second husband, Henry VIII, sought to have their union annulled.