Monday, April 28, 2014

The Life of Arthur Tudor Prince of Wales

by Stephanie Moore

The battle of Bosworth in 1485 was the turning point for Henry Tudor. With Richard III killed, Henry, son of Edmund Tudor Earl of Richmond and Margaret Beaufort, took the throne and was crowned Henry VII of England and then married Elizabeth of York. Many say Henry took Elizabeth of York as his wife to end the War of the Roses and to heal a country divided. Elizabeth was the daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, sister to Edward V and niece to Richard III. In 1486 not long after Henry and Elizabeth’s marriage, Elizabeth who was attended by her mother’s favorite midwife, Marjory Cobbe, gave birth to a son who was named Arthur, her eldest and heir to the throne.

Many say that Arthur was named after the legendary King Arthur. For example, ‘Starkey attributes the naming of Arthur to the Arthurian legend but Julia Fox clearly states that Arthur was named for a star prominent at his nativity – probably Arcturus. (Source: Anglo, British History, p. 32 and note 2.) She believes that the Arthurian Legend became attached to Arthur much later.’

It was customary for women to have their lying in for a month to recover from giving birth. During that time Arthur was christened and his mother was not able to witness the ceremony. He was taken care of by his wet-nurses and while his mother was recovering, outside songs were being sung to celebrate his birth. The news quickly spread of a prince being born and plans were made for his reception at Winchester Castle.

In 1488 to secure England’s alliance with Spain, Arthur was betrothed to three year old Princess Catherine of Aragon. Catherine was daughter of Queen Isabella of Castile and King Ferdinand of Aragon.

When Arthur was six years old he was moved to Ludlow Castle in Wales to begin his grooming for kingship. Once he moved to Wales, his mother saw very little of him and had little control over his upbringing, but that is how it usually was for the eldest and heir to the throne.

Arthur’s father established an independent household for his son at an early age. Arthur’s council was led by John Alcock, Bishop of Worchester. By 1493, Arthur spent most of his childhood in the English Marcher Counties.

While Arthur was in Wales, Henry was quite busy with other matters of rooting out threats to his throne and securing his dynasty by having more children with his wife Elizabeth. However, Henry continued to worry about his son’s household and he purposely did not place a single nobleman in charge. By the age of seven, Arthur was master of his own house.

Arthur’s education included military warfare-such as arms training- among other skills that were important for an heir to the throne. Although there was not a civil war or rebellion in Wales which would have trained Arthur in the art of war, Henry appointed him warden-General of the Marches against Scotland.

He grew up to be intelligent, thoughtful and well versed in the classics but like his father, Arthur’s rule was not entirely favorable. Often his princely rights seemed oppressive to many. As he grew older he was served by knights and it is known that they used intimidation to alter the legal system and their families were accused of abusing the power of Arthur’s estates.

Arthur was waited on by men of his own generation. Men such as Anthony Willoughby and Maurice St. John who was the great nephew of Lady Margaret Beaufort and Robert Ratcliffe whose father was John Ratcliffe Lord Fitzwalter who was accused and executed for plotting with Perkin Warbeck in 1495-6. These were the men who Arthur is reported to have said to after his supposed wedding night, ‘Bring me a cup of ale, for I have ebb this night in the midst of Spain.’

When Arthur was born he was premature and sickly and his weak state is said to continue throughout his short life, so it is questionable whether he had a wedding night with Catherine of Aragon. As the history is told, Catherine said their marriage was never consummated.

My article on the marriage and death of Prince Arthur of Wales is coming soon.

Tudor by Leanda De Lisle
Winter King by Thomas Penn
Elizabeth of York by Amy Licence
Elizabeth of York by Alison Weir
Arthur Tudor Prince of Wales (Life, Death and Commemoration) edited by Steven Gunn and Linda Mockton.

The picture of Arthur is from Wikimedia Commons and the picture of Ludlow Castle was provided by Author Kristie Davis Dean. My help with verifying information about who Arthur was named after is from Author Regina Jeffers.


Stephanie Moore Hopkins conducts author interviews and helps promote the B.R.A.G. Medallion. She participates in the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours; she has reviewed books for the Historical Novel Society; is Co-Admin of English Historical Fiction Authors Group on Facebook, and is an avid reader of Historical Fiction, Alternate History, Non-Fiction and History. She is currently writing an alternate history story titled, “Poison Letters.” Which is a tale that takes place in the present time but reveals letters of a Tudor past and the death of Arthur Prince of Wales that was passed down from a female line for generations. It is legacy that is threatened to be revealed and could destroy lives, friendships, family and forever change a country.

When she is not pursuing her love of a good read, writing, chatting with authors and fellow readers (which is pretty much 24/7). Stephanie also enjoys creating mix media art on canvas. She is into health, fitness and loves the outdoors. These days she has no idea what rest is!

You can find Stephanie at Layered Pages and her Layered Pages Facebook Page.


  1. shared and tweeted, Stephanie, one piece of alternative history I'd like to see would be what happens when Arthur doesn't die.

    1. The "what ifs" are so exciting! You can create so many different plots with alternate history and I find that so fascinating.

  2. I would be surprised if someone hadn't written an alternative universe story in which Arthur survived. Henry would have been restless, certainly, but unless he did a coup there would have been a very different history of England, no Mary, Edward or Elizabeth, no Six Wives, different politics, so different overseas colonies...

    1. I think there is a history website that explores the what if's of him surviving. I will have to look for it....

      I have thought about writing a short story about Arthur surviving and becoming King....and you are so right Sue! There would have been a very different history of England.....

    2. Stephanie, there is a reenactment court of that does. I can link you to the court if you wish. It is administered by Melissa Levy.

  3. I do believe someone we know, ladies, is currently at work on an alternate I right, Steph?

  4. Yes, indeed! My story might surprise you though! lol. But I won't let the cat out of the bag!

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Great blog Steph. Glad to see all your research has come in useful.

  7. Thank you, Jayne! I'm new to this and have learned a lot. I wanted this piece to be strictly information about Arthur. My next article will be more articulate-if you will.

  8. I do want to further add that yes in fact it is known he was possibly born prematurely and was weak. In fact he was tiny....In my article I did list my sources for my information. I failed to mentioned that there is also evidence or talk-if you will- to suggest that even right before his marriage he was already ill.....Also, because of Arthur's weak state, he was established for at least the first six months of his life at Farnham, Surrey. He needed careful nursing until he was stronger. Then he was moved to London. I did in fact carefully researched all my information gathered. I really wish there was more information about his life when he was a child. He seemed to be hidden away and protected. Which it would be understandable in his said condition.

    1. I'm sorry, but there is no evidence from the time to suggest that he was "tiny" or "weak". If there were any health issues, there would be documentation in the form of doctors bills etc for his treatment. There isn't anything. Arthur's sudden death from Sweating Sickness/Infection was swift, sudden and totally unexpected (Catherine also fell ill, but recovered - another clue to it being sweating sickness). If Arthur was "weak from birth", his death would not have been spoken of, but would still not have come as a shock.

  9. Also, as for Arthur's being premature, Henry and Elizabeth were married in January of 1486 and Arthur was born in September. They needed an heir as swiftly as possible and the pair always had a close relationship. Looks like Henry hit the mark early, that's all. If Arthur was premature, it was a matter of weeks which wouldn't make much difference to anything, really.

    As for this stuff about Arthur being nursed carefully, where has that come from? I have never, in all my years of studying the early Tudor period, come across this. I have, however, read it debunked by many such as Starkey et al.

  10. I am satisfied and confident with the sources I researched from the their assessment of this period I write about. We must remember that history is subjective and that everyone has a different opinion....and that is okay.

    1. The primary sources (that is, sources from the era in question; written by the people who were actually there) completely trump any other source written later (especially modern day biographies). Disregarding primary sources is no research, nor the behaviour of anyone who is serious about research. The fact remains: your assertions have been soundly debunked, both by reputable historians (Starkey is the expert of the era currently still living, after all) and the primary sources.

      The fact that you're writing your book as an alternative history gives you carte blanche, as it were. But you would never get away with presenting the above article, containing so many outdated myths, as a scholarly piece. Sorry, but you wouldn't.

    2. And opinion should always be based on recorded fact (and there are recorded facts, History isn't stuff we just make up off the tops of our heads, after all). That is the fundamental difference in our approaches.

    3. Have you looked at the original records? They are available on line. One Ambassador described baby Prince Arthur as "bonny and lusty" in one of his dispatches. That's quite the opposite of "weak and sickly". If you're serious about this "research business", they are well worth a look and mostly free online in digitalised form. Otherwise, you're doomed to repeat myths debunked a long time ago.

  11. Starkey is not a self-anointed expert at all. He is a reputable historian. It's fine if you don't like him, but don't throw the baby out with the bath water. He is the best Tudor historian around, and he makes very few mistakes. Starkey has engaged in debates with masters like Elton and has gathered extensive knowledge, so I wouldn't say that he cannot see any point of view other than his own. The main positive point with him is that he is always able to back up his statements with original primary sources.

  12. "As he grew older he was served by knights and it is known that they used intimidation to alter the legal system and their families were accused of abusing the power of Arthur’s estates."

    I am not sure what this actually means. How could anyone change laws without involving the Parliament? That would be illegal! What laws are we talking about here?

    "When Arthur was born he was premature and sickly and his weak state is said to continue throughout his short life, ..."

    I don't know what basis you have for saying this. There are absolutely no reports saying that Arthur was born sick, and there is just one report in Spain in 1501 that said Arthur had thin legs and looked sickly. There are no medical documents, absolutely nothing that Arthur spent his life as a sick person. You also say above that Arthur got arms training, which would have required physical strength. How did he manage to get the strength if he had been sickly from birth to death?

    "... so it is questionable whether he had a wedding night with Catherine of Aragon. As the history is told, Catherine said their marriage was never consummated."

    As far as Katherine's wedding night is concerned, from where we stand today, it was a 50 - 50 chance. I personally believe that the marriage was consummated but I cannot say so firmly, and neither should you. It is not 'questionable' at all. There is every likelihood that it was consummated since Arthur was not sickly.

  13. Like I said above, my article is the result of my own research and I do find it reliable. Thank you again for all your interesting opinions. I think at this point we can agree to disagree. I hope you all have a lovely day! Cheers.

  14. Thank you for historical comments on this post. It is going a little to far at this point.

    I was born weak and sickly, but was expected to take all the same physical training as the others in my classes despite its making me feel sick. I'm sure Arthur would have been expected to push himself to appear stronger than he may have felt if that was a problem.

    Questionable and 50-50 chance are pretty much the same thing, so it is getting to be grinding the author.

    Your points have been made. Any further comments will be removed.

  15. I get all comments via email, and Stephanie never called anyone any name.


Comments with opposing viewpoints are allowed if they are not written in an unnecessarily confrontational or arrogant manner.