Thursday, 21 March 2013

PRINCE ARTHUR: 1486-1502


Prince Arthur was the oldest son of Henry VII, the first Tudor king, who erected the tomb to contain his son’s body after his death at the age of only 15. Arthur was married to Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. Catherine was to become Henry VIII’s wife after Arthur’s death.
Prince Arthur's Chantry Chapel. Photograph is reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

Arthur was born in the castle at Winchester to Elizabeth of York, his father Henry VII being the former Lancastrian claimant to the throne. It was hoped that the birth of Arthur, as son of both factions in the Wars of the Roses, would end the bitter rivalry. As a child, Arthur had many titles and duties thrust upon him and even became Regent while his father was away in France. He was Prince of Wales and Lord of the Marches and with his Council was responsible for keeping the peace in Wales and along the borders. He often went with his parents on visits to the border country and went to Shrewsbury and Worcester, and with his grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, probably visited Malvern. Ludlow Castle became one of his official homes, with his Council.
The tomb of Prince Arthur Tudor. Photograph is reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

His formal education followed a typical Renaissance classical pattern. He studied Latin and Greek grammar and the great Latin and Greek authors, in between and during his travels and other duties.
A stained glass window of Prince Arthur in the Cathedral near the Chapel. Photograph is reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

Arthur’s marriage to Catherine was considered to be vital. An alliance between Spain and Britain would bring trade to Britain and also help to diffuse some of France’s dangerous power. Proxy ceremonies of betrothal and marriage were held while the two children were very young. When Catherine arrived in England she was “welcomed by the whole people”.  They were married in St Paul’s Cathedral when both of them were just fifteen. The prince and princess were to spend their honeymoon in Ludlow Castle. However Arthur caught a fever and was too delicate to recover from it. He was dead within five months.  
The Tudor Rose and the Prince of Wales's badge carved on the Chapel. Photograph is reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

Arthur is said to have been a gentle prince, in total contrast to his younger brother Henry. His tragic death was mourned by all and after lying in state for three weeks at Ludlow Castle, the body was transported to Ludlow Church where masses were sung. Three days later the cortege set out for Worcester where the body was placed on a magnificent bier. The next day a long series of funeral services began   It is said that the corpse was laid in the grave “with weeping and sore lamentation”.  

Henry VII had the beautiful Chantry Chapel built to be Arthur’s final resting place and also to be a place set aside for prayers for Prince Arthur’s soul.
Giving you an idea of the height of the Chapel raised above two medieval tombs. Photograph is reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

From the death of Arthur came the marriage of Catherine to Henry, the divorce and Henry VIII’s subsequent quarrel with the Pope. The history of England might have been very different had Arthur lived to ascend the throne.

by Mary Somers

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