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September 20, 1486 – Birth of Prince Arthur Tudor

Arthur Tudor c.1500 by Behard van Orley (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Born to Elizabeth of York and the newly-crowned Henry VII, Arthur Tudor represented the great hope and promise of the new Tudor dynasty. He was the Tudor Rose personified, the cross between the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster, a healthy male heir to keep England’s peace long into the future. Even his name augured a new golden age by harkening back to the legendary leader who had defeated the Saxon invaders a thousand years earlier.

Of course, Henry VII rushed to capitalize on the rosy future. Arthur was immediately named Duke of Cornwall, then at age five created Prince of Wales. At age eleven, he was formally betrothed to Catherine of Aragon, a Spanish princess that some say had a better claim to the English throne than the Tudors themselves (she was descended from Edward III through John of Gaunt’s first two marriages, while Henry came through John’s mistress whose children were only legitimized later, after John’s second wife had died).

But that’s getting a bit ahead of ourselves. Far more pertinent to today is that Arthur was born eight months after Henry and Elizabeth were married, and that much was made over the fact that he was “strong and able” although a month premature….This has spawned romanticized stories of a couple that did not wait for the actual vows to be spoken, and much less romantic stories of a mean king who wanted to test his fiancee’s fertility. Mind you, Elizabeth of York had been subject to scurrilous rumors even before then – some said Richard III planned to marry her himself (once his wife Anne died), others that they had slept together. But Arthur’s birth set off  a series of royal pregnancies that left little time for new gossip to arise about her, and people turned to demonizing the King’s mother, Margaret Beaufort.

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Published inOn This Day

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