Tuesday, June 28, 2011

An Heir and a Spare

Arthur, Prince of Wales and Henry, Duke of York 

On June 28, 1491, Prince Henry Tudor was born. He was the second son, and spare, of King Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth of York. His elder brother Arthur was 5 years his senior. Arthur was everything a Tudor prince should be. He had the name of a great King, he symbolized the joining of the Houses of York and Lancaster, and he was smart, charming, and obedient to his overbearing father. When he was 6years old, he was made regent of England while his father went off to fight the French. He did such an exceptional job that he was made Prince of Wales and sent to govern Wales.
Baby Henry, before the excess turkey legs.

While Arthur was more docile, Henry proved to be a bit of a wild child. As the second son, Henry was considered less important. He was born at Greenwich Palace, a "getaway" for the Queens of England, not an official Royal residence. In her book of hours, Margaret Beaufort, the child's paternal grandmother, does not record his birth when it actually happened (only when he becomes the Prince of Wales several years later), and then gets the date wrong!

Being the second son, Henry was raised in the "nursery palace" at Elton alongside his sisters. Though well educated, he was taught as if he were to go into clerical life in the Church (can you imagine Henry as a Cardinal?). This might explain his inclination to argue Church doctrine years later...

David Starkey believes his mother, Elizabeth, was his first tutor. Growing up alongside his mother and sisters was certainly influential in Henry's life. Perhaps it explains his need for love in marriage, and his great appetite for women when he was older. It certainly was unusual for monarchs of Europe, who grew up much as Arthur did.

Unlike Henry, Arthur was sent away at age 6 to be educated to be King. He rarely saw his parents or siblings, and grew up in a large household of tutors, noblemen men, and their sons.

Young Prince Arthur
Arthur, being the heir and eldest, married in 1501, wedding the Spanish Princess Catherine of Aragon. Henry was not to wed is her was to go into the Church (Henry not marrying? Imagine that!) The wedding was a huge spectacle, much like royal weddings today. The royal couple were young and stunning, however it was Henry who stole the show, dancing the night away in high courtly fashion...well, until he removed his shirt.

Tragedy was quick to follow, however. With the unexpected death of Arthur in 1502, Henry was suddenly thrust into the spot light.

After his brother's death, his mother quickly followed. The death of Henry's mother was a life changing event for him. He had been very close to her. After the birth of a daughter who died a few days later, Elizabeth fell ill and died of puerperal fever (child bed fever). This was what killed Jane Seymour years later, which explains part of the reason why Henry honored her so much after her death.

With his brother's death, Henry's father became obsessive about protecting his only son (which explains a lot about Henry in his later years with his need to have an heir and a spare, as well as his obsessive protection of Prince Edward). Henry's room was attached to Henry VII's, and only accessible through the King's bedchamber. He was not allowed to joust or participate in the fun (and dangerous) sports of the day, and wasn't allowed to marry Catherine of Aragon whom Henry seemed to be very fond of. I think Henry probably resented his father for many of these things. Upon his father's death, Henry did the opposite of what his father decreed, marrying Catherine of Aragon and jousting, sword fighting, and anything else dangerous he hadn't have been allowed to do before.

Henry VII finally died in 1509, at which point Prince Henry was named King of England. He was crowned King in June 1509.

It can certainly be said that history would have been radically different if Arthur had lived and reigned instead of Henry. However, knowing Henry's personality I feel he would have still made a name for himself, whether he was king or not. Pin It

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