Although history has much to say about king Henry VIII there was relatively little interest in him as a child. Although Henry was one of six other children, only four lived to adulthood, Henry himself, two sisters, Margaret and Mary and Henry’s older brother, Arthur.
Arthur was born in 1486 (only one year after his fathers victory at Bosworth) in Winchester and was named after King Arthur. His birthplace was chosen specifically for its connection to King Arthur, at the time, Winchester was believed to be the historical site of Arthur’s court, Camelot.
Henry VII was always aware that his claim to the throne was quite a weak one, it was his intention that associating his son with King Arthur would help to re-enforce his position.
Marriage & early death
As part of a further attempt to ensure his position, Henry VII arranged a marriage between his son and the Spanish princess, Catherine of Aragon. Catherine arrived in England in 1501 and the couple were married in St Paul’s cathedral. As Arthur was Prince of Wales the couple headed for Ludlow from where Arthur was head of the Council in charge of Wales.
It was in Ludlow that Arthur died in 1501, possibly of tuberculosis or from ‘sweating sickness’ a mysterious and feared illness of the day. The body lay in state in Ludlow for three weeks before being moved for burial.
Catherines family had been a little reluctant to allow the marriage because of fears about the possible overthrow of Henry by rival claimants. However, after such a short marriage they felt justified in asking for the dowry back. Henry VII was reluctant to comply and instead played a game of cat and mouse with her parents, not wanting to return her but not wanting to actually marry her to his second son Henry.
This lasted for 7 years and she was still not married to Henry VIII, when Henry VII died. The decision to marry eventually fell to the new king, Henry VIII married Catherine shortly after he came to the throne.(1)
Burial at Worcester
Arthur was taken to be buried at Worcester Cathedral where his ornate tomb stands to this day. Prince Arthur’s Chantry is an ornate addition to the Cathedral, and is sited to the right of the Altar. The step leading into the chantry has been worn smooth over the years – it is strange to stand here and imagine that previously Queen Elizabeth the first also passed by here – she is known to have visited the tomb during one of her Royal progressions through Worcestershire.
The chantry is decorated with carvings of the Tudor rose – note also the pomegranate which is the heraldic symbol of Catherine of Aragon. I suspect (but am not sure) that this would have originally been painted, if anyone knows it would be great to hear from you.
The Chantry at Worcester was seriously damaged during the time of King Edward VI. Many churches suffered at the hands of iconoclasts who believed that reverence for physical objects was akin to ‘idolatory’.
During this period mass books, priests vestments and carved images such as crosses and saints figures were deliberately vandalised. It was during this period that English churches acquired their stripped down and uncluttered appearance that has largely survived to this day.
The Cathedral overlooks the river Severn in the heart of Worcester. Building commenced in around 1084, over the years the Cathedral has been through many stages of development and features a range of building styles.
Worcester is particularly proud of its choir – I was lucky enough to be there one day when they were practising and it is hard to describe just how wonderful this sounded. If you ever get the chance then you must visit the cathedral – in the meantime, take a look at this video which will give you an idea of what it is like.
(1) Note – update 18.12.2009: this section contained an inaccuracy which was kindly corrected by Gussiebuns (see comments) – many thanks
PS You may like to check out geospaces photography website & also Worcester Cathedral website – also, if you like the English landscape then do yourself a favour & take a look Neil Dotti’s work ‘Three Counties Photography’
Also take a look at Andrew Kelsalls website
PS Events have conspired to hinder my usual blogging activities – I hope to get back on track over the next few weeks.