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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

Ludlow Morning 3

Ludlow Morning 3 by geospace on Flickr (Click image)

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.

Ludlow Castle

Ludlow Castle by orrellsphoto on Flickr (Click image)

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)

Worcester Cathedral

Worcester Cathedral : Taken by Flash of Light on Flickr (Click image)

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.

Heraldic symbols on Prince Arthur’s chantry

Heraldic symbols on Prince Arthur’s chantry : by Little Miss Sunnydale (Click image)


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.

Prince Arthur's tomb

Prince Arthur's tomb by AJK Photography on Flickr (Click image)

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.

Iconoclasm on Prince Arthur’s tomb

Iconoclasm on Prince Arthur’s tomb (Little Miss Sunnydale on Flickr)

Worcester Cathedral

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.




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Prince Arthur: Oldest son of King Henry VII. Died aged 15 in 1502

Prince Arthur: Oldest son of King Henry VII. Died aged 15 in 1502

Despite overthrowing Richard III in battle, Henry’s claim to the throne was weak, and he was surrounded by pretenders to the throne.  Henry’s first action was to declare himself King, and to state that his reign began before the Battle of Bosworth field.  This meant that all challenges to his supremacy since then – including that of Richard III, were to be counted as treason.

catherine_aragon1

Catherine of Aragon

Henry VII consolidates his postition

In order to secure his position internationally he made a treaty with France, and recognised the new county of Spain in arranging for his son Arthur Tudor to marry Catherine of Aragon.  Arthur died in an epidemic in 1502, and Henry’s wife, Elizabeth of York, died a year later in childbirth.  Henry tried to maintain the relationship between England and Spain by obtaining a Papal dispensation for his son, who would become Henry VIII, to marry Catherine in Arthur’s place.  It was not normally permitted for a man to marry his brother’s widow.  People said that the  blow of losing his son and wife in quick succession led Henry to die of a broken heart.

Henry VIII

henry8england-50pc-smaller

Henry VIII became king as the only surviving male heir of Henry VII, despite being one of six siblings.  Henry VIII was married to Catherine of Aragon at only 17 years old.  Henry married Catherine on 11 June 1509, and on 24 June 1509, the two were crowned at Westminster Abbey.  By today’s standards this seems very young – both for marriage and kingship, however only two days after his coronation, Henry had two of his father’s ministers arrested on groundless charges of high treason and executed. This was to become Henry’s primary tactic for dealing with those who stood in his way.

It is sometimes very difficult to unravel human behaviour in our everyday lives let alone in the lives of those who lived hundreds of years ago; to work out why someone develops a particular character.  It seems that from the very outset Henry VIII was a ruthless monarch; but set against the background of relentless wars, rivalry, plots, threats from within and from overseas powers it seems difficult to see how this could have been otherwise?

Westminster Abbey: picture by René Ehrhardt on Flickr (Click image)

Westminster Abbey: picture by René Ehrhardt on Flickr (Click image)

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