Name and bloodline has always meant everything to the kings of England. Without these no King had claim nor honour. The Legend of King Arthur was so strongly ingrained into English culture that one King purposefully named his son Arthur to cement his claim to the throne; and show the English he was a mighty force like the legend he named his son after.
Most people have heard of the Legend of King Arthur and his knights of the round table. But how many know that in Tudor times, England came very close to having another Arthur on the throne. Henry VIII was not supposed to inherit the throne of England, he was meant to go into the service of the Church. His elder brother Arthur had been groomed for king ship. So what happened?
Born in September 1486 Arthur was the first born of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. When Henry Tudor challenged and won the throne of England from Richard III, to stop anymore blood shed, he united the houses of York and Tudor. This ended the war of the roses. Their union brought a measure of peace to England that had been unknown for many decades. They were married in January 1486.
Henry and Elizabeth had four children that survived childbirth; Arthur born in 1486, Henry in June 1491, Margret born in November 1489 and Mary in March 1496.
Of the children, Henry and Margret were the most prominent personalities. But because Arthur was the eldest he was the Heir Apparent to the throne.
Arthur was very well educated he studied Latin, Greek, French and many other subjects. There is a bone of contention regarding the health of Arthur. Some historians believe he was always weak, but historically records indicate, although he was born early he was of robust health. Because his fathers claim to the throne was only one generation away from another bloodline; and not brilliantly strong, Henry wanted to join in marriage his children to other royal houses. This would cement his claim to the throne.
One of the reasons his claim was weak was because he was illegitimate. People had loved the Plantagenet king Edward IV, and wanted his children to ascend to the throne. Edward V and his brother Richard, Duke of York were children, and when Henry VII came to the throne they had already been imprisoned in the tower of London (By Richard III), where eventually they mysteriously disappeared.
So to strengthen his claim to the throne, Henry pulled off a master stroke. After much negotiation, that lasted over 10 years, He managed to arrange a marriage between his son Arthur and Catherine of Aragon, daughter of one of the most powerful royal houses of its time in history, the house of Spain. Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain agreed to the betrothal, and promised much gold and precious plate for the dowry. Henry, always needing money, and using peace as a valuable war weapon gladly accepted.
Catherine was brought to England to learn about Tudor life with her new parents. And shortly after arriving she was married to Arthur in 14th November 1501.
They went to honeymoon in Ludlow Castle on the border of England and Wales. From all accounts the marriage was not supposed to be consummated possibly because Arthur was ill at the time. This is also contended, as consummation was often delayed because of age. Catherine swore the marriage had never been consummated. But due to some certain bawdy comments; this so called consummation was to bring up issues later that would tear the kingdom of England in two; nearly bring war and cost the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of people.
Six months after marrying Catherine, Arthur died on 2nd April 1502. One of the theories of his death is tuberculosis, but, this is also not known. What ever he did actually die of, it was ill health. And so England was left with a new hair. Although Henry VII and Elizabeth had another child, to help get over their grief; and to strengthen the royal line; the child died and sadly so did Elizabeth. This whole situation was to cause major problems for the Tudors.
Henry was wilful and self centred. Having been deprived of the status of heir, because of his brother; and not having the prospect of a wife was to have a devastating and long lasting affect, both on Henry and England. People all over the world remember the infamous Henry VIII and his six wives. When he inherited in 1509 the people loved him and called him ‘Bluff King Hal’ no one knew that true horror, death and heartbreak were just around the corner.