On this day in 1486 – Prince Arthur Tudor was born

Following King Henry VII’s victory at the Battle of Bosworth he would have found it vital to secure the throne and produce an heir so when his new bride, Elizabeth of York announced her pregnancy there was great joy in the new Tudor court.

Just weeks before the new Queen was due to give birth; Henry moved his court from London to Winchester, 60 miles away. Henry believed that Winchester was the home of Camelot where King Arthur and his knights of the round table held court, Henry felt a strong connection to King Arthur and had even ordered a family tree to be commissioned that traced his ancestors back to the time of Arthur. The Queen had not been due for a few more weeks but Bernard Andre believed that the upheaval and the long journey caused Elizabeth to go into premature labour and she gave birth to a son in the early hours of 20th September 1486 at St Swithun’s Priory.

St Swithun's GateSt Swithun’s Gate, Winchester

Upon Arthur’s birth he was bestowed the title of Duke of Cornwall and his birth firmly cemented the union between the Houses of Tudor and York. Messengers were sent out and bonfires were lit across the country to announce the birth of the new Prince and Te Deum’s were sung in Cathedrals up and down England to celebrate the arrival of Arthur.

Due to Arthur’s early birth plans for his baptism had to be brought forward to the 24th September, with the King hoping that four days would be enough time for people to arrive at Winchester for the celebration as due to the early arrival key peers such as John de Vere, the Earl of Oxford had not yet arrived at the new court, in fact he was still at his home in Lavenham, Surrey over 100 miles away.

On the morning of the 24th September the Earl of Oxford, who was a godparent to the new Prince, had still not arrived. King Henry had been informed that Oxford was within a mile of the ceremony and so the decision was made to postpone the beginning of the baptism. However, after three hours, Oxford had still not arrived and the congregation was getting restless so Henry intervened and asked Thomas Stanley, his stepfather, to act as a proxy godparent. With this agreed Henry returned to being out of sight, as was the protocol at baptisms, and ordered the ceremony to begin.

With the ceremony underway the priest was beginning to name the child when Oxford entered the Cathedral, Oxford then proceeded to take Arthur in his right arm and presented him for his confirmation. Arthur’s other godparents would be William FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel, Elizabeth Woodville, Dowager Queen and Arthur’s grandmother and Cecily of York, Queen Elizabeth’s sister and Arthur’s aunt.

Following the ceremony Arthur was taken back to his mother, who had not been present as tradition dictated and would be missing from the court until her churching, which normally took place 60 days after the birth of a child but Elizabeth’s churching took place just 40 days after Arthur’s birth. Arthur was carried by his aunt, Lady Cecily and was followed by a procession that passed through the nursery with the King’s musicians. Arthur was then delivered back to his mother and nurses whilst the court went and continued celebrating the new heir to the Tudor throne.

Arthur’s nursery consisted of Lady Darcy who was in charge of the nursery itself, a position she held previously with King Edward IV’s son, Arthur’s wet nurse was Catherine Gibbs and his rockers were Agnes Butler and Evelyn Hobbes.

Arthur Tudor was idolised by his mother and father who viewed him as the future of the country until his untimely death in 1502.

ArthurPrince Arthur Tudor

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