The first child of King Henry VII, the first Tudor monarch, and Elizabeth of York, daughter of King Edward IV, niece of King Richard III, and sister of King Edward V, was born purposefully in Winchester, which was once the capital of the Kingdom of Wessex, on September 20, 1486. The name Arthur was chosen in hopes that he would bring a new Arthurian age to the new Tudor dynasty. His christening took place on September 24, 1486 at Winchester Cathedral. John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford, Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby and William FitzAlan, 16th Earl of Arundel were Arthur’s godfathers. His maternal grandmother Elizabeth Woodville, Queen Consort of King Edward IV and his maternal aunt Cecily of York were his godmothers.
Arthur had six siblings, three of whom survived to adulthood:
- Margaret Tudor (1489 – 1541), married (1) James IV, King of Scotland, had issue including King James V of Scotland; (2) Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, had issue; (3) Henry Stewart, 1st Lord Methven, no surviving issue; Margaret was grandmother of both Mary, Queen of Scots and Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, the parents of King James I of England
- Henry VIII, King of England (1491 – 1547), married (1) Catherine of Aragon, had daughter Queen Mary I of England; (2) Anne Boleyn, had daughter Queen Elizabeth I of England; (3) Jane Seymour, had son King Edward VI of England; (4) Anne of Cleves, no issue; (5) Catherine Howard, no issue; (6) Catherine Parr, no issue
- Elizabeth Tudor (1492 – 1495)
- Mary Tudor (1496 – 1533), married (1) Louis XII, King of France, no issue; (2) Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, had issue, grandparents of Lady Jane Grey
- Edmund Tudor, Duke of Somerset (1499 – 1500)
- Katherine Tudor (born and died February 1503) her mother, Elizabeth of York, died as a result of Katherine’s birth
Arthur had an education befitting an heir to the throne and a household for him was set up in Ludlow Castle near the Welsh border when he was six years old. His early education covered the basics, reading, writing, and arithmetic, which he learned very quickly. In 1491, John Rede, former Headmaster of Winchester College, became his tutor, followed by the blind poet Bernard André in 1496, and then Thomas Linacre in 1501.
When Arthur was very young, his father began negotiations for him to marry Catherine of Aragon, the youngest child of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile. The Treaty of Medina del Campo, ratified by Spain in 1489 and by England in 1490, contained the marriage contract between Catherine and Arthur. Catherine left Spain in 1501, never to return, and on November 14, 1501, the two 15 year-olds, Catherine and Arthur, were married at the Old St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Catherine was escorted to the cathedral by the 10-year-old Henry, Duke of York, who would eventually become her second husband.
After the marriage, the couple lived at Ludlow Castle in Shropshire, England near the Welsh border, where, as Prince of Wales, Arthur presided over the Council of Wales and the Marches. It is doubtful that the marriage was consummated, and this question was to later become of vital importance when King Henry VIII sought to annul his marriage to Catherine. Within months of the marriage, both Arthur and Catherine became ill, probably of the sweating sickness. Catherine survived, but she was left a widow as Arthur did not survive. Arthur was buried in Worcester Cathedral. Henry VII and his wife Elizabeth were naturally distraught at the death of their eldest son. Their second son succeeded his father as King Henry VIII in 1509, leaving us to ask the question, “What if Arthur had become king?”