Ludlow Castle, home to Arthur Tudor and Katharine of Aragon
Arrival at Ludlow Castle
After their spectacular wedding, Arthur and Katharine left London for Ludlow in December, 1501 to begin their married life.
Arthur, 15, who had been the master of his own household since he was 7, was already involved in the governance of Wales, and Katharine would have began to try to settle in and learn about her new language, customs and country as the Princess of Wales.
It can’t have been easy. England was very different to Spain, Just as one example, Katharine was used to being able to drink the water in the Alhambra Palace in Grenada, where in which the water was deemed unsafe in England and they drank wine and small ale (weak beer) instead.
Lady Margaret Pole, the Queen’s cousin and the daughter of George, Duke of Clarence was appointed one of Katharine’s ladies. Margaret was married to Reginald Pole, Arthur’s Chamberlain and the two women formed a strong friendship.
Margaret’s brother, Edward, Earl of Warwick had been executed under trumped up charges of treason against the Tudor regime, and it was after this that Katharine’s parents had felt comfortable enough to send her to England. I wonder if the two women spoke about this in any detail.
Sickness and Death
By March 1502, there had been reports of illness in Wales and by late March it had reached the castle.
Both Katharine and Arthur succumbed to illness, and it is thought that it could have been the Sweating sickness.
The Sweating sickness was an illness that came and went with the Tudor reign and it was a force to be reckoned with. Although not 100% fatal, it had a high death rate.
Prayers were said in the beautiful round chapel of St. Mary Magdalene for the young couple, but sadly Arthur died on the 2nd of April, 1502.
There are other suggestions for what could have killed Arthur, as it is impossible to know for sure.
It is thought it could have been Tuberculosis, a common killer in his time, which also eventually killed Henry VII, and possibly Arthur’s nephew King Edward VI)
It is said that Arthur was a weak, ill child, but there seems to be no contemporary evidence for this.
A messenger rode to London straight away to inform the King and Queen, and by all reports they were both completely distraught.
Henry was woken in the night on the 4th of April by his confessor and broke down uncharacteristically.
His wife, Elizabeth of York did her best to comfort him, but she broke down herself, equally devastated.
Henry and Elizabeth went on to have another child, but tragically Elizabeth died in childbirth and their daughter Katherine, only lived 8 days.
Katharine of Aragon was now a 17 year old widow in a country where she was foreign and alone.
Burying the King Who Should Have Been
Arthur’s body was prepared and household nobleman escorted him from the castle to the Parish Church of St. Lawrence in Ludlow where his heart was symbolically buried near the High Altar.
On the 8th of April, a procession took Arthur’s body from Ludlow to Worcester Priory (now Worcester Cathedral) in a carriage draped in black and pulled by 6 horses for burial.
It was a terrible journey of about 33 miles. The weather had been dreadful and all the roads between Worcester and Ludlow were clogged with mud.
His funeral was held on the 25th of April, with the Earl of Surrey acting as Chief Mourner, and he was buried to the right of the High Altar, with none of his family present. (This sounds dreadfully sad, but it may not have been the custom at the time. It is thought that Katharine was too ill to attend)
In a touching display of finality, his household broke their staffs of office and threw them in the grave.
Two years later, a fine tomb chest and beautiful chantry chapel were erected over Arthur’s grave, and in my opinion remains one of the most complete and intricate examples of a chantry chapel in any cathedral in England.
Worcester Cathedral was a Priory before the Reformation and I believe it is due to Arthur that it didn’t suffer much destruction.