On 28th June, 1491, at Greenwich Palace, a baby boy was born. However, there was little by way of fanfare to herald the birth of what would turn out to be one of England’s most famous and notorious monarchs; for the baby born that day was the future King Henry VIII himself. In fact, so insignificant was the birth of Prince Henry his grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, barely made mention of the event, and even added a correction to the date later on. However, this can be forgiven. As Prince Henry was the second son (and third child in all) of Henry VII and his queen consort, Elizabeth of York, rendering him relatively dynastically unimportant.
It was Prince Henry’s elder brother, Arthur Prince of Wales (20th September, 1486) – born barely a year after Henry VII’s defeat of Richard III on Bosworth field – who was expected to inherit. As such, it was he who’s birth was celebrated with great pomp and pageantry all over the country. Even the place of Prince Arthur’s birth, Winchester (said to have been the fabled seat of Camelot) had been carefully selected for maximum impact on a nation that had been suffering the effects of a long running dynastic dispute.
Following the birth of Prince Arthur, and preceding Prince Henry, was another important milestone. The eldest daughter, Princess Margaret (28th November, 1489). Both she, and Prince Arthur, not only have their birth dates meticulously recorded, but also the hour of their birth. So anything after these two, for the new found dynasty, was little more than an added bonus. No doubt the King and Queen breathed a sigh of relief at the child’s sex; they had the “heir” and now they had the “spare”. But other than that; it was a bit of a non event.
A few days following his birth, he was Christened in the chapel of Friars Observant, and despite the discreet entry into the world, his christening followed the “Royal Book” to the letter, as David Starkey detailed in his recent biography (“Henry: Virtuous Prince”) pointed out: “The christening, like most of the ceremonies of the Tudor court, combined the sacred with the secular. And each reinforced the theatricality of the other.”
So at least the subject of our humble website got that! However, the fact that Henry VIII slipped so quietly into this world; only adds to the impact that he had on it at a later stage in his life. He entered the world on little more than a whimper, but left it after creating an almighty explosion, the effects of which are felt today, and that is what we’ll be exploring at length here.
Posted by, Hannah.
British Library on line. (Link to Margaret Beaufort’s Book of Hours)
Starkey, David “Henry: Virtuous Prince” (Harper Perennial, 2008)