Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tudor Sons

When Elizabeth of York married Henry Tudor, one of her essential roles was birthing sons to ensure the future of the dynasty that they were creating together. This has long been one of the prime objectives of queens, and Elizabeth would have accepted it and understood its importance. After the usurpation of her brother's crown by her own uncle, the importance - yet at the same time danger - of having men in the family was nothing that she needed explained.

Arthur Tudor
The first royal Tudor couple were quickly rewarded for their efforts, with Prince Arthur arriving a scant 8 months after their marriage ceremony. Efforts to establish this Tudor prince as a uniting force, mingling the bloodlines of Lancaster and York, are evident in the key elements of his short life. Arthur was lauded as even more than the next king. He would be a reincarnation of the King Arthur of legend, bringing peace and prosperity to England.

Arthur was given his own household at Ludlow, just as Elizabeth's brother had before him, demonstrating that traditions would continue under the new regime. A royal princess was found for him to marry, and fate would ensure that Katherine of Aragon became queen of England.

As Arthur was being trained for greatness, two brothers were added to the family. Henry and Edmund were certainly welcomed by parents and countrymen alike, though their birth was not as celebrated as Arthur's. Like all good medieval parents, Elizabeth and Henry planned to dedicate one son to the church. Though it is difficult for those of us who know his story to imagine it, Henry probably believed for much of his young life that he would someday become the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Henry VIII
Edmund became the first of the Tudor sons to enter an early grave when he died of a sweating sickness or the plague in 1500. While Edmund was undoubtedly mourned, Arthur's death was a crushing blow to the Tudor parents, whose grief is well documented. His death in 1502 left young Henry as heir and Elizabeth eager to attempt the birth of another son. Her efforts were in vain. The birth of a little girl in 1503 led to Elizabeth's death on her 37th birthday, and Henry VII was left burying both wife and infant daughter.

The difficulty of bearing sons would go on to be a defining element of the Tudor dynasty. Henry VII left his throne to his son in 1509. Henry VIII was a fit, intelligent, and virile 18 year old when his father died, and the future seemed bright. He married his brother's widow and could have never foreseen his challenge to bear an heir.

Edward VI
The Tudor dynasty came to an end within three generations due to the failure of Henry and his children to bear sons. The one hard fought for son that Henry VIII did leave behind became King Edward VI. Unfortunately, he also died at the age of 15, before marrying or bearing sons. Edward's sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, were no more successful in the extending of the family tree.

Where a multitude of sons may have had unforeseeable consequences to the Plantagenet dynasty, eventually causing it to be snuffed out entirely by the Wars of the Roses, a painful lack of sons become the death toll of the Tudor dynasty.


  1. Interesting post - thanks. Am looking forward to reading your book, too; it will be refreshing to read about a Tudor who has not been given quite the same amount of press and attention as some of the others

    1. Thank you, Annie! It was a joy to write about Elizabeth, and I am so happy to hear that many are enjoying her story.

  2. I also AM excited to read the book. I do like you live on the wrong side of the pond. Lol I love the story and everything Tudor. Thank you

    1. Thank you, Terrylee. I do hope to soon at least visit the "right" side of the pond. :-)