Saturday, February 22, 2014

Henry, the Duke of Cornwall, Dies

You might be wondering which Duke of Cornwall died on February 22. This Duke of Cornwall--the title given to the eldest son of the king--could have been Henry IXth.

On the 1st of January in 1511, Queen Katherine of England was safely delivered of a son, who was named Henry after his father Henry VIII (and his father Henry VII). He was their second child and first son--heir apparent. His older sister was born prematurely and stillborn on January 31, 1510. Baby Henry was baptized on January 5th with King Louis XII of France and William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury as godfathers and Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Savoy as his godmother, although his great-aunt Anne of York, Countess of Surrey stood in as proxy for her (representing a great link to the Plantagenet line as her father was Edward IV). He was called the Duke of Cornwall and would have been named the Prince of Wales--Katherine was still the Princess of Wales--had he survived infancy.

Henry held the most magnificent tournament of his reign on February 12 and 13, honoring his Queen by wearing her favours--he loved her more than ever now that they had their son and heir. The British Library features this article on the Westminster Tournament Challenge, which "describes the events that took place during the tournament, puts forth the rules of the Tournament in the form of a charter, and outlines the allegorical structure of the Burgundian-style Tournament." The Westminster Tournament Role is another famous record of these two glorious days when Henry VIII jousted as "Sir Loyal Heart" and everyone rejoiced at the birth of an heir to continue the Tudor Dynasty.

Sadly, "the New Year's boy", "Little Prince Hal" died on February 22, 1511--no indication of the cause of death is recorded. Both parents, so recently united in pride and joy in their little boy were now devastated by grief and sorrow. Katherine spent hours praying on her knees while Henry went to war against France and Spain. They would experience this pattern again when another Henry, Duke of Cornwall was born and survived a month in 1514 after another stillborn infant in 1513.

I presume it would have been an inconvenient fact to point out to Henry years later when he protested that their marriage was invalid in God's eyes and that's why Katherine had borne him no sons--she did bear him sons. They just did not survive infancy! What might have been if either Henry, Duke of Cornwall had survived infancy and become Henry, Prince of Wales and then King Henry IX? Would there have been any English Reformation at all? Would we even know who Anne Boleyn was?

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