Clearing up the Portrait Confusion: Arthur and Henry

Arthur and Henry Tudor were brothers, so inevitably they looked alike. Today’s topic is clearing up the confusion between which portrait is Arthur and which is Henry.

The question really circulates around one portrait, the one of young Henry VIII at the beginning of his reign. This is the one that many people, when posted or shared online will say, “That’s a portrait of Arthur, not Henry!” I usually follow those comments by sharing the confirmed portrait of Arthur and explaining that they were brothers so they look a lot alike, but the portrait of the young King is indeed him.

Arthur (Left) and Henry (Right) Tudor side by side

Henry Tudor, King of England

I’m hoping by sharing this with you that this will clear up any confusion there may be.

This unusual portrait of a slender, beardless Henry VIII (reigned 1509-47) was painted when the young king was about twenty-two. It is the earliest known portrait of him as king. The image matches the description given by an Italian ambassador to the English court: “His complexion is very fair and bright, with auburn hair combed straight and short in the French fashion, and a round face so very beautiful, that it would become a pretty woman, his throat being rather long and thin.” He is shown wearing a red gown with brown fur edges, with the sleeves slashed to reveal cloth of gold beneath. Around his shoulders is a chain of balas rubies (a red gemstone found in present-day Afghanistan) surrounded by clusters of pearls. On his black cap is an enseigne, or cap badge. Enseignes often depicted scenes from the Old Testament. Many people wore them on their caps, but only the king’s was allowed to be gold. As with his father’s portrait, the young Henry holds the Tudor rose, symbolizing his continuation of the dynasty. – Berger Collection

English School, Henry VIII, ca. 1513, Oil on panel

Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales

When this portrait was discovered it was described by Catherine MacLeod, curator of sixteenth and seventeenth century portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, as ‘the only surviving portrait of Arthur that could have been painted within his lifetime’.

From looks of Arthur’s age it is apparent that this portrait was made near the end of the marriage negotiations with the Ferdinand and Isabel (Katherine of Aragon’s parents), and has been dated c.1500. It is extremely likely that this was around the conclusion of the marriage negotiation since he is holding a white gillyflower – which traditionally stands for betrothal and purity.

The is the only confirmed portrait of Arthur, Prince of Wales

The following portrait is often said to be Arthur but it is not confirmed as him. As you can see from the portraits, the brothers had very similar features – this is why there is often confusion when they are shown separately.

In this portrait the sitter is not holding a flower (which would indicate he is married) and on his red cap is a gold St. John the Baptist enseigne or badge. If the snippet above about only king’s being allowed to wear gold badges on their cap is correct then this portrait cannot be Arthur – it would have to be Henry right? But then there is the date of the portrait…it’s dated c. 1501 and Henry would only have been ten years old. So, there’s that.

I don’t  want to start an uproar about this portrait, just some food for thought. This article is a focus on the two above portraits and distinguishing between the two. If you know more about all these portraits I would great appreciate your feedback in the comments. Thanks!

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Arthur and Katherine Sent to Ludlow Castle


Merely three months after their marriage, Arthur and Katherine, Prince and Princess of Wales were sent to Wales to reside at Ludlow Castle to preserve ancient customs (as the letter states).

Here is a letter from Henry VII to Katherine’s parents (Ferdinand and Isabel) letting them know that Arthur and Katherine were sent to Wales to reside at Ludlow Castle.

The young couple were married on the 14th of November 1501 – this letter was dated the 20th of February 1502.

Little did Henry VII know, two months after he sent this letter, his son would be dead, and Katherine a widow. All the hard work it took to see the marriage to fruition ended so abruptly.

Prince and Princess of Wales – Ludlow

Henry VII to Ferdinand and Isabella
[“Court and Society from Elizabeth to Anne,” Vol. I]

Richmond, February 20, 1502

To the most serene and most puissant Prince and Princess, the Lord and Lady Ferdinando and Isabel, by the grace of God King and Queen of Castile, Leon, Arragon, Sicily, Grenada, &c., our well-beloved kinsfolk and cousins, we Henry by the same grace, King of England and France, and Lord of Ireland, send greeting and ever-increasing good fortune.

Ludlow Castle with Dinham Weir, from the South-West Samuel Scott1765 to 1769
Ludlow Castle (Wales); Samuel Scott 1765 to 1769

That we might observe the ancient customs of our realm, we recently despatched into Wales the most illustrious Arthur and Catherine, our common children. For though the opinions of many were adverse to this course by reason of the tender age of our son, yet were we unwilling to allow the Prince and Princess to be separated at any distance from each other. Thus much we wished to show unto you by this our letter, that you may understand our excessive love which we bear towards the most illustrious Lady Catherine, our common daughter, even to the danger of our own son.

But the said most illustrious lady has with her a venerable man, Alexander Geraldine, her principal chaplain, for whom we have the greatest regard, partly by reason of his virtues, shown unto us in many ways, partly because he has been the said lady’s preceptor, and for a long time your Majesties’ servant, and we doubt not that he will, in his letters, give a true report unto your Majesties of the well-being and tranquility, as well of ourselves and our realm, as of the most illustrious lady his own mistress. Wherefore we shall not a present write at greater length.

Letter Source:

Arthur, Frank; “The Youth of Henry VIII, A Narrative in Contemporary Letters”; page 24-25

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Prince Arthur and Katherine of Aragon

This letter from Arthur Tudor was dated 1499, nearly two years prior to Katherine arriving in England and wedding her prince, however they were just married by proxy. At the time this letter was written, Arthur was only thirteen years old.

In her new book, Katherine of Aragon – The True Queen, Alison Weir stated that Arthur did not write the letter himself and that someone else assisted him or wrote it for him. After reading the letter I have to agree – I believe he was merely coached on how to write the letter.

The by proxy marriage of Arthur and Katherine took place in May 1499. Some time after the ceremony it appeared to have been a concern of English dignitaries that the Spanish monarchs would not send their daughter. Found within the Spanish Letters and Papers a statement that insinuates that the King of England is concerned:

RE: Time of sending the Princess Katharine to England.
He is mistaken if he believes that they intend to delay the sending of the Princess to England. That is not their intention. On the contrary, they are prepared to send her as soon as the Prince of Wales shall have completed the fourteenth year of his age, a time which is not far distant.

England was in great peril in late 1499, Perkin Warbeck (the Pretender) and Edward, Earl of Warwick (son of Duke of Clarence) were both threatening the stability of the English throne. Katherine’s parents Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile apparently kept their daughter in Spain until the threats were neutralized. Warbeck and Warwick were executed the month after this letter was written. England was stable and Katherine could now be trusted in the hands of the English king and queen.

On the 17th of August 1501, Katherine set sail for England but was turned back due to strong storms that forced them back. On the 27th of September they tried again and were successful in their journey to England.

Arthur wrote several letters to Katherine, of which this is the only one to survive. It was originally written in Latin – the only language they both understood.

Arthur, Prince of Wales & Katherine of Aragon

To the most illustrious and excellent princess, the Lady Catherine, princess of Wales, duchess of Cornwall, &c., my most entirely beloved spouse. (5 October 1499):

Most illustrious and most excellent lady, my dearest spouse, I wish you very much health, with my hearty recommendation.

I have read the most sweet letters of your highness lately given to me, from which I have easily perceived your most entire love to me. Truly those your letters, traced by your own hand, have so delighted me, and have rendered me so cheerful and jocund, that I fancied I beheld your highness and conversed with and embraced my dearest wife. I cannot tell you what an earnest desire I feel to see your highness, and how vexatious to me is this procrastination about your coming. I owe eternal thanks to your excellence that you so lovingly correspond to this my so ardent love. Let it continue, I entreat, as it has begun; and, like as I cherish your sweet remembrance night and day, so do you preserve my name ever fresh in your breast. And let your coming to me be hastened, that instead of being absent we may be present with each other, and the love conceived between us and the wished-for joys may reap their proper fruit.

Moreover I have done as your illustrious highness enjoined me, that is to say, in commending you to the most serene lord and lady the king and queen my parents, and in declaring your filial regard towards them, which to them was most pleasing to hear, especially from my lips. I also beseech your highness that it may please you to exercise a similar good office for me, and to commend me with hearty good will to my most serene lord and lady your parents; for I greatly value, venerate, and esteem them, even as though they were my own, and wish them all happiness and prosperity.

May your highness be ever fortunate and happy, and be kept safe and joyful, and let me know it often and speedily by your letters, which will be to me most joyous. From our castle of Ludlow. 5th of October, 1499.

Your highness’ most loving spouse,

Arthur, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, etc.

Eldest son of the King.


Letters of royal and illustrious ladies of Great Britain, from the commencement of the twelfth century to the close of the reign of Queen Mary;

by [Green], Mary Anne Everett (Wood), Mrs., 1818-1895, [from old catalog] ed - Published 1846

Find on web: pages, 121-122

The Anne Boleyn Files – Catherine of Aragon Sets Sail for England

Katherine of Aragon – The True Queen; by Alison Weir

Wolsey’s Mistress and Children

It was the Spring of 1509, King Henry VII lay dying in his bed surrounded by his most intimate courtiers and household. His son, the seventeen year old Prince of Wales would soon become the next King of England. King Henry VIII.

Henry, however, was never supposed to be heir apparent to the throne. He was raised as a ‘spare heir’ with his sisters, and his education was that of a second son and not that of someone who would someday become King.

In the Spring of 1502 everything changed for Henry. His brother Arthur, Prince of Wales was dead and Henry was now his father’s heir.

Henry’s priorities, at the age of seventeen, didn’t include ruling a kingdom. While he enjoyed being the all-powerful King of England he despised the tedious duties of kingship – he wanted to be a teenager, and have fun.

Thomas Wolsey had been a chaplain for Henry’s father and predecessor. He became an almoner upon Henry’s accession to the throne. An almoner was the king’s distributor of money to the poor. From there Wolsey’s duties and titles only grew and he became the man who made all the decisions that young Henry didn’t want to bother himself with.

It was known at the time that Wolsey had a sexual relationship with a woman by the name of Joan Larke, or Mistress Larke. Joan was born around 1490 and was the daughter of Peter Larke of Huntingdonshire. At this time in England it wasn’t a requirement for men of the cloth to be celibate. So while this may have been frowned upon, it wasn’t against the rules.

Wolsey kept their relationship under wraps, and whether he and Joan actually married has been disputed. Joan has been referred to as Wolsey’s mistress by multiple sources.  Joan’s relationship with Wolsey is said to have lasted a decade, but when it exactly started was not documented.

There is also no evidence showing that Wolsey was still sleeping with Joan after he became archbishop of York in 1514.¹

The below grant shows Wolsey was given a dwelling at St. Bride, on Fleet Street (London) in 1510. Wolsey and Larke would have lived together at this address.

Thomas Wolseye, the King’s chaplain, dean of Lincoln. Grant of messuage called the parsonage, with garden adjoining, in the parish of St. Bride, Fleet Street, London, which the abbot and convent of Westminster demised, 26 November ’23 Henry VII, for 99 years to Sir Richard Emson, attained; also of the orchard and twelve gardens in the same parish (between the first-named garden and the Thames), which Thomas Dokwre, prior of the hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, demised for 99 years to the said Sir Richard.²

It is commonly believed that Wolsey and Larke had two children together. The first, a son, by the name of Thomas Wynter who was born in 1510. Wynter being Wolsey’s son has been disputed with claims that he was actually his nephew and not his son at all. Wolsey was said to have publicly promoted Wynter as his nephew.¹ There is no clear reasoning as to why his last name was Wynter and not Wolsey (that I’ve been able to find, other than speculation).

When Wolsey’s status rose he became ashamed of having a mistress and chose to marry Joan off to a man by the name of George Legh. He also paid her dowry. At some point their son was sent to live in Willesden, and their daughter was adopted by John Clancey.

L. and P. Hen. VIII, iv, 3095; the king presented on account of the minority of the patron. Thomas Winter is usually stated to have been the son of Cardinal Wolsey, but was perhaps his nephew. He appears at this time to have been only a boy, and in 1519 was learning Latin. In 1528 he was living in Paris, continuing his studies. The manner in which benefices and dignities (e.g. the deanery of Wells, the archdeaconries of York, Richmond, Suffolk, and Norfolk) were heaped upon this non-resident youth is a singular illustration of the zeal for Church reform sometimes attributed to Cardinal Wolsey. Winter appears to have resigned his preferments at or soon after the cardinal’s fall, and nothing more is known of him.

Thomas Winter’s celebrity rests soley on the fact that he was the illegitimate son of Cardinal Wolsey, for despite education by some of the finest scholars in Europe and lavish ecclesiastical preferment, the boy appears to have been an untalented wastrel. His mother was probably the daughter of a Thetford innkeeper, Peter Larke. Wolsey formed what was known as an “uncanonical marriage’ with the woman at about the time of his rise to power.³

Wolsey and Larke supposedly also had a daughter named Dorothy (mentioned above) who was born in 1512. Dorothy eventually was adopted by a man named John Clancey after her mother lost favor with Wolsey. Later she was placed in the Shaftesbury Abbey, a much favored convent for the daughters of the wealthy, and became a nun. When the abbey was later dissolved Dorothy received a pension from Thomas Cromwell.

We’ll never know for certain whether or not Thomas Wynter and Dorothy Clancy were the children of Thomas Wolsey, but from what I’ve read it seems pretty clear that they were.

John Skelton, a poet, wrote “Speke Parrot“, in early 1520s and it references Wolsey and Larke:

‘For some say ye hunt in parkes,

and hauke on hobby larkes

and other wanton warkes

when the night darks’



Gwyn, Peter; The King’s Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of Thomas Wolsey, (Introduction)
Guy, John; Cardinal Wolsey: A Student’s Guide, (Introduction)
Gairdner, James; Cardinal Wolsey – A Short Biography

(Web); Thomas Wolsey, Joan Larke, Thomas Wynter

A Who’s Who of Tudor Women:


¹Guy, John; Cardinal Wolsey: A Student’s Guide, (Introduction)

²’Henry VIII: January 1510, 16-29′, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 1, 1509-1514, ed. J S Brewer (London, 1920), pp. 155-166

³Peter G. Bietenholz, Thomas Brian Deutscher, Contempora

Arthur: The Man Who Would Be King

Arthur- The Man Who Would Be King

Parents of Arthur

When we examine the date of marriage for Henry and Elizabeth of York, along with the birth of their first child, it’s evident that Arthur was either premature one month, or Henry and Elizabeth consummated their relationship prior to marriage. While looking through my own family history I have discovered how common it was for the wife to be pregnant prior to marriage but not to announce the pregnancy until some time after the marriage. Let’s be honest, it was 1486, a premature birth was very dangerous, and could explain Arthur’s poor health throughout his life.

It was common for royals to marry for political reasons and not for love. Such was the case with the king and queen, however, they grew to share a great affection for one another and became great friends. There is no evidence of Henry taking any mistresses, and that alone speaks volumes.

Prince of Wales

Arthur was the pride of his parents, and of England. How fortunate for their first child to be a prince, and heir to the throne. King Henry had a fascination with the legendary King Arthur of Camelot and even believed he had a genealogical connection with him — the reason he named his first son Arthur. Henry, so confident that his wife was pregnant with his heir, sent her to Winchester to give birth. At the time it was believed that Winchester was built on the ancient ruins of Camelot. Winchester was where Elizabeth was to give birth to their son, and heir. John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford, Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby (step-father to Henry VII), William FitzAlan, 16th Earl of Arundel, Queen Elizabeth Woodville (mother of the Queen) and Cecily of York (sister to the Queen) served as godparents to the prince.


By the age of three there were discussions on who Arthur should wed. The decision was a political one. It wasn’t until the Prince of Wales was eleven that he was betrothed to the Infanta, Katherine of Aragon. Katherine was the daughter of the powerful Catholic monarchs, Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon.  The betrothal was an effort to forge an alliance with Spain against France.

Katherine of Aragon

When Perkin Warbeck came into the picture, it hindered the alliance because of the uncertainty surrounding the throne of England. If Warbeck was indeed the son of Edward IV, then the right to the throne of England was his for the taking. Warbeck wrote a letter to Isabella I of Castile to convince her of his lineage, but he was not convincing enough — she did not believe him. It wasn’t until Henry VII had Warbeck executed that plans for the wedding progressed. Young Katherine of Aragon could finally leave Spain and sail to England to prepare for her wedding.

The wedding came to fruition on 14 November 1501, when Arthur, Prince of Wales, and Katherine of Aragon were wed at Old St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Following the wedding the happy couple were sent to live at Ludlow Castle where Arthur was to perform his duties as Prince of Wales. However, after only five months of marriage, on 2 April 1502, Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, died of an unknown illness. Arthur would never be king.

Death of the Future King

The heir of England was now dead and his parents and the kingdom were devastated. Henry and Elizabeth took the death of their son gravely. An account of what happened:

“When his Grace [Henry VII] understood that sorrowful heavy tydings, he sent for the Queene [Elizabeth of York], saying that he and his Queene would take the painful sorrows together. After that she was come and saw the Kyng her Lord, and that naturall and paineful sorrowe, as I have heard saye, she with full great and constant comfortable words besought his Grace that he would first after God remember the weale of his own noble person, the comfort of his realme and of her. She then saied that my Lady his mother had never no more children but him only, and that God by his Grace had ever preserved him, and brought him where he was. Over that, howe that God had left him yet a fayre Prince, two fayre Princesses and that God is where he was, and we are both young ynoughe.”

“….Then his Grace of true gentle and faithful love, in good hast came and relieved her, and showed her howe wise counsell she had given him before, and he for his parte would thanke God for his sonn, and would she should doe in like wise.”

“With great funeral obsequies he was buried in the cathedral church of Worcester. After his death the name of prince belonged to his brother the duke of York, since his brother died without his issue, and so without being thus created he ought to be called, unless some apparent cause was a let or obstacle to it. But the duke, suspecting that his brother’s wife was with child, as was thought possible by the expert and wise men of the prince’s council, was by a month or more delayed from his title, name and pre-eminence, in which time the truth might easily appear to women.”

We often consider the ‘what-ifs’ had Arthur lived, had he and Katherine of Aragon had children and built their own dynasty. While that’s completely normal and human of us to do, I cannot imagine a world now without the stories of his infamous brother and his many wives. I fear the Tudor Dynasty would not have the attraction of the masses it does now.

Statement Source:

Hanson, Marilee. “The Death Of Prince Arthur, Prince Of Wales, 1502”, February 9, 2015

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The Redemption of Elizabeth of York

Part 1: Elizabeth of York, mother of Arthur, Margaret, Henry, Elizabeth, Mary, Edmund & Katherine Tudor

ElizabethWoodville (2)
Elizabeth Woodville
Maragaret Beaufort
Maragaret Beaufort

In 1485 Henry Tudor took the throne of England from Richard III on the battlefield — with this win he successfully ended the Wars of the Roses.

Elizabeth Woodville, the mother of Elizabeth of York, and Henry Tudor’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, had made an arrangement for Elizabeth of York to wed Henry if he won at the Battle of Bosworth against Elizabeth’s uncle Richard.

As history has recorded, the army of Henry Tudor was successful and thus Elizabeth of York was betrothed to Henry VII.

During the reign of her uncle, Elizabeth was declared illegitimate — when once she had been a prized princess, Richard branded her an outcast and she became less desired for a royal marriage. What Margaret Beaufort and her son Henry were offering was legitimacy — a way to end the wars that had ravaged both of their families for decades.

Henry Tudor was crowned King of England but did not immediately wed the young Elizabeth. Some historians have said that he intentionally waited so he could assert his power as a Tudor and not have it diminished by the daughter of a York. Some believed that Elizabeth deserved the crown over Henry since she was the eldest daughter of Edward IV and she had no surviving brothers (The Princes in the Tower). In addition, Henry and Elizabeth were third cousins — by joining in marriage they together strengthened their combined claims to the throne.

On 18 January 1486, about five months after the Battle of Bosworth, the couple were married. By 20 September 1486, Elizabeth gave birth to their first child, a son — Arthur. In November 1487, she was finally crowned queen consort.

Henry VII
Henry VII
Arthur Tudor, c. 1501 - Public Domain
Arthur Tudor
Elizabeth of York
Elizabeth of York






You just read Part 1 of the Series – Catch up here:

Part 2: Arthur: The Man Who Would Be King

Part 3: The Thistle and the Rose: English Princess, Scottish Queen

Part 4: The Legacy of Henry VIII

Part 5: Mary Tudor: English Princess, French Queen

Part 6: Elizabeth Tudor: Lost English Princess