The Death of Arthur Tudor: Did Henry VII Kill His Own Son?

by AlexandriaIngham

Arthur Tudor died on April 2, 1502. While there is no definite cause of death, there are a number of theories. One of those is that Henry VII killed his own son!

On April 2, 1502 Arthur Tudor died. He was just 15 years old, but it caused a major change to the Tudor dynasty. Originally the heir to the throne, his younger brother Henry found himself with that responsibility. Henry VII of England had to quickly retrain his younger son, who would become Henry VIII of England seven years later.

There have been a number of theories surrounding Arthur’s death, including one that Henry VII arranged for his own son’s death. It’s time to look into those theories to work out whether they are true.

Arthur Tudor Died of the Sweating Sickness

The sweating sickness is one of the most commonly accepted causes of death for Arthur Tudor.

Arthur Tudor was just 15 years old when he diedOne of the most common and considered probably theories is that the young Prince of Wales died of the sweating sickness. It was a very common illness during this time, one that many who have watched The Tudors will have heard about. Very little is still understood about the sweating sickness, such as why it happened or how to cure it. Some people survived, but many died and even the noblemen and women and royalty were not immune.

The theory for this comes from the fact that Catherine of Aragon was also sick for four months of their marriage together. If one had it, it is highly likely that they both succumbed to the illness. Catherine was just fortunate to recover from the ailment. She was not quite so fortunate to marry Henry VIII in 1509 and find her marriage annulled just over 20 years later.

Coincidently, Anne Boleyn was said to have almost died from the sweating sickness in 1528. There are a number of letters sent from Henry VIII bidding her to get well soon and showing hope that he would not lose her before he had the chance of marrying her. Like Catherine, she fought the sickness bug and made a full recovery. Also like Catherine, her marriage to Henry VIII was not successful and she faced a worse ending by being executed.

The sweating sickness was a form of the plague, which spread around Wales at the time Arthur was there. Henry VII didn’t realize that the plague was spreading at the time, and by the time they did find out it was too late to get the Prince and his new bride out of there and back home to safety.

There were many theories surrounding the sweating sickness. Looking into records of the illness, it seemed to favor the stronger and wealthier men, and was only in England between 1485 and 1551. Most would die within hours of contracting the disease, and those who lasted 24 hours would find that they would get better over the week. This could rule out the sweating sickness if the records are right, since Catherine was ill for four months. However, everyone is different and it could have been a different form of the plague that was similar to the sweating sickness.

Consumption Killed Arthur Tudor

Did Arthur Tudor suffer a similar fate to his nephew Edward IV?

Edward VI also died when he was 15 years oldAnother illness that is commonly accepted at the reason for the Prince of Wales’ death is consumption. The term consumption was the olden name for tuberculosis, a disease that is still around today. Many people were said to have died from consumption, including Edward VI who also died when he was just 15 years old.

In fact, there are some historians who believe that there is a hereditary link to the illnesses that killed Arthur and Edward Tudor, especially when Henry VIII’s illegitimate son Henry FitzRoy is considered. All three died when they were 15-16 years old, and all three from similar fates if consumption is believed to be the true cause of death for Arthur.

Consumption would last for weeks and gradually get worse. Isabelle Neville, the sister-in-law of Richard III, was thought to have died of consumption or childbed fever. There is no record of just how long she was ill, but there is nothing to cause concern before the birth of her final baby. She died weeks after the birth of that daughter.

Pneumonia or Testicular Cancer Were Reasons for Arthur Tudor’s Death

Two more theories surrounding the death of Arthur Tudor.

Pneumonia is the next theory on the list, and really could be the reason. It is another illness that eventually affects the lungs and breathing, and is something that can take months to develop. It also makes sense considering that he moved to Ludlow Castle, and the hygiene was not exactly great during the Tudor period. There is nothing to argue against this disease.

The last one is testicular cancer. This is one that I’ve only heard of recently, and I can see why. Cancer was not a disease known about during this time, so there is no way for the records to show whether it was this or not. Catherine of Aragon and Mary I are both thought to have had cancer in their lives, but it was only in the more recent decades that this has been accepted as a possibility. Unfortunately, this could never be proven as the cause of death for Arthur Tudor.

Did Henry VII Kill Arthur Tudor?

Would Henry VII put so much effort into raising Arthur as a king, just to kill him off? Surely not!

Would Henry VII have killed Arthur Tudor?There is one theory that is completely wild, and suggests that Henry VII killed his own son. There is a view that Arthur was a very sickly and weak boy, and would not have made a great king. Henry decided he wanted to put his second son, who was athletic and strong, on the throne. To do that, he needed to get rid of his older son, so he arranged for his son to be poisoned after his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

There are a few problems with this theory. The first is that Henry VII was devastated upon hearing the news that his son had died. Elizabeth of York comforted him as he cried, and then he did the same for her. He was shocked when he was woken for the news, and unless he was an extremely good actor it was a sign that he genuinely had no idea that this was going to happen.


He also ensured his son Henry was raised in the church. Arthur was the one raised to be King of England. If Henry VII really wanted to replace Arthur with young Prince Henry there is no way that he would have raised the younger boy in the church. He suddenly had to ensure Henry was raised properly so that he could one day become King of England.

Finally, there is no proof that Arthur was ever sickly or weak. He definitely wasn’t as athletic as Henry, but that did not make him weak or sickly. There would have been reports and expenses if Arthur was constantly ill, and reports of how worried the people around Henry VII were about their future king. Arthur being a sickly child is a similar theory to Edward VI being a sickly child. There was no proof for either of them. It was only in their last months (or the last year for Edward’s case) that there was any sign the two would die young.

Read More About Arthur Tudor on Wizzley

Somewhere between September 19 and 20, 1486, Arthur Tudor was born. He was expected to become King of England and named Arthur after King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
Catherine of Aragon married Arthur Tudor in 1501. The marriage would last six months but it was a major point during her second marriage.

There are plenty of theories surrounding the death of Arthur Tudor, but nothing will ever be proven. All that is known is the change it caused to the Tudor dynasty. Arthur’s death led to Prince Henry becoming King Henry VIII of England. It would be interesting to know the type of king Arthur would have been, but that is all for works of fiction out there.

Updated: 04/02/2014, AlexandriaIngham
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Guest on 04/15/2015

A murderous period. Nice piece.

Ruth on 04/14/2015

Isabelle's last child was a boy, not a girl. He was named Richard.

Paul Crowe on 04/14/2015

I think that TB also affects the bones leaving lesions as his bones are available [being in Worcester Cathedral] It might be possible to find out whether or not he did have TB.

AlexandriaIngham on 04/04/2014

There's just so much going on, and enough missing to speculate on ;)

Sheri_Oz on 04/04/2014

Fascinating history. The lives of kings and queens has always been a subject of interest to many.

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