Henry, Duke of Cornwall

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Duke of Cornwall
Born 1 January 1511
Richmond Palace, Surrey, England
Died 22 February 1511 (aged 52 days)
Richmond Palace, Surrey, England
Burial Westminster Abbey
House Tudor
Father Henry VIII of England
Mother Catherine of Aragon

Henry, Duke of Cornwall (1 January – 22 February 1511), was the first child of King Henry VIII of England and his first wife Catherine of Aragon.[1]

Birth and christening[edit]

Henry was born on 1 January 1511 at Richmond Palace, eighteen months after his parents' wedding and coronation, and was the first son and first living child born to King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Catherine had previously given birth to a stillborn daughter, on 31 January 1510.[2] He was christened on 5 January in a lavish ceremony where beacons were lit in his honour. The christening gifts included a fine gold salt holder and cup weighing a total 99 ounces, given by Louis XII of France, his godfather.[3] His other godparents were William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Savoy. At the christening, the baby prince's great-aunt Lady Anne Howard stood proxy for Margaret of Habsburg, and Richard Foxe Bishop of Winchester stood proxy for the French King.

Celebrations and death[edit]

Henry VIII and his queen planned extravagant celebrations rivalling that of their joint coronation for the birth of his son, who automatically became Duke of Cornwall and heir apparent to the English throne, and was expected to become Prince of Wales, King of England, and third king of the House of Tudor. The tournament at Westminster was the most lavish of Henry's reign, and is recorded via a long illuminated vellum roll,[3] known as The Westminster Tournament Roll to be found in the College of Arms collection. Henry carried Catherine's favour in the tournament, riding under the banner of "Sir Loyal Heart" the relationship between the royal pair, already one of strong affection, had become even more of a love match because of Catherine's success in providing a male heir. Known as "Little Prince Hal" and "the New Year's Boy", the prince was fondly regarded by Henry's court. However, on 22 February 1511, the young prince died suddenly. The cause of his death was not recorded.

He received a state funeral at Westminster Abbey.[3] It was another two years until the Queen again became pregnant. There is no known portrait of Prince Henry.

Contemporary reports state that both parents were distraught at the loss of their child. The deeply religious Catherine spent many hours kneeling on cold stone floors praying, to the worry of courtiers. Henry distracted himself from his grief by waging war against Louis XII of France with his father-in-law, Ferdinand II of Aragon.

Impact of Henry, Duke of Cornwall's death on history[edit]

Historians have speculated as to the course English history might have taken had Henry, Duke of Cornwall, or any other legitimate son survived. Given that Henry's search for a male heir, after Catherine's failure to give birth to any more live sons, was the cited reason which led him to have their marriage annulled, a living male child might have at least forestalled, or even prevented, the marriage to Anne Boleyn and placed England in a different relationship with Roman Catholicism during the Protestant Reformation.

This theme has also been explored in some alternative history science fiction, such as Kingsley Amis' The Alteration (1976), in which another alternative history English Reformation is depicted, even without the succession crisis caused by the absence of a male heir until the birth of Edward VI to Henry and Jane Seymour.


  • Weir, Alison (1999). Britain's Royal Family: A Complete Genealogy. The Bodley Head; London, UK.  page 152
  • Ashley, Mike (2002). British Kings & Queens. Carroll & Graf. ISBN 0-7867-1104-3.  page 237
  1. ^ Lundy, Darryl. "p. 10149 § 101488". The Peerage. [unreliable source]
  2. ^ [1] Loades, David, "The six wives of Henry VIII," Amberly, 2009. Pages 25–26. ISBN 978-1-84868-335-8. Retrieved 30 November 2011
  3. ^ a b c Starkey, David "Six wives: The Queens of Henry VIII," Harper Collins Perennial, 2004, Page 121-122. ISBN 0-06-000550-5. Retrieved 30 November 2011
Henry, Duke of Cornwall
Born: 1 January 1511 Died: 23 February 1511
Peerage of England
Title last held by
Henry VIII
Duke of Cornwall
1 January – 23 February 1511
Title next held by
Edward VI