So often, the life and death of Arthur, Prince of Wales, is reduced to the impact it had upon his bride, Katherine of Aragon, and her second husband, Arthur’s brother Henry VIII. However, Gareth Streeter succeeds in bringing Arthur to life in incredible detail.
The book starts with the most fascinating discussion about the context in which Henry VII’s first son was named, inevitably touching on the Wars of the Roses, and the mythology Henry VII was building around his claim to the throne. In the history of England that Henry VII commissioned, he and his heirs had been destined to rule England since Roman times – what other name could this king with Welsh roots give his son other than Arthur?
Every record relating to Arthur’s life is analysed minutely, revealing that a surprising amount is actually known about Arthur. From the influence of the boy’s household staff, to his apparent enjoyment of music, which was shared with and funded by his father. For anyone familiar with Henry VIII’s upbringing, it is surprising just how much autonomy Arthur was given as Prince of Wales, living in his own household and presiding over public events.
Steeter tackles the big question – whether Arthur and Katherine consummated their marriage – with finesse. Noting that most of the evidence comes from the ‘Great Matter’ some 30 years later from people who were hardly unbiased, Streeter turns his attention to the letters and reactions of the Spanish ambassador and the Spanish monarchs, Katherine’s parents.
This excellent biography helps fill in the details about the early Tudor period. The writing style is engaging and informative. Streeter is a very thorough historian who conveys his deep knowledge of the subject.
My thanks to NetGalley and Pen & Sword for giving me the opportunity to review this book.