Hello, what do you think England could have been like if Arthur Tudor hadn't died young? Would he have been a good King?
I think Arthur may have made a good king. He had his father’s careful nature, and perhaps his mother’s kind heart. I’m speculating, of course, but we get glimpses of his character in the records, just like we see Henry’s character revealed through his recorded tantrums and disorderly behavior when he was young.
What little we do know speaks well to Arthur’s character. He was a very serious, studious boy, who reportedly had a bit of a stiff, awkward manner in public, but had a strong sense of duty. Today, he’d probably be disparaged as a “nerd” but he apparently excelled in his studies. It was said that before his sixteenth birthday, he had absorbed the works of twenty-four of the classical and humanist authors.
He may have been proficient at archery, since his father’s records mention an expensive bow given to him as a gift when he was a boy, but Arthur doesn’t seem to have been interested in the rough-and-tumble sports his brother loved so much. Arthur was very much an “indoor person,” who preferred reading to jousting.
Nor does he seem to have been a fan of the pomp and splendor of court ceremonies. He did his duty and danced when the situation called for it, “right honorably and pleasantly” but doesn’t seem to have craved it the way his brother did.
Arthur chose not to consummate his marriage to Katharine of Aragon, despite spending several nights in her bed. Katharine never said why Arthur made that choice, so we can only speculate. He was in excellent health, and a young boy at the peak of his hormonal years, and Katherine was knock-out gorgeous. It seems Arthur was either a little shy, or giving his new bride a chance to get to know him before they consummated the union. After all, he thought they had a lifetime together ahead of them and there was no rush.
His decision to wait wasn’t all that unusual. James of Scotland apparently waited several years before consummating his marriage to Margaret Tudor.
Let’s not forget these two young people had been tossed together without even being able to speak to one another. They both knew Latin, but they’d been taught a different pronunciation and a different accent, so verbally, it was just as foreign as another language to them. The only way they could really communicate was in writing, and I’ve always imagined them spending those few nights they shared in the same bed passing notes, quietly getting to know one another.
Arthur may have lied about consummating the marriage, but we can’t be sure he actually made the comments Henry VIII dug up when he was trying to prove the marriage had been consummated. These were men with an incentive to lie, after all.
If Arthur did make the comments, it was probably to spare his bride any embarrassment. If he hadn’t consummated his marriage, people would automatically assume it was because of something he found objectionable about his wife. It was bravado, yes, but it was still respectful of Katharine.
Arthur had an excellent role model in his father’s treatment of his mother. Elizabeth of York and Henry VII had an ideal marriage for the era. Though an arranged match, it seems they had deep affection for one another, and mutual respect. Henry VII had never even taken a mistress, a very odd choice for a monarch of the age.
If Arthur hadn’t died, the whole history of England might have been different. I imagine he would have ruled much like his father - quietly, ably, and frugally. He’d probably be one of those kings that people gloss over when recounting history because his reign wouldn’t have been scandalous or particularly memorable. But it would have been a good reign for the English people.
Katharine, too, would have been much happier. She would have had a husband who respected her and treated her well. I imagine she would have come to love Arthur. her faith and culture encouraged it, and besides, Arthur was a good fellow. He would have been a good husband, I imagine, just as his father was.