Honeymoon Destination Anyone?

I was thinking of Jude as I took this photo last Thursday. Now she lives under a Cornish sky, but not so long ago this was her stamping ground, and I’m pretty  sure she knows the path I am standing on as I take this photograph. It skirts the cliff beneath the brooding elevation of Ludlow Castle in Shropshire, the River Teme rushing over the weir below.

The other thought that was running through my head was: what a place for a honeymoon. And yes, I’ve mentioned this before. But even with the walls intact, the great hearths lit, and the tapestries well hung and thickly plied, it would have made a daunting venue for post-nuptial celebrations. The bride and groom I am thinking of were only teenagers, and the year was 1501. Fortunately for them, some consideration was given to their comfort and they were lodged, not inside the castle, but just outside the walls in the Castle Lodge.

By then the castle had already been standing for over 400 years. It was built after the Norman Conquest between 1066 and 1085. Its purpose control and domination; its overriding associations with war not love. It had been built on the borderland between England and Wales to keep the Welsh warrior princes in check, and thereafter figured in three civil wars and numerous uprisings. In the 12th century King Stephen and Empress Matilda fought over it. In the 13th century it featured in the Second Barons’ War. In the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century it was a Yorkist stronghold under Richard Duke of York (later Richard III). In fact anyone who was anyone throughout a thousand years of history either pitched up here in person, or had the place in their sights for some political reason or other.

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And the teenage newly weds? One was Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, just fifteen years old, and heir to Henry VII. His bride, a few months older, was Catherine of Aragon, betrothed to him since the age of three. They had been married at St. Paul’s in London on 14 November 1501, only ten days after their first  meeting. Arthur informed Catherine’s parents (Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon) that he meant to be ‘a true and loving husband’. But from the start there were problems of communication. The couple tried speaking to each other in Latin, but were confounded by their differences in pronunciation.

But then what do such things matter when it comes to state expediency? The marriage was a matter of strategic alliance, and the honeymoon at Ludlow was all about Arthur being seen to stake just claim over Wales.  He was  there on royal business to preside over the Council of Wales and the Marches.

The couple were in Ludlow over the winter months, and one wonders how a girl from the sunny warmth of Spain felt to be despatched  to such a union and to such a place. One hopes they found some joy there, although it would have been all too brief. They both fell ill with the highly contagious ‘sweating sickness’ which was sweeping England at this time.  By April 1502 Arthur was dead, and Catherine swiftly rendered a diplomatically inconvenient widow – a pawn in the foreign alliance game.

Apart from anything else, there were serious financial implications for Henry VII. Ferdinand had only paid half of Catherine’s 200,000 ducat dowry. Now Henry was faced with returning it, and/or suing for the unpaid portion. So it was that Catherine became betrothed to Henry’s second son, Henry, Duke of York, whom she finally married in 1509, thus becoming the first wife of Henry VIII. For 24 years all went well, and then Ann Boleyn came along and it was all damn lies, character assassination, cruel confinement  and social ostracism for Catherine. A sad end indeed for a Spanish princess, our long-time English queen, and Europe’s first woman ambassador.

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copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

17 thoughts on “Honeymoon Destination Anyone?

  1. I love history and so thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog. Oh what Royals went through in those far gone days….and imagine how bloody cold it would have been after being brought up in warm sunny climes! I particularly love the history of the Welsh borders….something I learned a lot more about when I lived in Crickhowell for twelve years. Thank you, Tish 🙂

    1. The Welsh borders are truly a fascinating area, Janet. You are right. It’s often the way with places between or at the edges, isn’t it? Liminal spaces, as my artist friend Sheilagh Jevons was wont to say.

  2. Never knew about Arthur or the ”sweating sickness”.
    You didn’t elaborate with a more modern understanding. Do you know what it was … officially? (sounds a bit like malaria!)
    Your blog pieces never cease to entertain and inform.Not once have I started reading one that did not hold my attention to the very end, and often ”made” me read it a second time … just in case there was a test!
    😉

    1. Thank you for your persistence, dear Ark. Much appreciated. (I will of course be setting a test later 😉 ) As to sweating sickness, I did a quick google as I was writing the post, but it doesn’t seem to have been precisely identified in modern terms. As you say, it sounds a malarial sort of thing, and many of the symptoms were similar. One of those bugs, it seems, and hopefully not to be revived any time soon.

      1. Yes, I must be honest, curiosity got the better of me and it was off to Google for moi as well.
        Fascinating history to it, but some reckon it’s origins lie somewhere in the rodent family, but not quite like the plague, and had something to do with rodent excreta rather than fleas, unless I got confused after jumping from link to link?

      2. Rat-connection sounds likely. I imagine Ludlow was a pretty ratty place above the river. Talking of which, heard on the news today that Paris has a big infestation. They reckon 2 rats for every human!

  3. Every time I see those castles I shiver. So hard and cold and probably, damp. I haven’t spent much time studying Arthur, though I’ve put in some considerate time on his day and younger brother. Talk about a time of great change in the world.

    Hard to be a prince. Harder to be a peasant. Hard to be human.

  4. Ah, takes me back a year Tish. I must have a hundred or more shots of that castle, and the story of poor Arthur… history would have been very different had he lived.

  5. I started off thinking that I would just skim through, not being sure I was interested in this moment in reading about a castle, but you kept my attention right through to the end. Poor Catherine. I knew of course she was one of Henry VIII’s many wives, but not of her beginning in England. As a child we had two cats, one male, one female. The male cat was called Alexander the Great. The female was Catherine of Aragon. They lived up to their names 🙂
    Alison

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