As we saw from last week’s blog by late August 1533 Queen Anne Boleyn had retreated to the seclusion of her chambers at Greenwich and was patiently awaiting the birth of her son. The arrival of King Henry’s son and heir would secure the peaceful sucession of the English throne and insure the continuance of the Tudor line. A baby boy’s arrival would also justify all the couple had done in the last 6 years to achieve their marriage.
So what could a Tudor Prince and heir to the English throne expect from his early years?
There would of course be the titles that were usually granted to the heir apparent. At the time the titles usually conferred to the Monarch’s firstborn son were, Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall. As the boy grew he would also follow in the footsteps of his father and other predecessors by eventually being created the Earl of Chester. All of the grants, lands and offices that went with these titles would provide the prince with a handsome income.
The royal infant would remain with his mother for only a few short weeks before being given his own establishment or household which included a separate palace, together with an army of servants to see to his every need. This may look to our 21st century eyes like an unnecessary and extravagant thing to do, but it was imperative that a royal prince be removed from the threat of infection and death that Tudor London and Henry’s large court posed.
Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn had left nothing to chance and had made plans for their son’s living accommodation far in advance of his birth. Henry had in 1531 bought land once used as a hospital for leper women dedicated to St James the Less, Bishop of Jerusalem. It was on this site that Henry VIII established St James Park and St James Palace with its adjoining Chapel Royal. According to a quote from Holinshed in Old and New London: Vol 4 by Edward Walford, the King ‘made a fair park for his greater commodity and pleasure.’
A gentleman called Stow is quoted in the same publication that St James Palace was built in 1533 the same year that Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn, although we also have evidence of additional works being carried out after 1533. He further records that the ‘goodly manor house…stood in the middle of fields, well shaded with trees; and these fields, now the park, were enclosed as the private demesne of the palace’ and that the park was ‘then well stocked with game’.
As for Anne, she would have issued a formal announcement of the prince’s birth, gone through the religious purification service known as ‘churching’ and subsequently would rejoin her husband and the court in order to get on with her primary function, ie the production of more little princes.
Everything was set fair for the new arrival. All that was needed now was for the strong and lusty prince to be delivered safely into the world. What could possibly go wrong?