Thursday, August 27, 2015

And Every One Was a Henry. Today's Henry: Duke of Cornwall - Get Out Your Hanky, There Were Three; All Babies

Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon had been married for eighteen months when their first child was born on 1 January, 1511.
A baby boy.
The joy was immediate, the relief profound ("Male heir: sorted") and the celebrations epic.

The baby was christened Henry; he received the title Duke of Cornwall,
On 23 February, 1511, he died.
The cause of death was not recorded.

Infants were so prone to dying within a year of their birth that the fallout on the population in general was to celebrate their birth, then collectively the family would hold their breath, hoping the mother didn't die of post-birth infection.
Naturally, they hoped as well the infant would survive, but infants were a touch less valuable than a living, productive adult. 
When babies died, and they did so in high percentage, a brief grieving period was almost always followed by another pregnancy.

Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon followed that pattern. 
In 1513, Catherine suffered a very late stage miscarriage of another baby boy. 
That baby also received the title of Duke of Cornwall.
He didn't survive his first day. 
Buried at Westminster Abbey, where his brother, the other holder of the title 'Duke of Cornwall' was already sleeping, the November of 1513 must have been so sad for both Henry VIII and particularly Catherine of Aragon.

On 5 January, 1515, another baby boy, another Henry Duke of Cornwall came along - stillborn.
The word alone is tragic; 'stillborn' - it can mean 'born, still, but didn't survive,' or 'born not moving.'
Either way, it's an event that rips right through the heart of parents and leaves an emotional imprint that never, ever goes away.

Eventually, out of necessity, parents of children who do not survive the birth process, are able to lock up that emotional imprint into their own 'hurt locker.'
The parents then move on, but don't revisit their hurt lockers.
They don't open them, their surviving children instinctively know the pain and share some of it, yet it remained that of which they didn't speak. 

Happily, Catherine of Aragon gave birth in February, 1516 to Princess Mary.
Princess Mary went on to become Mary I, although her life was equally sad and equally tragedy-fraught as her mother's had been. 

Catherine did go on to have one more child after Mary; a daughter who, once again, did not survive. 
The three little Henry, Duke of Cornwall title holders are a poignant reminder of the capricious nature of life in Tudor England.
Their parents did everything right; their mother survived so many births that in itself was almost miraculous - yet those gorgeous little boy-babies never lived past two months.
That's fucking harsh. Image result for infant mortality

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