Who was Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales?
Henry Frederick, the eldest son of King James VI and I of Scotland and England and Queen Ann of Denmark, was Prince of Wales from 1610 to 1612. He was born in Scotland towards the end of the sixteenth century. An heir to his father’s thrones, he was taken away from his mother when he was merely a few days old. He was nurtured under select governors and tutors, and was to be trained as an example for the Protestant kings. When his father became King of England in 1603, Henry moved to England with his family. Merely aged nine, he greatly impressed the English courtiers and was given his own establishment. A great scholar and collector, he was very mature for his age and popular among his subjects. Even since his mid teens, he was given certain state duties. At the age of 16, he was made Prince of Wales and thereafter he began to take up greater responsibilities. When he died at the age of 18, possibly from typhoid fever, he was mourned not only by his family and friends, but also by the entire nation.
Childhood & Early Years
Henry Frederick was born on 19 February 1594 at Stirling Castle, Scotland. At the time of his birth, his father, James Charles Stuart, ruled over Scotland as King James VI. With the merger of Scottish and English crowns in 1603, he also became James I, King of England and Ireland.
His mother, Anne of Denmark, the Queen Consort of Scotland, England and Ireland, was the second daughter of King Frederik II of Denmark. While her husband was the first Protestant king of Scotland, she had strong Roman Catholic leanings, which caused mistrust between the couple.
Henry was named after his grandfathers, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley and King Frederik II of Denmark. Being the eldest son of King James, he automatically became Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland, at his birth.
Out of his parents’ seven children, Henry had only two surviving siblings, Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia and Charles I, King of England. Princess Margaret, Prince Robert, Princess Mary and Princess Sophia died in infancy.
Soon after his birth, in order to keep Henry out of his Catholic mother’s influence, the king appointed his former nurse, Helen Little, as the Head of the Nursery. A few days later, he was put under the custody of John Erskine, Earl of Mars, who had guarded several Scottish princes before him.
From the very beginning, Queen Anne had no say in her son’s upbringing, which greatly distressed her. Amidst all this drama, Prince Henry was baptized on 30 August 1594 with great pomp and grandeur at the Chapel Royal, which was built for this purpose at Stirling Castle.
Towards the end of 1594, the queen tried to regain the custody of her son, recruiting a small band of supporters, including Chancellor John Maitland of Thirlestane. King James reacted by giving written orders that Henry should not be surrendered to the queen even if he died.
From the very beginning, Prince Henry was burdened with great expectations and was trained to become an exemplary Renaissance Protestant king. It was also expected that he would eventually take over the English throne and act as a bulwark against Catholics.
King James took active interest in his son’s training. He not only chose tutors for Henry, but was himself more of a school master than a father to him, frequently writing texts for him to study. He also made sure that Henry’s household functioned more as a college for him rather than a court.
Among the teachers who taught young Henry while he was in Scotland were Sir George Lauder of the Bass, a cleric and a Privy councilor and Sir David Murray of Gorthy. From 1600 till 1610, he also received instructions under Sir Adam Newton, 1st Baronet.
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Queen Regains Custody
When Queen Elizabeth I of England died on 24 March 1603, King James VI of Scotland succeeded the throne of England and Ireland as James I, King of England and Ireland. Eventually he became known as King James VI and I of Scotland and England.
On 5 April 1603, King James headed to London from Edinburgh, accompanied by the Earl of Mars to be coroneted to the throne of England on 25 July. With his father’s coronation, Henry automatically became the Duke of Cornwell, a title traditionally held by the eldest son of an English king.
With King James and Earl of Mars away, Queen Ann descended on Stirling Castle to regain control of her nine-year-old son, whom she had not seen for the last five years. But Lady Mars sent her away, citing the king’s written order, which greatly distressed the queen.
Queen Ann had an upper hand when Earl of Mars returned to Scotland with an instruction from the king that the queen join him in England. She now wrote back, refusing to do so unless she was given the custody of her eldest son. In the end, the king had to concede.
On 1 June 1603, Prince Henry travelled to London with his mother, arriving at the Windsor on 30 June. On 2 July, he was invested with the Order of the Garter. During the ceremony, he impressed the English courtiers with ‘quick, witty answers, princely carriage, and reverend obeisance at the altar.’
Shortly after his investiture, the nine-year-old prince was moved to Oatlands Palace in Surrey to save him from the ongoing plague. Later, he was given his own household at Nonsuch Palace in Surrey, with a yearly allowance of 1,000 marks. Sometimes, he also lived at Hampton Court.
In England, he continued his education under Sir Adam Newton and Sir David Murray of Gorthy. Sir David Murray was also his Keeper of the Privy Purse, Groom of the Stole, Gentleman of the Robes and Master of the Wardrobe.
Apart from academics, the young prince also received training in different physical pursuits and was passionately engaged in sports like hawking, hunting, jousting, and fencing. He also studied music under Alfonso Ferrabosco, the younger.
From his mother, he imbibed a strong artistic sense and over time became an avid collector, amassing many fine pictures, sculptures and medals from classical antiquity and the Renaissance. Arts based on biblical or mythological themes, especially from the Netherlands and Venice, were his favorites.
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In August 1605, he matriculated from Magdalen College, Oxford, where he became known for his debates and arguments. In November 1605, when the Gun Powder Plot that was meant to blow up the House of Lords was unearthed, he began to take a keen interest in naval and military affairs.
In June 1607, he was admitted as a member of the London Merchant Taylors' Company. By then he had become mentally mature which was proven when in 1608, he stood by his servant and friend, Phineas Pett, who was accused of bad behavior. Later, Pett was declared innocent.
Although Henry was still very young, he began to be known as a great scholar. Upon the death of Lord Lumley in 1609, his library, which incorporated collections from the Earl of Arundel’s library, was transferred to Henry.
Also from his mid-teens, Henry began to show great leadership qualities and was entrusted with many responsibilities, which he carried out successfully. A devout protestant, he attentively listened to the sermons preached by the clerics in his household and fined all those who swore in his presence.
As he grew up, he became more and more popular with his subjects, which, according to hearsay, created tension between him and his father. However, there is no proof of such allegations. Contrarily, the king was greatly distressed when Prince Henry died at the age of 18.
Prince of Wales
In 1610, the Parliament gave its consent for Prince Henry’s investiture as Prince of Wales. Subsequently in June 1610, he was invested with the title in a pompous ceremony, which cost an equivalent of £10 million in today's money. Concurrently, he was also made Earl of Chester.
After his investiture, Prince Henry moved his household to St. James Palace. Here, he continued to amass pieces of art, in which he was advised by Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundell. He also appointed Abraham van der Doort to keep a record of his works of art.
As the Prince of Wales, he now began to take up greater responsibilities, reassigning Sir Thomas Dale to the Virginia Company of London's colony in North America. He was also very keen on reconciling with the Irish rebels. His erstwhile tutor, Sir David Murray of Gorthy, now became his secretary.
Along with taking up official responsibilities, he continued to pursue his interest in art. In 1612, he commissioned water-works for the garden in Richmond Palace. Unfortunately, he did not live long after that.
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In 1604, a proposal was made for Prince Henry’s wedding to the Infanta Anne, the heiress to the Spanish throne at that time. It failed because the King of Spain demanded that the Prince be sent to Spain to be brought up as a Catholic. It was renewed in 1605 and 1607.
In April 1611, it was proposed that the Prince of Wales marry the eldest daughter of Duke of Savoy. However, the proposal was not received well in England and the Prince was also averse to such a wedding and therefore, it did not take place.
Death & Legacy
In early October 1612, a marriage between Princess Elizabeth, and Frederick (Friedrich) V, Count Palatine of the Rhine was fixed and Prince Henry was asked to help in the wedding arrangements. He was especially asked to arrange the flotilla that would take his sister across the sea.
It was during his sister’s wedding arrangements Henry is believed to have caught germs of typhoid. Possibly on 12 October 1612, he was first seized with fever. Over the next two weeks, he experienced loss of sleep and developed gastrointestinal symptoms.
On October 25 1612, after a game of tennis, he felt much worse. Yet, he had dinner with his father; but it was noticed that his pulse was very fast and his face was red. Soon, he developed high fever and his stomach was swollen. He also felt very thirsty.
Continuing to deteriorate, the Prince of Wales died on November 6 1612. It was initially believed that he was poisoned, but later examinations ruled it out. Instead, it was said that he died of fever. Today, it is believed that he died of typhoid.
His body remained at St. James Palace until his funeral on December 7 1612. Two thousand mourners followed his cortege to Westminster Abbey, where George Abbot, the Archbishop of Canterbury, delivered a two-hour sermon. Parallel funerals were also held in Oxford, Cambridge and Bristol.
The Prince was laid to rest in the vault of his grandmother Mary, Queen of Scots, in the south aisle of the Henry VII Chapel. It is not known why, but no monument was built for him.
His parents did not attend his funeral. King James was too distressed to attend it and so it fell upon ten years old Charles to act as the chief mourner. Queen Anne was so distraught that she could not even bear to have Henry’s death mentioned.
So high was his popularity that within a month of his death, at least 32 poets had written poems on him. Among them were, Sir William Alexander, Thomas Campion, George Wither, George Chapman, John Davis etc.
After Prince Henry’s death, his younger brother, Charles, became heir to the throne. He had never been groomed for the job and his policies gave rise to the English Civil War. Many scholars believe that England’s history would have been different had Prince Henry lived to ascend its throne.