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The King who never was: Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales

Henry was born in Stirling Castle on 19th February 1594, the son of King James VI of Scotland and Anne of Denmark. James put Henry into the care of James Erskine, Earl of Mar, rather than his wife, Anne because he did not want him to be brought up a staunch Catholic. This did not sit well with his wife at all. However, the young Prince remained with the Mar family until 1603 when King James was invited to become King James I of England and the whole family moved south.

Prince Henry had been conferred a number of titles of the Scottish throne, including Duke of Rothesay and, Prince and Great Steward of Scotland. Hence, when King James ascended the English throne Prince Henry became Duke of Cornwall, and later in 1610 was invested as Prince of Wales. He was the first person to hold all four titles, titles that Prince Charles also holds to this day.

His education was a very rounded one, and Prince Henry showed a liking for both sport and education. He was keen at hunting and hawking, fencing and jousting, but this was not at the expense of an education – something his father, the King, ensured. It was his desire and instruction that his son’s court should be a collegiate one and the young prince was educated in naval and military affairs as well as national ones, something he showed great aptitude for.

It is very interesting, as we now consider whether to bring the voting age down to sixteen, that it was in his mid-teens that Prince Henry was not only challenging his father with his ideas but also being given some quite difficult work to do in his own name which he carried off with aplomb. He was responsible for assigning Sir Thomas Dale to the Virginia Company of London’s ailing colony in the New World, and he was responsible for making it the success it became. As an aside on one of Sir Thomas’s trips back to this country he was accompanied by John Rolfe and his wife, Rebecca, perhaps better known by her native name – Pocahontas.

Prince Henry’s skill was also in evidence nearer to home. He was very keen to solve the problems in Ireland and was keen to organise a reconciliation with Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, the leader of the rebels in Ireland. Sadly, Prince Henry was to die of tuberculosis aged just eighteen, and the Earl and his followers were just some of a great many who mourned the passing of the young prince. He died on the 6th November 1612, and his body lay in state for four weeks at St James’s Palace. It is said that over one thousand people in a procession a mile long followed the cortege to hear the two-hour address given by George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury.

  • Irene Davenport

    How sad. Sounds like he could have been a good king. Oh, and we share the same birthday, albeit 357 years apart!

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