The Tudor Society

3 March – Edward IV’s son dies of a heart attack in the Tower of London

On this day in Tudor history, 3rd March 1542, Arthur Plantagenet, Lord Lisle, courtier, soldier, diplomat, administrator and illegitimate son of Edward IV, died of a heart attack after being informed of his release from the Tower of London. How very sad!

Find out all about Lord Lisle's background, his career in Henry VII and Henry VIII's reign, and how he came to imprisoned in the Tower of London, when he was probably innocent, in today's talk.

3rd March is also one of the dates given in the French contemporary sources for the secret marriage of Mary Tudor, Queen of France, and Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, in 1515. I looked into this in last year’s video:

Also on this day in history:

  • 1500 - The traditional date given for birth of Cardinal Reginald Pole, Mary I's Archbishop of Canterbury, at Stourton Castle in Staffordshire. Pole helped Mary return England to Catholicism.
  • 1528 – Marriage of Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII and widow of James IV, and her third husband, Henry Stuart (Stewart), 1st Lord Methven. She had divorced her second husband, Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, in 1527. Margaret's marriage to Methven was not happy for long, though. Margaret had managed to pick another unfaithful husband, so she fought for a divorce, as she had with her second husband, but was not supported by her son, King James V. Margaret was later able to reconcile with Methven.
  • 1551 - Death of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Baron Wentworth and Lord Chamberlain in the reign of Edward VI. He was a member of the jury at the trials of Anne Boleyn and George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, as well as those of Henry Pole, Baron Montagu, and Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter. He was buried in the St John the Baptist Chapel, Westminster Abbey.
  • 1551 - Burial of Martin Bucer, theologian and reformer, in Great St Mary's Church, Cambridge. He died 28th February.
  • 1582 - Birth of Edward Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Cherbury, soldier, diplomat, philosopher, poet and author of "The Life and Raigne of King Henry the Eighth". Although his career was in the Stuart period, Tudor historians make use of his work on Henry VIII.


On this day in Tudor history, 3rd March 1542, Arthur Plantagenet, Lord Lisle, courtier, soldier, diplomat, administrator and illegitimate son of Edward IV, died of a heart attack after being informed of his release from the Tower of London. How very sad!

Let me tell you a bit more about Lord Lisle, who he was and how he came to this tragic end.

It is not known exactly when Arthur Plantagenet was born, but it was before 1472 when Arthur is mentioned as “my Lord the Bastard” in the royal household’s accounts. We also don’t know for sure who his mother was, but most historians believe her to have been Elizabeth Lucy, a woman we don’t know anything about.

We don’t know anything about his early life and upbringing, except that the reference to him in the royal household accounts suggests that he was brought up with Edward’s other children in the royal nursery. By 1502, Arthur was serving in the household of Elizabeth of York, queen consort of King Henry VII and a woman who was Arthur’s half-sister. Following Elizabeth’s death in 1503, he entered the king’s household and was appointed as an esquire of the body, and after Henry VII’s death, he continued in the royal household under his nephew, King Henry VIII.

Records show that like Charles Brandon and Thomas Knyvet, Arthur was a close friend of King Henry VIII, one of his sporting companions. He also served his king in a military sense, in France in 1513. He was knighted in October 1513 at Tournai. He was in attendance on the king in 1520 at the historic Field of Cloth of Gold meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I.

In 1523, Arthur was elected as a knight of the Garter, and in the same year he was made Viscount Lisle. In 1525 he was appointed as vice-admiral to England, serving under Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, Henry VIII’s illegitimate son. He was also appointed Constable of Portchester Castle. From 1526 to 1533, he was a gentleman of the privy chamber.

He also served the king in local offices, such as by serving on the commission for the peace in Hampshire and Sussex, and as sheriff for Hampshire. And he served his king on diplomatic missions, for example, going to France in 1527.

In March 1533, following the death of John Bourchier, Arthur was made Deputy of Calais. In this role, he organised a spy network through France and into the Low Countries, and oversaw work to modernise Calais’ defences, Calais being an English territory at this time. However, he didn’t get on well with some of the others involved in the administration of Calais. As a Catholic conservative, he also opposed the plans of Thomas Cromwell and Archbishop Cranmer, who wanted to appoint Reformers to church positions and as preachers in Calais.

On 19th May 1540, Arthur was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. It was alleged that he had had treasonable communications with Cardinal Pole, using his chaplain as a go-between. His arrest was really down to his enmity with Thomas Cromwell and a power struggle at Henry VIII’s court. However, Cromwell was also on his way out as his other enemies rose against him and Cromwell himself was arrested on 10th June 1540 and executed on 28th July, the same day that the king married Catherine Howard.

In January 1542, Lisle’s luck changed as the king sought to rehabilitate him. He was sent the Garter which had been taken from him and on 3rd March 1542, Thomas Wriothesley, one of the king’s principal secretaries, visited Arthur with the king’s signet ring and news that the king was ordering Arthur’s release. John Foxe wrote “The message did in a few hours— perhaps in a few moments — what twenty-two months of solitary agony had failed to do. It killed the prisoner.” It’s so very tragic.

Arthur was married twice. His first wife was Elizabeth Grey, daughter of Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Lisle, and widow of Edmund Dudley. They had three daughters together. In 1528, following the death of his first wife, Arthur married Honor Grenville, daughter of Sir Thomas Grenville and widow of Sir John Bassett. Arthur and Honor didn’t have any children together, but Honor had 7 children from her first marriage. Honor out lived her husband, dying in 1566.

Arthur and Honor are known for the Lisle Letters, a collection of around 3,000 letters from their time in Calais. These still survive today and are one of my favourite primary sources. They are letters between them and their agents in London.

Only 1 comment so far Go To Comment

  1. A

    I love reading the history of people from the past; essentially they are no different to who we are today.

    I am very interested in Arthur Plantagenet as it appears he is a direct ancestor of mine, together with his wife Elizabeth Grey.

    It is interesting to read about my ancestors and it is a shame we don’t know exactly who his mother really was.

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3 March – Edward IV’s son dies of a heart attack in the Tower of London