Tales and Traditions of the High Peak

By William Wood (1862)

Transcription by Andrew McCann, © Copyright 2001

Prince Arthur


“Sir Henry Vernon was governor and treasurer to Prince Arthur, eldest son and heir apparent to Henry VII. There is a tradition that the Prince frequently lived with Sir Henry at Haddon, where there was an apartment called the Prince's Chamber, with his arms cut in several places”. - Pilkington and Davies.

HADDON HALL, in the Peak of Derbyshire, is justly considered to be one of our most complete baronial residences now remaining; and, though not at present inhabited, nor in very good repair, is extremely interesting to the antiquary, from the many indications it exhibits of the festive manners and hospitality of our ancestors; and of the inconvenient yet social arrangement by which their mode of life was regulated.

Above a century back it was stripped of its furniture, which was conveyed to Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire, another seat of the Duke of Rutland.

To give the particulars or description of this ancient mansion would be superfluous, as they have been detailed in almost every topographical publication.

This venerable residence contains an apartment which is (or was) denominated the “Prince's Chamber”, from the circumstance of its having been set apart for the private or especial accommodation of the amiable Prince Arthur, eldest son of Henry VII, to whom Sir Henry Vernon was governor and treasurer.

Tradition says the Prince made frequent visits to Haddon, and was so much pleased with the place that he always left it reluctantly.

For Sir Henry the young Prince had the most affectionate regard possible; and for his son, afterwards Sir George Vernon, he had almost a brotherly affection.

It was this Sir George Vernon, the quondam companion of Prince Arthur, whose magnificent port and hospitality acquired him the name of King of the Peak.[1]

The young Prince Arthur had by his avaricious father been betrothed in marriage to Catherine, fourth daughter of Ferdinand, King of Castile and Arragon, when he was only twelve years of age; but of this he had but little knowledge, although the marriage had been performed by proxy in the Chapel of the Manor of Bewdley.

In September, A.D. 1501, the young Prince was at Haddon, and a certain change had, during this visit, been observed in his demeanour, which caused some anxiety in the mind of his governor.

It was a lovely autumn; the trees in the spacious park were laden with foliage and fruit; and the sable-bosomed Wye meandered along the front of the castellated mansion in all the sweetness - yea, loveliness of river-beauty.

During the evenings the Prince might be seen walking alone along the banks of the river; sometimes he might be observed sitting on some craggy brow that overlooks the pleasing vale of Haddon; but on approaching him on these occasions a sort of extreme sadness was visible on his thoughtful countenance, and he would move leisurely away, seemingly to court loneliness and solitude, and rarely did he repair to the mansion until night had put on her sable garb.

A little above two miles from Haddon, at a place known as the “Four Lane Ends”[2], north of Bakewell, there then stood a richly-embellished stone Cross, the shaft of which now stands in Bakewell churchyard.[3]

To this place the desponding Prince repaired one fine evening just as the sun was setting; there was not a breath of air, all was as calm and still as the chamber of death.

A slight, sloping, grassy mound surrounded the base of the Cross, on the verge of which the Prince sat down, resting his head between both hands.

The shades of evening began to spread around, but the royal youth continued in the same posture.

After some time had elapsed, he fell into a kind of dream or vision, in which fancy placed before him, face to face, the figure of a very tall, thin female, dressed in white; her features were sunken and wan, her lips of an ashy hue, and her eye-balls protruding, bright and motionless. Pointing her fleshless forefinger towards his face, she spoke as follows (“but her words came forth without her breath”):

“Unhappy, royal Prince, mourn not that fate which is not thine ! One earthly pageant awaits thee, yea, it is at hand; and then, ah! then, thou wilt drop into the lap of thy mother - ah, thy mother earth! Forth comes to Britain's shore thy lovely, smiling bride - ah! bride and widow of a royal boy!”

The Prince rose to his feet and looked around in amazement; but his earthly visitant had vanished.

He wended his way to Haddon, filled with utter perplexity; the fancied words of the mysterious being filled his soul.

As he came near the Hall, he was met by Sir Henry Vernon and a number of servants who had been seeking him for some time. His governor informed him that a special messenger had arrived in his absence, with an order for his immediate departure for the metropolis, as his betrothed wife had landed from Spain, and that his marriage contract would be immediately consummated in due form.

On leaving Haddon, the Prince shed tears; he looked back on the place where he had spent so many happy days with feelings of sorrow.

The royal youth arrived in London, accompanied by his worthy governor and guardian from Haddon, and in a few days he was married.

His royal father spared no expense to testify his joy by disguisings, tournaments and banquets: and the nobility, to flatter the monarch, indulged in a magnificence which, in many instances, proved ruinous to their families.

Prince Arthur and Catherine, his lovely and amiable bride, had assigned them for a residence the Castle of Ludlow, in Shropshire, to which they immediately repaired.

But as the poet sings, “Look not for bliss on this disordered sphere”.

The hapless Prince became ill and four months after marriage, died; his last words being, after blessing his beloved Catherine, “O, the vision of the cross at Haddon!”[4]


[1] Of the many traditions of the sovereign acts of the King of the Peak, one is that he ordered a toll-bar keeper to be hanged in a field near Ashford Bar for murder. The place is known to this day as Galley or Gallows Acre field.
[2] The present site of the Hassop Railway Station.
[3] “This cross is said to have been conveyed hither (Bakewell churchyard) from another place”. - Davies Derbyshire. The cross in Eyam churchyard is said to have been brought there from a crossing of the Manchester and Sheffield old road - Eyam Edge
[4] Lingard says that Prince Arthur had good abilities and much sweetness of temper, and had made great progress in learning. It may be conjectured that had Arthur lived and ascended the throne, one of the greatest organic changes which has ever taken place in England - the Reformation - might not have occurred, or probably have been delayed for some generations.
Had he lived to reign until he had issue to succeed him, his brother (Henry VIII) would not have swayed the sceptre; would not have lopped wives' heads off; would not have defied Popes' bulls; would not have confiscated the property of the monasteries, &c.,&c.; and there would not have been any of the thousand and one changes which have sprung from what is, correctly or incorrectly, called the glorious Reformation.

Transcribed by Andrew McCann in March 2001

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