Henry VII (January 28, 1457-April 21, 1509), King of England
(August 22, 1485-April 21, 1509), was the founder of the Tudor dynasty
and is generally acknowledged as one of England's most successful kings.
King Henry VII
Henry Tudor was the posthumous son of Edmund Tudor, a half-brother of
King Henry VI of England. His mother was Margaret Beaufort, a descendant
of King Edward III on the wrong side of the blanket. From his father, he
inherited the title Earl of Richmond; from his mother, his questionable
claim to the throne of England. He was born in Pembroke but grew up in
exile in Brittany, having fled from the Yorkist kings of England. As an
individual with some claim to the throne (even a very vague one), he knew
the Yorkist monarchs would want him dead.
After the failure of the revolt of his cousin, the Duke of Buckingham,
Henry VII became the leading Lancastrian contender for the throne of England.
Having gained the support of the in-laws of the late Yorkist King Edward
IV, he landed with a force in Wales and marched into England, accompanied
by his uncle, Jasper Tudor, a military mastermind. Wales had traditionally
been a Yorkist stronghold, and Henry owed the support he gathered to his
ancestry, being directly descended, through his father, from the Lord Rhys.
He amassed an army only slightly smaller than the king's and travelled
There his Lancastrian forces decisively defeated the Yorkists under
Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. This victory ended
the long-running Wars
of the Roses between the two houses. Henry's claim to the throne was
tenuous and based upon a lineage of illegitimate succession. However, this
was no barrier to the throne, since, in the absence of an Act of Succession,
in practice Parliament had the ability to award the crown to whomever it
pleased (technically, the Council of Accession awarded the Crown - and
still does so to this day, though now under direction). Henry won it by
Primary of Henry's concerns on attaining the monarchy was the question
of establishing the strength and supremacy of his rule. There were few
other claimants to the throne left alive after the long and bloody civil
war, so his main worry was pretenders such as Perkin Warbeck, who were
backed by disaffected nobles. Henry succeeded in securing his crown by
a number a number of means but principally by dividing and undermining
the power of the nobility.
Henry's first action was to declare himself king as-of the day before
the battle, thus ensuring that anyone who had fought against him would,
technically, be guilty of treason. It is interesting to note, therefore,
that he spared Richard's designated heir, John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln.
He would have cause to regret his leniency two years later, when Lincoln
rebelled and attempted to set a boy pretender, Lambert Simnel, on the throne
in Henry's place. Lincoln was killed at the Battle of Stoke, but Simnel's
life was spared and he became a royal servant.
Simnel had been put forward as "Edward VI", impersonating the young
Edward, Earl of Warwick, son of George, Duke of Clarence, who was still
imprisoned in the Tower of London. Henry had shown uncharacteristic leniency
in dealing with Edward and did not find a pretext for executing him until
he had grown into adulthood, in 1499. Edward's elder sister, Margaret Pole,
who had the next best claim on the throne, inherited her father's earldom
of Salisbury and survived well into the next reign.
Another methods Henry used to secure his throne was to carry out his
promise to marry Elizabeth of York, daughter and heir of King Edward IV,
an act that unified the warring houses.Henry's and Elizabeth's children
Henry was a fiscally prudent monarch who restored the fortunes of an effectively
bankrupt exchequer by introducing efficient mechanisms of taxation. In
this he was supported by his chancellor, Archbishop John Morton, whose
"fork" was a catch-22 method of ensuring that nobles paid the appropriate
taxes. Royal government was also reformed with the introduction of the
King's Council that kept the nobility in check.
Arthur, Prince of Wales (September 20, 1486-April 2, 1502).
Margaret Tudor (November 28, 1489 - October 18, 1541).
Henry VIII of England (June 28, 1491 - January 28, 1547).
Elizabeth Tudor (July 2, 1492 - September 14, 1495).
Mary Tudor (March 18, 1496 - June 25, 1533).
Edmund Tudor, Duke of Somerset (February 21, 1499 - June 19, 1500).
Katherine Tudor (February 2, 1503 - February 2, 1503).
Henry's policy was both to maintain peace and to create economic prosperity.
Up to a point, he succeeded in both. He was not a military man, and had
no interest in trying to regain the French territories lost during the
reigns of his predecessors; he was therefore only too ready to conclude
a treaty with France that both directly and indirectly brought money into
the coffers of England. To strengthen his position, however, he subsidized
shipbuilding, thus strengthening the navy and improving trading opportunities.
By the time of his death, he had amassed a personal fortune of a million
and a half pounds; it did not take his son as long to fritter it away as
it had taken the father to save it up.
As well as coming to terms with the French, Henry forged alliances with
Spain -- by marrying his son, Arthur Tudor, to Catherine of Aragon; with
Scotland -- by marrying his daughter, Margaret, to King James IV of Scotland;
and with Germany, under the emperor Maximilian I.
In 1502, fate dealt Henry a double blow from which he never fully recovered:
His heir, the recently-married Arthur, died in an epidemic at Ludlow Castle
and was followed only a few months later by Henry's queen, in childbirth.
Not wishing the negotiations that had led to the marriage of his elder
son to Catherine of Aragon to go to waste, he arranged a dispensation for
his younger son to marry his brother's widow -- normally a degree of relationship
that precluded marriage in the Roman Catholic Church. Henry obtained a
dispensation from Pope Julius II but had second thoughts about the value
of the marriage and did not allow it to take place during his lifetime.
Although he made half-hearted plans to re-marry and beget more heirs, these
never came to anything. On his death in 1509, he was succeeded by his second
son, Henry VIII.
Henry's elder daughter Margaret was married first to James IV of Scotland,
and their son became James V of Scotland, whose daughter became Mary Queen
of Scots. By means of this marriage, Henry hoped to break the Auld Alliance
between Scotland and France. Margaret Tudor's second marriage was to Archibald
Douglas; their grandson Henry Stewart Lord Darnley married Mary Queen of
Scots, whose son was James VI of Scotland, who inherited the throne of
England as James I after the death of Elizabeth I. Henry VII's other surviving
daughter, Mary, married first King Louis XII of France and then, when he
died of too much honeymooning, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Their
daughter Frances married Henry Grey, and their children included Lady Jane
Grey, in whose name her parents and in-laws tried to seize the throne after
Edward VI of England died.
King Henry VII is buried at Westminster Abbey.
Henry VII by S. B. Chrimes & George Bernard (1972)
Henry VII by Jocelyn Hunt & Carolyn Towle (1998)
Henry VII by Roger Turvey & Caroline Steinsberg (2000)
The Son of Prophecy: Henry Tudor's Road to Bosworth (©1985) by
David Rees (ISBN 0-85159-005-5) is a discussion of how Henry's return to
Wales was regarded by some as the fulfillment of a Messianic prophecy.
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