Henry VII of England

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Henry VII
Enrique VII de Inglaterra, por un artista anonimo.jpg
Henry holding a rose and wearing the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece, by unknown Netherlandish artist, 1505 National Portrait Gallery.
King of England
Reign22 August 1485 – 21 April 1509
Coronation 30 October 1485
Predecessor Richard III
Successor Henry VIII
Born28 January 1457
Pembroke Castle, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Died21 April 1509 (aged 52)
Richmond Palace, Surrey, England
Burial11 May 1509
(m. 1486;died 1503)
House Tudor
Father Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond
Mother Lady Margaret Beaufort
Religion Catholicism
Signature Henry VII Signature.svg

Henry VII (Welsh : Harri Tudur; 28 January 1457 – 21 April 1509) was the King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizure of the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death in 1509. He was the first monarch of the House of Tudor.


Henry's mother, Margaret Beaufort, was a descendant of the Lancastrian branch of the House of Plantagenet. Henry's father, Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond, a half-brother of Henry VI of England and descendant of the Welsh Tudors of Penmynydd, died three months before his son Henry was born. During Henry's early years, his uncle Henry VI was fighting against Edward IV, a member of the Yorkist Plantagenet branch. After Edward retook the throne in 1471, Henry Tudor spent 14 years in exile in Brittany. He attained the throne when his forces, supported by France, Scotland, and Wales, defeated Edward IV's brother Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, the culmination of the Wars of the Roses. He was the last king of England to win his throne on the field of battle. He cemented his claim by marrying Elizabeth of York, daughter of King Edward.

Henry was successful in restoring power and stability to the English monarchy following the civil war. He is credited with a number of administrative, economic and diplomatic initiatives. His supportive policy toward England's wool industry and his standoff with the Low Countries had long-lasting benefit to the English economy. He paid very close attention to detail, and instead of spending lavishly he concentrated on raising new revenues. He introduced several new taxes, which stabilised the government's finances. After his death, a commission found widespread abuses in the tax collection process. Henry reigned for nearly 24 years and was peacefully succeeded by his son, Henry VIII.

Ancestry and early life

Henry VII was born at Pembroke Castle on 28 January 1457 to Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond. His father, Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond, died three months before his birth. [1] Henry's paternal grandfather, Owen Tudor, originally from the Tudors of Penmynydd, Isle of Anglesey in Wales, had been a page in the court of King Henry V. He rose to become one of the "Squires to the Body to the King" after military service at the Battle of Agincourt. [2] Owen is said to have secretly married the widow of Henry V, Catherine of Valois. One of their sons was Edmund, Henry's father. Edmund was created Earl of Richmond in 1452, and "formally declared legitimate by Parliament". [3]

Henry's mother, Margaret, provided Henry's main claim to the English throne through the House of Beaufort. She was a great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster (fourth son of Edward III), and his third wife Katherine Swynford. Katherine was Gaunt's mistress for about 25 years. When they married in 1396 they already had four children, including Henry's great-grandfather John Beaufort. Thus, Henry's claim was somewhat tenuous; it was from a woman, and by illegitimate descent. In theory, the Portuguese and Castilian royal families had a better claim as descendants of Catherine of Lancaster, the daughter of John of Gaunt and his second wife Constance of Castile.[ citation needed ]

Gaunt's nephew Richard II legitimised Gaunt's children by Katherine Swynford by Letters Patent in 1397. In 1407, Henry IV, Gaunt's son by his first wife, issued new Letters Patent confirming the legitimacy of his half-siblings but also declaring them ineligible for the throne. [4] Henry IV's action was of doubtful legality, as the Beauforts were previously legitimised by an Act of Parliament, but it further weakened Henry's claim.[ citation needed ] Nonetheless, by 1483 Henry was the senior male Lancastrian claimant remaining after the deaths in battle, by murder or execution of Henry VI (son of Henry V and Catherine of Valois), his son Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, and the other Beaufort line of descent through Lady Margaret's uncle, Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset.[ citation needed ]

Henry also made some political capital out of his Welsh ancestry in attracting military support and safeguarding his army's passage through Wales on its way to the Battle of Bosworth. [5] [6] He came from an old, established Anglesey family that claimed descent from Cadwaladr, in legend, the last ancient British king, [7] and on occasion Henry displayed the red dragon of Cadwaladr. [5] He took it, as well as the standard of St. George, on his procession through London after the victory at Bosworth. [8] A contemporary writer and Henry's biographer, Bernard André, also made much of Henry's Welsh descent. [7]

Pembroke Castle Pembroke Castle - June 2011.jpg
Pembroke Castle

In 1456, Henry's father Edmund Tudor was captured while fighting for Henry VI in South Wales against the Yorkists. He died shortly afterwards in Carmarthen Castle. His younger brother, Jasper Tudor, the Earl of Pembroke, undertook to protect Edmund's widow Margaret, who was 13 years old when she gave birth to Henry. [9] When Edward IV became King in 1461, Jasper Tudor went into exile abroad. Pembroke Castle, and later the Earldom of Pembroke, were granted to the Yorkist William Herbert, who also assumed the guardianship of Margaret Beaufort and the young Henry. [10]

Henry lived in the Herbert household until 1469, when Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (the "Kingmaker"), went over to the Lancastrians. Herbert was captured fighting for the Yorkists and executed by Warwick. [11] When Warwick restored Henry VI in 1470, Jasper Tudor returned from exile and brought Henry to court. [11] When the Yorkist Edward IV regained the throne in 1471, Henry fled with other Lancastrians to Brittany. He spent most of the next 14 years under the protection of Francis II, Duke of Brittany. [12] In November 1476, Francis fell ill and his principal advisers were more amenable to negotiating with King Edward. Henry was thus handed over to English envoys and escorted to the Breton port of Saint-Malo. While there, he feigned stomach cramps and delayed his departure long enough to miss the tides. An ally of Henry's, Viscount Jean du Quélennec  [ fr ], soon arrived, bringing news that Francis had recovered, and in the confusion Henry was able to flee to a monastery. There he claimed sanctuary until the envoys were forced to depart. [13]

Rise to the throne

Young Henry VII, by a French artist (Musee Calvet, Avignon) Younghenry7.jpg
Young Henry VII, by a French artist (Musée Calvet, Avignon)

By 1483, Henry's mother was actively promoting him as an alternative to Richard III, despite her being married to Lord Stanley, a Yorkist. At Rennes Cathedral on Christmas Day 1483, Henry pledged to marry Elizabeth of York, the eldest daughter of Edward IV. She was Edward's heir since the presumed death of her brothers, the Princes in the Tower, King Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York. [14] With money and supplies borrowed from his host, Francis II of Brittany, Henry tried to land in England, but his conspiracy unravelled resulting in the execution of his primary co-conspirator, Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham. [15] Now supported by Francis II's prime minister, Pierre Landais, Richard III attempted to extradite Henry from Brittany, but Henry escaped to France. [16] He was welcomed by the French, who readily supplied him with troops and equipment for a second invasion.[ citation needed ] Henry gained the support of the Woodvilles, in-laws of the late Edward IV, and sailed with a small French and Scottish force, landing at Mill Bay near Dale, Pembrokeshire. [17] He marched toward England accompanied by his uncle Jasper and John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford. Wales was historically a Lancastrian stronghold, and Henry owed the support he gathered to his Welsh birth and ancestry, being agnatically descended from Rhys ap Gruffydd. [18] He amassed an army of about 5,000-6,000 soldiers. [19] [20]

Henry devised a plan to seize the throne by engaging Richard quickly because Richard had reinforcements in Nottingham and Leicester. Though outnumbered, Henry's Lancastrian forces decisively defeated Richard's Yorkist army at the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22 August 1485. Several of Richard's key allies, such as Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland, and also Lord Stanley and his brother William, crucially switched sides or left the battlefield. Richard III's death at Bosworth Field effectively ended the Wars of the Roses.[ citation needed ]


To secure his hold on the throne, Henry declared himself king by right of conquest retroactively from 21 August 1485, the day before Bosworth Field. [21] Thus, anyone who had fought for Richard against him would be guilty of treason and Henry could legally confiscate the lands and property of Richard III, while restoring his own. Henry spared Richard's nephew and designated heir, John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, and made the Yorkist heiress Margaret Plantagenet Countess of Salisbury suo jure . He took care not to address the baronage or summon Parliament until after his coronation, which took place in Westminster Abbey on 30 October 1485. [22] After his coronation Henry issued an edict that any gentleman who swore fealty to him would, notwithstanding any previous attainder, be secure in his property and person.[ citation needed ]

Queen Elizabeth, Henry's wife British School, 16th century - Elizabeth of York - Haunted Gallery, Hampton Court Palace.jpg
Queen Elizabeth, Henry's wife
King Henry VII's Coat of Arms ArbfaisTuduriaid.jpg
King Henry VII's Coat of Arms

Henry honoured his pledge of December 1483 to marry Elizabeth of York. [15] [23] They were third cousins, as both were great-great-grandchildren of John of Gaunt. [24] Henry married Elizabeth of York with the hope of uniting the Yorkist and Lancastrian sides of the Plantagenet dynastic disputes, and he was largely successful. However, such a level of paranoia persisted that anyone (John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, for example) [25] with blood ties to the Plantagenets was suspected of coveting the throne. [26]

Henry had Parliament repeal Titulus Regius , the statute that declared Edward IV's marriage invalid and his children illegitimate, thus legitimising his wife. Amateur historians Bertram Fields and Sir Clements Markham have claimed that he may have been involved in the murder of the Princes in the Tower, as the repeal of Titulus Regius gave the Princes a stronger claim to the throne than his own. Alison Weir points out that the Rennes ceremony, two years earlier, was plausible only if Henry and his supporters were certain that the Princes were already dead. [27] Henry secured his crown principally by dividing and undermining the power of the nobility, especially through the aggressive use of bonds and recognisances to secure loyalty. He also enacted laws against livery and maintenance, the great lords' practice of having large numbers of "retainers" who wore their lord's badge or uniform and formed a potential private army.[ citation needed ]

Henry began taking precautions against rebellion while still in Leicester after Bosworth Field. Edward, Earl of Warwick, the ten-year-old son of Edward IV's brother George, Duke of Clarence, was the senior surviving male of the House of York. [28] Before departing for London, Henry sent Robert Willoughby to Sheriff Hutton in Yorkshire, to arrest Warwick and take him to the Tower of London. [29] Despite such precautions, Henry faced several rebellions over the next twelve years.[ citation needed ] The first was the 1486 rebellion of the Stafford brothers, abetted by Viscount Lovell, which collapsed without fighting. [30]

Next, in 1487, Yorkists led by Lincoln rebelled in support of Lambert Simnel, a boy they claimed to be Edward of Warwick (who was actually a prisoner in the Tower). The rebellion began in Ireland, where the historically Yorkist nobility, headed by the powerful Gerald FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare, proclaimed Simnel king and provided troops for his invasion of England. The rebellion was defeated and Lincoln killed at the Battle of Stoke. Henry showed remarkable clemency to the surviving rebels: he pardoned Kildare and the other Irish nobles, and he made the boy, Simnel, a servant in the royal kitchen where he was in charge of roasting meats on a spit. [31]

In 1490, a young Fleming, Perkin Warbeck, appeared and claimed to be Richard of Shrewsbury, the younger of the "Princes in the Tower". Warbeck won the support of Edward IV's sister Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy. He led attempted invasions of Ireland in 1491 and England in 1495, and persuaded James IV of Scotland to invade England in 1496. In 1497 Warbeck landed in Cornwall with a few thousand troops, but was soon captured and executed. [32]

When the King's agents searched the property of William Stanley (Chamberlain of the Household, with direct access to Henry VII) they found a bag of coins amounting to around £10,000 and a collar of livery with Yorkist garnishings. Stanley was accused of supporting Warbeck's cause, arrested and later executed. In response to this threat within his own household, the King instituted more rigid security for access to his person. [33] In 1499, Henry had the Earl of Warwick executed. [34] However, he spared Warwick's elder sister Margaret, who survived until 1541 when she was executed by Henry VIII. [35]


Groat of Henry VII Henry VII groat.jpg
Groat of Henry VII

For most of Henry VII's reign Edward Story was Bishop of Chichester. Story's register still exists and, according to the 19th-century historian W.R.W. Stephens, "affords some illustrations of the avaricious and parsimonious character of the king". It seems that Henry was skillful at extracting money from his subjects on many pretexts, including that of war with France or war with Scotland. The money so extracted added to the King's personal fortune rather than being used for the stated purpose. [36]

Unlike his predecessors, Henry VII came to the throne without personal experience in estate management or financial administration. [37] Despite this, during his reign he became a fiscally prudent monarch who restored the fortunes of an effectively bankrupt exchequer. Henry VII introduced stability to the financial administration of England by keeping the same financial advisors throughout his reign. For instance, except for the first few months of the reign, the Baron Dynham and the Earl of Surrey were the only Lord High Treasurers throughout his reign. [38]

Henry VII improved tax collection in the realm by introducing ruthlessly efficient mechanisms of taxation. He was supported in this effort by his chancellor, Archbishop John Morton, whose "Morton's Fork" was a catch-22 method of ensuring that nobles paid increased taxes: those nobles who spent little must have saved much, and thus could afford the increased taxes; in contrast, those nobles who spent much obviously had the means to pay the increased taxes. [39]

Henry VII (centre), with his advisors Sir Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley EmpsonHenryDudley.jpg
Henry VII (centre), with his advisors Sir Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley

The capriciousness and lack of due process that indebted many would tarnish his legacy and were soon ended upon Henry VII's death, after a commission revealed widespread abuses. [40] According to the contemporary historian Polydore Vergil, simple "greed" underscored the means by which royal control was over-asserted in Henry's final years. [41] Following Henry VII's death, Henry VIII executed Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley, his two most hated tax collectors, on trumped-up charges of treason. [42]

Henry VII established the pound avoirdupois as a standard of weight; it later became part of the Imperial [43] and customary systems of units. [43]

Foreign policy

Henry VII's policy was both to maintain peace and to create economic prosperity. Up to a point, he succeeded. The Treaty of Redon was signed in February 1489 between Henry and representatives of Brittany. Based on the terms of the accord, Henry sent 6000 troops to fight (at the expense of Brittany) under the command of Lord Daubeney. The purpose of the agreement was to prevent France from annexing Brittany. According to John M. Currin, the treaty redefined Anglo-Breton relations. Henry started a new policy to recover Guyenne and other lost Plantagenet claims in France. The treaty marks a shift from neutrality over the French invasion of Brittany to active intervention against it. [44]

Henry later concluded a treaty with France at Etaples that brought money into the coffers of England, and ensured the French would not support pretenders to the English throne, such as Perkin Warbeck. However, this treaty came at a price, as Henry mounted a minor invasion of Brittany in November 1492. Henry decided to keep Brittany out of French hands, signed an alliance with Spain to that end, and sent 6,000 troops to France. [45] The confused, fractious nature of Breton politics undermined his efforts, which finally failed after three sizeable expeditions, at a cost of £24,000. However, as France was becoming more concerned with the Italian Wars, the French were happy to agree to the Treaty of Etaples. [46] Henry had pressured the French by laying siege to Boulogne in October 1492.[ citation needed ] Henry had been under the financial and physical protection of the French throne or its vassals for most of his life before becoming king. To strengthen his position, however, he subsidised shipbuilding, so strengthening the navy (he commissioned Europe's first ever – and the world's oldest surviving – dry dock at Portsmouth in 1495) and improving trading opportunities.[ citation needed ]

Henry VII was one of the first European monarchs to recognise the importance of the newly united Spanish kingdom; he concluded the Treaty of Medina del Campo, by which his son Arthur, Prince of Wales, was married to Catherine of Aragon. [47] He also concluded the Treaty of Perpetual Peace with Scotland (the first treaty between England and Scotland for almost two centuries), which betrothed his daughter Margaret Tudor to King James IV of Scotland. By this marriage, Henry VII hoped to break the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France. Though this was not achieved during his reign, the marriage eventually led to the union of the English and Scottish crowns under Margaret's great-grandson, James VI and I, following the death of Henry's granddaughter Elizabeth I.[ citation needed ] Henry also formed an alliance with Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1493–1519) and persuaded Pope Innocent VIII to issue a papal bull of excommunication against all pretenders to Henry's throne.[ citation needed ]

In 1506, Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller Emery d'Amboise asked Henry VII to become the protector and patron of the Order, as he had an interest in the crusade. [48] Later on, Henry had exchanged letters with Pope Julius II in 1507, in which he encouraged him to establish peace among Christians realms, and to organize an expedition against the Turks of the Ottoman Empire. [49]

Trade agreements

Henry VII was much enriched by trading alum, which was used in the wool and cloth trades as a chemical fixative for dyeing fabrics. [50] Since alum was mined in only one area in Europe (Tolfa, Italy), it was a scarce commodity and therefore especially valuable to its land holder, the Pope. With the English economy heavily invested in wool production, Henry VII became involved in the alum trade in 1486. With the assistance of the Italian merchant banker Lodovico della Fava and the Italian banker Girolamo Frescobaldi, Henry VII became deeply involved in the trade by licensing ships, obtaining alum from the Ottoman Empire, and selling it to the Low Countries and in England. [51] This trade made an expensive commodity cheaper, which raised opposition from Pope Julius II, since the Tolfa mine was a part of papal territory and had given the Pope monopoly control over alum.[ citation needed ]

Henry's most successful diplomatic achievement as regards the economy was the Magnus Intercursus ("great agreement") of 1496. In 1494, Henry embargoed trade (mainly in wool) with the Burgundian Netherlands in retaliation for Margaret of Burgundy's support for Perkin Warbeck. The Merchant Adventurers, the company which enjoyed the monopoly of the Flemish wool trade, relocated from Antwerp to Calais. At the same time, Flemish merchants were ejected from England. The dispute eventually paid off for Henry. Both parties realised they were mutually disadvantaged by the reduction in commerce. Its restoration by the Magnus Intercursus was very much to England's benefit in removing taxation for English merchants and significantly increasing England's wealth. In turn, Antwerp became an extremely important trade entrepôt (transshipment port), through which, for example, goods from the Baltic, spices from the east and Italian silks were exchanged for English cloth. [52]

In 1506, Henry extorted the Treaty of Windsor from Philip the Handsome, Duke of Burgundy. Philip had been shipwrecked on the English coast, and while Henry's guest, was bullied into an agreement so favourable to England at the expense of the Netherlands that it was dubbed the Malus Intercursus ("evil agreement"). France, Burgundy, the Holy Roman Empire, Spain and the Hanseatic League all rejected the treaty, which was never in force. Philip died shortly after the negotiations. [53]

Law enforcement and Justices of the Peace

Henry's principal problem was to restore royal authority in a realm recovering from the Wars of the Roses. There were too many powerful noblemen and, as a consequence of the system of so-called bastard feudalism, each had what amounted to private armies of indentured retainers (mercenaries masquerading as servants).[ citation needed ] Following the example of Edward IV, Henry VII created a Council of Wales and the Marches for his son Arthur, which was intended to govern Wales and the Marches, Cheshire and Cornwall. [54] [55] [56]

Late 16th-century copy of a portrait of Henry VII King Henry VII from NPG.jpg
Late 16th-century copy of a portrait of Henry VII

He was content to allow the nobles their regional influence if they were loyal to him. For instance, the Stanley family had control of Lancashire and Cheshire, upholding the peace on the condition that they stayed within the law. In other cases, he brought his over-powerful subjects to heel by decree. He passed laws against "livery" (the upper classes' flaunting of their adherents by giving them badges and emblems) and "maintenance" (the keeping of too many male "servants"). These laws were used shrewdly in levying fines upon those that he perceived as threats.[ citation needed ]

However, his principal weapon was the Court of Star Chamber. This revived an earlier practice of using a small (and trusted) group of the Privy Council as a personal or Prerogative Court, able to cut through the cumbersome legal system and act swiftly. Serious disputes involving the use of personal power, or threats to royal authority, were thus dealt with. [57]

Henry VII used Justices of the Peace on a large, nationwide scale. They were appointed for every shire and served for a year at a time. Their chief task was to see that the laws of the country were obeyed in their area. Their powers and numbers steadily increased during the time of the Tudors, never more so than under Henry's reign. [58] Despite this, Henry was keen to constrain their power and influence, applying the same principles to the Justices of the Peace as he did to the nobility: a similar system of bonds and recognisances to that which applied to both the gentry and the nobles who tried to exert their elevated influence over these local officials.[ citation needed ]

All Acts of Parliament were overseen by the Justices of the Peace. For example, Justices of the Peace could replace suspect jurors in accordance with the 1495 act preventing the corruption of juries. They were also in charge of various administrative duties, such as the checking of weights and measures.[ citation needed ]

By 1509, Justices of the Peace were key enforcers of law and order for Henry VII. They were unpaid, which, in comparison with modern standards, meant a smaller tax bill for law enforcement. Local gentry saw the office as one of local influence and prestige and were therefore willing to serve. Overall, this was a successful area of policy for Henry, both in terms of efficiency and as a method of reducing the corruption endemic within the nobility of the Middle Ages.[ citation needed ]

Later years and death

Scene at the deathbed of Henry VII at Richmond Palace (1509) drawn contemporaneously from witness accounts by the courtier Sir Thomas Wriothesley (d.1534) who wrote an account of the proceedings BL Add.MS 45131, f.54 HenryVIIdeathbed.jpg
Scene at the deathbed of Henry VII at Richmond Palace (1509) drawn contemporaneously from witness accounts by the courtier Sir Thomas Wriothesley (d.1534) who wrote an account of the proceedings BL Add.MS 45131, f.54
Posthumous portrait bust by Pietro Torrigiano made using Henry's death mask WLA vanda Henry VII bust.jpg
Posthumous portrait bust by Pietro Torrigiano made using Henry's death mask

In 1502, Henry VII's life took a difficult and personal turn in which many people he was close to died in quick succession. His first son and heir apparent, Arthur, Prince of Wales, died suddenly at Ludlow Castle, very likely from a viral respiratory illness known at the time as the "English sweating sickness". [59] This made Henry VII's second son, Henry, Duke of York, heir apparent to the throne. The King, normally a reserved man who rarely showed much emotion in public unless angry, surprised his courtiers by his intense grief and sobbing at his son's death, while his concern for the Queen is evidence that the marriage was a happy one, as is his reaction to Queen Elizabeth's death the following year, when he shut himself away for several days, refusing to speak to anyone. [60] Henry VII was shattered by the loss of Elizabeth, and her death impacted him severely. [61]

Henry wanted to maintain the Spanish alliance. He, therefore, arranged a papal dispensation from Pope Julius II for Prince Henry to marry his brother's widow Catherine, a relationship that would have otherwise precluded marriage in the Roman Catholic Church. Elizabeth had died in childbirth, so Henry had the dispensation also permit him to marry Catherine himself. After obtaining the dispensation, Henry had second thoughts about the marriage of his son and Catherine. Catherine's mother Isabella I of Castile had died and Catherine's sister Joanna had succeeded her; Catherine was, therefore, daughter of only one reigning monarch and so less desirable as a spouse for Henry VII's heir-apparent. The marriage did not take place during his lifetime. Otherwise, at the time of his father's arranging of the marriage to Catherine of Aragon, the future Henry VIII was too young to contract the marriage according to Canon Law and would be ineligible until age fourteen. [62]

Henry made half-hearted plans to remarry and beget more heirs, but these never came to anything. He entertained thoughts of remarriage to renew the alliance with Spain — Joanna, Dowager Queen of Naples (a niece of Queen Isabella of Castile), Queen Joanna of Castile, and Margaret, Dowager Duchess of Savoy (sister-in-law of Joanna of Castile), were all considered. [63] In 1505 he was sufficiently interested in a potential marriage to Joanna of Naples that he sent ambassadors to Naples to report on the 27-year-old Joanna's physical suitability. [64] The wedding never took place, and the physical description Henry sent with his ambassadors of what he desired in a new wife matched the description of his wife Elizabeth.[ citation needed ]

After 1503, records show the Tower of London was never again used as a royal residence by Henry VII, and all royal births under Henry VIII took place in palaces. [65] Of all British kings, Henry VII is one of only a handful that never had any known mistress, and for the times, it is very unusual that he did not remarry: his son, Henry, was the only heir left and the death of Arthur put the position of the House of Tudor in a more precarious political position.[ citation needed ]

During his lifetime the nobility often criticised Henry VII for re-centralizing power in London, and later the 16th-century historian Francis Bacon was ruthlessly critical of the methods by which he enforced tax law, but it is equally true that Henry VII was diligent about keeping detailed records of his personal finances, down to the last halfpenny; [66] these and one account book detailing the expenses of his queen survive in the British National Archives, as do accounts of courtiers and many of the king's own letters. Until the death of his wife, the evidence is clear from these accounting books that Henry was a more doting father and husband than was widely known and there is evidence that his outwardly austere personality belied a devotion to his family. Letters to relatives have an affectionate tone not captured by official state business, as evidenced by many written to his mother Margaret. Many of the entries show a man who loosened his purse strings generously for his wife and children, and not just on necessities: in spring 1491 he spent a great amount of gold on a lute for his daughter Mary; the following year he spent money on a lion for Elizabeth's menagerie. With Elizabeth's death, the possibilities for such family indulgences greatly diminished. [67] Immediately afterwards, Henry became very sick and nearly died himself, allowing only his mother Margaret Beaufort near him: "privily departed to a solitary place, and would that no man should resort unto him." [68] [69] Further compounding Henry's distress, his older daughter Margaret had previously been betrothed to King James IV of Scotland and within months of her mother's death she had to be escorted to the border by her father: he would never see her again. [70] Margaret Tudor wrote letters to her father declaring her homesickness, but Henry could do nothing but mourn the loss of his family and honor the terms of the peace treaty he had agreed to with the King of Scotland. [71]

Henry VII died of tuberculosis at Richmond Palace on 21 April 1509 and was buried in the chapel he commissioned in Westminster Abbey next to his wife, Elizabeth. [72] He was succeeded by his second son, Henry VIII (reigned 1509–47). His mother survived him, but died two months later on 29 June 1509. [73]

Appearance and character

Good contemporary visual records of Henry's appearance exist in realistic portraits that are relatively free of idealisation. At 27, he was tall and slender, with small blue eyes, which were said to have a noticeable animation of expression, and noticeably bad teeth in a long, sallow face beneath very fair hair.

Amiable and high-spirited, Henry was friendly if dignified in manner, and it was clear that he was extremely intelligent. His biographer, Professor Chrimes, credits him – even before he had become king – with "a high degree of personal magnetism, ability to inspire confidence, and a growing reputation for shrewd decisiveness". On the debit side, he may have looked a little delicate as he suffered from poor health. [23] [74]

Legacy and memory

Common royal descent of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York uniting the houses of Lancaster and York Henry VII and Elizabeth of York Common Royal Descent.png
Common royal descent of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York uniting the houses of Lancaster and York

Historians have always compared Henry VII with his continental contemporaries, especially Louis XI of France and Ferdinand II of Aragon. By 1600 historians emphasised Henry's wisdom in drawing lessons in statecraft from other monarchs. In 1622 Francis Bacon published his History of the Reign of King Henry VII . By 1900 the "New Monarchy" interpretation stressed the common factors that in each country led to the revival of monarchical power. This approach raised puzzling questions about similarities and differences in the development of national states. In the late 20th century a model of European state formation was prominent in which Henry less resembles Louis and Ferdinand. [75]


Henry VII with his family The Family of Henry VII with St George and the Dragon (cropped).jpg
Henry VII with his family

Henry VII and Elizabeth had seven children:

Sir Roland de Velville (or Veleville) was knighted in 1497 and was Constable of Beaumaris Castle. He is sometimes presented as the clear "illegitimate issue" of Henry VII of England by "a Breton lady whose name is not known". The possibility this was Henry's illegitimate son is baseless. [77]

Henry VII's position in relation to the houses of York and Lancaster (selective chart) [78]
Blanche of Lancaster John, Duke of Lancaster Katherine Swynford
Henry IV John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset Joan Beaufort
Henry V Catherine of Valois Owen Tudor John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset Cecily Neville Richard, Duke of York
Henry VI Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond Margaret Beaufort Edward IV Richard III
Henry VII Elizabeth of York Edward V

See also

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Edward IV was King of England from 4 March 1461 to 3 October 1470, then again from 11 April 1471 until his death in 1483. He was a central figure in the Wars of the Roses, a series of civil wars in England fought between the Yorkist and Lancastrian factions between 1455 and 1487.

Elizabeth of York Queen of Henry VII, daughter of Edward IV

Elizabeth of York was Queen of England from her marriage to King Henry VII on 18 January 1486 until her death in 1503. Elizabeth married Henry after his victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field, which marked the end of the Wars of the Roses. Together, they had seven children.

Lambert Simnel Pretender to the throne of King Henry VII of England

Lambert Simnel was a pretender to the throne of England. In 1487, his claim to be Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick, threatened the newly established reign of Henry VII (1485–1509). Simnel became the figurehead of a Yorkist rebellion organised by John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln. The rebellion was crushed in 1487. Simnel was pardoned because of his tender years, and was thereafter employed by the Royal household as a scullion, and, later, as a falconer.

Lady Margaret Beaufort Mother of King Henry VII

Lady Margaret Beaufort was a major figure in the Wars of the Roses of the late fifteenth century, and mother of King Henry VII of England, the first Tudor monarch.

House of York Cadet branch of the House of Plantagenet

The House of York was a cadet branch of the English royal House of Plantagenet. Three of its members became kings of England in the late 15th century. The House of York descended in the male line from Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, the fourth surviving son of Edward III. In time, it also represented Edward III's senior line, when an heir of York married the heiress-descendant of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, Edward III's second surviving son. It is based on these descents that they claimed the English crown. Compared with its rival, the House of Lancaster, it had a superior claim to the throne of England according to cognatic primogeniture, but an inferior claim according to agnatic primogeniture. The reign of this dynasty ended with the death of Richard III of England at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. It became extinct in the male line with the death of Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick, in 1499.

Edmund de la Pole, 3rd Duke of Suffolk, 6th Earl of Suffolk, KG, Duke of Suffolk, was a son of John de la Pole, 2nd Duke of Suffolk and his wife Elizabeth of York.

Jasper Tudor English duke

Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford and Earl of Pembroke, also called Jasper of Hatfield, was the uncle of King Henry VII of England and a leading architect of his nephew's successful accession to the throne in 1485. He was from the noble Tudor family of Penmynydd in North Wales.

Owen Tudor Welsh courtier and grandfather of Henry VII of England

Sir Owen Tudor was a Welsh courtier and the second husband of Catherine of Valois (1401–1437), widow of King Henry V of England. He was the grandfather of Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty.

Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland

Henry Percy, 4th Earl of NorthumberlandKG was an English aristocrat during the Wars of the Roses. After losing his title when his father was killed fighting the Yorkists, he later regained his position. He led the rearguard of Richard III's army at the Battle of Bosworth, but failed to commit his troops. He was briefly imprisoned by Henry VII, but later restored to his position. A few years later he was murdered by citizens of York during a revolt against Henry VII's taxation.

Francis II, Duke of Brittany Duke of Brittany from 1458 to 1488

Francis II of Brittany was Duke of Brittany from 1458 to his death. He was the grandson of John IV, Duke of Brittany. A recurring theme in Francis' life would be his quest to maintain the quasi-independence of Brittany from France. As such, his reign was characterized by conflicts with King Louis XI of France and with his daughter, Anne of France, who served as regent during the minority of her brother, King Charles VIII. The armed and unarmed conflicts from 1465 to 1477 and 1484–1488 have been called the "War of the Public Weal" and the Mad War, respectively.

John de la Pole, 1st Earl of Lincoln Earl of Lincoln

John de la Pole, 1st Earl of Lincoln was a leading figure in the Yorkist aristocracy during the Wars of the Roses.

House of Plantagenet English royal dynasty in medieval England

The House of Plantagenet was a royal house which originated from the lands of Anjou in France. The family held the English throne from 1154 to 1485, when Richard III died in battle.

The Intercursus Magnus was a major and long-lasting commercial treaty signed in February 1496 by King Henry VII of England and Duke Philip IV of Burgundy. Other signatories included the commercial powers of Venice, Florence, the Netherlands, and the Hanseatic League.

Issue of Edward III of England

King Edward III of England and his wife, Philippa of Hainault, had eight sons and five daughters. The Wars of the Roses were fought between the different factions of Edward III's descendants. The following list outlines the genealogy supporting male heirs ascendant to the throne during the conflict, and the roles of their cousins. However to mobilise arms and wealth, significant major protagonists were Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, Edmund Beaufort, 4th Duke of Somerset and Henry Percy, 3rd Earl of Northumberland and their families. A less powerful but determining role was played by Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Elizabeth Woodville and their families.

Wars of the Roses Dynastic civil war in England during the 15th century

The Wars of the Roses, known at the time and for more than a century after as the Civil Wars, were a series of civil wars fought over control of the English throne in the mid-to-late fifteenth century, fought between supporters of two rival cadet branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: Lancaster and York. The wars extinguished the male lines of the two dynasties, leading to the Tudor family inheriting the Lancastrian claim. Following the war, the Houses of Tudor and York were united, creating a new royal dynasty, thereby resolving the rival claims.

Buckingham's rebellion was a failed but significant uprising, or collection of uprisings, of October 1483 in England and parts of Wales against Richard III of England.

John Savage (soldier) English knight (1444–1492)

Sir John Savage, KG, KB, PC (1444–1492), was an English knight of the Savage family, who was a noted military commander of the late 15th-century. Savage most notably fought at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, where he commanded the left flank of the Tudor (Lancastrian) army to victory and is said to have personally slain the Duke of Norfolk in single combat. Earlier in the Wars of the Roses, Savage had been a supporter and friend of the Yorkist King Edward IV, fighting alongside him and helping him to victories at the Battle of Barnet in 1471 and the Battle of Tewkesbury later that same year, as well as joining the Duke of Gloucester's invasion of Scotland in 1482, where the Duke made him a Knight banneret. However, following the death of Edward and the Duke of Gloucester's ascension to the throne as Richard III the Savage family was viewed with suspicion due to their familial connection to the Stanleys, who were in turn connected to the Tudors. Consequently Savage was one of the prominent figures who invited Henry Tudor to invade England in 1485, a struggle which culminated in the Battle of Bosworth Field. After his victory Henry Tudor received the circlet of Richard from Savage's uncle Lord Stanley and was crowned King of England on the field of battle, taking the throne as Henry VII of England.



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Further reading

Henry VII of England
Born: 28 January 1457 Died: 21 April 1509
Regnal titles
Preceded by King of England
Lord of Ireland

Succeeded by
Peerage of England
Preceded by Earl of Richmond