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Henry VII of England

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Henry VII
Enrique VII de Inglaterra, por un artista anónimo.jpg
Henry holding a rose and wearing the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece, by unknown artist, 1505
King of England
Reign22 August 1485 – 21 April 1509
Coronation30 October 1485
PredecessorRichard III
SuccessorHenry VIII
Born28 January 1457
Pembroke Castle, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Died21 April 1509 (aged 52)
Richmond Palace, Surrey, England
Burial11 May 1509
(m. 1486; died 1503)
Arthur, Prince of Wales
Margaret, Queen of Scots
Henry VIII, King of England
Mary, Queen of France
FatherEdmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond
MotherLady Margaret Beaufort
SignatureHenry VII's signature

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 to his death. He was the first monarch of the House of Tudor.

Henry attained the throne when his forces defeated King 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 Richard's brother Edward IV. Henry was successful in restoring power and stability to the English monarchy following the civil war.

Henry 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 whole English economy. He paid very close attention to detail, and instead of spending lavishly he concentrated on raising new revenues. New taxes 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 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 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 Tudor, father of Henry VII. Edmund was created Earl of Richmond in 1452, and "formally declared legitimate by Parliament".[3]

Henry's main claim to the English throne derived from his mother through the House of Beaufort. Henry's mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, was a great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster and 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, his son Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, and the other Beaufort line of descent through Lady Margaret's uncle, the 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]

His hereditary connections to Welsh aristocracy is said to be weak, however he was descended by the paternal line, through several generations, from Ednyfed Fychan, the seneschal (steward) of Gwynedd and through this seneschal's wife from Rhys ap Tewdwr, the King of Deheubarth in South Wales.[9][10][11] His more immediate ancestor, Tudur ap Goronwy, had aristocratic land rights, but his sons, who were first cousins to Owain Glyndŵr, sided with Owain in his revolt. One son was executed and the family land was forfeited. Another son, Henry's great-grandfather, became a butler to the Bishop of Bangor.[8] Owen Tudor, the son of the butler, like the children of other rebels, was provided for by Henry V, a circumstance that precipitated his access to Queen Catherine of Valois.[12] Notwithstanding this lineage, to the bards of Wales, Henry was a candidate for Y Mab Darogan, "The Son of Prophecy" who would free the Welsh from oppression.[citation needed]

Pembroke Castle

In 1456, Henry's father Edmund Tudor was captured while fighting for Henry VI in South Wales against the Yorkists. He died in Carmarthen Castle, three months before Henry was born. Henry's uncle Jasper Tudor, the Earl of Pembroke and Edmund's younger brother, undertook to protect the young widow, who was 13 years old when she gave birth to Henry.[13] 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.[14]

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.[15] When Warwick restored Henry VI in 1470, Jasper Tudor returned from exile and brought Henry to court.[15] When the Yorkist Edward IV regained the throne in 1471, Henry fled with other Lancastrians to Brittany, where he spent most of the next 14 years under the protection of Francis II, Duke of Brittany. In November 1476, Henry's protector fell ill and his principal advisers were more amenable to negotiating with the English king. Henry was handed over and escorted to the Breton port of Saint-Malo. While there, he feigned stomach cramps and in the confusion fled into a monastery. Following the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471, Edward IV prepared to order Henry's extraction and probable execution. The townspeople took exception to his behaviour and Francis recovered from his illness. Thus, a small band of scouts rescued Henry.[citation needed]

Rise to the throne

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, who was also Edward's heir since the presumed death of her brothers, the Princes in the Tower, King Edward V and his brother Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York.[16] With money and supplies borrowed from his host, Francis II, Duke of Brittany, Henry tried to land in England, but his conspiracy unravelled resulting in the execution of his primary co-conspirator, the Duke of Buckingham.[17] Now supported by Francis II's prime minister, Pierre Landais, Richard III attempted to extradite Henry from Brittany, but Henry escaped to France.[18] 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.[19] He marched toward England accompanied by his uncle Jasper and the Earl of Oxford. Wales was historically a Lancastrian stronghold, and Henry owed the support he gathered to his Welsh birth and ancestry, being directly descended, through his father, from Rhys ap Gruffydd.[20] He amassed an army of about 5,000 soldiers.[21][22]

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 the Earl of Northumberland and William and Thomas Stanley, crucially switched sides or left the battlefield. Richard III's death at Bosworth Field effectively ended the Wars of the Roses.[citation needed]


King Henry VII's Coat of Arms
Perfected and fluted armour of Henry VII

As king, Henry was styled by the Grace of God, King of England and France and Lord of Ireland. On his succession, Henry became entitled to bear the Royal Arms of England. After his marriage, Henry used as his emblem the red and white rose, which became known as the Tudor rose.[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.[23] 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, the Earl of Lincoln, and made Margaret Plantagenet, a Yorkist heiress, 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.[24] 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]

Henry honoured his pledge of December 1483 to marry Elizabeth of York.[17][25] They were third cousins, as both were great-great-grandchildren of John of Gaunt.[26] Henry and Elizabeth were married on 18 January 1486 at Westminster Abbey[citation needed]. The marriage unified the warring houses and gave his children a strong claim to the throne. The unification of the houses of York and Lancaster by this marriage is symbolised by the heraldic emblem of the Tudor rose, a combination of the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster. It also ended future discussion as to whether the descendants of the fourth son of Edward III, Edmund, Duke of York, through marriage to Philippa, heiress of the second son, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, had a superior or inferior claim to those of the third son John of Gaunt, who had held the throne for three generations.[citation needed]

In addition, 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, however, points out that the Rennes ceremony, two years earlier, was possible only if Henry and his supporters were certain that the Princes were already dead.[27]

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,[28] for example) with blood ties to the Plantagenets was suspected of coveting the throne.[29] 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. For instance, Edward, Earl of Warwick, the ten-year-old son of Edward IV's brother George of Clarence, was the senior surviving male of the House of York.[30] Before departing for London, Henry sent Robert Willoughby to Sheriff Hutton in Yorkshire, to arrest Warwick and take him to the Tower.[31] 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.[32]

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.[33]

In 1490, a young Fleming, Perkin Warbeck, appeared and claimed to be Richard, the younger of the "Princes in the Tower". Warbeck won the support of Edward IV's sister Margaret 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.[34]

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.[35]

In 1499, Henry had the Earl of Warwick executed. However, he spared Warwick's elder sister Margaret. She survived until 1541, when she was executed by Henry VIII.[citation needed]


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 the king 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] But 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, Lord Dynham and Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk were the only two office holders in the position of Lord High Treasurer of England 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] Royal government was also reformed with the introduction of the King's Council, which kept the nobility in check.[citation needed]

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] Henry VIII executed Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley, his two most hated tax collectors, on trumped-up charges of treason.[42]

He 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 VII (centre), with his advisors Sir Richard Empson and Sir Edmund Dudley

Henry had been under the financial and physical protection of the French throne or its vassals for most of his life, before he became 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 Tudor, 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 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]

He 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]

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.[48] 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.[49] 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 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 stand-off 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.[50]

In 1506, Henry extorted the Treaty of Windsor from Philip the Handsome 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.[51]

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]

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.[52]

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.[53] 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 lesser tax bill to pay for a police force. 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
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".[54] This made 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 the Queen's death the following year, when he shut himself away for several days, refusing to speak to anyone.[55]

Henry VII 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. In 1503, Queen Elizabeth died in childbirth, so King 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.[56]

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 (daughter of Ferdinand I of Naples), Joanna, Queen of Castile (daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella), and Margaret, Dowager Duchess of Savoy (sister-in-law of Joanna of Castile), were all considered.[57] 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's physical suitability.[58] 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 Elizabeth.[citation needed]

After 1503, records show the Tower of London was never again used as a royal residence by Henry Tudor, and all royal births under Henry VIII took place in palaces. Henry VII was shattered by the loss of Elizabeth, and her death broke his heart.[59][60] 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 jeered him 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 Tudor was hellbent on keeping detailed records of his personal finances, down to the last halfpenny;[61] 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 Tudor 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.[62] Immediately afterwards, Henry became very sick and nearly died himself, allowing only Margaret Beaufort, his mother, near him: "privily departed to a solitary place, and would that no man should resort unto him."[63][64] Worse still, Henry's older daughter Margaret had previously been betrothed to the King of Scotland, James IV, 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.[65] 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.[66]

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.[67] 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.[citation needed]

Appearance and character

Henry is the first English king of whose appearance good contemporary visual records in realistic portraits exist that are relatively free of idealization. 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 to everyone 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.[68][69]

Legacy and memory

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.[70]

Henry's and Elizabeth's children

Name Birth Death Notes
Arthur 19 September 1486 2 April 1502 Prince of Wales, heir apparent from birth to death
Margaret 28 November 1489 18 October 1541 Queen consort of Scotland as the wife of James IV and regent for her son James V, grandmother of both Mary, Queen of Scots and Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
Henry VIII 28 June 1491 28 January 1547 Henry VII's successor as King of England and the first King of Ireland
Elizabeth 2 July 1492 14 September 1495 Died young
Mary 18 March 1496 25 June 1533 Queen of France, wife of Louis XII, grandmother of Lady Jane Grey
Edward 1498? 1499 Possibly confused with Edmund.[71]
Edmund 21 February 1499 19 June 1500 Styled Duke of Somerset but never formally created a peer.[72]
Katherine 2 February 1503 10 February 1503 Henry's wife died as a result of Katherine's birth.
Name Birth Death Notes
Velville 1474 25 June 1535 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.[73]

See also


  1. ^ Caroline Rogers and Roger Turvey, Henry VII, London: Hodder Murray, 2005
  2. ^ Kendall, Paul Murray. Richard the Third. p. 13.
  3. ^ Williams, Neville. The Life and Times of Henry VII. p. 17.
  4. ^ Kendall, Paul Murray. Richard the Third. p. 156.
  5. ^ a b Chrimes, S.B. Henry VII. p. 3.
  6. ^ Davies, Norman. The Isles – A History. pp. 337–379.
  7. ^ a b Mackie, J.D. The Earlier Tudors 1485–1558. p. 47.
  8. ^ a b Mackie, J.D. The Earlier Tudors 1485–1558. p. 54.
  9. ^ Chrimes, S.B. Henry VII. p. 4.
  10. ^ Ashley, Mike. The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens. p. 331.
  11. ^ Garmon Jones, W. Welsh Nationalism and Henry Tudor. p. 30.
  12. ^ Chrimes, S.B. Henry VII. pp. 4–5.
  13. ^ Starkey, David. Monarchy: From the Middle Ages to Modernity. p. 4.
  14. ^ Marilee Mongello. "Tudor Monarchs – Henry VII, one". Retrieved 7 February 2013.
  15. ^ a b Williams, Neville. The Life and Times of Henry VII. p. 19.
  16. ^ S. B. Chrimes, Henry VII (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1977) p. 65.
  17. ^ a b Williams, Neville. The Life and Times of Henry VII. p. 25.
  18. ^ Kendall, Paul Murray. Richard the Third. p. 297.
  19. ^ "Henry Tudor's landing site". History Points. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  20. ^ Henry's return to Wales was regarded by some as the fulfilment of a Messianic prophecy. Rees, David (1985). The Son of Prophecy: Henry Tudor's Road to Bosworth. London: Black Raven Press. ISBN 978-0-85159-005-9.
  21. ^ Kendall, Paul Murray. Richard the Third. p. 361.
  22. ^ Estimates of the size of Henry's army at Bosworth vary. Williams, Neville. The Life and Times of Henry VII. p. 31., gives a figure of 'perhaps' 6,000.
  23. ^ S. B. Chrimes, Henry VII, p. 50.
  24. ^ "Westminster Abbey website: Coronations, Henry VII and Elizabeth of York". Retrieved 4 March 2013.
  25. ^ S. B. Chrimes, Henry VII, p. 53.
  26. ^ Genealogical tables in Morgan, Kenneth O. The Oxford History of Britain. p. 709.
  27. ^ Weir, Alison. The Princes in the Tower, p. 190
  28. ^ S. B. Chrimes, p. 72.
  29. ^ Penn 2011, pp. 22–23.
  30. ^ S. B. Chrimes, Henry VII, p. 72.
  31. ^ S. B. Chrimes, Henry VII, p. 51.
  32. ^ S. B. Chrimes, Henry VII, p. 69.
  33. ^ Williams, Neville. The Life and Times of Henry VII. p. 62.
  34. ^ S. B. Chrimes, Henry VII, pp. 69–70.
  35. ^ Ian Arthurson (2009). The Perkin Warbeck Conspiracy. History Press Limited.
  36. ^ Stephens. Memorials of the South Saxon See and Cathedral Church of Chichester. pp. 176–177
  37. ^ S. B. Chimes, Henry VII (Yale University Press, 1977) p. 119.
  38. ^ S. B. Chrimes, Henry VII, p. 121
  39. ^ S. B. Chrimes, Henry VII, p. 203.
  40. ^ Thomas Penn. Winter King – Henry VII and The Dawn of Tudor England. p. 371. Simon & Schuster, 2011. ISBN 978-1-4391-9156-9
  41. ^ Guy, John (1988). "The Tudor Age (1485–1603)". The Oxford History of Britain: 272–273.
  42. ^ Kathy Elgin (2013). Henry VIII: The Charismatic King who Reforged a Nation. Arcturus Publishing. p. 55. ISBN 9781782128595.
  43. ^ a b "pound avoirdupois". Sizes, Inc. 17 April 2012. Retrieved 13 September 2016. 1497–1558 – Henry VII authorizes standard. & A unit of mass = 453.592 37 grams (now, technically, the international pound), now used chiefly in the United States, but since the 16th century the most commonly encountered unit of mass throughout the English-speaking world. The magnitude of the pound avoirdupois has varied less than 1% since the middle of the 14th century.
  44. ^ John M. Currin, "Henry VII and the Treaty of Redon (1489): Plantagenet Ambitions and Early Tudor Foreign Policy." History 81.263 (1996): 343-358. Online Curry, 1996.
  45. ^ Mackie 1952, p. 97.
  46. ^ John M. Currin, "'The King's Army into the Partes of Bretaigne': Henry VII and the Breton Wars, 1489–1491," War in History, Nov 2000, Vol. 7 Issue 4, pp. 379–412
  47. ^ Warnicke 2000, p. 103.
  48. ^ Penn 2011, p. 201
  49. ^ Penn 2011, pp. 203–204.
  50. ^ Williams, Neville. The Life and Times of Henry VII. pp. 167–168.
  51. ^ Williams, Neville. The Life and Times of Henry VII. pp. 198–201.
  52. ^ Williams, Neville. The Life and Times of Henry VII. p. 178.
  53. ^ MacCulloch, Diarmaid (1996). "The Consolidation of England 1485–1603". The Oxford Illustrated History of Tudor and Stuart Britain: 39–42.
  54. ^ Penn 2011, p. 70.
  55. ^ Chrimes Henry VII pp. 302–4
  56. ^ Penn, Thomas (12 March 2013). Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England (Reprint ed.). Simon and Schuster. p. 204. ISBN 978-1439191576.
  57. ^ Bergenroth, G A. "Calendar of State Papers, Spain: Supplement To Volumes 1 and 2, Queen Katherine; Intended Marriage of King Henry VII To Queen Juana". British History Online. Retrieved 7 August 2020.
  58. ^ Schwarz, Arthur L., VIVAT REX! An Exhibition Commemorating the 500th Anniversary of the Accession of Henry VIII (The Grolier Club, 2009), p. 58 "Henry's Father Searches for a New Wife".
  59. ^ Amy Licence (28 November 2011). "his story, her story".
  60. ^ Herman, Peter C. (21 March 2011). A Short History of Early Modern England. ISBN 9781444394993.
  61. ^ "Domestic and foreign policy of Henry VII". Archived from the original on 27 June 2015. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  62. ^ "Henry VII Winter King". Queen to History.
  63. ^ Chrimes Henry VII p. 304
  64. ^ Penn, Thomas (12 March 2013). Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England (Reprint ed.). Simon and Schuster. pp. 110–113. ISBN 978-1439191576.
  65. ^ "Queen Margaret's Arch | York Civic Trust". Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  66. ^ "Tudor Times". Tudor Times. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  67. ^ S.B. Chrimes, Henry VII, 313, 314 n5
  68. ^ Chrimes, Henry VII p. 53
  69. ^ Desmond Seward, The Wars of the Roses pg 318
  70. ^ Steven Gunn, "Politic history, New Monarchy and state formation: Henry VII in European perspective," Historical Research, Aug 2009, Vol. 82 Issue 217, pp. 380–392
  71. ^ "Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey" by Arthur Penryn Stanley (page 281-282): "His infant daughter Elizabeth, aged three years and two months, was buried, with great pomp, in a small tomb at the feet of Henry III. His infant son, Edward, who died four years afterward (1499), was also buried in the Abbey. The first grave in the new Chapel was that of his wife, Elizabeth of York. She died in giving birth to a child who survived but a short time."
  72. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Somerset, Earls and Dukes of" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 385.
  73. ^ S. B. Chrimes, Henry VII, 67 n3.

References and further reading

  • Ashley, Mike (2002). British Kings & Queens. Carroll & Graf. pp. 280–286. ISBN 978-0-7867-1104-8.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Chrimes, Stanley B. (1999) [1972]. Henry VII. New Haven: Yale University Press, second ed. ISBN 978-0-520-02266-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) online
  • Cooper, J. P. "Henry VII's Last Years Reconsidered." Historical Journal 2#2 (1959): 103-29. online.
  • Cunningham, Sean (2007). Henry VII. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-26620-8.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Currin, John M. (November 2000). "'The King's Army into the Partes of Bretaigne': Henry VII and the Breton Wars, 1489–1491". War in History. 7 (4). doi:10.1177/096834450000700401. S2CID 154603131.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Elton, G. R. "Henry VII: A Restatement." Historical Journal 4#1 (1961): 1-29. online.
  • Fritze, Ronald H., ed. 1991.Historical Dictionary of Tudor England, 1485–1603 (Greenwood, 1991) 594pp.
  • Gunn, Steven (August 2009). "Politic history, New Monarchy and state formation: Henry VII in European perspective". Historical Research. 82 (217): 380–392. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2281.2009.00492.x.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Gunn, Steven (2007). "Henry VII in Context: Problems and Possibilities". History. 92 (307): 301–17. doi:10.1111/j.1468-229X.2007.00397.x.
  • Guy, John (1988). "The Tudor Age (1485–1603)". In Morgan, Kenneth O. (ed.). The Oxford History of Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-285202-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Guy, John. (1988) Tudor England pp 53–79
  • Kendall, Paul Murray (1973). Richard the Third. Sphere Books. ISBN 978-0-351-17095-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • MacCulloch, Diarmaid (1996). "The Consolidation of England 1485–1603". In Morrill, John (ed.). The Oxford Illustrated History of Tudor and Stuart Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-289327-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Mackie, John Duncan (1952). The Earlier Tudors, 1485–1558. Oxford University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Morgan, Kenneth O. (1988). The Oxford History of Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-285202-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Morrill, John (1996). The Oxford Illustrated History of Tudor and Stuart Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Penn, Thomas (2011). Winter King – Henry VII and The Dawn of Tudor England. London: Simon & Schuster.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) ISBN 978-1-4391-9156-9
  • Rogers, Caroline; Turvey, Roger (2000). Henry VII. London: Hodder & Stoughton Educational. ISBN 978-0-340-75381-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Starkey, David (2006). Monarchy: From the Middle Ages to Modernity. New York: Harper Perennial. ISBN 978-0-00-724766-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Stephens, W. R. W (1876). Memorials of the South Saxon See and Cathedral Church of Chichester. London: Bentley.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Towle, Carolyn; Hunt, Jocelyn (1998). Henry VII. New York: Longman. ISBN 978-0-582-29691-6.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Warnicke, Retha M. (2000). The Marrying of Anne of Cleves: Royal Protocol in Early Modern England. Cambridge University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Weir, Alison (2011). Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy. London: Vintage. ISBN 978-1-446-44911-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Weir, Alison (2002). Henry VIII: King and Court. London: Pimlico. ISBN 978-0-7126-6451-6.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Weir, Alison (1995). The Princes in the Tower. New York: Ballantine. ISBN 978-0-345-39178-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Wernham, R.B. (1966). Before the Armada: the growth of English foreign policy, 1485–1588.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) – a standard history of foreign policy
  • Williams, Neville (1973). The Life and Times of Henry VII. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN 978-0-297-76517-2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)


  • Anglo, Sydney. "Ill of the dead. The posthumous reputation of Henry VII," Renaissance Studies 1 (1987): 27–47. online

External links

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

Succeeded by
Henry VIII
Peerage of England
Preceded by
Edmund Tudor
Earl of Richmond
10th creation
Merged with Crown