Henry VII of England
|Portrait of King Henry VII holding a Tudor Rose, wearing collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece, dated 1505, by unknown artist, National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG 416).|
|Reign||22 August 1485 – 21 April 1509|
|Coronation||30 October 1485|
|Spouse||Elizabeth of York|
| Arthur, Prince of Wales
Margaret, Queen of Scots
Henry VIII of England
Mary, Queen of France
Edmund Tudor, Duke of Somerset
|House||House of Tudor|
|Father||Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond|
|Mother||Lady Margaret Beaufort|
28 January 1457|
Pembroke Castle, Wales
|Died||21 April 1509
Richmond Palace, England
|Burial||Westminster Abbey, London|
|House of Tudor|
Royal Coat of Arms
|Arthur, Prince of Wales|
|Margaret, Queen of Scots|
|Mary, Queen of France|
Henry VII ( Welsh: Harri Tudur; 28 January 1457 – 21 April 1509) was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor.
Henry won the throne when he defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last king of England to win his throne on the field of battle. Henry cemented his claim by marrying Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and niece of Richard III. Henry was successful in restoring the power and stability of the English monarchy after the political upheavals of the civil wars known as the Wars of the Roses. He founded a long-lasting dynasty and, after a reign of nearly 24 years, was peacefully succeeded by his son, Henry VIII.
Although Henry can be credited with the restoration of political stability in England, and a number of commendable administrative, economic and diplomatic initiatives, the latter part of his reign was characterised by a financial rapacity which stretched the bounds of legality. The capriciousness and lack of due process which indebted many in England were soon ended upon Henry VII's death after a commission revealed widespread abuses. According to the contemporary historian Polydore Vergil, simple "greed" in large part underscored the means by which royal control was over-asserted in Henry's final years.
Ancestry and early life
Henry VII was born at Pembroke Castle on 28 January 1457 to the 13-year-old Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond. His father, Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond, died three months before his birth.
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 Agincourt. 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".
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, 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 Spanish royal families had a better (as far as "legitimacy" is concerned) claim as descendants of Catherine of Lancaster, the daughter of John of Gaunt and his second wife Constance of Castile.
Gaunt's nephew Richard II legitimised Gaunt's children by Katherine Swynford by Letters Patent in 1397. In 1407, Henry IV, who was 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. 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.
Nonetheless, by 1483 Henry was the senior male Lancastrian claimant remaining, after the deaths in battle or 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.
Henry also made some political capital out of his Welsh ancestry, for example in attracting military support and safeguarding his army's passage through Wales on its way to the Battle of Bosworth. He came from an old-established Anglesey family which claimed descent from Cadwaladr (in legend, the last ancient British king) and on occasion, Henry displayed the red dragon of Cadwaladr. He took it, as well as the standard of St George, on his procession through London after victory at Bosworth. A contemporary writer and Henry's biographer, Bernard André, also made much of Henry's Welsh descent.
In reality, however, his hereditary connections to Welsh aristocracy were not strong. 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.
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. Owen Tudor, the son of the butler, like the children of other rebels, was provided for by Henry V, a circumstance which precipitated his access to Queen Catherine of Valois.
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.
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. 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.
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. When Warwick restored Henry VI in 1470, Jasper Tudor returned from exile and brought Henry to court. 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.
Rise to the throne
By 1483, his mother, despite being married to a Yorkist ( Lord Stanley), was actively promoting Henry as an alternative to Richard III.
At Rennes Cathedral on Christmas Day 1483, Henry pledged to marry Edward IV's eldest daughter, Elizabeth of York, 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). Henry then received the homage of his supporters.
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. Now supported by Francis II's prime-minister Pierre Landais, Richard III attempted to extradite Henry from Brittany, but Henry escaped to France. He was welcomed by the French, who readily supplied him with troops and equipment for a second invasion.
Having gained the support of the Woodvilles, in-laws of the late Edward IV, he sailed with a small French and Scottish force. Henry landed in Mill Bay, Pembrokeshire, close to his birthplace. He marched towards England accompanied by his uncle Jasper and the Earl of Oxford. Wales was traditionally 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. He amassed an army of around 5,000 soldiers.
Henry was aware that his best chance to seize the throne was to engage Richard quickly and defeat him immediately, as Richard had reinforcements in Nottingham and Leicester. Richard only needed to avoid being killed in order to keep his throne. 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, although it was not the last battle Henry had to fight.
The first concern Henry had was to secure his hold on the throne.
He honoured his pledge of December 1483 to marry Elizabeth of York. They were third cousins, as both were great-great-grandchildren of John of Gaunt. The marriage took place on 18 January 1486 at Westminster. 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. 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.
Henry's second action was to declare himself king retroactively from the day before Bosworth Field. This meant that anyone who had fought for Richard against him would be guilty of treason. Thus, Henry could legally confiscate the lands and property of Richard III while restoring his own. However, he spared Richard's nephew and designated heir, the Earl of Lincoln. He also created Margaret Plantagenet, a Yorkist heiress, Countess of Salisbury sui juris. He took great care not to address the baronage, or summon Parliament, until after his coronation, which took place in Westminster Abbey on 30 October 1485. Almost immediately afterwards, he issued an edict that any gentleman who swore fealty to him would, notwithstanding any previous attainder, be secure in his property and person.
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.
Henry was threatened by several rebellions in the next few years. The first was the Stafford and Lovell Rebellion of 1486, which collapsed without fighting.
In 1487, Yorkists led by Lincoln rebelled in support of Lambert Simnel, a boy who was claimed to be the Earl of Warwick, son of Edward IV's brother Clarence (who had last been seen as a prisoner in the Tower). The rebellion was defeated and Lincoln killed at the Battle of Stoke. Henry made the boy, Simnel, a servant in the royal kitchen.
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.
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.
Henry married Elizabeth of York with the hope of uniting the Yorkist and Lancastrian sides of the Plantagenet dynastic disputes. In this, he was largely successful. However, such a level of paranoia persisted that anyone (John de la Pole, Earl of Richmond, is an example) with blood ties to the Plantagenets was suspected of coveting the throne.
Henry VII was a fiscally prudent monarch who restored the fortunes of an effectively bankrupt exchequer (Edward IV's treasury having been emptied by his wife's Woodville relations after his death and before the accession of Richard III) by introducing ruthlessly efficient mechanisms of taxation (though many of his policies can be seen to have been built on foundations laid by Richard III during his brief reign). In this he was supported by his chancellor, Archbishop John Morton, whose " Morton's Fork" was a catch-22 method of ensuring that nobles paid increased taxes. Royal government was also reformed with the introduction of the King's Council that kept the nobility in check.
Henry VII's policy was both to maintain peace and to create economic prosperity. Up to a point, he succeeded. He was not a military man and had no interest in trying to regain French territories lost during the reigns of his predecessors; he was therefore ready to conclude 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 slight 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 seven thousand troops to France. However, 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.
Henry had been under the financial and physical protection of the French throne or its vassals for most of his life, prior to his ascending the throne of England. 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.
By the time of his death, he had amassed a personal fortune of £1.25 million (£648 million as of 2013).
Henry VII was one of the first European monarchs to recognise the importance of the newly-united Spanish kingdom and concluded the Treaty of Medina del Campo (1489), by which his son, Arthur Tudor, was married to Catherine of Aragon. 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 means of 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.
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.
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 as retaliation for Margaret of Burgundy's support of 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 entrepot, through which, for example, goods from the Baltic, spices from the east and Italian silks were exchanged for English cloth.
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.
Henry VII was also enriched by trading alum which was used in the wool and cloth trades for dyeing fabric. Since Europe had only one area where it was mined (Tolfa, Italy), it was a scarce commodity and therefore valuable . Starting in 1486, Henry VII became involved in the alum trade. With the assistance of the Italian merchant-banker, Lodovico della Fava and the Italian banker, Girolamo Frescobaldi, Henry VII became deeply involved in the alum trade by licensing ships, obtaining alum from the Ottoman Empire, and selling it to the Low Countries and England. This trade made an expensive commodity cheaper which raised opposition with Pope Julius II since the Tolfa, Italy alum mine was a part of papal territory thereby giving the Pope monopoly control over alum.
Law Enforcement and Justices of 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).
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
Later years and death
In 1502, Henry VII's first son and heir-apparent, Arthur Tudor, died suddenly at Ludlow Castle, very likely from a viral respiratory illness known, at the time, as the " English sweating sickness". This made Henry, Duke of York (Henry VIII) heir-apparent to the throne. The King, normally a reserved man, surprised his courtiers by his intense grief at his son's death, while his concern for the Queen is evidence that the marriage was a happy one.
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, Henry's queen, Elizabeth of York, 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 Isabel I of Castile had died and Catherine's sister Juana of Castile had become Queen-regnant with her husband, who named himself king as Philip I of Castile; Catherine was therefore only the daughter of the King of Aragon (and no longer the daughter of the Queen of Castile) and so less desirable as a spouse for Henry VII's heir-apparent. The marriage did not take place during his lifetime.
Henry made half-hearted plans to remarry and beget more heirs, but these never came to anything. In 1505 he was sufficiently interested in a potential marriage to Joan, the recently widowed Queen of Naples, that he sent ambassadors to Naples to report on the 27-year old's physical suitability. Despite his efforts at remarriage, there is little doubt that Henry felt genuine grief for his Queen; on her death he "privily departed to a solitary place, and would that no man should resort unto him."
Legacy and memory
Historians have always compared Henry VII with his continental contemporaries, especially Louis XI of France and Ferdinand of Aragon. By 1600 historians emphasised Henry's wisdom in drawing lessons in statecraft from other monarchs. 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.
- Up to 1485 The Earl of Richmond (disputed)
- 22 August 1485 – 21 April 1509: His Grace The King of England and France, Lord of Ireland
Henry's full style as king was: Henry, by the Grace of God, King of England, France and Lord of Ireland
Upon his succession as king, Henry became entitled to bear the arms of his kingdom. After his marriage, he used the red-and-white rose as his emblem – this continued to be his dynasty's emblem, known as the Tudor rose.
Henry and Elizabeth's children are listed below.
|Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales||19 September 1486||2 April 1502||Married Catherine of Aragon in 1501.|
|Margaret Tudor||28 November 1489||18 October 1541||Married (1) James IV, King of Scotland (1473–1513) in 1503. Married (2) Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus (1489–1557) in 1514. Grandmother of both Mary, Queen of Scots and Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, the parents of James I.|
|Henry VIII, King of England||28 June 1491||28 January 1547||Married (1) Catherine of Aragon (1485–1536) in 1509; had issue. Married (2) Anne Boleyn (1501–1536) in 1533; had issue. Married (3) Jane Seymour (1503–1537) in 1536; had issue. Married (4) Anne of Cleves (1515–1557) in 1540. Married (5) Catherine Howard (1520–1542) in 1540. Married (6) Catherine Parr (1512–1548) in 1543.|
|Elizabeth Tudor||2 July 1492||14 September 1495||Died young.|
|Mary Tudor||18 March 1496||25 June 1533||Married (1) Louis XII, King of France (1462–1515) in 1514. Married (2) Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk (1484–1545) in 1515. Mary was the grandmother of Lady Jane Grey.|
|Edmund Tudor, Duke of Somerset||21 February 1499||19 June 1500||Died young.|
|Katherine Tudor||2 February 1503||10 February 1503||Died shortly after birth. Mother, Elizabeth of York, died as a result of Katherine's birth.|
An illegitimate son has also been attributed to Henry by "a Breton Lady":
|Sir Roland de Velville or Veleville||1474||25 June 1535||He was knighted in 1497 and was Constable of Beaumaris Castle. If de Velville was in fact Henry's son, he was born during the period of Henry's exile in France. Roland de Velville's descendants included Katheryn of Berain, hence she is sometimes referred to as "Katherine Tudor".|
Henry VII's elder surviving daughter Margaret was married first to James IV of Scotland (reigned 1488–1513). Their son became James V of Scotland (reigned 1513–42), whose daughter became Mary, Queen of Scots (reigned 1542–67). Margaret Tudor's second marriage was to Archibald Douglas; their grandson, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley married Mary, Queen of Scots. Their son, James VI of Scotland (reigned 1567–1625), inherited the throne of England as James I (reigned 1603–25) after the death of Henry's granddaughter, Elizabeth I (reigned 1558–1603). After divorcing Douglas, her third and final marriage was to Henry Stewart, with whom she had another daughter, Dorothea Stewart.
Henry VII's other surviving daughter, Mary first married King Louis XII of France (reigned 1498–1515), who died after only about three months of marriage. She then married the Duke of Suffolk without the permission of her brother, now King Henry VIII. Their daughter Frances married Henry Grey, and her children included Lady Jane Grey, in whose name her parents and in-laws tried to seize the throne after Edward VI of England (reigned 1547–53) died.
The current monarch of Great Britain, Elizabeth II, is a direct descendant of Henry VII. The daughter of Henry's double-great-great grandson James I/VI, Elizabeth Stuart, was the mother of Sophia of Hanover whose descendants were the monarchs of the House of Hanover and the succeeding House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha/ Windsor.
|Ancestors of Henry VII of England|