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 the power and stability of the English monarchy after the civil war.
Henry is credited with a number of administrative, economic and diplomatic initiatives. His supportive stance of the British Isles' wool industry and his standoff with the Low Countries had long-lasting benefits to all of the British 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, although a commission after his death found widespread abuses in the tax collection process. After a reign of nearly 24 years, he was peacefully succeeded by his son, Henry VIII.
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. 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 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.
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. 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, 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 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 that 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 the victory at Bosworth. A contemporary writer and Henry's biographer, Bernard André, also made much of Henry's Welsh descent.
In reality, 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 Glynd?r, 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 that 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 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.
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. 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.
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. He marched toward 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 about 5,000 soldiers.
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.
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.
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. 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 sui juris. 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. 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.
Henry 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. Henry and Elizabeth were married on 18 January 1486 at Westminster Abbey. 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 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.
While he was still in Leicester, after the battle of Bosworth Field, Henry was already taking precautions to prevent any rebellions against his reign. Before leaving Leicester to go to London, Henry dispatched Robert Willoughby to Sheriff Hutton in Yorkshire, to have the ten-year-old Edward, Earl of Warwick arrested and taken to the Tower of London. Edward was the son of George, Duke of Clarence, and as such he presented a threat as a potential rival to the new King Henry VII for the throne of England. However, Henry was threatened by several active rebellions over the next few years. The first was the rebellion of the Stafford brothers and Viscount Lovell 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 began in Ireland, where the traditionally 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.
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, and he was largely successful. However, such a level of paranoia persisted that anyone (John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, for example) with blood ties to the Plantagenets was suspected of coveting the throne.
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.
Unlike his predecessors, Henry VII came to the throne without personal experience in estate management or financial administration. 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.
Henry VII improved tax collection within 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 they could afford the increased taxes; on the other hand, those nobles who spent much obviously had the means to pay the increased taxes. Royal government was also reformed with the introduction of the King's Council that kept the nobility in check.
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. According to the contemporary historian Polydore Vergil, simple "greed" underscored the means by which royal control was over-asserted in Henry's final years. Henry VIII executed Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley, his two most hated tax collectors, on trumped-up charges of treason.
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 6,000 troops to France. 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 pressured the French by laying siege to Boulogne in October 1492.
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.
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. 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.
Henry VII was much enriched by trading alum, which was used in the wool and cloth trades as a chemical fixative for dyeing fabrics. 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. 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.
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.
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'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.
In 1502, Henry VII's 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". This made Henry, Duke of York (Henry VIII) 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.
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.
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. 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. 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. 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; these and one account book detailing the expenses of his queen survive in the British National Archives. 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. 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. Immediately afterward, 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."
Henry VII died of tuberculosis at Richmond Palace on 21 April 1509, and was buried at Westminster Abbey, next to his wife, Elizabeth, in the chapel he commissioned. 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.
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.
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.
King Henry VIII of England, second son and successor
|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.|
|Edmund||21 February 1499||19 June 1500||Styled Duke of Somerset but never formally created a peer.|
|Katherine||2 February 1503||10 February 1503||Henry's wife died as a result of Katherine's birth.|
|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.|
|Ancestors of Henry VII of England|
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.