(Henry Tudor; Welsh:
January 1457 21 April 1509) was the King of England and Lord
of Ireland from his usurpation of the crown on 22 August 1485
until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the
Henry was born at Pembroke Castle, Wales in 1457, only son of
Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond and Lady Margaret Beaufort. His
father died two months before he was born, meaning the young
Henry spent much of his life with his uncle, Jasper Tudor.
During the first reign of Edward IV, he was in the care of
William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke
while his uncle fled from England. When the Yorkist Edward IV
returned to the throne in 1471, Henry fled to Brittany, where he
spent most of the next fourteen years.
By 1483, his mother, despite being married to pro-Yorkist
Lord Stanley, was actively promoting Henry as an alternative to
the unpopular Richard III. With money and supplies borrowed from
his host, Francis II, Duke of Brittany, Henry tried
unsuccessfully to land in England but his conspiracy unraveled,
resulting in the execution of his primary co-conspirator, Duke
Richard III attempted to extradite Henry through
an arrangement with the Breton authorities, but Henry managed to
escape to France. He was welcomed by the French court, who
readily supplied him with troops and equipment for a second
Rise to the throne
Having gained the support of the Woodvilles, in-laws to the
late Edward IV, he landed with a French and Scottish force in
Mill Bay, Pembrokeshire, and marched into England, accompanied
by his uncle, Jasper Tudor, and John de Vere, 13th Earl of
Oxford. Wales had traditionally been a Lancastrian stronghold,
and Henry owed the support he gathered to his ancestry, being
directly descended, through his father, from the Lord Rhys. He
amassed an army of around 5,000 soldiers and went north.
Henry the Seventh of England
Henry was aware that his best chance to seize the throne
would be to engage Richard quickly and defeat him immediately,
since Richard had reinforcements in Nottingham and Leicester.
Richard only needed to avoid being killed in order to stay on
the throne. Though outnumbered, Henry's Lancastrian forces
decisively defeated Richard's Yorkist army at the Battle of
Bosworth on 22nd 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. The
death of Richard III on Bosworth Field effectively ended the
Wars of the Roses between the two houses, although it was not
the last battle Henry had to fight.
Henry VII's paternal grandfather, Owen Tudor, is said to have
secretly married the widow of Henry V, Catherine of Valois. The
result of their union was Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond,
father of Henry VII. Henry's claim to the throne, however,
derived from his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort. His claim was
somewhat tenuous; it was based on a lineage of illegitimate
succession, overlooking the fact that the Beauforts were
disinherited by Letters Patent of King Henry IV. Henry's mother,
Lady Margaret Beaufort, claimed royal blood as a
great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, third son of Edward III,
and Gaunt's third wife Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster.
Katherine had been John's mistress for 25 years and they had
four children; John, Henry, Thomas and Joan Beaufort, by the
time they married in 1396.
Nonetheless, John ensured his and Katherine's children were
legitimized. His nephew, Richard II, issued Letters Patent,
confirmed by an Act of Parliament in 1397, that legitimized John
of Gaunt's Beaufort children. Richard's cousin and successor,
Henry IV, son of John of Gaunt and his first wife Blanche of
Lancaster, issued an order disinheriting his Beaufort siblings
from the throne. The legality of Henry's order proved doubtful,
given the Beauforts were previously legitimized by an Act of
Parliament. In any event, Henry VII was not the only monarch
descended from the union of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford.
The Yorkist kings were as well, as Joan Beaufort, only daughter
of the Gaunt-Swynford union, was the mother of Cecily Neville,
wife of Richard, Duke of York and mother of Edward IV and
It is also noteworthy that the Tudors were said to be
descended from Edward I through his granddaughter Eleanor of
Bar, daughter of the Count of Bar, apparently without intending
to create a connection to earlier Plantagenet's. If forged, that
pretension was, however, unnecessary since Catherine of Valois
was twice a descendant of Henry II through the Kings of Castile.
However, the Wars of the Roses had ensured that any other
claimants were either dead or too weak to challenge him.
The first concern Henry had on attaining the throne was the
question of establishing the strength and supremacy of his rule.
His claim to the throne being as weak as it was, he was
fortunate that the majority of claimants died either in the
dynastic wars or had been executed by his predecessors. Despite
seeing off the Stafford and Lovell Rebellion of 1486, his main
worry was "pretenders" including Perkin Warbeck, who, claiming
to be Richard, Duke of York, and son of Edward IV, made attempts
at the throne, backed by disaffected nobles and foreign enemies.
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, as well as a
legislative assault on retaining private armies.
He also honoured his pledge of December 1483 to marry
Elizabeth of York, daughter and heir of King Edward IV. They
were third cousins, as both were descended from John of Gaunt
and his third wife, Katherine Swynford. The marriage took place
on 18 January 1486 at Westminster. The marriage unified the
warring houses and gave his children a stronger claim to the
throne. The unification of the houses of York and Lancaster by
Henry VII's marriage to Elizabeth of York is represented in the
heraldic symbol of the Tudor rose, a combination of the white
rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster.
In addition, Henry had the Titulus Regius, the document that
declared Edward IV's children illegitimate by citing his
marriage as invalid, repealed, thus legitimizing his wife.
Several amateur historians, including Bertram Fields and most
particularly Sir Clements Markham believe that he may have been
involved in the murder of the Princes in the Tower, as the
repeal of the Titulus Regius gave them a stronger claim to the
throne than his own. However, this theory does not account for
the disappearance of the princes in summer 1483, two years
before Henry seized the throne.
Elimination of Rivals
Henry's first action was to retroactively declare himself
king from the day before the battle, ensuring that anyone who
fought against him would be guilty of treason. It is interesting
to note, therefore, that he spared Richard's designated heir,
John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln. He regretted his leniency two
years later, when Lincoln rebelled and attempted to set a boy
pretender of peasant stock, Lambert Simnel, on the throne in
Henry's place. Lincoln was killed at the Battle of Stoke, but
Henry, seeing Simnel as a puppet of Lincoln, spared him and took
him in as a kitchen servant.
Simnel had been put forward as "Edward VI", impersonating the
young Edward, Earl of Warwick, son of George, Duke of Clarence.
Edward was imprisoned in the Tower: Henry had, in 1485,
imprisoned the boy and had him executed in 1499. He spared
Edward's elder sister, Margaret Pole, who had the next best
claim on the throne; she removed herself to Salisbury, and, at
Henry's allowance, inherited her father's earldom and survived
well into her seventh decade, until she too fell victim of the
fears and vengeance of royals, i.e., Henry VIII, who brought a
bill of attainder, nominally for treason, against her.
Thereafter she was killed in a brutalized execution.
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, a level of
paranoia continued, so much that anyone with blood ties to the
Plantagenets was suspected of coveting the throne.
Economic and diplomatic policies
It is generally accepted that Henry VII was a fiscally
prudent monarch who restored the fortunes of an effectively
bankrupt exchequer, (Edward IV's treasury was 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 in his
brief rule). 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.
This act of war was a bluff by Henry as he had no intention of
fighting over the winter periods. However, as France was
becoming more concerned with the Italian Wars, they 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 subsidized 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 1.5 million pounds.
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 in 1489, by which his son, Arthur
Tudor, was married to Catherine of Aragon. Similarly, the first
treaty between England and Scotland for almost two centuries
betrothed his daughter Margaret to King James IV of Scotland, a
move which would ultimately see the English and Scottish crowns
united under Margaret's great-grandson, James I. He also formed
an alliance with the Holy Roman Empire, under the emperor
Maximilian I (14931519) and persuaded Pope Innocent VIII to
issue a Bull of Excommunication against all pretenders to
Henry's most successful economic related diplomacy came
through the Magnus Intercursus (1496). In 1494, Henry had a
trade embargo (mainly the trade of wool) with the Netherlands
(ultimately, Margaret of Burgundy and Maximilian of the Holy
Roman Empire), as he wanted to stop their support of the
pretender Perkin Warbeck. This paid off for Henry as the Magnus
Intercursus was agreed in 1496, which helped remove taxation for
English merchants and significantly increase England's wealth.
However, towards the end of Henry's reign, it can be argued
that he became greedy. In 1506, he agreed the Treaty of Windsor
with Philip of Netherlands which resulted in the Malus
Intercursus (the evil agreement). Again, from this treaty, Henry
aimed to make English trade more profitable. However, France,
Burgundy, the Holy Roman Empire, Spain and the Hanseatic League
became annoyed with this and significantly reduced their trade
with Henry. Philip also died shortly after the Treaty, which
left Henry vulnerable and with debts of up to £30,000.
Law Enforcement and Justices of
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 (contracted men-at-arms
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 degree. He passed laws against 'livery' (flaunting your
adherents by giving them badges and emblems) and 'maintenance'
(keeping too many male 'servants'). These 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 Tudors, never more so than under
Despite this, Henry was keen to constrain their power and
influence, applying the same principles to the Justices of Peace
as he did to the nobility. i.e. a similar system of bonds and
recognisances to which applied to both the gentry (Justices of
the Peace) as well as the nobles who tried to exert their
elevated influence over these local officials.
All Acts of Parliament were overseen by the Justices of
Peace. For example, Justices of 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 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, fate dealt Henry VII a blow from which he never
fully recovered: his heir, Arthur, died in an epidemic at Ludlow
Castle. This made Prince Henry heir to the throne. In 1503,
Henry VII's Queen, Elizabeth of York, died in childbirth. Not
wishing the negotiations that had led to the marriage of his
late son to Catherine of Aragon to go to waste, he arranged a
Papal dispensation for Prince Henry to marry Catherine
normally a degree of relationship that precluded marriage in the
Roman Catholic Church. Also included in the dispensation was a
provison that would allow Henry VII to marry his widowed
daughter-in-law. Henry VII obtained the dispensation from Pope
Julius II (150313) but had second thoughts about the marriage
and did not allow it to take place during his lifetime. Although
he made half-hearted plans to re-marry and beget more heirs,
these never came to anything. On his death in 1509, he was
succeeded by his second son, Henry VIII (150947). He is buried
at Westminster Abbey. Popular lore suggests that Henry died of a
broken heart following the deaths of his son and his wife.
Titles, styles, honours and arms
Titles and styles
- 28 January 145722 August 1485: The Earl of
- 22 August 148521 April 1509: His Highness
The King of England and France, Lord of Ireland
Henry's full style as king was: His Highness Henry VII, by
the Grace of God, of England and France, King, Lord of Ireland
Upon his succession as king, Henry became entitled to bear
the arms of his kingdom. After his union with his Yorkist wife,
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 were:
|Arthur Tudor, Prince of England
||19 September 1486
||2 April 1502
||Died in 1501 at the age of 15.
|Margaret Tudor, Princess of England
||28 November 1489
||18 October 1541
||Married (1) James IV, King of Scotland
(14731513) in 1503. Married (2) Archibald Douglas,
6th Earl of Angus (14891557) in 1514.
|Henry VIII, King of England
||28 June 1491
||28 January 1547
||Married (1) Catherine of Aragon (14851536) in
1509. Married (2) Anne Boleyn (15011536) in 1533.
Married (3) Jane Seymour (15031537) in 1536.
Married (4) Anne of Cleves (15151557) in 1540.
Married (5) Catherine Howard (15201542) in 1540.
Married (6) Catherine Parr (15121548) in 1543.
|Elizabeth Tudor, Princess of England
||2 July 1492
||14 September 1495
|Mary Tudor, Princess of England
||18 March 1496
||25 June 1533
||Married (1) Louis XII, King of France
(14621515) in 1514. Married (2) Charles Brandon,
1st Duke of Suffolk (14841545) in 1515. Mary was
the grandmother to Lady Jane Grey).
|Edmund Tudor, Duke of Somerset
||21 February 1499
||19 June 1500
|Katherine Tudor, Princess of England
||2 February 1503
||2 February 1503
||Died young. Mother, Elizabeth of York, died as a
result of Katherine's birth.
An illegitimate son has also been attributed to Henry by "a
|Sir Roland de Velville or Veleville
||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 daughter Margaret was married first to
James IV of Scotland (14881513), and their son became James V
of Scotland (151342), whose daughter became Mary, Queen of
Scots. By means of this marriage, Henry VII hoped to break the
Auld Alliance between Scotland and France. 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 (15671625), inherited the throne of
England as James I (160325) after the death of Elizabeth I.
Henry VII's other surviving daughter, Mary, first married King
Louis XII of France (14981515) and then, when he died after
only about 3 months of marriage, she married Charles Brandon,
Duke of Suffolk without her brother's (now King Henry VIII)
permission. 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
Henry VII of England
House of Tudor
Born: 28 January 1457
Died: 21 April 1509
King of England
Lord of Ireland
|Peerage of England
Earl of Richmond
Merged in Crown
|Titles in pretence
King of France