Henry VII, King of England

(1457–1509)
   First king of the house of TUDOR, Henry VII, the surviving heir of the house of LANCASTER, won the Crown from RICHARD III and the house of YORK at the Battle of BOSWORTH FIELD in August 1485. The son of Edmund TUDOR, earl of Richmond, a maternal half brother of HENRY VI, and Margaret BEAUFORT, a cousin of Henry VI, Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond, was born three months after his father’s death and a few months short of his HENRY VII, KING OF ENGLAND 117 mother’s fourteenth birthday. Richmond spent his early years in WALES under the protection of his paternal uncle, Jasper TUDOR, earl of Pembroke. In September 1461, as Yorkist forces secured Wales for EDWARD IV, Pembroke fled, and four-year-old Richmond fell into the hands of William HERBERT, Edward’s chief lieutenant in Wales. Herbert kept the boy at Raglan Castle, where he was raised and educated with Herbert’s children. After paying the king £1,000 for Richmond’s wardship and marriage, Herbert planned to wed the earl to one of his daughters. This scheme miscarried in 1469, when Herbert was executed by Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, after the Battle of EDGECOTE. When Warwick restored Henry VI to the throne in the autumn of 1470, Pembroke, who had returned to England with Warwick, again took charge of his nephew (see Edward IV, Overthrow of).
   Also briefly reunited with his mother, whom he had seen occasionally during the 1460s, Richmond returned to Wales with his uncle, who secured the country for the READEPTION government. Pembroke then took his nephew to LONDON for an audience with Henry VI, who, upon seeing the fourteenyear-old boy, supposedly exclaimed: “[T]ruly, this is he unto whom we and our adversaries must yield and give over the dominion” (Griffiths and Thomas, p. 71). Because Henry’s own son, Prince EDWARD OF LANCASTER, was then alive, as were Richmond’s cousin Edmund BEAUFORT, duke of Somerset, and other Lancastrian heirs, such a declaration is most unlikely, although some acknowledgment of kinship by the king is possible. In any event, Richmond made good PROPAGANDA use of the story after he won the Crown.
   Because Edward IV’s restoration in 1471 resulted in the deaths of Somerset, Prince Edward, and Henry VI himself (see Henry VI, Murder of), the direct male line of Lancaster was extinguished, and the dynasty’s claim to the Crown passed to the BEAUFORT FAMILY, a branch of the house of Lancaster.As the son of Margaret Beaufort, and with all his other male Beaufort cousins slain in the wars, Richmond was now the leading Lancastrian claimant. To escape imprisonment or death, Pembroke and his nephew fled from Wales in September 1471. Intending to go to FRANCE, the Tudors were driven by storms to BRITTANY, where Duke FRANCIS welcomed them. Seeking to maintain Brittany’s independence from France, and anxious for English assistance, Francis used the Tudors as pawns in negotiations with both countries. In 1472, when Edward IV sent a force under Anthony WOODVILLE, Earl Rivers, to aid the Bretons, Francis agreed to restrict the Tudors’ movements and to keep them under close surveillance. In 1476, an English embassy under Bishop Robert STILLINGTON convinced Francis to surrender Richmond. Carried to St. Malo, where a ship awaited, Richmond suffered or pretended illness; the delay allowed a change of heart by Francis, who sent his treasurer, Pierre LANDAIS, to retrieve the earl. Slipping away to SANCTUARY in a local church, Richmond eventually returned safely to the Breton COURT. Although Edward IV and LOUIS XI continued their efforts to obtain Richmond, both failed, and the earl remained in honorable confinement in Brittany until Edward’s death in 1483.
   By late summer 1483, Richard III’s usurpation of the English Crown and the growing belief that he had murdered his nephews made Richmond a more attractive candidate for the throne (see Usurpation of 1483). While Richmond’s mother plotted with Queen Elizabeth WOODVILLE to put the earl on the throne and marry him to ELIZABETH OF YORK, daughter of Edward IV, Henry STAFFORD, duke of Buckingham, deserted Richard and hatched his own plot. In the autumn, the two conspiracies merged into BUCKINGHAM’S REBELLION, an unsuccessful uprising that Richmond himself supported with an abortive descent on the English coast. Although Richard’s soldiers tried to draw the earl ashore by posing as friends, Richmond learned of Buckingham’s failure and returned safely to Brittany. In 1484, as a growing body of English exiles collected around him, Richmond fled into France, foiling a plot by Pierre Landais to turn him over to Richard’s agents. With French assistance, Richmond and his uncle landed in Wales in August 1485. Leading a force of over 2,000 French and Scottish mercenaries and some 600 English supporters, Richmond crossed Wales and entered England, collecting support along the way from both old Lancastrians and disaffected Yorkists. However, his army was still smaller than the king’s when he met Richard in battle near the village of Market Bosworth on 22 August. Defeated by disloyalty in his ranks and by the intervention on Richmond’s side of Sir William STANLEY, brother of Thomas STANLEY, Lord Stanley (Richmond’s stepfather), Richard was killed on the field, and Richmond was proclaimed king as Henry VII.
   As heir of Lancaster, Henry sought to symbolically end the WARS OF THE ROSES by marrying Elizabeth, the heiress of York, in January 1486. Nonetheless, Henry spent much of his reign combating Yorkist attempts to regain the throne. In June 1487, he defeated the partisans of Lambert SIMNEL at the Battle of STOKE. Simnel claimed to be Edward PLANTAGENET, earl of Warwick, the nephew of Edward IV and the last Yorkist claimant in the direct male line.A prisoner in the TOWER OF LONDON since 1485,Warwick was executed in 1499 after being implicated in an escape plot with Perkin WARBECK, another Yorkist pretender who had troubled Henry throughout the 1490s by claiming to be Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, the younger son of Edward IV, who had probably died in the Tower with his brother EDWARD V in 1483. Despite these and other Yorkist threats to his dynasty, Henry VII, at his death on 21 April 1509, peacefully passed a stable and strengthened Crown to his son Henry VIII.
   See also Princes in the Tower; Yorkist Heirs (after 1485)
   Further Reading: Chrimes, S. B., Henry VII (New Haven, CT:Yale University Press, 1999); Griffiths, Ralph A., and Roger S. Thomas, The Making of the Tudor Dynasty (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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