Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Henry VII

Henry Tudor was born at Pembroke Castle, Wales in 1457. He was the only child of Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond and Lady Margaret Beaufort. His father died when he was still just and infant, and spent much of his life with his uncle, Jasper Tudor.

Henry lived the majority of his life in a time of terrible turmoil for England. This time was clouded by a long a terrible civil war known as The War of the Roses. The royal court was divided into two factions, the House of Lancaster (Red Rose) and the House of York (White Rose). Young Henry was a member of the House of Lancaster, and was forced to flee England when Edward IV (a Yorkist) took the throne in 1461 where he stayed for 14 years.

During Henry Tudor's exile, Edward IV was over thrown and eventually died. Edward's brother Richard, who had remained loyal during his brother's reign gaining large estates, the title Duke of Gloucester and Governor of the North. However, upon his brother's death his young nephew Edward V took the throne.

Richard took control and had Edward's guardian arrested and later executed. He then took his two young nephews and placed them in the Tower of London "for their protection" where they eventually disappeared. Richard declared Edward V illegitimate and declared himself King and became Richard III. He was crowned in Westminster Abbey on July 6, 1483.

In the meantime, Margaret Beaufort was promoting her son, Henry Tudor, as an alternative to the highly unpopular Richard III.

Henry Tudor returned to England with French and Scottish forces, as well as the support of the Woodvilles (Edward IV's in-laws) and his uncle Jasper Tudor. He and his forces defeated Richard III's forces at the Battle of Bosworth on Aug. 22, 1485. Richard III was killed and Henry Tudor was the victor, becoming King of England, joining the two Houses by his marriage to Elizabeth of York, Edward IV's eldest daughter. The Wars of the Roses was officially ended.

Henry VII took care of his enemies quickly, declaring them traitors for fighting against him at Bosworth. He then set down to the business of reconstructing a country ravaged by years of civil war.

He had no interest in foreign war, thus kept peace (and saved money) by not going to war with France. He married his eldest daughter Margaret to James IV of Scotland, thus keeping peace through diplomatic means rather than conquest.

Henry made several trade agreements and increased England's wealth substantially. He also formed an alliance with Spain, marrying his son and heir Arthur to the Princess Katherine of Aragon, daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. This alliance was good for Henry in two main ways: 1) he gained the prestige of a good marriage for his son, thus further legitimizing his house and insuring future peace, 2) he gained her dowry, a substantial sum and useful for the debt the country was in because of the civil war.

However, tragedy struck in 1502 with the death of his heir, Prince Arthur of Wales. In 1503, his wife Elizabeth of York died in childbirth. From the contemporary sources, it seems Henry was genuinely in love with his wife and was never suspected of taking a mistress.

By his death in 1509, Henry had created stability in England and filled the treasury, leaving his son Henry Tudor on a secure throne. However, Henry veered from his father's "safe politics" by going to war with France shortly after his ascension to the throne, and married Katherine of Aragon (though it is debated if the marriage was Henry VII's last wish or not, or simply what Henry VIII said).

Contemporary Highlight

The Death Mask of Henry VII

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