Henry VII: Establishing the Tudor dynasty

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Henry VII: Claim to the Throne

  • A weak claim to the throne
  • Claim came mainly through his mother, Margaret Beaufort, a direct descendant of Edward III; also inhertied royal blood from his father, Edmund Tudor
  • He was determined to enhance and magnify his royal credentials by pursuing a ruthless policy of propaganda
  • By combining the red rose of Lancaster and the white rose of York, he symoblically united the two houses making the Tudor Rose
  • His win in the Battle at Bosworth portrayed the previous king, Richard III, as an illigitimate usurper
  • He had one essential aim: to remain king and establish a dynasty by handing on an unchallenged succession to his descendants 
  • Policies at home and abroad were shaped and dictated around this aim
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First steps to Securing the Throne

  • He dated the official beginning of his reign the day before the Battle at Bosworth, therefore Richard and his supporters were made out to be traitors
  • Deliberately arranged his coronation on the 30th Oct. before the first Parliament meeting on 7th Nov. so it could not be said that Parliament made him king
  • Applied for a papal dispensation to marry Elizabeth of York (they were distant cousins) on 28th Jan. 1486, finally uniting the two houses
  • His most immediate problem was ensuring he kept the crown
  • It was not until 1506 that Henry could feel secure on his throne 
  • By then, the most dangerous claiments were either dead or safely locked in Tower.

Papal dispensation - When the Pope exempted a person from a certain punitive clause in law.

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Rival Claim to the Throne: Yorkists

  • 1485, still a number of important Yorkists alive with strong claim: Edward, Earl of Warwick (Richard's nephew) had a direct claim - Henry temporarily sent him to Tower 
  • John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln (another nephew) also had claim, but he and his father, Duke of Suffolk, professed their loyalty to the King which was accepted
  • Lincoln was invited to join the government and became a member of the King's Council 
  • Henry was prepared to give Richard's supporters a second chance as long as they could remain loyal to him
  • e.g: Earl of Northumberland, in prison until 1485 and was given the opportunity to prove loyalty by having his old position in control of the north of England 
  • Ex-Yorkists were therefore not automatically excluded from the Tudor court
  • Loyalty was his only requirement to regain royal favour
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Lovel and Stafford Rising

  • Francis, Lord Lovel and Stafford brothers, Humphrey and Thomas, faithful adherents to Richard, had been in sanctuary at Colchester since the Battle at Bosworth
  • They were offered protection for 40 days but there was a dispute with the Crown concering sancturaries
  • Henry travelled north and in 1486, the three fled: Lovel heading north to ambush the King and the Staffords to Worcester to stir up a rebellion in the west
  • Henry heard of this and sent an armed force to offer rebels a choice of pardon and reconciliation or, if they fought and lost, excommunication and death
  • Lovel evaded capture and feld to Flanders
  • Staffords were granted sanctuary again but Hernry felt it was unresonable for traitors to to be allowed sanctuary again so they were forcibly removed, arrested and sent to Tower
  • Humphrey was executed but Thomas was pardoned and remained loyal thereafter
  • Henry's policy of 'calculated mercy' proved successful; the royal progress to the disaffected areas produced the required rection of loyalty and obedience - Henry was seen as the upholder of justice and order 
  • That year, the queen gave birth to Arthur; this event helped towards securing the dynasty, giving it an air of permanence 
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Rebellion in Yorkshire (1489)


  • Stemmed not from dynastic reasons but from the King's demand for money (like in Cornwall, 1497)
  • Henry planned to go to the aid of Brittany and was granted a subsidy of £100,000 by Parliament; badly received as it was rasied in a sort of income tax
  • He only received £27,000 of the total; particualrly badly received in Yorksire which was suffering from a bad harvest 
  • The people also resented the fact the people north were exempted form the tax because they were expected to defend England from the Scots
  • Earl of Northumberland put their case to the King but he refused to negotiate it - upon return to tell them, the Earl was murdered by the rebels
  • Earl of Surrey defeated the rebels outside York
  • Henry travelled north to issue a pardon to most of the prisoners as a gesture of concilation but received no more tax

Subsidy - A grant of money made by Parliament to the king, usually for a specific use

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Rebellion in Cornwall (1497)

  • 1497, Parliament issued a heavy tax to finance an expedition north to resist the expected invasion by Scottish king, James IV and pretender Warbeck
  • The Cornish, independantly minded, refused to contribute to the defense of the northern part of the kingdom
  • Rebels marched out through the western counties in May, aquiring their only significant leader, Lord Audley, at Wells, 15,000 strong
  • June 16, they reached the outskirts of London; they wre confronted by a royal army under the command of Lord Daubeney and Sir Rhys ap Thomas - estimated 1000 rebels killed
  • Audley and two local leaders were executed 
  • Henry had directed his attention to the potential Scottish invasion so didn't respond to the rebellion early on
  • It was not connected to any Yorkist conspiracy but the fact the rebels were able to march as far as London showed that Henry could not afford a serious campagin against Scotland
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Lambert Simnel Conspiracy (1486-7)

  • 1486, rumours that Earl of Warwick was dead circulated; Oxford priest, Richard Symonds took advantage of this opportunity 
  • He passed Simnel as the Earl of Warwick in light of the fresh rumours
  • Took him to Ireland, the centre of Yorkist support where Earl of Kildare readily proclaimed Simnel King in Dublin
  • Support also came from Edward IV's sister, Margaret of Burgundy who was always ready to take an opportunity to strike at Henry
  • This formidable support led the Irish to go as far as to crown Simnel as King Edward VI in dublin in May, 1487
  • Henry had not been aware of this until 1487, the real Earl was in Tower to expose the imposter
  • The sudden flight of Lincoln to join Lord Lovel in Flanders with Margaret of Burgundy made clear the gravity of the situation
  • It is probable that Lincoln was involved from an early stage; the Earl knew that Simnel was an imposter but possibly planned to put forward his own claim when he judged the time to be right
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The Battle at Stoke (1487)

  • June 4, 1487, Lincoln and his army landed in Lancashire but received less support than expected because people were aware of civil strife
  • Lincoln's men of 8000 faced the royal army of 12,000; the Yorkist forces were defeated with Lincoln and Lovel perishing along with half the army
  • Simnel and Symonds were both captured; Symonds sentenced to life in a bishop's prison
  • Henry recognised Simnel was just a pawn in the hands of ambitious men and made him a turnspit in the royal kitchen and later promoted to the King's falconer as a reward for good service
  • As a deterrent to others in the future, 28 nobles who fought at Stoke were attained and their lands confiscated during Henry's second Parliament on Nov-Dec, 1487
  • Henry never faced an army composed of his own subjects again, though rebellions did follow; Stoke could have been a second Bosworth, with Henry as Richard III
  • The fact that the ridiculous scheme had worked that far proved just how fragile Henry's claim was 
  • Nov. 25th, Elizabteh of York was crowed queen to unite the nation, secure the goodwill of the poeple and to satisfy the Yorkists 
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Perkin Warbeck (1491-9) pt.1

  • 1491, 17 year old Warbeck arrived in Cork, Ireland where he claimed to be Richard, Duke of York whose murder was not proved 
  • He gained support from France; Charles VIII welcomed him in his court but the Treaty of Etaples negotiated with Henry made Warbeck flee to Flanders
  • He was accepted by Margaret of Burgundy as her nephew, though it was unlikely she believed the claim of identity but supporting him would have been her best opportunity to dislodge Henry
  • Margaret's support worried Henry to the extent that in 1493 he temporarily broke off all trade with Flanders though this jeopardised England's successful cloth trade
  • Warbeck also found support in the Holy Roman Empire under Maximilian who recognised him as Richard IV in 1494 but was unable to provide the resources available to finance an inavasion of England 
  • Henry was made aware of those implicated in plotting both at home and abroad; 1495, a number of attainders were passed, including Sir William Stanley, his step-uncle and Lord Fritzwalter, his steward
  • These executions showed Henry would spare no one, no matter how eminient; Sir Robert Clifford gave Henry vital names and received a pardon for breaking the conspiracy
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Perkin Warbeck (1491-9) pt.2

  • Henry's swift reaction meant that Warbeck's landing at Deal in Kent on July, 1495 was a fiasco and he failed to gather support so set sail for Ireland
  • He laid siege to the town of Waterford for 11 days without success
  • He then departed for Scotland where he was given refuge and support from James IV 
  • James was unlikely convinced but gave Warbeck his cousin in marriage and an annual pension of £1200
  • These actions were enough to threaten the marriage alliance between Prince Arthur of Wales and Catherine of Aragon, as her parents King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella did not want their daughter marrying into an unsettled Crown
  • Fortunately for Henry, the Scottish invasion was a disaster; Warbeck received no support south of the border and retreated 
  • James did not take advangtage of the Cornish rebellion and thought Henry's conciliatory offer his eldest daughter, Margaret in marriage was Scotland's long-term advantage
  • Sept. 1497, a 7-year truce was agreed at Ayton which was formalised in 1502; it was the first full peace treaty with Scotland since 1328
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Warbeck's Failure

  • Warbeck, returning to Ireland, found that even Kildare was temporarily loyal to Henry so set sail to the south-east as a last resort to finding support
  • Failed to do so and upon landing in Devon was driven out of Exeter and Taunton by local mitalia; only a few thousand people joined him
  • He fled to the sanctuary of Beaulieu Abbey in Hampshire and in Aug. 1497 was persuaded to surrender and make a full confession
  • Henry allowed him to remain at court with his young Scottish bride, but warbeck was not contnent and foolishly escapsed in 1498
  • He was recaptured and publicly humiliated and then imprisoned 
  • His wife remained at court and became a lady-in-waiting to the queen
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Warbeck and Warwick

  • Warbeck, with his powerful foreign support , had succeded in causing Henry 8 years of considerable anxiety and expense
  • In 1499, Warbeck was charged with trying to escapse again; this time he was hanged
  • The Earl of Warwick was found guilty of treason and was executed a week later
  • Although he may not have been dangerous himself, he was always there for other people to manipulate and weave plots around
  • It was probably from pressure from Spain that forced Henry to act this way
  • Ferdinand and Isabella wanted to ensure that their daughter was coming into a secure inheritance 
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De la Pole

  • After the death of Warwick, the chief Yorkist claimant to the throne was Edmund de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk; he was brother of the Earl of Lincoln who had died in Stoke
  • There was underying tension as the King refused to allow Suffolk to inherite his father's dukedom
  • Suddenly, in July, 1499, Suffolk took flight near Calais where Henry persuaded him to return and he remained on amicable terms with the King until 1501
  • That year he fled with his brother, Richard to the court of Maximilian
  • What remained of the old Yorkist support gathered once more in Flanders; how Henry acted shows just how insecure he must have felt
  • Suffolk's relations who remained in England were imprisoned and, in Parliament's meeting on Jan. 1504, 51 men either retained by or connected eith the Earl were attained
  • One of them, Sir James Tyrell, before his execution, confessed to the murder of the two young princes, the sons of Edward IV, thus discouraging any futher imposters
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The End of Yorkist Threats

  • Henry was determined to seek and destroy Suffolk, but as long as he remained under the protection of foreign princes there was little he could do
  • Fortunately, Philip of Burgundy was forced to take refuge in England due to a storm in 1506; here Henry persuaded Philip to surrender Suffolk on the condition he was to be kept alive
  • Henry kept this promise and Suffolk remained in Tower until his execution by Henry VIII in 1513
  • His brother, Richard remained at large in Europe, trying in vain to gain support for his own claim to the English throne 
  • However, few Yorkists remained and Henry was proving a strong and just monarch to those who were loyal
  • The Yorkist threat died with Richard when he was killed in 1525
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Henry Secure?

It was not until 1506 that the majority of the Yorkist threats were, for the most part, eliminated. But even then, the security of the dynasty rested on the life of his only son, Prince Henry. Queen Elizabeth had died in February, 1503, and Henry's fear of the future of his dynasty was evident in the way he searched the courts of Europe for a second wife. Nevertheless, it is a credit to Henry's clear, decisive judgement and diplomatic skill that me managed to hand on his throne intanct to his son, when the three previous kings of England had failed to do so.

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