Henry VII

Henry VII

Henry Tudor, the second son of Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond and Margaret Beaufort, was born in Pembroke Castle on 28th January 1457. Margaret was the great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt. (1)

As Alison Weir has pointed out: "Margaret Beaufort, was his (Henry Tudor) only link by the blood to the Plantagents, and she herself was descended from the bastards born to John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, fourth son of Edward III, and his mistress Katherine Swynford. These children, all surnamed Beaufort, were legitimised by statute of Richard II in 1397, after Gaunt married their mother; however, ten years later, Henry IV, confirming this, added a rider to the statute which barred the Beauforts and their heirs from ever inheriting the crown." (2)

Henry's father had been dead for almost three months when he was born. Henry Tudor was soon separated from his mother as Edward IV decided that he wanted him live with Lord William Herbert, his leading supporter in Wales. He was brought up at Raglan Castle, with the intention of marrying him to his eldest daughter. These plans came to an end when Herbert was executed after the Battle of Edgecote Moor on 26th July 1469. (3)

Henry now went to live with his uncle, Jasper Tudor, the restored Earl of Pembroke. At the Battle of Tewkesbury on 4th May 1471 Margaret of Anjou was captured and her thirteen-year-old son, Edward of Westminster killed. Edward IV sent Roger Vaughan to arrest Henry and Jasper. Vaughan was captured and executed and the two men escaped to Tenby and took a ship, heading for France but landing in Brittany late in the month after a stormy voyage. Francis II, Duke of Brittany, offered them asylum but under Edward's diplomatic pressure, this turned into house arrest in a succession of castles and palaces. (4)

Henry Tudor in Brittany

John Edward Bowle, the author of Henry VIII (1964) claims that the young Henry Tudor benefitted from living in France: "Henry Tudor... had learnt in exile and diplomacy to keep his own council and to handle men: he could hold aloof and inspire fear, and became the greatest architect of the Tudor fortunes. Without the sheer blood lust of his contemporaries, he had a sardonic wit." (5)

King Louis XI of France agreed to Edward's request to try and capture Henry. However, this ended in failure when he was given sanctuary by a group of Breton noblemen in Brittany. On the death of Edward IV in 1483, his young sons, Edward and Richard, were usurped by their uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. He proclaimed himself Richard III and imprisoned the Princes in the Tower, where, almost certainly, he had them murdered.

Henry Tudor, as the head of the House of Lancaster, now had a claim to become king. Margaret Beaufort began plotting with various other opponents of Richard, to place her son on the throne. (6) Negotiations took place and in December 1483, Henry took an oath in Rennes Cathedral to marry Elizabeth of York were he to be successful in making himself king of England. (7)

The regents of the young King Charles VIII saw the advantage of supporting Henry Tudor against Richard III and provided him with money, ships, and men to seek the crown. In August 1485, Henry arrived in Wales with 2,000 of his supporters. He also brought with him over 1,800 mercenaries recruited from French prisons. While in Wales, Henry also persuaded many skillful longbowmen to join him in his fight against Richard. By the time Henry Tudor reached England the size of his army had grown to 5,000 men. (8)

Battle of Bosworth

When Richard heard about the arrival of Henry Tudor he marched his army to meet his rival for the throne. On the way, Richard tried to recruit as many men as possible to fight in his army, but by the time he reached Leicester he only had an army of 6,000 men. Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland, also brought 3,000 men but his loyalty to Richard was in doubt. (9)

Richard sent an order to Lord Thomas Stanley and Sir William Stanley, two of the most powerful men in England, to bring their 6,000 soldiers to fight for the king. Richard had been informed that Lord Stanley had already promised to help Henry Tudor. In order to persuade him to change his mind, Richard arranged for Lord Stanley's eldest son to be kidnapped.

On 21 August 1485, King Richard's army positioned themselves on Ambien Hill, close to the small village of Bosworth in Leicestershire. Henry arrived the next day and took up a position facing Richard. When the Stanley brothers arrived they did not join either of the two armies. Instead, Lord Stanley went to the north of the battlefield and Sir William to the south. The four armies now made up the four sides of a square.

Without the support of the Stanley brothers, Richard looked certain to be defeated. Richard therefore gave orders for Lord Stanley's son to be brought to the top of the hill. The king then sent a message to Lord Stanley threatening to execute his son unless he immediately sent his troops to join the king on Ambien Hill. Lord Stanley's reply was short: "Sire, I have other sons." (10)

Henry Tudor's forces now charged King Richard's army. Although out-numbered, Richard's superior position at the top of the hill enabled him to stop the rival forces breaking through at first. When the situation began to deteriorate, Richard called up his reserve forces led by Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland. However, Northumberland, convinced that Richard was going to lose, ignored the order.

Richard's advisers told him that he must try to get away. Richard refused, claiming that he could still obtain victory by killing Henry Tudor in personal combat. He argued that once the pretender to the throne was dead, his army would have no reason to go on fighting. With a loyal squadron of his household, he swept through to Henry's immediate bodyguard, striking down his standard-bearer. At this moment his horse died under him. (11) Polydore Vergil later reported that "King Richard alone was killed fighting manfully in the thickest press of his enemies." (12)

King Henry VII

Henry VII was crowned on the battlefield with Richard's crown. He then marched into Leicester and then, slowly, onwards to London. On 3rd September he entered the capital in triumph. Elizabeth of York was placed in the London household of his mother, Margaret Beaufort. The parliament which met on 7th November asserted the legitimacy of Henry's title and annulled the instrument embodying Richard III's title to the throne. On 10th December 1485, the House of Commons, through their speaker Thomas Lovell, urged the king to act on his promise to marry "that illustrious lady Elizabeth, daughter of King Edward IV" and so render possible "the propagation of offspring from the stock of kings". (13)

Henry married Elizabeth of York and on 19th September 1486 she gave birth to a son, Prince Arthur. He was baptized on 24th September in Winchester Cathedral and named after the famous British hero whose fabulous exploits fill the pages of Geoffrey of Monmouth. Initially he was put into the care of women and his nursery at Farnham. This was headed by Dame Elizabeth Darcy. (14)

Francis Bacon has suggested that Henry's "aversion toward the house of York was so predominant in him as it found place not only in his wars and councils, but in his chamber and bed". However, Elizabeth's biographer, Rosemary Horrox, disagrees with this assessment. She quotes from several different sources that indicate that they had a happy marriage. (15)

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Henry VIII

Mary Tudor


Henry VIII

Henry VIII


Henry VIII

Henry VII


Anne Boleyn

Henry VII inherited a kingdom that was smaller than it had been for over 400 years. For the first time since the 11th century the realm did not include one French province. The only part of France still held by the English was the Marches of Calais, a strip of territory around the town of Calais. He held the title of "Lord of Ireland" since the 12th century, but effectively governed only an area that was roughly a semi-circle forty miles deep around Dublin.

It is estimated that Henry VII had three million subjects. Nearly every summer they were hit by epidemics of the Plague or Sweating Sickness which killed many of the population and improved the standard of living of the survivors, as the shortage of tenants and agricultural labourers kept rents low and wages high. Fifty thousand people lived in the capital city, London. The second largest city in England, Norwich, had 13,000 inhabitants; but Bristol and Newcastle were the only other towns with more than 10,000. Ninety per cent of the population lived in villages and on the farms in the countryside.

According to Jasper Ridley the English were famous throughout Europe for their hearty appetite. "It was said the English vice was overeating, as the German vice was drunkenness and the French vice lechery." (16) Bishop Stephen Gardiner commented: "Every country hath his peculiar inclination to naughtiness. England and Germany to the belly, the one in liquor, the other in meat; France a little beneath the belly; Italy to vanity and pleasures devised; and let an English belly have a further advancement, and nothing can stay it." (17)

Lambert Simnel

Henry VII was always worried about being overthrown by rivals for the thrown. Alison Weir has argued that his childhood experiences had encouraged him to feel insecure and suspicious. "He presented to the world a genial, smiling countenance, yet beneath it he was suspicious, devious and parsimonious. He had grown to manhood in an environment of treachery and intrigue, and as a result never knew security." (18)

In February 1487 Lambert Simnel appeared in Dublin and claimed to be Edward, earl of Warwick, son and heir of George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, the brother of Edward IV, and the last surviving male of the House of York. (19) Polydore Vergil described him as as "a comely youth, and well favoured, not without some extraordinary dignity and grace of aspect". (20)

It is believed that John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, nephew of the Yorkist kings, was the leader of the conspiracy. He sailed to Ireland with over 1,500 German mercenaries. With this protection, Simnel was crowned as King Edward VI. Pole and his mercenaries, joined by 4,000 Irish troops, arrived on the Cumbrian coast on 4th June and marched across northern Lancashire before moving south. Henry's army, probably twice the size of Pole's, headed north from London. (21)

Henry was well-prepared, having positioned himself strategically to raise support, and advanced purposefully northwards from Leicester. "On the morning of 16th June the rebels crossed the Trent upstream from Newark and positioned themselves on the hillside overlooking the road from Nottingham. The battle of Stoke was a sharp and brutal encounter." (22) Henry's archers decimated the rebel army. The Earl of Lincoln was killed during the battle and Lambert Simnel was captured.

According to Polydore Vergil Henry VII spared Lambert Simnel, and put him to service, first in the scullery, and later as a falconer. (23) Jasper Ridley claims that this shows that "Henry VII... was not a vindictive man, and his style of government was quiet and efficient, never using more cruelty or deceit than was necessary. When he captured Lambert Simnel, the young tradesman's son who led the first revolt against him and was crowned King of England in Dublin, he did not put him to death, but employed him as a servant in his household." (24)

Perkin Warbeck

While visiting Cork in December 1491 Perkin Warbeck was persuaded to impersonate Richard, Duke of York, second son of Edward IV, who had disappeared eight years earlier together with his elder brother, Edward. In 1492 King Charles VIII of France began funding his campaign. This included being sent to Vienna to meet Emperor Maximilian. He gave his support to Perkin Warbeck but spies in the Maximilian's court told Henry VII about the conspiracy. As a result, several people in England were arrested and executed. (25)

In July 1495 Warbeck landed some of his men at Deal. They were quickly rounded up by the Sheriff of Kent and so Warbeck decided to return to Ireland. (26) However, on 20th November 1495 he went to see King James IV of Scotland in Stirling Castle. On 13th January 1496 James arranged for him to marry him to Lady Katherine Gordon, a distant royal relative. He also provided funding for Warbeck's 1,400 supporters. When Henry VII heard what was happening he began to plan an invasion of Scotland. (27)

Henry VII decided he would need to impose a new tax to pay the cost of raising an army. The people of Cornwall objected to paying taxes for war against Scotland and began a march on London. By 13th June, 1496, the Cornishmen, said to number 15,000, were at Guildford. The army of 8,000 that was being prepared against Scotland had to be rapidly diverted to protect London. On 16th June the rebel army reached Blackheath. When they saw Henry's large army, said to now number 25,000, some of them deserted. (28)

Henry VII sent a force of archers and cavalry round the back of the rebels. According to Francis Bacon: "The Cornish, being ill-armed and ill-led and without horse or artillery, were with no great difficulty cut in pieces and put to flight." A large number of the rebels were killed. Some of its leaders were hanged, drawn and quartered. He then proceeded to fine all those involved in the rebellion. It is claimed this raised £14,699. Bacon commented: "The less blood he drew, the more he took of treasure." (29)

Perkin Warbeck decided to take advantage on the Cornish rebellion by landing in Whitesand Bay on 7th September. He quickly recruited 8,000 Cornishmen but they were unsuccessful in taking Exeter. They retreated to Taunton but with news that Henry's army was marching into Cornwall, on 21st September, Warbeck escaped and sought sanctuary at Beaulieu Abbey. However, he was captured and was brought before Henry at Taunton Castle on 5th October. Warbeck was taken to London where he was repeatedly paraded through the city. (30)

Warbeck managed to escape but he was soon recaptured and on 18th June, 1499, he was sent to the Tower of London for life. The following year he became entangled in another plot. "Exactly what part he played in the conspiracy, and in its betrayal to the king on 3 August, is hard to establish, but Henry and his council resolved to punish all the principal participants." (31) Perkin Warbeck was hanged at Tyburn on 23rd November 1499.

Prince Arthur & Catherine of Aragon

Spain, along with France, were the two major powers in Europe. Henry VII constantly feared an invasion from his powerful neighbour. Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile were also concerned about the possible expansionism of France and responded favourably to Henry's suggestion of a possible alliance between the two countries. In 1487 King Ferdinand agreed to send ambassadors to England to discuss political and economic relations. (32)

In March 1488, the Spanish ambassador at the English court, Roderigo de Puebla, was instructed to offer Henry a deal. The proposed treaty included the agreement that Henry's eldest son, Arthur, should marry Catherine of Aragon in return for an undertaking by Henry to declare war on France. Henry enthusiastically "showed off his nineteen-month-old son, first dressed in cloth of gold and then stripped naked, so they could see he had no deformity." (33)

Puebla reported that Arthur had "many excellent qualities". However, they were not happy about sending their daughter to a country whose king might be deposed at any time. As Puebla explained to Henry: "Bearing in mind what happens every day to the kings of England, it is surprising that Ferdinand and Isabella should dare think of giving their daughter at all." (34)

The Treaty of Medina del Campo was signed on 27th March 1489. It established a common policy towards France, reduced tariffs between the two countries and agreed a marriage contract between Prince Arthur and Catherine of Aragon and also established a dowry for Catherine of 200,000 crowns. This was a good deal for Henry. At this time, England and Wales had a combined population of only two and a half million, compared to the seven and a half million of Castile and Aragon, and the fifteen million of France. Ferdinand's motivation was that Spanish merchants wishing to reach the Netherlands, needed the protection of English ports if France was barred to them. The English also still controlled the port of Calais in northern France. (35)

However, the marriage was not guaranteed. As David Loades points out: "The marriage of a ruler was the highest level of the matrimonial game, and carried the biggest stakes, but it was not the only level. Both sons and daughters were pieces to be moved in the diplomatic game, which usually began while they were still in their cradles. A daughter, particularly, might undergo half a dozen betrothals in the interests of shifting policies before her destiny eventually caught up with her." (36)

Stephen Gardiner
Catherine of Aragon by Juan de Flandes (1496)

In August 1497, Catherine and Arthur were formally betrothed at the ancient palace of Woodstock. The Spanish ambassador, Roderigo de Puebla, standing proxy for the bride. Catherine arrival was delayed until Prince Arthur was able to consummating the marriage. Catherine was also encouraged to learn French as very few people in the English court spoke Spanish or Latin. Queen Elizabeth also suggested she accustom herself to drink wine, as the water in England was not drinkable. (37)

Catherine and Prince Arthur wrote several letters to each other. In October 1499 Arthur wrote to her thanking her for the "sweet letters" she had sent him: "I cannot tell you what an earnest desire I feel to see your Highness, and how vexatious to me is this procrastination about your coming. Let it be hastened, that the love conceived between us and the wished-for joys may reap their proper fruit." (38)

Catherine left the port of Corunna on 20th July 1501. Her party included the Count and Countess de Cabra, a chamberlain, Juan de Diero, Catherine's chaplain, Alessandro Geraldini, three bishops and a host of ladies, gentlemen and servants. It was considered too dangerous to allow Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile to make the journey. The sea-crossing was terrible: a violent storm blew up in the Bay of Biscay, and the ship was tossed about for several days in rough seas and the captain was forced to return to Spain. It was not until 27th September, that the winds died down and Catherine was able to leave Laredo on the Castilian coast. (39)

Catherine of Aragon arrived in England on 2nd October 1501. Arthur was just fifteen, and Catherine nearly sixteen. (40) As a high-born Castilian bride, Catherine remained veiled to both her husband and her father-in-law until after the marriage ceremony. Henry would have been concerned by her size. She was described as "extremely short, even tiny". Henry could not complain as Arthur, now aged fifteen, was very small and undeveloped and was "half a head shorter" than Catherine. He was also described as having an "unhealthy" skin colour. (41)

Arthur and Catherine married on 14th November 1501, at St Paul's Cathedral in London. That night, when Arthur lifted Catherine's veil he discovered a girl with "a fair complexion, rich reddish-gold hair that fell below hip-level, and blue-eyes". (42) Her naturally pink cheeks and white skin were features that were much admired during the Tudor period. Contemporary sources claim that "she was also on the plump side - but then a pleasant roundness in youth was considered to be desirable at this period, a pointer to future fertility". (43)

The couple spent the first month of their marriage at Tickenhill Manor. Arthur wrote to Catherine's parents telling them how happy he was and assuring them he would be "a true and loving husband all of his days". They then moved to Ludlow Castle. Arthur was in poor health and according to William Thomas, Groom of his Privy Chamber, he had been over-exerting himself. He later recalled he "conducted him clad in his night gown unto the Princess's bedchamber door often and sundry times." (44)

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Alison Weir has argued that Arthur was suffering from consumption: "There was concern about the Prince's delicate health. He seems to have been consumptive, and had grown weaker since the wedding. The King believed, as did most other people, that Arthur had been over-exerting himself in the marriage bed." (45) Almost thirty years later Catherine deposed, under the seal of the confessional, that they had shared a bed for no more than seven nights, and that she had remained "as intact and incorrupt as when she emerged from her mother's womb". (46)

Antonia Fraser, the author of The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) has argued that she believes the marriage was unconsummated. "In an age when marriages were frequently contracted for reasons of state between children or those hovering between childhood and adolescence, more care rather than less was taken over the timing of consummation. Once the marriage was officially completed, some years might pass before the appropriate moment was judged to have arrived. Anxious reports might pass between ambassadors on physical development; royal parents might take advice on their offsprings' readiness for the ordeal. The comments - sometimes remind one of those breeders discussing the mating of thoroughbred stock, and the comparison is indeed not so far off. The siring of progeny was the essential next step in these royal marriages, so endlessly negotiated." Fraser goes on to argue that the Tudors believed that bearing children too young might damage their chances of having further children. For example, Henry VII's mother, Margaret Beaufort, was only thirteen when she had him and never had any other children in the course of four marriages. (47)

On 27th March 1502, Arthur fell seriously ill. Based on the description of symptoms by his servants, he appeared to have been suffering from a bronchial or pulmonary condition, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis or some virulent form of influenza. David Starkey has suggested he might have been suffering from testicular cancer. (48) Antonia Fraser, believes that as Catherine was also ill at the same time, the both might have had sweating sickness.

Prince Arthur died on Saturday, 2nd April, 1502. (49) Elizabeth of York told Henry that she was still young enough to have more children. She became pregnant again and a daughter, Katherine was born prematurely on 2nd February 1503. She never recovered and died nine days later on 11th February, her thirty-seventh birthday, of puerperal fever. (50) Henry took her death very badly and "departed to a solitary place and would no man should resort unto him." (51)

Richard Empson & Edmund Dudley

Christopher Morris, the author of The Tudors (1955) has argued: "Henry VII... was an extremely clever man, possibly the cleverest man who ever sat on the English throne.... Henry's genius was mainly a genius for cautious manoeuvre, for exact timing, for delicate negotiation, for weighing up an opponent or a subordinate, and not least, a genius for organisation. It was allied to great patience and great industry. He was a competent soldier, but always chose peace instead of war as being so much cheaper and so much safer. These are admirable and invaluable qualities for a political leader in troubled times." (52)

Stephen Gardiner
Henry VII, by unknown artist (1505)

Henry VII was careful in the selection of his key officials. During his reign Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley became the king's most trusted ministers. (53) Jasper Ridley has pointed out that Empson and Dudley were the chief instruments of the king's financial policy: "They seem to have been almost universally hated throughout England. They were accused of acting illegally when they extorted large sums of money from wealthy landowners under the recognisance system, and of not only obtaining this money for the King, but of enriching themselves in the process." (54) Christopher Morris, the author of The Tudors (1955) has suggested that Dudley was the king's most "unpopular and unscrupulous minister". (55)

Empson's biographer, Margaret Condon, has pointed out: "As chancellor, Empson continued Bray's efforts to increase revenue, authorizing the raising of rents or disallowance of rebates, and directing surveys and audits, enclosures of commons, and investigations of feudal incidents. The drive to maximize feudal revenues, to pursue old bonds, and to manipulate the penal laws in the king's interests was centred on the council learned, even in those cases where parallel actions were sued at common law.... The methods he used included the use of promoters for prosecution; imprisonment to facilitate settlement by fine or composition; and summonses issued (as in other council courts) by privy seal... His particular responsibilities were the authorization of pardons, countersigned by the king; the finding and traverse of intrusions and the issue of commissions of concealments; pardons and forfeitures on outlawry; wards and liveries of lands. Most actions or grants of grace resulted in fines to the king, in amounts and by methods which led Polydore Vergil and others to characterize both Empson and Dudley as extortioners." (56)

Henry VIII
Richard Empson, Henry VII and Edmund Dudley (c. 1500)

Roger Lockyer has argued that "Empson was the only prominent member of Henry's Council to come from a bourgeois background - his father was a person of some importance in the town of Towcester - and the idea that Henry VII surrounded himself with 'middle-class men' is very misleading. The gentry, whose numbers and importance in the royal administration were steadily increasing, were close in blood and social assumptions to the aristocracy, and counted themselves among the upper ranks of English society." (57)

Catherine of Aragon

Henry VII was keen to maintain his alliance with Ferdinand of Aragon and recently widowed, offered to marry Catherine of Aragon himself. As he was 46 years-old and in poor health, this idea was rejected and on 23rd June 1503, he signed a new treaty betrothing Catherine to Henry, his only surviving son, then aged twelve. The treaty also contained an agreement that, as the parties were related, the signatories bound themselves to obtain the necessary dispensation from Rome. At that time, Christians believed it was wrong for a man to marry his brother's wife. It was also agreed that the marriage would take place as soon as Henry completed his fifteenth year. In the meantime Henry allowed Catherine £100 a month, and appointed one of his own surveyors to oversee the management of it. (58)

Ferdinand wrote on 23rd August 1503: "It is well known in England that the Princess is still a virgin. But as the English are much disposed to cavill, it has seemed to be more prudent to provide for the case as though the marriage had been consummated... the dispensation of the Pope must be in perfect keeping with the said clause to the marriage treaty... The right of Succession (of any child born to Catherine and Henry) depends on the undoubted legitimacy of the treaty." (59)

Catherine was allocated Durham House in London. She was frequently ill, probably with tertian malaria. Her knowledge of English was still imperfect in 1505, which upset both Ferdinand of Aragon and Henry VII, who reduced her allowance. Catherine moved to Richmond Palace but complained to her father about her poverty and her inability to pay her servants, and her demeaning dependence on Henry's charity. She told her father she had managed to buy only two dresses since she came to England from Spain six years earlier.

Catherine was kept apart from Prince Henry, complaining in 1507 that she had not seen him for four months, although they were both living in the same palace. (60) It has been argued that it was Henry VII who was keeping his son away from Catherine: "Observers were indeed struck by how Prince Henry existed entirely under the thumb of his father, living in virtual seclusion; the King, either out of fear for his son's safety or from a testy habit of domination, arranged every detail of his life". (61)

King Ferdinand feared that Catherine would not be allowed to marry Henry, who was growing into a handsome prince. Roderigo de Puebla told Ferdinand: "There is no finer youth in the world than the Prince of Wales". He told him of his startling looks, including his strong athletic limbs "of a gigantic size" was already beginning to arouse the admiration of the Royal Court. (62)

Henry VII died on 21st April 1509. His personal fortune of £1.5 million illustrated the success of his foreign policy and the commercial prosperity that England enjoyed under his rule.

Primary Sources

(1) David Starkey, Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII (2003)

In 1483 Edward IV died prematurely, of gluttony and lechery, and his young sons, Edward and Richard, were usurped by their uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. He proclaimed himself Richard III and imprisoned the Princes in the Tower, where, almost certainly, he had them murdered.

Richard's usurpation split the Yorkist party down the middle and transformed Henry Tudor's position. Swearing to marry Edward IV's eldest daughter, Elizabeth, Henry set sail for England in the summer of 1485. The expedition was funded by the French and most of the troops were French mercenaries.

(2) Polydore Vergil, English History (c.1530)

Richard, because he expected victory, received Henry with great courage... Henry's army... were now almost out of hope of victory, when William Stanley with three thousand men came to the rescue... Richard's army fled, and King Richard alone was killed fighting manfully in the thickest press of his enemies.

(3) The Croyland Chronicle (1485)

King Richard received many mortal wounds and like a spirited and most courageous prince, fell in battle on the field and not in flight.

(4) John Rous, History of England (c. 1490)

King Richard, after receiving many mortal wounds/ died a fearless and most courageous death, fighting on the battlefield, not in flight. His body was found among the other dead... and after suffering many humiliations, it was taken to Leicester in an inhuman manner, with a rope around its neck.

(5) Polydore Vergil, English History (c.1530)

Henry VII's body was slender but well built and strong... His appearance was remarkably attractive and his face was cheerful... his eyes were small and blue, his teeth few, poor and blackish; his hair was thin and white; his complexion sallow... his mind was brave and resolute and never, even at the moments of greatest danger, deserted him... In government he was shrewd... He was kind to his visitors... But all these virtues were obscured in later life by greed.

(6) John Major, History of Greater Britain (1520)

In every action of his life Henry proved himself a man of good judgement; he showed much wisdom in the suppression of rebellion, and he caused many nobles to be beheaded; yet he was given too much to greed, for he raised vast sums of money from merchants and other wealthy men.

(7) John Edward Bowle, Henry VIII (1964)

Henry VII had won the throne by conquest. His hereditary claim was weak, for the Tudors came of obscure origins... Though few contemporaries expected his regime to last, the history of England had taken a decisive turn. The direct Plantagenet line was finished; though insecure until the end of the century, Henry consolidated his success... Henry Tudor... he could hold aloof and inspire fear, and he became the greatest architect of the Tudor fortunes.

(8) Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992)

In August 1485, Henry of Lancaster had established himself on the English throne as Henry VII, the first Tudor monarch. It was, in the final analysis, an accession secured at the point of the sword he wielded at Bosworth Field. For there were undoubtedly other individuals with a superior dynastic claim - not only the girl he married, Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV, but other representatives of the house of York.

(9) Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2007)

Henry VII was tall and lean, his seeming fragility concealing a sinewy strength. He had gaunt, aquiline features, with thinning, greying hair and grey eyes. He presented to the world a genial, smiling countenance, yet beneath it he was suspicious, devious and parsimonious. He had grown to manhood in an environment of treachery and intrigue, and as a result never knew security. For all this, he ruled wisely and well, overcome plots to depose him, and put an end to the dynastic warfare that had blighted England during the second half of the fifteenth century.

Henry was miserly by nature, but he was also highly sensitive about the dubious validity of his claim to the throne, and therefore took much care to emphasise his majesty on as grand a scale as possible, thus setting a precedent for his Tudor successors. He was prepared to spend huge sums to impress the world.

(10) Christopher Morris, The Tudors (1955)

Henry VII... was an extremely clever man, possibly the cleverest man who ever sat on the English throne. But the English do not like their kings to be too clever. It was one of the things they held against Richard II and against James I. Henry's genius was mainly a genius for cautious manoeuvre, for exact timing, for delicate negotiation, for weighing up an opponent or a subordinate, and not least, a genius for organisation. It was allied to great patience and great industry. He was a competent soldier, but always chose peace instead of war as being so much cheaper and so much safer. These are admirable and invaluable qualities for a political leader in troubled times. They would also constitute a compelling case for making a man director of a great industrial concern. But they do not make a king seem a dashing or a glamorous figure.

There are many other reasons also. There is less surviving ,evidence about the personal character of Henry than there is for the other Tudors. This is partly due to sheer chance and partly to the king's habit of never giving himself away. He was an only child and he had learnt very early to keep his own counsel and to trust no confidant. Throughout his life he seems to have had no intimate friends except possibly Cardinal Morton, who has left nothing in writing, and (curiously enough) de Puebla, the Spanish Ambassador, who played a double game and was not over-loyal to his own master. De Puebla's despatches, naturally, are steeped in diplomatic discretion and do not tell us all they might. The king therefore remains for us aloof and enigmatic.

The mask he wore was to some extent deliberately inhuman. He wished to be remote and incalculable; he wished to be more feared than loved. He could not afford to be generous without seeming to be weak. Yet Henry was generous to Lambert Simnel and, at first, to Perkin Warbeck, although ruthless and relentless enough in his treatment of Suffolk (the son of Edward IV's sister) who was kept in prison for years after being hunted all over Europe, and of Warwick (son of the Yorkist Duke of Clarence) who was executed after fourteen years in the Tower. There was no serious evidence of treason against either, although their blood made them a potential cause of treason in others. Nor is it quite certain that it was not Henry who killed the Princes in the Tower. Yet the mask was a mask. The conventional picture of of the cold, calculating, thin-lipped, skinflint king will not quite so.

(11) Jasper Ridley, Henry VIII (1984)

Henry VII... was not a vindictive man, and his style of government was quiet and efficient, never using more cruelty or deceit than was necessary. When he captured Lambert Simnel, the young tradesman's son who led the first revolt against him and was crowned King of England in Dublin, he did not put him to death, but employed him as a servant in his household. When he defeated and captured a second and far more dangerous pretender, Perkin Warbeck, he spared his life, and it was only after Warbeck had twice tried to escape that he was executed.

(12) John Guy, Tudor England (1986)

Of the revolts faced by Henry VII, the most serious were those with dynastic intentions. The imposture of Lambert Simnel as the imprisoned nephew of Edward IV, Edward, earl of Warwick, however exotic, was much more menacing, because it occured within two years of Bosworth. Perkin Warbeck's imposture as Edward IV's younger son, Richard of York, during the 1490s was more easily contained, despite Scottish and European intervention. Simnel was routed at the battle of Stoke: his promoters were slain or imprisoned, and the young imposter was taken into the royal household as a servant. Warbeck fell into Henry's hands in October 1497; before long he had abused the king's leniency and so was hanged (23 November 1499).

(13) Christopher Urswick was Henry VII's almoner. He has left this record of a meeting between Henry VII and an astrologer (c. 1509)

Henry had been for some time in a declining state of health, and this encouraged an astrologer to foretell his death, and that it would happen before the end of the year... So the king sent for this man... The king gravely asked him whether any future events could be foretold by the stars; "Yes, Sir." "Come then," says the king, "tell me where you are to be in the Christmas holidays that are now coming." The man faltered at first, and then plainly confessed he could not tell where. "Oh!" says the king, "I am a better astrologer than you. I can tell where you will be - in the Tower of London."

Student Activities

Henry VII: A Wise or Wicked Ruler? (Answer Commentary)

The Marriage of Prince Arthur and Catherine of Aragon (Answer Commentary)

Henry VIII (Answer Commentary)

Poverty in Tudor England (Answer Commentary)

Henry VIII: Catherine of Aragon or Anne Boleyn?

Was Henry VIII's son, Henry FitzRoy, murdered?

Hans Holbein and Henry VIII (Answer Commentary)

Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves (Answer Commentary)

Was Queen Catherine Howard guilty of treason? (Answer Commentary)

Anne Boleyn - Religious Reformer (Answer Commentary)

Did Anne Boleyn have six fingers on her right hand? A Study in Catholic Propaganda (Answer Commentary)

Why were women hostile to Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn? (Answer Commentary)

Catherine Parr and Women's Rights (Answer Commentary)

Women, Politics and Henry VIII (Answer Commentary)

Historians and Novelists on Thomas Cromwell (Answer Commentary)

Martin Luther and Thomas Müntzer (Answer Commentary)

Martin Luther and Hitler's Anti-Semitism (Answer Commentary)

Martin Luther and the Reformation (Answer Commentary)

Mary Tudor and Heretics (Answer Commentary)

Joan Bocher - Anabaptist (Answer Commentary)

Anne Askew – Burnt at the Stake (Answer Commentary)

Elizabeth Barton and Henry VIII (Answer Commentary)

Execution of Margaret Cheyney (Answer Commentary)

Robert Aske (Answer Commentary)

Dissolution of the Monasteries (Answer Commentary)

Pilgrimage of Grace (Answer Commentary)

Why did Queen Elizabeth not get married? (Answer Commentary)

Francis Walsingham - Codes & Codebreaking (Answer Commentary)

Sir Thomas More: Saint or Sinner? (Answer Commentary)

Hans Holbein's Art and Religious Propaganda (Answer Commentary)

1517 May Day Riots: How do historians know what happened? (Answer Commentary)


(1) S. J. Gunn, Henry VII : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(2) Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2007) page 28

(3) S. J. Gunn, Henry VII : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(4) R. S. Thomas, Jasper Tudor : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(5) John Edward Bowle, Henry VIII (1964) page 24

(6) Jasper Ridley, Henry VIII (1984) page 19

(7) Rosemary Horrox, Elizabeth of York : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(8) John D. Mackie, The Earlier Tudors, 1485–1558 (1983) page 51

(9) John Guy, Tudor England (1986) page 3

(10) Charles Ross, Richard III (1999) pages 221- 223

(11) John Guy, Tudor England (1986) page 3

(12) Charles Carlton, Royal Warriors: A Military History of the British Monarchy (2003) page 70

(13) Thomas Lovell, speech in the House of Commons (10th December, 1485)

(14) Rosemary Horrox, Prince Arthur : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(15) Rosemary Horrox, Elizabeth of York : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(16) Jasper Ridley, Henry VIII (1984) page 22

(17) James Arthur Muller, The Letters of Stephen Gardiner (1933) page 280

(18) Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2007) page 29

(19) Roger Lockyer, Tudor and Stuart Britain (1985) page 1

(20) Polydore Vergil, English History (c.1530) page 74

(21) S. J. Gunn, Henry VII : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(22) Michael J. Bennett, Lambert Simnel : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(23) Polydore Vergil, English History (c.1530) page 74

(24) Jasper Ridley, Henry VIII (1984) page 32

(25) Ann Wroe, Perkin: A Story of Deception (2004) pages 148-151

(26) Roger Lockyer, Tudor and Stuart Britain (1985) page 2

(27) S. J. Gunn, Perkin Warbeck : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(28) S. J. Gunn, Henry VII : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(29) Anthony Fletcher, Tudor Rebellions (1974) pages 11 and 12

(30) Roger Lockyer, Tudor and Stuart Britain (1985) page 2

(31) S. J. Gunn, Perkin Warbeck : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(32) Eric W. Ives, Henry VIII : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(33) Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2007) page 17

(34) Roderigo de Puebla to Henry VII (July, 1488)

(35) Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) page 14

(36) David Loades, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2007) page 11

(37) Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2007) page 22

(38) Prince Arthur, letter to Catherine of Aragon (October 1499)

(39) Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2007) page 25

(40) Jasper Ridley, Henry VIII (1984) page 31

(41) Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) page 24

(42) Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2007) page 28

(43) Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) pages 24

(44) David Starkey, Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII (2003) page 76

(45) Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2007) page 35

(46) John Sherren Brewer, The Reign of Henry VIII from his Accession to the Death of Wolsey (1884) page 303

(47) Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) pages 29-30

(48) David Starkey, Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII (2003) pages 76-77

(49) John Edward Bowle, Henry VIII (1964) page 32

(50) S. B. Chimes, Henry VII (1972) page 304

(51) Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) pages 32

(52) Christopher Morris, The Tudors (1955) page 53

(53) David Starkey, The Reign of Henry VIII (1985) page 40

(54) Jasper Ridley, Henry VIII (1984) page 36

(55) Christopher Morris, The Tudors (1955) page 56

(56) Margaret Condon, Richard Empson : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(57) Roger Lockyer, Tudor and Stuart Britain (1985) page 5

(58) David Loades, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2007) page 18

(59) Ferdinand of Aragon, letter to ambassadors (23rd June 1503)

(60) C. S. L. Davies, Katherine of Aragon : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(61) Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) pages 32

(62) Rodrigo Gonzalez de Puebla, letter to Ferdinand of Aragon (October, 1507)