Family tree for King Henry VII showing:
King Henry VII was born Henry Tudor, on 28th January 1457 at Pembroke Castle, Wales to Margaret Beaufort, 13 year old heiress of John Beaufort, and Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond. Henry’s father was half-brother to King Henry VI.
At the time of Henry’s birth the Wars of the Roses had been ongoing for two years. War had begun because the weak Lancastrian King Henry VI had been challenged by Richard Duke of York. The supporters of Henry VI were called Lancastrians while those that supported the Duke of York were called Yorkists.
Edmund Tudor and his brother Jasper, were Lancastrians and supported their half-brother Henry. In 1456, Edmund was captured and imprisoned in Carmarthen Castle where he died of bubonic plague.
Henry’s mother was concerned for both her and her son’s safety so a year after the birth of Henry, she married Henry Stafford.
In 1461, Edward, the son of Richard Duke of York defeated the Lancastrians at the battles of Mortimer’s Cross and Towton. He took the throne as King Edward IV. The new King gave Pembroke castle to William Herbert and made the young Henry Tudor his ward in February 1462.
In 1470 the Yorkist King was defeated and Henry VI was restored to the throne. Henry Tudor was presented to Henry VI who took a keen interest in his upbringing.
The Yorkist Edward IV regained the throne in 1471 and King Henry VI was murdered. Henry Tudor was now the Lancastrian heir to the throne. He was taken to Brittany by his uncle, Jasper Tudor.
In Brittany, Henry and his uncle were given protection by Francis II, Duke of Brittany. They were comfortably housed in the Chateau de Suscinio. The Duke ignored requests by Edward IV to extradite the pair to England.
In 1476 Edward IV convinced Duke Francis that he had no intention of harming Henry but simply wanted to marry him to one of his daughters. Plans were made for Henry to be handed over to the English. However, before he could be handed over, Henry Tudor either became ill or feigned illness. He was taken to a monastery where he claimed sanctuary.
Princes in the Tower
In April 1483, King Edward IV died unexpectedly. His son Edward was a minor so Richard Duke of Gloucester was nominated regent for his nephew. After removing the young King from his maternal relatives, King Edward V was placed in the Tower of London to await his coronation. His brother Richard joined him soon afterwards.
Before Edward could be crowned it was revealed that when Edward IV married Elizabeth Woodville he was contracted in marriage to Eleanor Butler. This meant that his marriage was invalid and his children illegitimate.
As next in line to the throne, Richard Duke of Gloucester was crowned King Richard III. The two Princes in the Tower disappeared.
Path to the Throne
After the death of her husband, Margaret Beaufort had married Thomas Stanley, steward to King Edward IV. This meant she was often at court and she made friends with Elizabeth Woodville. The two women worked to put Henry Tudor on the throne and agreed that when he became King, Henry would marry Elizabeth’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth of York. On 25th December 1483 Henry publicly swore an oath at Reims Cathedral that he would marry Elizabeth of York once he was King of England.
On 1st August 1485, Henry Tudor landed at Milford Haven. He marched inland gaining support along the way. Richard III quickly mustered his forces and marched to meet the invader.
On 22nd August 1485 the forces of Henry Tudor and Richard III met in battle at Market Bosworth. Thomas, Lord Stanley and Sir William Stanley had not decided which side to support. Henry Tudor won the Battle of Bosworth Field which had seen King Richard III killed in combat. Henry Tudor was proclaimed King Henry VII.
Marriage and Family
Henry kept his promise and married Elizabeth of York on 18th January 1486. The Tudor Rose was an amalgam of the Red Rose of Lancaster and the White Rose of York. The couple had eight children
Arthur, Prince of Wales – born 19th September 1486, died 2nd April 1502.
Margaret – born 28th November 1489
Henry Duke of York – born 28th June 1491
Elizabeth – born 2nd July 1492, died 14th September 1495
Mary – born 18th March 1496
Edward – born 1498, died 1499
Edmund – born 21st February 1499, died 1500
Katherine – born 2nd February 1503, died 1503
Henry’s wife Elizabeth died in 1503 from complications following the birth of Katherine.
Pretenders to the Throne
As King of a new dynasty Henry knew his position would be challenged. During his reign he faced three challenges by pretenders to the throne.
The first, Lambert Simnel appeared in 1487 claiming to be Henry’s cousin, Edward Earl of Warwick. The real Earl of Warwick was imprisoned in the Tower of London and Henry paraded him through the streets to show Simnel was an impostor. Simnel’s supporters were defeated at the Battle of Stoke and realising that Simnel had been used by his opponents he was given a position in the royal kitchens.
Perkin Warbeck presented a more serious challenge to Henry. He claimed to be Richard Duke of York, son of King Henry IV and the younger of the Princes in the Tower. He appeared in 1492 and gained the backing of Margaret of Burgundy, sister of King Edward IV, King Charles VIII of France, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian and King James IV of Scotland. Warbeck was eventually defeated and imprisoned in 1497.
When the third pretender, Ralph Wulford, appeared in 1499, Henry wasted no time in having him captured and executed. Perkin Warbeck, who was imprisoned in the Tower of London and Edward Earl of Warwick were also executed.
Building the new Dynasty
King Henry VII wanted the Tudor dynasty to be financially secure and brought in range of unpopular taxations. He used the money gained to put on lavish feasts and entertainment for visiting foreign ambassadors.
Henry knew that it was vital that the new Tudor dynasty was recognised by foreign kings. He was not a warrior king and preferred to use negotiations and treaties rather than go to war.
The Treaty of Medina del Campo agreed terms between England and Spain to be sealed with the marriage of Prince Arthur to Catherine of Aragon. The couple married in November 1501 but sadly Arthur died in 1502. Catherine was betrothed to Arthur’s brother, Prince Henry, but the King delayed allowing the marriage to go ahead.
In retaliation for Margaret of Burgundy’s support for the pretender, Perkin Warbeck, Henry put sanctions on trade between the countries. He then negotiated a trade deal which included a clause stating that neither side would give aid to the other’s enemies.
Similarly, King James IV was offered the hand in marriage of Henry’s eldest daughter, Margaret Tudor and a peace deal if he withdrew support from Warbeck.
After the death of Elizabeth of York, King Henry VII considered re-marrying. He put forward a suggestion that he marry his son’s widow, Catherine of Aragon, but this was rejected by her parents.
He also considered Margaret of Savoy and Joanna Queen of Naples but negotiations came to nothing.
By 1508 Henry’s heath was beginning to fail. He had lost weight, had a nasty cough and could not walk unaided. In March 1509 Henry collapsed. He died on 21st April 1509. King Henry VII was buried in a chapel in Westminster Abbey. He had left money in his will for the chapel, known as the Henry VII chapel, to be built.
First published 2018; updated and republished Mar 05 2022 @ 6:34 pm – Updated –
Harvard Reference for this page:
Heather Y Wheeler. (2018 – 2022). King Henry VII 1457 – 1509. Available: https://www.treesofblue.com/king-henry-vii-1457-1509. Last accessed June 26th, 2022