Henry Tudor won the throne at the Battle of
Bosworth. His hereditary claim to the throne was questionable, he was
28, unmarried and childless. His position looked far from secure. Yet,
Henry managed to establish Tudor dynasty, which lasted for more than a
(1) The establishment
of the Tudors:
Military competence: neutral nobles
joined Henry VII at Bosworth because he was winning anyway.
In 1487 at
Battle of Stoke he easily beat the forces of Lord Lovell,
John de la Pole Earl of Lincoln, and Lambert Simnel - pretender to
any really convincing rival to Henry VII.
His most serious rivals were
nephews of Edward IV - Henry VII dealt with them decisively:
John de la Pole
was killed at Stoke.
2. Edmund de la Pole, Earl
of Suffolk fled to the
||The Hapsburg family was one of the most
important royal dynasties in Europe from the 13th to the 20th
centuries. Its members also came to rule Spain and its
colonial possessions, the Netherlands, much of Italy, and the
Holy Roman Empire.
When in 1506, fortune placed Philip the Handsome,
Archduke of the Netherlands in Henry VII's hands (his ship was wrecked
on the English coast), he extracted concessions from
him, including that he hand over the Earl of Suffolk. He incarcerated Suffolk,
who remained in prison until 1513, when he was executed by Henry VIII.
Richard de la Pole eluded Henry VII's
attempts to capture him. He took service with the King of France and
survived till 1525,
only to die in battle.
Earl of Warwick was the son of George, Duke of Clarence. Henry VII
imprisoned him in the Tower and eventually executed him on flimsy
charges in November 1499. His sister,
Margaret survived till 1541 when Henry VIII executed her at age 68.
Edward IV's two sons
had conveniently been killed by Richard III, so Henry only had to
worry about his daughters. He married the eldest, Elizabeth of York.
(Edward's other daughters:
Cicely Plantagenet married twice, and had two surviving children by
her second husband Thomas Kyme;
Bridget Plantagenet became a nun and
died in 1517).
Elizabeth of York
In 1486 Elizabeth bore Henry VII a son, Arthur, who united Yorkist
Henry VII's uncle, Jasper Tudor was rich but no
threat to Henry. Jasper was the brother of Henry's father, and Henry's claim
to the throne came from his mother
Margaret Beaufort later married Thomas
Stanley, Earl of Derby; his brother Sir William
Stanley switched sides at Bosworth, helping Henry win; Sir William
felt that Henry had not rewarded him
sufficiently for deserting Richard III, and dabbled in
treason. Henry promptly executed him.
Other nobles also came
to regret Henry's succession, and lent support to two
Pretenders, Lambert Simnel, and Perkin Warbeck. The
Hapsburgs and the French king also supported Warbeck but in England, Henry's secret service
arrested Warbeck's supporters before they did any harm.
The Castle of Alnwick in the North of England
(2) Controlling the
Henry VII handed out
very few new titles of nobility, preferring to reward servants by
making them Knights of the Garter. The number of nobles fell
Henry VII was careful to avoid letting
great nobles become too powerful in their localities. For example, after
1489, he directly managed
the estates of the powerful Percy family, whose heir was a child. Henry did benefit from
disappearance of the greatest magnates:
Warwick the Kingmaker (d.1471) had no
male heirs; his inheritance was split between two daughters who
married into the royal family, which thus acquired his wealth.
Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham was very rich and
with royal blood, but
aged only 7 in 1485 so he posed no threat to the Tudors. When later he did become a threat, Henry VIII had him executed on trumped-up charges
Henry kept very close tabs on Thomas Grey, marquess
of Dorset (stepson of Edward IV). For example, he forced him to enter into bonds
and recognisances, binding him to pay Henry large sums of money if he ever misbehaved.
Henry prevented the emergence of new super-nobles by keeping
an eye on noble marriage
alliances to prevent any family becoming too powerful.
Erasmus of Rotterdam
Henry VII's advisers
had often chosen advisers from highest nobility. Henry selected
councilors on the
basis of merit. His reign coincided with the growing influence in
England of humanism; of which the most famous advocate was
Erasmus of Rotterdam. Erasmus argued that social distinctions should
be founded on virtue, not birth.
virtus vera nobilitas"
- Virtue is true nobility
This attitude was encouraged
by Henry VII and his chief minister (till he died in 1500),
Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor, John Morton.
Two thirds of the nobility attended council at one time or
another, and some nobles held high office. From 1486 to1501 Lord Dinham
Treasurer, succeeded by Thomas Howard Earl of Surrey 1501-22.
But many of
Henry's closest advisers were drawn either from the clergy (Bishop Richard Foxe,
Lord Privy Seal), or from the gentry (Reginald Bray and
end of his
reign Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley, were as
powerful as they were unpopular. Henry appointed them to detect
money owed to crown and secure its payment.
Dudley (whom the people esteemed
as his horse leeches and shearers) bold men and careless of fame,
took toll of their master's grist.
of a good family, eloquent,
and one that could put hateful business into good language.
that was the son of a sieve-maker, triumphed always upon the deed
putting off all other respects whatsoever. These two persons
in science and privy councilors in authority, (as the corruption
best things is the worst) turned law and justice into wormwood and
Conditional reversal of
Nobles who had fought against the King were
attainted by Parliament - this meant the forfeiture of all land
and titles. In Edward IV's reign these attainders were soon reversed.
Henry VII only offered partial reversals, with
further reversal conditional on good service.
Henry bullied important noblemen and
gentlemen into entering into agreements with him, promising
to do his will or else to pay large fines. Roughly three in four nobles
and thousands of gentlemen
entered into bonds; and the sums involved were often extremely high.
English Baronial castles
At Henry's accession England was dotted with
Baronial castles filled with armed retainers that could prove
focal points of resistance to the crown's authority.
Earlier kings had persuaded parliaments to legislate against armed retainers;
but nobles ignored the legislation. Henry VII was far more successful
in asserting the state's monopoly of violence.
VII bypassed the large and cumbersome Exchequer and used the Chamber, a
department in the royal household to control royal finances.
He took a close interest in its day-to-day business - closer than that
of any other English monarch; Henry personally went over the state
accounts, initialing every page.
Henry's close concern with balancing the
books helped to increase revenue from royal lands, customs, forced loans,
and parliamentary taxation. But this did not make him popular. Henry's
financial policies provoked rioting in Yorkshire 1489 and rebellion in Cornwall 1497.
Since Henry held the lands of both the Yorkist and Lancastrian
branches of the royal family, plus the Kingmaker's inheritance, his
income from land would anyway have been much greater than that of his
predecessors. He also had no siblings to bestow land on.
(4) Foreign policy:
Henry VII's reign coincided with the rise
of a new power in Europe -Spain. It was united when Ferdinand of Aragon
married Isabella of Castile. Spain soon gained control of much
England was weak compared to France or
Spain and Henry VII knew this and acted accordingly. He tried to
preserve good relations with Spain. The treaty of Medina
del Campo (1489) provided for the marriage of Ferdinand and
Isabella's daughter, Katherine (or Catherine), to Henry VII's eldest son, Arthur.
Arthur died in 1502,
but Henry used his control of Katherine's person to
bring pressure on Spain.
When Philip (the Hapsburg ruler of the
Netherlands) and his wife Joanna were forced to
land in England in 1506, Henry used the opportunity to extort highly
favorable concessions from
them - in particular a trade treaty with the Netherlands called the bad treaty (Malus
Intercursus) because it was so biased toward English interests.
Henry was careful to avoid expensive
Continental wars, and instead directed his foreign policy towards
enhancing trade. He even subsidized explorers, such as John Cabot, in
the hope that this might bring in large returns from commerce.
In 1509, Henry VII died
of lung disease at the age of 52.