1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Henry VII. of England
HENRY VII. (1457–1509), king of England, was the first of the Tudor dynasty. His claim to the throne was through his mother from John of Gaunt and Catherine Swynford, whose issue born before their marriage had been legitimated by parliament. This, of course, was only a Lancastrian claim, never valid, even as such, till the direct male line of John of Gaunt had become extinct. By his father the genealogists traced his pedigree to Cadwallader, but this only endeared him to the Welsh when he had actually become king. His grandfather, Owen Tudor, however, had married Catherine, the widow of Henry V. and daughter to Charles VI. of France. Their son Edmund, being half brother of Henry VI., was created by that king earl of Richmond, and having married Margaret Beaufort, only daughter of John, duke of Somerset, died more than two months before their only child, Henry, was born in Pembroke Castle in January 1457. The fatherless child had sore trials. Edward IV. won the crown when he was four years old, and while Wales partly held out against the conqueror, he was carried for safety from one castle to another. Then for a time he was made a prisoner; but ultimately he was taken abroad by his uncle Jasper, who found refuge in Brittany. At one time the duke of Brittany was nearly induced to surrender him to Edward IV.; but he remained safe in the duchy till the cruelties of Richard III. drove more and more Englishmen abroad to join him. An invasion of England was planned in 1483 in concert with the duke of Buckingham’s rising; but stormy weather at sea and an inundation in the Severn defeated the two movements. A second expedition, two years later, aided this time by France, was more successful. Henry landed at Milford Haven among his Welsh allies and defeated Richard at the battle of Bosworth (August 22, 1485). He was crowned at Westminster on the 30th of October following. Then, in fulfilment of pledges by which he had procured the adhesion of many Yorkist supporters, he was married at Westminster to Elizabeth (1465-1503), eldest daughter and heiress of Edward IV. (Jan. 18, 1486), whose two brothers had both been murdered by Richard III. Thus the Red and White Roses were united and the pretexts for civil war done away with.
Nevertheless, Henry’s reign was much disturbed by a succession of Yorkist conspiracies and pretenders. Of the two most notable impostors, the first, Lambert Simnel, personated the earl of Warwick, son of the duke of Clarence, a youth of seventeen whom Henry had at his accession taken care to imprison in the Tower. Simnel, who was but a boy, was taken over to Ireland to perform his part, and the farce was wonderfully successful. He was crowned as Edward VI. in Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin, and received the allegiance of every one—bishops, nobles and judges, alike with others. From Ireland, accompanied by some bands of German mercenaries procured for him in the Low Countries, he invaded England; but the rising was put down at Stoke near Newark in Nottinghamshire, and, Simnel being captured, the king made him a menial of his kitchen.
This movement had been greatly assisted by Margaret, duchess dowager of Burgundy, sister of Edward IV., who could not endure to see the House of York supplanted by that of Tudor. The second pretender, Perkin Warbeck, was also much indebted to her support; but he seems to have entered on his career at first without it. And his story, which was more prolonged, had to do with the attitude of many countries towards England. Anxious as Henry was to avoid being involved in foreign wars, it was not many years before he was committed to a war with France, partly by his desire of an alliance with Spain, and partly by the indignation of his own subjects at the way in which the French were undermining the independence of Brittany. Henry gave Brittany defensive aid; but after the duchess Anne had married Charles VIII. of France, he felt bound to fulfil his obligations to Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, and also to the German king Maximilian, by an invasion of France in 1492. His allies, however, were not equally scrupulous or equally able to fulfil their obligations to him; and after besieging Boulogne for some little time, he received very advantageous offers from the French king and made peace with him.
Now Perkin Warbeck had first appeared in Ireland in 1491, and had somehow been persuaded there to personate Richard, duke of York, the younger of the two princes murdered in the Tower, pretending that he had escaped, though his brother had been killed. Charles VIII., then expecting war with England, called him to France, recognized his pretensions and gave him a retinue; but after the peace he dismissed him. Then Margaret of Burgundy received him as her nephew, and Maximilian, now estranged from Henry, recognized him as king of England. With a fleet given him by Maximilian he attempted to land at Deal, but sailed away to Ireland and, not succeeding very well there either, sailed farther to Scotland, where James IV. received him with open arms, married him to an earl’s daughter and made a brief and futile invasion of England along with him. But in 1497 he thought best to dismiss him, and Perkin, after attempting something again in Ireland, landed in Cornwall with a small body of men.
Already Cornwall had risen in insurrection that year, not liking the taxation imposed for the purpose of repelling the Scotch invasion. A host of the country people, led first by a blacksmith, but afterwards by a nobleman, marched up towards London and were only defeated at Blackheath. But the Cornishmen were quite ready for another revolt, and indeed had invited Perkin to their shores. He had little fight in him, however, and after a futile siege of Exeter and an advance to Taunton he stole away and took sanctuary at Beaulieu in Hampshire. But, being assured of his life, he surrendered, was brought to London, and was only executed two years later, when, being imprisoned near the earl of Warwick in the Tower, he inveigled that simple-minded youth into a project of escape. For this Warwick, too, was tried, condemned and executed—no doubt to deliver Henry from repeated conspiracies in his favour.
Henry had by this time several children, of whom the eldest, Arthur, had been proposed in infancy for a bridegroom to Catherine, daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon. The match had always been kept in view, but its completion depended greatly on the assurance Ferdinand and Isabella could feel of Henry’s secure position upon the throne. At last Catherine was brought to England and was married to Prince Arthur at St Paul’s on the 14th of November 1501. The lad was just over fifteen and the co-habitation of the couple was wisely delayed; but he died on the 2nd of April following. Another match was presently proposed for Catherine with the king’s second son, Henry, which only took effect when the latter had become king himself. Meanwhile Henry’s eldest daughter Margaret was married to James IV. of Scotland—a match distinctly intended to promote international peace, and make possible that ultimate union which actually resulted from it. The espousals had taken place at Richmond in 1502, and the marriage was celebrated in Scotland the year after. In the interval between these two events Henry lost his queen, who died on the 11th of February 1503, and during the remainder of his reign he made proposals in various quarters for a second marriage—proposals in which political objects were always the chief consideration; but none of them led to any result. In his latter years he became unpopular from the extortions practised by his two instruments, Empson and Dudley, under the authority of antiquated statutes. From the beginning of his reign he had been accumulating money, mainly for his own security against intrigues and conspiracies, and avarice had grown upon him with success. He died in April 1509, undoubtedly the richest prince in Christendom. He was not a niggard, however, in his expenditure. Before his death he had finished the hospital of the Savoy and made provision for the magnificent chapel at Westminster which bears his name. His money-getting was but part of his statesmanship, and for his statesmanship his country owes him not a little gratitude. He not only terminated a disastrous civil war and brought under control the spirit of ancient feudalism, but with a clear survey of the conditions of foreign powers he secured England in almost uninterrupted peace while he developed her commerce, strengthened her slender navy and built, apparently for the first time, a naval dock at Portsmouth.
In addition to his sons Arthur and Henry, Henry VII. had several daughters, one of whom, Margaret, married James IV., king of Scotland, and another, Mary, became the wife of Louis XII. of France, and afterwards of Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk.
The popular view of Henry VII.’s reign has always been derived from Bacon’s History of that king. This has been edited by J. R. Lumby (Cambridge, 1881). But during the last half century large accessions to our knowledge have been made from foreign and domestic archives, and the sources of Bacon’s work have been more critically examined. For a complete account of those sources the reader may be referred to W. Busch’s England under the Tudors, published in German in 1892 and in an English translation in 1895. Some further information of a special kind will be found in M. Oppenheim’s Naval Accounts and Inventories, published by the Navy Records Society in 1896. See also J. Gairdner’s Henry VII. (1889).
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