Thursday, February 28, 2013

#Tudor Troubles: King Henry VII

February 27

What Was King Henry VII Thinking?

Bust of Henry VII
By: Monica Arellano-Ongpin
Welcome back to Tudor Troubles. Catherine of Aragon was a Spanish princess who had married Henry VIII's older brother, Prince Arthur, on November 14, 1501. The seventeen year old princess' marriage to her fifteen year old husband only lasted twenty weeks. When we last left Catherine she was in a state of limbo due to the death of her mother, Queen Isabella of Spain. Without a husband, Catherine was dependent upon the mercy of her father-in-law, King Henry VII. The British king and her father, King Ferdinand, had arranged for Catherine to marry her late husband's younger brother. A short time after the arrangements had been made, Catherine's mother died and she lost and the British king cancelled the wedding. 

It may seem strange and cruel to women nowadays as to how Catherine of Aragon was treated by King Henry VII. Like most noble women, Catherine understood marriage wasn't about love. Noble marriages were created to unite kingdoms, maintain peaceful relations between two factors and enriching the husband's kingdom with land, power and money. Catherine's wealth mainly came from her mother's kingdom, Castille, which was larger then her father's kingdom of Aragon. Now that her sister ruled over Castille she no longer stood directly in line for the throne. 

King Henry VII decision to delay his son's marry to Catherine wasn't made in haste. He had spent his entire life building and securing his kingdom through noble marriages. 

A King's Perspective
Henry Tudor's troubles in establishing his rightful place upon the English throne stemmed out of his lineage and the War of the Roses. His claim to the English throne came from both sides of his parents. His mother, Countess Margaret Beaufort, father, John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset, had been the great-grandson of King Edward III through Edward's third surviving son, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Making Henry Tudor from the house of Lancanster. 

Margaret never knew her father, as he died before her third birthday leaving her his entire estate. She married the twenty-four year old Edmund Tudor on November 1, 1455 when she was twelve years old. The War of the Roses broke out six months prior to their nuptials. The War of the Roses was a military encounter between the two most powerful English families - the Lancasters and the Yorks. Both families were direct descendants of King Edward III and felt that they had the right to rule over England. You can read more about the War of the Roses here.

Lady Margaret Beaufort by Lisby
Edmund's parents were Owen Tudor and Katherine of Valois (the widow of King Henry V) which made him King Henry V's half brother. King Henry V ruled over England at the time of Henry Tudor's birth. Edmund joined the War of the Roses to defend his brother's rule and left his fourteen year old pregnant wife in the care of his younger brother, Jasper. Less than a year later,  the Yorks captured Edmund and held him captive at  Carmarthen where he contracted the plague. He died November 1, 1456. King Henry V passed Edmund's title and estate to Jasper after he learned of Edmund's passing.
Two months after the death of her husband, Margaret endured her own suffering in childbirth. Her tender age and small framed body had made childbirth difficult. The labor was so hard, she and Henry at one point were close to death. She delivered her newborn son into the world on January 28, 1457 at Pembroke Castle. She would never be able to bear children again. 

Four years later, the Lancasters lost the English throne when the Yorks captured King Henry VI at the Battle of Northampton. The Lancaster king was forced to acknowledge Edward IV as the rightful heir to the English throne. King Edward IV ascended the English throne in March of 1461. The new king relieved Jasper Tudor of his title and Pembroke Castle declaring his friend, William Herbert the new 1st Earl of Pembroke. With the loss of title and lands, Jasper had no choice but to flee to France, leaving Margaret and Henry at the mercy of the king's new earl. William Herbert remained Henry's guardian until he was killed at the Battle of Edgecote in 1469. Jasper Tudor had returned to North Wales in 1468 and confronted William Herbert but was defeated. Jasper briefly regained control of Pembroke Castle when King Edward IV, after realizing his army could not defeat the Lancaster army, abandoned the throne and fled to France. King Henry VI was released and restored his throne in 1470. In April of 1471, the Yorks defeated the Lancaster army at the Battle of Barnet. King Henry VI was captured and thrown into the Tower of London where he was murdered May 21, 1471. With the York king restored to power, Jasper took his nephew and fled to Brittany.

The War of the Roses continued as Jasper and his nephew lived in the security of Brittany.  King Edward VI died in 1483 leaving the throne to his twelve year old son, Edward V. Edward was on his was to London for his coronation when he was unexpectedly detained by his uncle Richard, Duke of  Gloucester. Richard had his nephew taken to the Tower of London. Edward's brother, Prince Richard, joined him in the tower in mid July. The two boys were murdered and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, became King Richard III. King Richard III's meddling in royal affairs had been prosperous for Henry VI. With the death of the young princes, Henry Tudor now found himself as the Head of the Lancaster House and closer to the English throne than ever before. Henry realized the only way to stop this bloody war was to unify the two houses. 

Queen Elizabeth of York by: Lisby

In December of 1483, Henry promised to marry Elizabeth of York. Elizabeth was the eldest child of the late King Edward VI making her the sister of the two murdered princes. Opponents on both sides, outraged at the murder of their beloved princes, began to support Henry Tudor out of respect for his marital contract to Elizabeth of York. Henry gathered his army and invaded England in August of 1485. He defeated Richard III and the York army at the Battle of Bosworth on August 22, 1485 thus ascending him to King of England. Henry was coronated as King Henry VII on October 30, 1485 at Westminster Abbey. He won the right of his throne through pure conquest but his claim was not solidified until he married Elizabeth of York on January 18, 1486 in Westminster Abbey. King Henry VII could have married his bride before his coronation but chose not to because he wanted his kingship established through the Lancaster line of descent and not through his marriage to the York princess. 

King Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth of York had seven children. Only four survived to adulthood; Arthur, Henry, Margaret and Mary. King Henry VII continued to establish stronger ties to his kingdom  his eldest daughter. He arranged for Margaret to marry King James IV of Scotland on August 8, 1503 at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland. Their union united England and Scotland. Margaret was thirteen and James was 30. You can read more about her life at

What ever happened to his other daughter? King Henry VIII, would arrange the union of his sister, Mary, with King Louis XII of France on October 9, 1514 in order to solidfy peace between England and France. You can read more about that at
Elizabeth of York gave birth to a daughter on February 2, 1503 who only lived for a few days. The queen followed her daughter into death on February 11, 1503 after suffering from a post partum infection. She was thirty seven years old. King Henry VII mourned greatly for the loss of his queen and secluded himself in his chambers letting no one inside his private quarters. Elizabeth of York's death had occurred only eight months after the death of their son, Prince Arthur of Wales. Catherine of Aragon was already living in London at the time of the Queen's death. Some time after he ended his morning, King Henry VII had entertained the idea of seeking another queen. He searched all over Europe for a replacement. He could never find the right women to be his queen. He died of tuberculosis on April 21, 1509 with one request for his son, Henry VIII ------ MARRY CATHERINE OF ARAGON.

Tomb Effigies of King Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth of York
By: Lisby