20 Interesting Facts about Henry VII

May26,2021 #Henry VII

In my latest “Facts about…” video, I introduce you to the very first Tudor monarch, King Henry VII, with 20 interesting facts.

Henry VII does seem to be a neglected monarch, as many people find his son, Henry VIII, and his granddaughter, Elizabeth I, far more interesting, but he deserves some attention, don’t you think?

By the way, for books, I recommend Winter King by Thomas Penn and Henry VII and the Tudor Pretenders: Simnel, Warbeck, and Warwick by Nathem Amin. Nathen is excellent on Henry VII!

For more Henry VII videos, here’s my Henry VII playlist:

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7 thoughts on “20 Interesting Facts about Henry VII”
  1. Henry Tudor is mocked and overlooked because he pales in comparison to the magnificent Henry Viii, his spectacular son and heir. Mind you anyone would pale in comparison to Henry Viii. Again, the interest in one stems from the image of Henry Viii being scandalous and a man of glamour, sexual mythology, immortality and giant reputation. The father has long been in the shadow of the son and most people assume that Henry Tudor is far more boring than his son, the colourful Henry Viii.

    However, Henry Vii, had much of interest, especially during the years in which he fought of the mysterious pretenders, Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck. Just the mere curiosity of who they were makes this first Henry Tudor interesting. His success as a family man gave him the happiness and the certainty of security which Henry’s marriages lacked. Henry Vii had successfully passed the throne to an adult son, he had been blessed with a wife, three sons and four daughters, but Edmund and Arthur died as did Elizabeth and baby Katherine; he had passed the crown to a healthy and athletic 17 year old who was quickly married and he had died with a new Dynasty. Henry had unified two factions and against the odds won at Bosworth, replacing the last Plantagenet King. Henry Vii had left England secure and wealthy, with Dynastic links with Spain and Scotland, at least several new palaces, a full treasury and the ideas of the Crown Imperial. Henry Vii had also made a good treaty with France, something which could confirm peace for England but Henry Viii was itching for war and glory. It was Henry Viii who would take all the fame but it was his father who had left him the cash to do it with.

  2. Henry Vii was shrewd and he used fines and extortion to build up a great deal of money for the treasury. His domestic and foreign policies were sound and security for the future of his children and Dynastic ambitions and he prepared the ground for his heir. Henry chose four European Dynasties who were either growing or strong and which benefited a new Tudor Dynasty and vice versa. Henry Vii was no warrior but he had not hesitated to invade France in 1491 over Perkin Warbeck and the Treaty of Etalpes saw Charles Viii paying England an annual fee of 750,000 crowns to go away. His marriage alliances enveloped Spain, Scotland, the Netherlands and the Holy Roman Empire. England was no backwater but a much sort after power broker.

    Nor was Henry Vii tight when it came to extravagant showing off. In 1507 a grand tournament was held at the Tower of London and a similar spectacle had taken place to greet the representation from Spain in the 1490s. Henry didn’t stint on his palaces either and when Sheen burned down in around 1496,_the palace which replaced it, Richmond was beautiful, international and extraordinary. It was to set the standard down for Tudor building and luxurious was the watchword. Henry brought the best Italian artists and architects over, had his family painted by French, Dutch and Polish artists, he had the best scholars for his children and he did everything for their comfort and protection. That didn’t exactly help his relationship with Prince Henry but most of his withdrawal and poor reputation comes after the death of Elizabeth of York in 1503,_whom he mourned deeply. Henry, I bet, could have told some tales from his adventures and escapes while in exile for almost fourteen years. His relationship with his mother was more complicated than some people realise because he wasn’t raised by Margaret Beaufort for so long. She lost custody of him when he was four and had to fight to gain access to him and custody for short periods of time. Then she hadn’t seen him since he was 14 and he was a man of 28 when he returned. Henry does seem to have sought her guidance at crucial times and Margaret thought of herself as a Queen Mother rather than a Dowager. She influenced the way that the Court was organised and the ordinances for Royal births and nurseries and so on. Elizabeth of York and Margaret had a mutual relationship and not the hate relationship often shown in television drama. Forget the Margaret Beaufort of the White Princess and White Queen, she didn’t exist. I am sure there were many times Henry was undecided, unsure of himself, he was under attack from pretenders and rebels for several years. His throne simply wasn’t secure and he even took dramatic steps to secure it, beheading the imprisoned Edward, Earl of Warwick in 1499 and hanging Perkin Warbeck whom had been treated with leniency at first. He revolutionised national government and the way the Royal Household was run and redesigned palaces in order to have more privacy. His reputation may have suffered during his latter years as his administration turned to extortionate methods of fines for even minor crimes and invented reasons to blackmail and imprison many in the Capital, but he has also been forgotten for his patronage of art, of architecture and exploration. As Claire says, his reign deserves close and balanced attention.

  3. Henry V11 was a most interesting King and although he does pale in comparison to Henry V111, it was said of him he possessed a kind of presence and magnetism, which combined with a shrewd brain made him quite formidable, this magnetism he passed onto his son Henry V111, it is strange how fortune pans out, this boy who lived in exile for many years, who never knew his father, whose own birth nearly spelt death for his mother who had been just a girl of thirteen when she had him, suddenly found himself at the centre of one of the most bitterest power struggles for the throne of England, by a series of events which saw one king deposed and another crowned in his place, the path to the throne suddenly became clearer and it is because of him, that one dynasty died a dynasty that has spanned many centuries, and the forging of a new dynasty occurred, he was a peace loving king it is true, and wisely arranged marriages for his children with the crowned heads of Europe, seeing the wisdom of having such important allies, he amassed a large amount of money which Henry V111 largely squandered, he had wisdom and caution which comes with living a life of danger, I can see a lot of his traits in his granddaughter Elizabeth 1st, whose own path to the throne had also been fraught with danger and like him, she was shrewd with money, when he won the crown at Bosworth partly I believe because Richard was not popular, and of course his step father was the renegade Stanley, who at the last minute changed sides, he did his duty by his promise to marry Elizabeth of York and theirs was a most successful marriage, but he had to contend with pretenders coming out of the woodwork, his marriage to Edward 1’Vs daughter really strengthened his crown, because she was very popular, as well as being beautiful she was everything a queen should be, in fact they were a most attractive couple, Elizabeth was the Helen of Troy of Tudor England with her buxom blonde good looks, and Henry was tall with a lean build, he had light blue eyes and fair hair but bad teeth, his death mask shows he had a strong resemblance to his mother Margaret Beaufort, who had a narrow face with a sharp nose, Henry V111 took after his mother’s side of the family, it is remarkable that really Henry Tudor managed to seize the crown of England at all, considering he was not a member of the ruling royal family, he was in fact a poor relation whose only claim and very fragile it was, came through his mother via an illegitimate line, the bastard Beaufort’s, he lived abroad and in exile but Margaret Beaufort was a most formidable lady, with the seizing of the crown by Richard 111, the idea of her son becoming king suddenly became a very real possibility, Dan Jones thinks it fostered a belief that the taking of the throne appeared very easy to many who were Richards enemies, the houses of York and Lancaster had been warring for decades, and the union between them was deemed a blessing, thus the wedding of Henry and Elizabeth was looked on with joy, it was an end to bloodshed to strife, the red rose of Lancaster and the white rose of York we’re united in peace and the rose became a symbol of the Tudor royal dynasty, the passing of the throne from father to son was peaceful for the first time in decades, Henry V1 had been deposed and murdered, little Edward V and his brother had mysteriously vanished, Richard 11 had been imprisoned in the Tower and some say had been starved to death, Edward 11 had been deposed and murdered, the Plantagenets were called England’s bloodiest dynasty, but apart from the deposing of the monarchy and countless wars at home and abroad, they had been a most successful dynasty which had lasted for four hundred years, now with the slain Richard 111 on the bloodstained grass at Bosworth England had a new dynasty, Henry Tudor did do his best as a ruler, England apart from Perkin Warbeck claiming to be the little Duke of York, and having to deal with several skirmishes after Bosworth, did enjoy years of peace and prosperity, and when he died he left England a prosperous nation, he had had a beautiful gold tomb built for himself and his queen in Westminster Abbey, in the newly designed chapel which bears his name, his and Elizabeth’s effigy’s lie beside each other, possibly their dead children share their tomb with them, his formidable mother lies in the chapel also who outlived him, she became advisor and mentor to her grandson Henry V111 when he inherited the throne, his reign I agree is often overlooked by that of his son who was a colourful larger than life character, that most iconic king of all King Henry V111!

    1. Hi Christine, yes its amazing because Henry Tudor never had a serious chance or even attempt at the throne before 1483. Margaret probably did have dreams but no, she wasn’t planning and plotting for Henry and the throne her whole life… it wasn’t a realistic proposition. What Margaret actually wanted from the House of York was his return, so after her second husband, Henry Stafford died of his injuries from Barnet, she married Thomas Lord Stanley. Now you probably know the Stanley game, one on one side, one does nothing, go for the winning side. Thomas Stanley turned up late to support Edward iv and wasn’t exactly in his good books, so he certainly wasn’t going to be helping a Lancaster fugitive return home and cause trouble. Edward iv cut the head of the snake and cut down the young snake as well, in other words at Tewkesbury Prince Edward of Wales was killed and Henry vi was done away with three weeks later. That pushed the young Henry Tudor up the pecking order with no adult males of the House of Lancaster left, but that did move him up one, if a revival became possible.

      In 1471, however, Edward iv had confirmed his unchallenged power on the throne, he had a male heir at last and the House of Lancaster was extinct in the direct line. Henry, in exile with Jasper Tudor, was a minor young royal, in pampered house arrest under the reluctant protection of the Duke of Brittany. Margaret had no chance of getting him back and she had to instead make peace with the current Reigm and wait for an opportunity. As you can imagine, that prospect grew worse with the appearance of two more sons and the marriage of George and Richard, which both produced sons. I can just imagine any dreams fading fast. Margaret must have looked on with amazement, however, during the late 1470s and early 1480s as the House of York imploded. In 1477, the wife of George, Duke of Clarence died and he blamed witchcraft and hung the alleged culprits. Edward had him arrested and then tried and killed for treason on 18th February 1478. His name sake, died as well, one of Edwards three sons. His own family were barred from the crown. Then Edward himself died in April 1483 and it looked more positive for Henry in exile.

      However, although Margaret had been promised his return in 1483, she didn’t bank on what happened next. Much has been written about the circumstances under which Richard, Duke of Gloucester came to the throne, but I won’t bother with them here. He took rightful custody of his nephew the young 12 years old, Edward V and the company came into London together. Here he was confirmed as Lord Protector and called on all to swear allegiance to Edward. Edward was lodged at the Palace of the Bishop of London and for once the sources actually agree, the Council voted for Edward to lodge in the Royal Apartments at the Tower of London. The events of April to June 1483 are confused and controversial and I won’t untangle them here. However, by the Council meeting on 13th June something was afoot, leading to the Court Martial and summary execution of Lord Hastings and by 22nd June Edward and Richard had been declared illegitimate. They were both thus barred and Richard accepted the crown on 26th. He was crowned on 6th. What happened next still remains a complete mystery and I don’t think there’s a historian who doesn’t take sides. Crowland and Mancini are contemporary and both boys were alive during the Summer and last seen anytime between August and October 1483. They were moved probably some time before September and that’s the last known sighting. Its during this period that Margaret got herself entangled in a plot to bring Henry over and for him to go for the crown.

      During this period rumours about Edward and Richard of Shrewsbury circulated and yes, in the South, Richard may not have been that popular, but that has little to do with why Stanley betrayed him. I really don’t believe Thomas or William Stanley cared less what happened to the Princes and they sought their own glory. However, the rumours, a possible attempted plot to “rescue” them, which was swiftly dealt with, even though King Richard was now on progress all fed into what was to become the Sanctuary Plot and later the “Buckingham” Rebellion. Richard was certainly popular with the ordinary people and with the North and Midlands, in his power base. The actual role of Thomas Stanley in Margaret’s plotting is not known. He probably did know, but kept quiet, backing the winner until another opportunity arose. Part of this wacky load of mini plots was a scheme to marry Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York, who was now legally illegitimate, to put him on the throne and for his invasion. The Sanctuary Plot went nowhere. Buckingham was quickly defeated and ran away, was given up, captured and executed. Those with him, in the main were pardoned, although a core of them, members of the former household of Edward iv, ran off to join Henry, Earl of Richmond. As for Henry, he turned back as he didn’t have much support. However, he did promise to marry Elizabeth and was now given financial backing. Margaret must have thought that was it.

      Margaret, of course was accused of treason and Attained. Richard’s first Parliament in 1484 found her guilty but Richard wasn’t Henry Viii. He actually refused to sign the Act and she was punished with house arrest and living under the custody of her husband. In 1484, Richard and Anne were at Middleham when their own heir died aged about ten. They were both devastated. Margaret saw her opportunity and she managed somehow to send Henry money and he was now able to move to France and build up an army and ships. Thomas Stanley was one of those magnets who was affected by Richard’s policies that stopped men like him exploiting ordinary people and raising private funds. He practiced equity in justice and decisions didn’t always go in the way men like Stanley wanted. He saw Henry Tudor as a better option and was married to Henry’s mother. At Bosworth he stayed on the sideline and was uncommitted. It was Sir William Stanley who moved his troops around to the rear of Richard. Richard, had made his famous charge and aimed to end the floundering battle by killing his enemy. Norfolk was probably dead by now and there was a stalemate in the main battle. Henry Tudor was on the far side of Fen Lane, nr the Redemore, with his French and Welsh body guard and banners. Richard crashed into John Cheney, a giant of a man, bringing him crashing down, killed William Brandon, the other standard bearer and almost took Henry out. There is some confusion here, but Richard was unhorsed and on foot. William Stanley crashed into Richard and he was trapped in the middle of a crush. The desperate fight which followed saw most of Richard’s gentlemen and elite forces killed and Richard iii was himself killed. That was the end of the battle, more or less. There was a chase and a route all the way back to Market Bosworth. William, not Thomas Stanley, crowned Henry near the Battle ground and that was it. Thomas Stanley claimed he crowned Henry in family stories.

      Ironically it was William Stanley who was among those to later betray Henry Vii, because he believed that Perkin Warbeck might not be a pretender and his seal was one of those who said he would support Warbeck. Henry was absolutely shocked. The double dealing of the Stanleys had finally come back to haunt them. There is no record of how Margaret felt but Thomas Stanley remained loyal to Henry until his own death in 1504. Margaret must have been amazed also at how quickly things turned in her favour and that her son had a real chance of the crown after 1483. In a few years and even in a few months the House of York had gone from three adult males, with a total of four sons between them, all aparrently thriving, to one male adult heir, with one legal heir. The others were excluded legally or presumed dead. If Richard died and his son died, would that open up the way for Henry? In Margaret’s mind in 1484 and 1485 I would say yes, although there were other York heirs via the female line, aka Elizabeth, Duchess of Suffolk and John de la Pole, their sons and so on. Henry was probably the best alternative as he was gathering a retinue and company around him with the help of the King of France and the promise of the hand of the daughter of Edward iv won him support. Without that, there wasn’t even a reason to invade, even after Richard lost his only son and legitimate child. It was a gamble which against the odds paid off.

      The first thing Henry did after he made his way from Leicester towards London and stopped at Coventry briefly was to spend two weeks with his mother at her home in Cold Harbour and catch up on lost times. I can imagine the joy as mother and son were reunited and maybe some awkward moments as she had missed out on half of his adult life. It was his years in exile, however, which shaped his attitude towards ruling which was cautious and shrewd. Henry was careful before making major decisions and changes but that wasn’t always wise. However, it was a mark of his kingship and something he attempted to pass on to his sons. However, Henry Viii had one huge party and did much to undo the work he had done, why, because his latter policies were unpopular and it won him a lot of popular support.

  4. Henry Vii was also invited to join the Holy League against France but refused to because Maximillian was harbouring Richard of England or Perkin Warbeck and he hoped it would make Flanders-Burgundy see it was dangerous to give aid to an English ememy and not profitable. Unfortunately, the Emperor didn’t see it that way and called on the coalition to boycott English trade goods. He also took a military approach to England, although he didn’t declare war by supporting Warbeck as Richard iv. Henry’s diplomacy had backfired. The Fleet set sale for Deal but luckily for Henry it wasn’t ready. A much bigger force set out a year later and this landed and had to be dealt with. This was a dangerous time for Henry Vii and his family but he road things out, something which bodes well for his personality.

    1. He did have staying power and he must have taken some advice from his mother who was described as quite strong minded, he knew also here was one whom he could trust implicitly, she had always worked for him, she was his blood and he had never known his father, there are rumours of a clash of personalities between Elizabeth of York and Margaret Beaufort but they probably were just rumours, there could have been a certain amount of annoyance on Elizabeth’s part because she may have felt less important to her husband than his mother was, maybe he preferred to keep his wife out of politics, I guess also we will never know what happened to the little princes it is a medieval whodunnit, and our current queen will never allow permission to have the Westminster urn opened and the bones examined, still Charlie might, I must admit I lean more towards Richard 111 being guilty because his involvement seems more probable, but I cannot speak much on the matter because I do not know enough of the man to make a judgement, I read Weirs book on the little princes some years ago and she was of the sound opinion he had them murdered to make his crown more secure, but I have not read other books written by his champions, Ashdown Hill for example, I have Any Licence’s book on Richard which iv yet to read so it will be interesting to see what she has to say on the matter, any judgement made on Richard 111 however, there is one thing clear to all his supporters as well as his detractors, he was a brilliant soldier and very very brave.

      1. I don’t believe that there was any serious conflict between Elizabeth of York and her mother in law, but there might have been some resistance to the way Margaret wanted things done, her strict Ordinances for example and her strong demand to be treated more like the First Lady than a Queen Mother. Even Amy Linence shows that Margaret had specific ideas about her role as Queen Mother, as the first person in the realm, but that isn’t evidence of an overbearing mother in law. It was perfectly normal for the older woman to guide the new bride and that may have been unwelcome. However, there certainly isn’t any evidence that any real resentment existed or that Margaret bossed her. There is evidence that the two women generally had a good relationship and that Elizabeth often sought her advice. Their ongoing relationship over the years apparently was cordial and affectionate.

        There is now a difference of opinion on how much influence on Henry Margaret was during his reign, with Nathen Amin being quite dismissive. However, I am with the old school because Margaret spent a lot of time with her son and her grandchildren. I agree, I think she at least gave him advice and he confided in her. She certainly wrote to Henry asking him to be careful and mindful of the youth of her granddaughter, Margaret, when she was betrothed to King James iv. Because of her own experience as a tiny, underdeveloped young girl of only 13 when Henry was born, almost losing her life, Margaret was very anxious that her granddaughter wasn’t married off that young and the marriage wasn’t consummated. Margaret also had a prayer book in which she wrote on the Calendar, the dates of birth and so on of all her grandchildren. She was obviously very interested in her grandchildren, she was concerned about their safe delivery in childbirth and for an orderly household. Elizabeth herself was intimately involved in the education of her young children, teaching them to read and write and Prince Henry, Duke of York, her second son, his handwriting very much resembled that of his mother. The two women were clearly as hands on as possible when it came to their children and grandchildren, which made for a warm and loving atmosphere in the nursery. Margaret had missed out on much of the upbringing of her son, who would have been her world, because his custody was removed to the household of Lord Herbert because her family backed the wrong side during the 1460s,_so Edward iv decided Lady Margaret wasn’t fit to raise young Henry. As an important noble heir with a distant claim, Henry Tudor was a valuable asset to the King. He was a Royal Ward now and as such it was incumbent upon Edward to make sure he was raised by someone loyal to the Yorkist cause. Margaret gained partial access and custody later on, but then Henry’s protection fell into the hands of Jasper Tudor on his mother’s behalf. The events of 1471, which saw the House of Lancaster destroyed sent Henry and Jasper into exile for 14 years and Margaret did not see her son again until after Bosworth. I think she naturally made up for all that and lived those lost years through her grandchildren. Her strengths and perhaps some character flaws seeped through to one grandchild at least, the future Henry Viii. You can see some of that strength in her willingness to risk her own neck in 1483 by plotting against Richard iii. It was a foolish act of treason and rebellion, which I admire because it was cooked up by two women whose movements and ability to communicate were restricted, but it was the admirable action of a mother. Any mum taking the kind of risk which could have led to her execution was going to maintain good relations with him and his wife throughout his life and stay close to him. I believe Margaret was a pragmatic woman who did what she deemed to be in the interests of her son’s future, such as reconciliation with the House of York, but without being totally obsessed over that future, as that simply wasn’t realistic.

        I agree over the Princes, the only way we might know more may lay with the remains in the Urn in Westminster Abbey, although not everything would be answered. We might find out their identity, something impossible in 1933, if they are male or female, yes, we don’t have conclusions on that either, their ages, approximate ages, perhaps when they died, for example 1483 to 1485 or if they are Roman, later than 1485 and so on. We might find out how they died or not, I think at least one expert said it is not always possible and there is a lot DNA sequences can tell us about diet and so on. We certainly won’t find if Richard iii killed them, but it may put him in the frame or clear him. If they are not the Princes, the question is who are they and should they be buried as they are now, in the Royal Chapel of Henry Vii in Westminster Abbey. I think Charles might be open because he has a degree in Archaeology and is interested in it. The Queen won’t and I don’t think we should ask her at the moment. The old cold case may never be resolved.

        There is certainly a broad church of opinion. A number of old school historians are of the opinion Richard killed them and you wouldn’t persuade them otherwise. A number of new historians are of the opposition opinion and you wouldn’t persuade them either. A mixture are looking at the evidence in a more balanced way, Alison Weir has always said she thinks Richard did it, but her book does examine the evidence in miniscule details. I don’t have to agree with her to recommend the new version anyway. John Ashdown Hill obviously disagreed but his last book is excellent as it gets rid of some of the myths and looked at the DNA and the forensics on the bones. Matt Lewis of course looks at the possibility of their survival, the best assessment of the sources is Dr Pollard Richard iii and the Princes in the Tower. Then there are a number in the middle which don’t really make any conclusions but look at the various theories and suspects. Unfortunately, due to the rise of social media and the White Queen and White Princess, the theory that first arose in the 17th century, that Margaret Beaufort killed them, has gained momentum. She would have had motive, possibly means, but did she have access, especially if they were moved as a security measure? Like the original sources, the favourite suspects vary and include the Duke of Buckingham and the Duke of Norfolk. The French blamed Richard but then they would and the rest was rumour. Now we have a new suspect. Michael Trow proposed the last person to officially see them alive, Dr John Argenteine did the deed. As their official doctor and possibly confessor, he had means, opportunity and access, but motive? Well that’s another book. At least the sources agreed that Richard was a warrior and died well. They didn’t have the same opinion of Henry Vii who at the end had a bad reputation.

        That Henry Vii actually managed to balance powerful families who were suspicious of him at first, keep control of his Kingdom and face down so many plots showed he was clever, cautious and anything but a bad King. He didn’t merely use military might against Perkin Warbeck, and he didn’t need to, save in small skirmishes, he used knowledge or at least what he thought was knowledge. His agents reported that he was the son of a boatman from Flanders and a whole family was constructed around him. Henry also made his second son, Prince Henry, Duke of York as a political statement right in the middle of the crisis, saying there is only one Duke of York, my son, not this young man who is trying to get my throne. Henry was well aware that his crown was under threat, he had found support for Warbeck within his own Court, in the form of Cornish rebels, in the form of the King of Scotland and in the form of foreign aid, but he rode it out. Henry boosted his own status and gained valuable allies in Spain and even silenced the threat from France. He surrounded himself with an elite and effective administration and established the Star Chamber to try those accusations of criminal behaviour in government and corruption. Ordinary people could file complaints in it and royal officials had to investigate. Richard iii’s Chauncey which helped people gain access to justice was kept as were his bail reforms. However, Henry established loans and payments to the crown and by the crown once again and this was resented. His use of fines and blackmail became notorious and it was these sums of money which ironically left the vast sum of cash to his son and heir, Henry Viii, which he then took great delight in spending on palaces and ships and his friends. One thing the two Henrys did share, however, was an appreciation of rich art and architecture, bringing Italian, German, French, Dutch and Spanish culture to the centre of Tudor Royal life.

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