21 April 1509 – Death of Henry VII and Accession of Henry VIII

At 11pm on Saturday 21st April 1509, Henry VII died. He had known that he was dying for some time and had retired to Richmond at the end of February to spend his last days there.

There is an excellent chapter, “The Art of Dying”, in Thomas Penn’s “Winter King”, in which he describes how Henry VII prepared himself and his kingdom for his death. John Fisher, the bishop Henry’s son would end up executing, was the main person helping the King through those last days. However, it wasn’t spiritual comfort he offered, “he interrogated Henry relentlessly, in the way that priests did in order to bring the dying to a ‘wholesome fear and dread’ of their sinful condition”. Poor Henry! Henry promised that there would be a “true reformation of all them that were officers and ministers of his laws” if God spared him. It wasn’t to be.

Penn describes how the King “made an exemplary death”, kissing the crucifix, beating it against his chest and then holding a taper to light his path as he slipped away. His death was kept secret for two days, being announced to the Knights of the Garter at their St George’s Day feast on 23rd April. It was not announced to the public until 24th April.

It was the end of Henry Tudor, the man who had beaten Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, starting a new dynasty. The throne passed successfully (a feat in itself) to his son, also named Henry, who became Henry VIII.

Notes and Sources

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10 thoughts on “21 April 1509 – Death of Henry VII and Accession of Henry VIII”
  1. A pity Henry VIII did not inherit more of his faher’s shrewder tendencies, but the problem was that VIII was raised as the spare, not the heir, and VII did not really have the time to correct some of VIII’s more glaring faults, such as the fact that VIII was a spoiled brat.

    1. Can it really be argued that Henry VII had insufficient time to prepare his son for kingship? Prince Henry stole the show at his brother’s wedding and was described as an intelligent and likeable child. He was still only ten years old when Arthur died, so Henry VII had seven years in which to ensure he was suitably prepared for his future role, even though pressure of work might have limited his own contact time with his son.
      In the end does it boil down to poor training, or to the true nature of the successor having free rein at last?

    1. What do you mean? Edward VI wasn’t born yet, he was born in 1537 and became King on Henry VIII’s death in 1547. Or do you mean Edward IV or V? Not sure what you mean.

  2. I always think Henry Tudor gets a raw deal and has an unfairly low profile in comparison with the rest of his colourful family. His achievements in uniting the country after thirty years of chaos that was the Wars of the Roses, which itself had followed immediately upon the Hundred Years’ War, deserve greater recognition – and gratitude – than he is generally afforded.

    He left the country in the black, and although some of his ways of making money were questionable, he did it for England. No doubt I shall offend some people by asking how could such a conscientious leader have such a self-centred, money-wasting idiot of a son? Yes, there is the Earl of Warwick, and Perkin Warbeck and others, but he was a man of his times and in comparison to his son was very lenient, although he did hit his enemies where it hurt the most – in the money and property departments.

    Elizabeth I appears to have been more like her grandfather than her father in her conscientious dedication to duty, and like him inspected and initialled the accounts herself. I have always thought a comparison of the personalities and methods of the two would make a good subject for a study, but I expect it will have been done.

    1. Ironically it seems to have been Henry VII who was largely responsible for making Henry VIII the man he was. Instead of bringing Henry up in the sensible way that he did for his older brother Arthur Henry VII left his younger son to be brought up mainly amongst his mother and sisters. Although Arthur was the heir I am always surprised that an experienced man like Henry VII would not have been aware of the possibility that the crown may one day pass to the young Henry. Although his plan was to put Henry in the church it would have made sense to give him a more, for want of a better word, ‘masculine’ enviroment and uprbringing. Indeed even if Arthur had lived and Henry had entered the church a more rigorous enviroment might have been more fitting for someone who would have been expected to resist ‘earthly temptations’. Henry VII also kept his family on a very tight reign. This only became more strict after Arthur’s death with Henry being kept away from almost everyone and sometimes not being allowed to even speak to members of the court without his father’s permission. Of course after being kept so close confined and strictly treated without the strengthing effects of an education like Arthur’s Henry went wild on becoming King. Like many people who are denied pleasures in their youth he went overboard on doing all the things the late King had forbade jousting, hunting, banquets, flirting, having affairs, dressing lasvishly and giving generous gifts to friends. As he grew older Henry did become more responsible but the hedonistic part of his personality still remained.

      1. I agree that Henry VII should have done more to prepare Henry VIII for kingship. I don’t think it was just letting Henry be turned into a spoiled brat; I also think that Henry VIII was always compensating for the strong sense of inferiority and/or inadequacy that (I think) he got from his father. IMO, this is the reason that Henry VIII was so concerned that the throne be inherited by his son (his rivals in France and Spain had their own sons); the problem of a female heir could have been dealt with by finding her a suitable husband (Reginald Pole, for example), so she could have children … and the throne could go to her son, even if she was still living … just as the throne went to Henry VII, even though his mother (who had the blood claim) was still alive.

  3. According to a family member who is seriously into genealogical research, Henry VII was my 14th great grandfather, our family descending from Henry’s great grandson, James Stewart, Earl of Moray, the illegitimate son of King James V of Scotland. Love this website and reading about the Tudor era. Today’s article on Henry VII was very interesting and I want to read The Winter King. I’ve wondered how history would have gone if Arthur had lived to be king and not his brother Henry VIII.

  4. It is a great shame that Henry VIII did not remain the Renaissant styled forward thinking King he started of as, and slipped into the tyranical ogre that he mainly remembered for, but what a colourful piece of history he created for us to read about, and I for one, am grateful for that, is grateful the right word?? maybe not, but you know what I mean…

  5. Funny, and I have just this one anecdote to add. Henry VII is still not cleared of what happened to Edward IV’s (whose daughter Elizabeth of York would become Queen of England when she married Henry VII in order to united the red and white roses and make the Tudor Rose [she is often called that, and I read her historical fictional biogrpahy “The Tudor Rose,” by Margaret Campbell Barnes, which led me to more quesions, and am about to read the historical novel on her, “The King’s Daughter; A Novell of the First Tudor Queen,” which is, for an historical novel, well researched, and offer and extended bibliography as well.

    In addition, it has been taken for granted for centuries that Richard III was responsiblel for whatever happened to Elizabeth of York’s two older brothers, Edward V, and Richard, Duke of York. Bertram Fields offers new evidence in his modern day experience as a J.D., or attorney to examine this question, and Henry VII has not been at all ruled out as one of the possible culprits for what happened to them either. Although, I believe, and I think it was he, that didin’t win any browny points with Claire (and I am on Claire’s side on this one!) trying to convince that Anne was guilty and not innocent, and evidence to that can be found by my comments on that whole thing under the article). “Royal Blood: Richard III and the Mystery of the Princes, (Honored as 1999 Rchardian Book of the Year by the Richardian Register)” dicusses from a modern day attorney’s research and techniques (there is also an extended bibiliography and aritles at the end of the book), of who is at guilt for the princes, and does bring to light a whole different light on which to “ignite” the imagination to think and rearrange what has been taught by More and Shakespeare to whole different set of conclusions. You’ll have to read the book if you want the juicy details.

    But one thing is for sure, as Claire put it, “It was the end of Henry Tudor, the man who had beaten Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, starting a new dynasty. It was Queen Anne whose innocence I WILL defend as long as I am around! Queen Anne gave Queen Elizabeth I, who was the greatest absolute monarch that England ever had! Thank You! WilesWales!

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