HenryVIIOn this day in history, 28th January 1457, King Henry VII (also known as Henry Tudor) was born at Pembroke Castle on the south-west coast of  Wales.

His father was Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond, and his mother was Lady Margaret Beaufort. Henry’s paternal grandparents were Owen Tudor, a former page to Henry V, and his wife, Catherine of Valois, the widow of Henry V and mother of Henry VI. His maternal grandfather was John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset, and his maternal great-grandfather (John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset) was a son of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and his mistress (and later wife), Katherine Swynford. It was from this Beaufort side of the family that Henry VII derived his claim to the throne.

Lady Margaret Beaufort was only thirteen years old when Henry was born and she was already a widow, his father having died from the plague three months earlier while imprisoned by Yorkists. Margaret had been taken in by her brother-in-law, Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, the man who helped bring Henry up, who took him into exile in Brittany and who helped him win the crown of England.

Henry’s birth may well have been difficult for the young Margaret. She never had any more children and was said to be concerned about the marriage negotiations for her young granddaughter, Margaret Tudor, to marry James IV of Scotland because she did not want the marriage to be consummated when Margaret was so young (the couple married when Margaret Tudor was 13).

Henry VII was the first Tudor monarch and he claimed the throne after defeating Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field on the 22nd August 1485. On the 18th January 1486, he united the Houses of Lancaster and York by marrying Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV, a move which strengthened his monarchy and his future offsprings’ claims to the throne. The marriage between Henry and Elizabeth was happy and successful. The couple had four children who survived childhood: Arthur, Henry (Henry VIII), Margaret and Mary, but Elizabeth died on her birthday in 1503 at the age of 37. She died from a post-partum infection and her husband was said to have been devastated.

Henry VII ruled for over 23 years and died on 21st April 1509, aged fifty-two. His achievements include:

  • Securing the throne and passing his crown unchallenged on to his son and heir, Henry VIII.
  • Uniting the kingdom and bringing peace to England after decades of unrest.
  • His reform of administration – e.g. The setting up of the Court of the Star Chamber.
  • Restoring the Crown’s fortunes.

You can find out more about Henry VII in my review and rundown of Thomas Penn’s documentary Henry VII: Winter King. Thomas Penn’s book Winter King is also a must-read.

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5 thoughts on “28 January 1457 – Birth of Henry VII”
  1. Wow he only livedat age 52 and he’s son lived to be 55 I love history The Tudors are my favorite family tobad they didn’t live longer Long Live The King Henry VIII Maritzal

  2. It must have been a terrible ordeal for such a young girl, it would be today even with all the modern science in hospital. Childbirth was a danger at any age, but Margaret was also described as being quite small, so her development would not be enough to have a child at her age. The birth was also reputed to almost have killed both mother and child, but with some miracle and lovely deliverance that both mother and son came through after several hours of child labour. It is little wonder that Henry was later called the Son of Prophecy; and his mother had grand dreams for him as a future King. It is also just as well Henry was conceived early in the marriage as his father died of the plague in a Yorkist prison before he was born. The poor Margaret must have been terrified; just as well she and young Henry were taken into the early protection of Jasper Tudor who was to play a large part in all of Henry’s development, training, life and destiny.

    Margaret never had any more children, either because the poor girl was so damaged inside that she could not have any more children, or becasue having gone through such a terrible ordeal, Margaret chose not to have any more children. It is a sad fact that she never had any more children, but given the turbulent and topsy turby life that both she and Henry lived, in constant danger of being handed over to Edward IV and Richard III; more children would only have made this even more of a danger. Margaret was seperated from Henry at an early age, Lord and Lady Herbert being his guardians to ensure the loyalty of the rest of the family. In her second husband, Humphrey Stafford she had mixed blessings, being at one point in danger as she supported Lancaster and he changed to support York. Henry was in danger as he came with Lord Herbert to the battleground, but Lady Herbert and he escaped and she spent much of the next few years caring for Henry. When he was 14 however, Henry and his Uncle Jasper after the disasters of Lancastrian defeats were forced to move to Brittany and France, leaving his mother Margaret to worry and plot on his behalf until his triumphal return in 1485.

    Margaret herself was at one time or another in constant danger of being executed for treason or put in prison, especially during the early reign of Richard III as she was involved in the Buckingham revolt. As it was she lost all of her lands and entitlements and all of her wine and money was now controlled by her coniving husband Lord Thomas Stanley. Richard did not execute or put her into the Tower as he still needed the good will of the Stanley’s and he also feared that there would be a backlash to punish a woman of such piety as Margaret was reputed to be. She was said to have saints knees and she may even have had a vision of how the future would be for Henry Tudor.

    Margaret of course was the most noble of his relatives, being of a long and fine line of Lancastrian Kings and nobles although some of this was a bit dodgy. She did have very grand roots and it was through her that Henry could claim a more sure footing to his claim to the throne. It was also thanks to the plans of his mother that Henry came to be engaged to Princess Elizabeth of York the daughter of Edward IV. Margaret has been accused of being too forward and plotting on her son’s behalf; but why should she not. She was a woman who was struggling to uphold her own rights and those of her son. Both Margaret and her son had their lawful lands taken from them and given to others; Margaret was only trying to maintain and get back his rightful inheritance and as she believed he had a destiny, she did all she could to secure that as well. Mothers do things like this: fight tooth and nail for the lives and rights of their kids; noble mothers who believe in prophecies and destiny even more so.

    What I most find interesting about this date is that it is also the date that Henry VIII his son died at 2 a.m in the morning. They were also about the same age as well? Margaret would be a constant influence in her sons life even seperated from him through her contacts and letters and in his reign she was the most important person that he turned to. It may have been down to her influence that he eventrually crowned Elizabeth. She paid attention to the development and well being of her grandchildren and she had the fortune to survive to see Henry VIII crowned. She must also have believed he too would bring in a golden era.

    Henry had the best of luck at Boswoth, with also a great commander in Oxford turning to his side and leading his vanguard. What he must have thought when he saw Richard III, a battle veteran at 32 galloping towards him and his men with 200 or so heavily armed knights, lance and sword cutting through his banner men; is anyone’s guess! Time and space must have seemed to have stood still for a moment and Henry must have really given a sigh of desperate relief when Sir William Stanley finally committed and the Stanley redcoats charged around the ranks and into Richard’s rear; chopping down his supporters one by one, finally killing the unhorsed King himself. From most of the accounts of the battle; Richard was not far away from reaching Henry and could easily have killed him, but for the fact his way through was blocked and the Stanleys forced him and his men to turn and fight on all sides, being crushed and slaughtered in the press of bodies in the marshlands.

    A lucky and greatful Henry then took his tired men up to what we know now as Crown Hill, near Stoke Goulding as the village was to become known to commemorate the crowning and here he received Richard’s blood spattered and prbably battered crown. Against the odds and against the expectations Henry Tudor had triumphed and the son of prophecy must have for once believed all was meant to be. Actually Richard was undone by several factors, the betrayal of the Stanleys, key commanders moving to Henry Tudor, the van guard did not preform as well as he hoped and Northumberland may have stayed put on purpose. Richard’s charge had not been without risk; but he had seen his chance to win the battle and taken it by attempting to kill Henry and his men. It failed in part thanks to the marsh and a fall from his horse. It failed as the Stanleys came to Henry’s aid and now he was King.

    Much criticism has been given by Thomas Penn in the Winter King bio, but in fact he may have been one of the best of our King’s. He was fair in his justice and he did not take revenge on the families that had supported Richard. Yes, for a time some had to stay in the Tower: Surrey for three years and were not well off, fortunes were lost, but few heads were: three in total: the Cat: William Catesby executed a few days later in Leicester and two others for warning Richard of Henry’s march. This is few compared to the bloodshed after battles during the Wars of the Roses. Some of those who had lived through Bosworth and attained (30 where) managed to either gain a pardon or purchase one. Henry was to make use of the local Yorkist gentry in his government and gave many who lost their lands from Richard it back again in the south and midlands of the country. Henry wisely kept his word and married Elizabeth; the marriage was a success.

    Even though some of those pardoned after Bosworth raised arms at East Stoke in 1487; those who lived through that did not all fare badly and some where pardoned a second time. It was the Perkin Warbeck affair 1493-1499 that was the greatest threat to his rule and this did recruit some once trusted supporters, including Sir William Stanley; who said if Warbeck did turn out to be the lost Prince Richard, son of the late Edward IV he would not stand against him. Foolishly he was overheard and foolishly he throught he would be spared execution, but Henry’s patience at this point ran out. There may have been several executions during these years; but again most people who raised arms were pardoned. Henry did have Warbeck executed but only after two failed rebellions and two escapes from the Tower. At this point he had no choice.

    Henry is then criticised for he seems to have become very suspicious and withdrawn but he may have had good reason. He developed an unpopular strategy of keeping a check on his unruly gentry and nobles and merchants through a system of loans and fees and fines. He had a book in which he put their names and he would fine them if they got out of hand. He would fine them steeply. He also had two unpopular debt collectors and tax collectors, Epsom and Dudley and the London Merchants hated them. But again may-be he had good reason to keep the merchants from becoming too powerful. In other matters Henry may have been one of our wisest Kings. He did not execute those who oppossed him; he hit them in their purse; he made a good peace with France and he also made good marriage alliances that strenthened his claims and the future of the young Tudor dynasty. He built up a large deal of money which his son then spent; but his administration was fair and he made it easier for ordianry people to access royal justice.

    Henry also made laws against abduction and rape of any woman and domenstic violence. He reformed the economy and made Britain more prosperous again. He extended farming and trade and began the process that placed us on the map. He settled the troubled north of the kingdom and restrained the power of the warlike nobles. He brought unity to the crown and he began to rebuild our navy and our defences. His son was to take this over in a big way. The crown imperial was seen ad a real image of what royalty should be and he left a stable country and a peaceful inheritance. Henry Tudor ended the wars of the roses and should be seen not just as a miser who withdrew from public life after the death of his wife; but as a man of vision and restraint. He is not thought of a man who liked ceremonial; we associate this with his son; but he had a brilliant coronation and his marriage was also splendid; his son’s marriage Arthur to Katherine was a public one in Saint Paul’s Cathedral and he spent money on replacing some of the old medieval palaces. He did not take part in the joust and did not allow his son Henry too either, but at least one grand tornament is recorded at the Tower of London. He was also a hands on monarch, taking a personal interest in the way the country was run. He began the Star Chamber; hated by his court nobles as it looked into their corruption, but it was a court that ordinary people could access and bring whistle blowing and corruption cases to.

    Henry is often seen as being miserable and restraint in consideration of his son and it is true that he was careful with money; nothing as what we were to see in the elaborate reign of his son Henry VIII would be known. Some writers complain that the people saw him as a miser, but may-be this is how the members of the court saw him. There was great rejoicing at the assent of his son, but is this not just normal when an old monarch dies and a young 17 year old appears on the scene? Or was it just that his son succeeded in peace and so could go wild with expensive celebrations and joyful responses. Henry also brought to his court some of the finest scholars in Europe and his library was impressive. In fact he took Katherine of Aragon there and she was certainly impressed.

    I am sure that when Henry was born no-one could ever see that he would really rule England: but somewhere along the way he became the Son of Prophecy and with the number of lucky escapes and survivals that he and his mother went through who is to say that destiny did not play a part. Looking back now on the success of the Tudor era and the birth of the modern world; may-be Henry Tudor deserves more thanks than he currenlty gets from historians.

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