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King Henry VII

King Henry VII was the first Tudor King. After defeating his rival Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, he was proclaimed as King and established the royal house of Tudor.


Henry was born on the 29th January 1457 at Pembroke Castle in Wales. His father was Edmund Tudor, a half brother of King Henry VI and his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, was the only child and heiress of John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, making her one of the wealthiest and most senior female nobles in England. Through this family bond to Henry VI, Henry's parents were dedicated members of the House of a Lancaster. The Lancastrians were always fighting with the other big noble family - The House of York. This battle became known as the Wars of the Roses, as both families used roses as their family sigil - the red rose for Lancaster and the White for York.


Henry's royal lineage was not particularly strong, and there were certainly lots of other people in England who could claim a better right to the crown than him. Henry's claim to the English throne was via his Great-great-great-grandfather - King Edward III. On the other hand, Henry's wife and queen consort, Elizabeth of York, was the daughter, sister and niece of three English Kings. When they married in 1486, it united the families of York and Lancaster and ended the Wars of the Roses. It also made Henry’s claim to the throne a lot stronger, as Elizabeth was royal by birth and provided Henry with a lot of support from large parts of England that had previously been hostile towards his reign. After years of war, Henry knew he had to restore peace and stability to the country and marrying Elizabeth really helped him achieve that. Portraits of Henry and Elizabeth can be seen on the right hand side.

The years of war that preceded Henry's reign made the crown heavily in debt. Henry was however a very shrewd man, who was able to devise new methods of taxing his population, and chose international peace over glory in overseas conquest. Soon England was financially stable again and Henry's reign was made stronger by Elizabeth providing him with four healthy children, two of which were male. Their first born was Prince Arthur who arrived in 1486, followed by Princess Margaret in 1489, Prince Henry in 1491 and Princess Mary in 1496.


              Prince Arthur                           Princess Margaret                           Prince Henry                             Princess Mary


To strengthen relations with the royal houses of Europe, Henry arranged for his eldest son Prince Arthur to be married to the Spanish princess, Catherine of Aragon. Catherine's parents were King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Castile, making them amongst the most powerful rulers in Europe. Catherine arrived in to England at the start of November 1501 and on the 14th of that same month, she and Prince Arthur were married. Sadly, tragedy struck just five months later as Prince Arthur unexpectedly died at the age of 15. Soon it was agreed that Catherine would marry Arthur's younger brother and now heir of the Tudor crown, Prince Henry.

Henry VII would suffer a further profound blow when in 1503 his beloved wife, Queen Elizabeth, died at the age of just 37. For a man known for lacking in outward displays of emotion, the loss of his wife was an enormous tragedy and many commented at the time that Henry seemed utterly lost without her. The years following Elizabeth's death were marked by a considerable change in Henry's character. He became exceptionally frugal and greedy, filling the royal treasury with gold primarily for his own benefit.

Henry died on the 21st April 1509, and despite bringing financial security to his kingdom, his death was not met with a large amount of mourning from the English people. His death was labelled as being caused by tuberculosis. He was buried inside Westminster Abbey alongside his predeceased wife, and was succeeded as King by this second son, Prince Henry, now known as King Henry VIII......

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