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A-level History - The Tudors: England 1485-1603: Henry VII

Last updated: May 2018

The Winter King

Henry VII ended the dynastic wars known as the Wars of the Roses, founded the Tudor dynasty and modernised England's government and legal system.

After the War of Roses, Henry VII's grip on power was far from secure. His claim to the throne was shaky and he was plagued by plots and conspiracies. He consolidated his position with a treaty with France that opened up trade between the two countries. His most important treaty was the Magnus Intercursus signed with the Netherlands, securing England's textile exports.

In 1503 he arranged the marriage of his daughter, Margaret Tudor, to James IV of Scotland in order to secure peace between the two countries. The marriage meant that James IV's descendants would have a claim to the English throne.

Henry also secured a marriage between his eldest son, Arthur, and the Spanish princess, Catherine of Aragon, in 1501. But in 1502 the 15-year-old Arthur Tudor died suddenly, leaving Catherine a widow and making his younger brother, Henry, the new heir to the throne.

Forgotten Welsh King?


(Source: bbc.com)

Although Wales would remain a separate constitutional entity from England down to the 1530s, in many ways Henry VII is a central figure connecting Wales with the royal houses of England. This was because Welsh men and women accounted him as one of their own. Henry was born in Pembroke Castle in 1457 and spent nine years of his youth in Raglan Castle, where he may have picked up a smattering of the Welsh language.

Henry operated like an English monarch and gave little particular regard to the country of his birth. However, just as the marriage of Henry and his Yorkist wife, Elizabeth suggested the uniting of the houses of York and Lancaster, so his reign was crucial in tying Wales to the English crown.

Henry VII - Great Lives podcast


(Source: bbc.co.uk)

Threats to the throne

While Henry VII had won at the Battle of Bosworth, there was little guarantee that he would remain as king of England as there were many in the House of York who had a claim to the throne. Little known by many in the land before the battle at Bosworth, Henry clearly had a struggle on his hands to maintain his grip on the throne. Some of the major threats to Henry VII were as follows:

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Lambert Simnel

The Warbeck Rebellion was Henry VII's second rebellion to deal with after the Lambert Simnel Rebellion of 1486-87. The rebellion led by Perkin Warbeck was a long drawn out affair and lasted between 1491 and 1499. Whilst the rebellion was a curious affair it did show the fragility of Henry's position in the first half of his reign.

Perkin Warbeck (c. 1474 – 23 November 1499) was a pretender to the English throne. By claiming to be Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, Warbeck was a significant threat to the newly established Tudor dynasty, and gained support outside England. Henry VII declared Warbeck an impostor, and after his capture, Warbeck wrote a confession in which he said he was a Fleming born in Tournai around 1474.

Due to uncertainty as to whether Richard of Shrewsbury had died in the Tower of London or had survived, Warbeck's claim gathered some followers, whether due to real belief in his identity or because of desire to overthrow Henry and reclaim the throne. Dealing with Warbeck cost Henry VII over £13,000, putting a strain on Henry's weak state finances.

Perkin Wabeck

The Warbeck Rebellion was Henry VII's second rebellion to deal with after the Lambert Simnel Rebellion of 1486-87. The rebellion led by Perkin Warbeck was a long drawn out affair and lasted between 1491 and 1499. Whilst the rebellion was a curious affair it did show the fragility of Henry's position in the first half of his reign.

Perkin Warbeck (c. 1474 – 23 November 1499) was a pretender to the English throne. By claiming to be Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, Warbeck was a significant threat to the newly established Tudor dynasty, and gained support outside England. Henry VII declared Warbeck an impostor, and after his capture, Warbeck wrote a confession in which he said he was a Fleming born in Tournai around 1474.

Due to uncertainty as to whether Richard of Shrewsbury had died in the Tower of London or had survived, Warbeck's claim gathered some followers, whether due to real belief in his identity or because of desire to overthrow Henry and reclaim the throne. Dealing with Warbeck cost Henry VII over £13,000, putting a strain on Henry's weak state finances.

The Cornish Uprising

The Cornish Rebellion of 1497 was a popular uprising by the people of Cornwall in the far southwest of Britain. Its primary cause was the people's response to the raising of war taxes by King Henry VII to pay for a campaign against Scotland. Tin miners were angered as the scale of the taxes overturned previous rights granted by Edward I of England to the Cornish Stannary Parliament which exempted Cornwall from all taxes of 10ths or 15ths of income.

Led by Joseph and Flammock, the rebels set out from Bodmin in May 1497. They marched east and gained their recognised leader, the impoverished Lord Audley, at Wells. On June 16th, the rebels reached the outskirts of London and 15,000 of them camped on Blackheath.

The king's army, led by Lord Daubeney, had little trouble beating the rebels who though large in number were effectively leaderless. It is thought that about 1,000 of the rebels were killed at the so-called Battle of Blackheath. Some were taken prisoner but many of the rebels simply fled. The leaders were put to death including the blacksmith Joseph and Lord Audley.

The so-called Cornish Rebellion hardly threatened Henry's position on the throne but it did show the fragility of the whole political and social structure of England at that time.