Skip to main content

A-level History - The Tudors: England 1485-1603: Background

Last updated: May 2018

Edward IV's death 1483

(Source: wiki)

Edward IV (28 April 1442 – 9 April 1483) was the King of England from 4 March 1461 until 3 October 1470, and again from 11 April 1471 until his death in 1483. He was the first Yorkist King of England. The first half of his rule was marred by the violence associated with the Wars of the Roses, but he overcame the Lancastrian challenge to the throne at Tewkesbury in 1471 to reign in peace until his sudden death.

During his second part of reign, he used income from the Crown Estates to pay governmental costs, and was therefore less in need of parliamentary grants than his predecessors - he called parliament only six times. Commercial treaties, external peace and internal order revived trade, benefiting customs duties and other revenues. Councils were set up to govern in the Marches of Wales and in the north.

Modern research has emphasized these administrative achievements of Edward IV, and contemporary and Tudor historians viewed his later years as a time of prosperity and success.

Richard III

(Source: wiki)

When Edward IV died on 9 April 1483,  his young sons, Edward and Richard, were left in the protection of their uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Richard housed them in the Tower of London where they were probably murdered on his orders. Parliament requested that Richard take the throne and he accepted, being crowned Richard III.

On becoming king, Richard attempted genuine reconciliation with the Yorkists by showing consideration to Lancastrians purged from office by Edward IV, and moved Henry VI's body to St George's Chapel at Windsor. The first laws written entirely in English were passed during his reign. In 1484, Richard's only legitimate son Edward predeceased him. Before becoming king, Richard had had a strong power base in the north, and his reliance on northerners during his reign was to increase resentment in the south.;

Richard was the last Yorkist king of England, whose death on 22 August 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth effectively ended the Wars of the Roses. He has become infamous because of the disappearance of his young nephews - the Princes in the Tower - and through William Shakespeare's play 'Richard III'.

In 2012, archaeologists began excavating beneath a carpark in Leicester, hoping to find Richard’s final resting place. The search captured the public’s imagination and the remains subsequently found were confirmed as those of Richard.

War of Roses (1455-1487)

The War of Roses to refers to a civil war or series of conflicts in England that lasted from 1455-1487. These thirty years of warfare were even more destructive to England than the Hundred Years War had been in the previous century. Most of the fighting in the Hundred Years War took place in France, which meant most of the military damage affected the French peasantry rather than the English. In the Wars of the Roses, most of the fighting occurred in England, and thus the loss of life and property was much greater for English citizens.

It was a struggle to claim the throne between the families descended from Edward III and the families descended from Henry IV. Henry IV's descendants and their supporters were the Lancastrian faction (the Red Rose). The other branch, descended from Edward IV, were associated with families in the North of England, particularly the House of York and Richard of York. They are called the Yorkist faction (the White Rose).

Henry VII (Henry Tudor)

(Source: wiki)

Henry VII (1457 - 1509) was the first Tudor monarch. His claim to the throne was not strong and he became king after defeating Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field  on August 22, 1485. Henry's success on the battlefield ended the Wars of the Roses that had begun in 1455. In 1486 Henry VII married Elizabeth of York, eldest daughter of Edward IV, thus uniting the Houses of York and Lancaster.

Henry strengthened the power of the monarchy by using traditional methods of government to tighten royal administration and increase revenues (reportedly including a daily examination of accounts).

Royal income rose from an annual average of £52,000 to £142,000 by the end of Henry's reign. Little co-operation between King and Parliament was required; during Henry's reign of 24 years, seven Parliaments sat for some ten and a half months.