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Henry VII - 1485-1509

Key Facts about Henry VII

Henry's victory over Richard III was a fait accompli as far as his claim to the throne was concerned, the victory was proof enough as far as he was concerned, and there was no one to deny him. This was typical of a man who is often underrated as a King, but who put an end to the wrangling between noble families that had prevented English unity for almost 100 years.

He showed a certain talent for making the right decisions. For example, when he declared himself King before the death of Richard, in order to be able to accuse his enemies of treason, if it became necessary.

Dealing with the Lords who had become a nuisance to the later Plantagenets, Henry set up a Star Chamber which would deal with the misdemeanours of Lords who broke the law. Those who attempted to defy him were crushed. For example, the Earl of Lincoln who supported a rebellion by Lambert Simnel in 1457, and Perkin Warbeck in 1492.

The idea of reclaiming English possessions in France persisted for a while in Henry's mind but, having made threatening gestures towards the French King, Henry persuaded him to pay cash for the former English possessions by the Treaty of Etaples.

With the money gained from this he turned his mind to more promising territories. Columbus had discovered America in 1492 and Henry now encouraged the Cabot brothers to explore further north, and he also began to expand the English fleet.

Though not a charismatic leader Henry knew how to make friends in the right quarters and to maintain peace at home. He also encouraged the spread of education by importing French scholars who helped to create the English Renaissance of the Tudor period.

Francis Bacon, in his History of Henry VII, described the King as such: 'He was of a high mind, and loved his own will and his own way; as one that revered himself, and would reign indeed. Had he been a private man he would have been termed proud: But in a wise Prince, it was but keeping of distance; which indeed he did towards all; not admitting any near or full approach either to his power or to his secrets. For he was governed by none.'

Key Events during the Reign of Henry VII

1485 - Henry accedes to the throne after defeating Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth. Henry forms the Yeomen of the Guard.

1486 - Henry marries Elizabeth of York, which unites the houses of York and Lancaster. John Morton becomes Archbishop of Canterbury.

1487 - Henry founds the court subsequently known as the Court of the Star Chamber. Henry crushes a revolt by the Earl of Lincoln on behalf of Lambert Simnel, a claimant to the throne.

1491 - Henry invades France but at the Treaty of Etaples agrees to withdraw English forces in return for a large sum of money.

1492 - Perkin Warbeck claims the throne and attempts to overthrow Henry. He is defeated and put to death in 1499. Christopher Columbus discovers America.

1500 John Morton dies.

1503 - Prince Arthur, Henry's oldest son, dies. Princess Margaret, Henry's eldest daughter marries James IV of Scotland. Henry's wife, Elizabeth of York, dies.

1509 - Henry VII dies at Richmond Palace.

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