Henry VII of England Biography

Henry VII was the King of England and first monarch of the Tudor Dynasty. This biography profiles his childhood, family, personal life, accession, rule, reforms, administration, life history, and other facts.

Henry VII of England
Quick Facts

Birthday: January 28, 1457

Nationality: British

Famous: Emperors & Kings British Men

Died At Age: 52

Sun Sign: Aquarius

Also Known As: Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond

Born Country: England

Born in: Pembroke Castle, Pembrokeshire, Wales, United Kingdom

Famous as: King of England

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: Elizabeth of York (m. 1486; d. 1503)

father: Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond

mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort

children: Arthur, Henry VIII, King of EnglandMary, Margaret, Prince of Wales, Queen of France, Queen of Scots

Died on: April 21, 1509

place of death: Richmond Palace, Surrey, England, United Kingdom

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Henry VII, also known as Harri Tudur, earl of Richmond, was the King of England and first monarch of the ‘Tudor Dynasty.’ He attained the throne after defeating the last king of the House of York, Richard III, at the last significant battle of the ‘Wars of the Roses,’ the ‘Battle of Bosworth Field.’ He went on to secure his claim to the throne by getting married to Elizabeth of York, niece of Richard III. He reigned for around 24 years, starting from August 22, 1485. During his reign, he made efforts to strengthen the English monarchy. He introduced several economic, administrative, and diplomatic measures. He also introduced policies in an attempt to restore stability, power, and peace, while creating economic prosperity. By implementing new taxes and backing the wool industry, he got into the alum trade and signed the ‘Magnus Intercursus’ (great agreement). He remained the Lord of Ireland and King of England until his death. Upon his death, his son Henry VIII succeeded the throne.

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Henry VII of England
Birth & Lineage
  • Henry VII was born on January 28, 1457, in Pembroke Castle, Pembrokeshire, Wales, to Edmund Tudor and Lady Margaret Beaufort. His father died three months prior to his birth.
  • Edmund Tudor was born to Owen Tudor, a Welsh esquire, and the widow of King Henry V, Catherine of Valois, whom Owen married secretly. In 1452, Edmund became Earl of Richmond, and was "formally declared legitimate by the Parliament."
  • Lady Margaret was the daughter and only heiress of John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset. He was one of the great-grandsons of King Edward III, and grandson of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. John Beaufort’s father John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, was born to John of Gaunt and his mistress, Katherine Swynford, prior to their marriage.
  • The parliament of King Richard II of England declared the children of Beaufort legitimate in the 1390s and Pope Boniface IX declared their legitimacy in September 1396. However, their half-brother Henry IV restricted them from ascending the throne.
  • Thus, the chances of ascending the throne for Henry VII Tudor remained weak and of little significance until the demise of King Henry VI of England and his only son, Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, in 1471. Along with this, the death of the two remaining kinsmen of the Beaufort line made Henry Tudor the only surviving male with the lineal claim to the House of Lancaster.
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Childhood & Early Life
  • While fighting for Henry VI in South Wales, Henry’s father was taken into custody by the Yorkists at the Carmarthen Castle in 1456. Unfortunately, Henry’s father succumbed to the bubonic plague on November 3, around three months before the birth of Henry VII Tudor.
  • His paternal uncle, Jasper Tudor, the Earl of Pembroke, started looking after the 13-year-old widow Lady Margaret and the new-born Henry. The ‘Battle of Towton’ (March 29, 1461) witnessed a decisive victory for Yorkists with Yorkist Edward, Duke of York, overthrowing Lancastrian King Henry VI to become King Edward IV.
  • Around the same time, Jasper Tudor went into exile. Subsequently, Welsh nobleman, politician, and Courtier William Herbert, who backed the Yorkists during the ‘War of the Roses,’ became the Earl of Pembroke, taking control of Pembroke Castle. He also gained the guardianship of Lady Margaret Beaufort and her son Henry.
  • After fallout with Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick in 1469, Herbert was captured and executed. In 1470, Warwick restored Henry VI as the king, following which Jasper Tudor came back from exile and brought Henry VII Tudor to court.
  • Edward IV was enthroned again in 1471, and Henry VII Tudor escaped to Brittany.
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Battle of Bosworth Field & Ascension to the Throne
  • While his mother began promoting him as the credible replacement of the then King of England, Richard III, Henry VII Tudor took pledge on December 25, 1483, to marry Elizabeth of York, the eldest daughter and the only surviving heir of Edward IV, thus receiving the reverence of his adherents.
  • Two significant revolts broke out against Richard III. While the first one, led by Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, failed, Jasper Tudor and Henry VII Tudor led a second rebellion in August 1485.
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  • Henry VII Tudor and Jasper Tudor benefited from the supply of the French troops and Scottish forces. They also received support from the Woodvilles, the in-laws of late Edward IV. Thanks to the reinforcement, they had a decisive victory over the Yorkist army on August 22, 1485, at what became famous as the ‘Battle of Bosworth Field,’ which marked the last major battle of the ‘Wars of the Roses.’
  • Richard III’s death in the battle not only marked the ultimate overthrow of the House of York, but also the rise of the ‘Tudor Dynasty.’ Henry VII Tudor became the first English monarch of the dynasty, and came to be known as Henry VII of England. His coronation took place on October 30, 1485, in Westminster Abbey.
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Reign
  • Henry VII wasted no time to honor his pledge of marrying Elizabeth of York and entered into wedlock with her on January 18, 1486.
  • With this, he not only succeeded in unifying the conflicting houses of Lancaster and York, but also secured a stronger claim to the throne for his children. He symbolized the unification of the houses of Lancaster and York by promoting the Tudor rose (comprising red rose of Lancaster and white rose of York).
  • The ‘Titulus Regius’ act had declared the marriage of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville invalid. It had also declared their children illegitimate, thus barring them from ascending the throne. This act was repealed by the first Parliament of Henry VII. Repealing the act reinstated the legitimacy of the children of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville.
  • Although Henry VII did not have any prior experience like his predecessors, he proved to be a provident monarch fiscally, and succeeded in establishing a stable financial administration. He restored the wealth of the exchequer which was effectively bankrupt.
  • He ensured better tax collection by initiating rigorous tax mechanisms, which however remained unpopular. Later, when his son Henry VIII ascended the throne, the new monarch executed the two most detested tax collectors, Edmund Dudley and Richard Empson, after charging them with treason.
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  • The measurement system of ‘Pound Avoirdupois’ was established. This system not only became part of the system of imperial units, but also remains a part of the International pound units that prevail today.
  • He backed the wool industry of the island that ultimately involved him in the alum trade in 1486. He licensed ships and sold alums to the ‘Low Countries’ that were acquired from the Ottoman Empire, thus making a once expensive commodity cheap.
  • He made efforts to maintain harmony and economic prosperity in his kingdom. In order to do so, he signed several treaties, including the ‘Treaty of Medina del Campo’ with nascent Spain on March 26, 1489. The treaty led to the marriage of his son Arthur Tudor to Catherine of Aragon. He also signed several other treaties, including the ‘Treaty of Etaples’ with France on November 3, 1492, and the ‘Treaty of Perpetual Peace’ with Scotland in 1502.
  • In February 1496, he signed the commercial treaty ‘Magnus Intercursus’ (great agreement) along with Duke Philip IV of Burgundy. The treaty was signed with other parties, such as the Holy Roman Empire, Florence, the Hanseatic League, Venice, and the Dutch Republic. This gave rise to the most thriving economic achievement of Henry VII.
  • He extensively used ‘Justices of the Peace’ and ‘Court of Star Chamber’ to maintain law and order in his kingdom. He also used them to curb any potential threat to the royal authority.
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Personal Life & Legacy
  • He had eight children with Elizabeth of York. He lost Arthur, Prince of Wales, his first son and heir-apparent on April 2, 1502. Elizabeth died on February 11, 1503 which left him grief-stricken.
  • On April 21, 1509, he succumbed to tuberculosis at the Richmond Palace. His mortal remains were interred beside his wife at the Westminster Abbey. His second son, Henry VIII, succeeded him to the throne.
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Article Title
- Henry VII of England Biography
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Last Updated
- September 18, 2019

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