January 18, 1486 – Henry VII Marries Elizabeth of York

Henry VII and Elizabeth of York by Sarah Malden (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Henry VII and Elizabeth of York by Sarah Malden, Countess of Essex (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

This is the anniversary of the marriage of Henry VII with Elizabeth of York – the union of the red rose of Lancaster with the white rose of York to create the Tudor Rose and finally end the Wars of the Roses.

Interestingly, the marriage occurred five months after Henry VII acceded to the throne – and after the man’s coronation. Henry VII needed to make a very important point to the world – that he ruled by his own right, not through his wife’s claim. After all, his claim – beyond the fact that he won the Battle of Bosworth – was somewhat tenuous (through illegitimate heirs etc.). By forcing people to fully recognize his legitimacy before his marriage, the union was transformed into a magnanimous gesture rather than a desperate grab. It was actually the right way to manipulate the optics of the situation.

Agnes Strickland describes the event as follows:

Their wedding day was, in the words of Bernard Andreas, ‘celebrated with all religious and glorious magnificence at court, and by their people with bonfires, dancing, songs and banquets, throughout all London.’ Cardinal Bourchier, who was at the same time a descendant of the royal house of Plantagenet and a prince of the church, was the officiating prelate at the marriage. ‘His hand,’ according to the quaint phraseology of Fuller, who records the circumstance, ‘held that sweet posie, wherein the white and red roses were first tied together.’”

It was said the marriage was a happy one – enough that Henry VII had a reputation for fidelity – a rare attribute for a king. She got pregnant right away, giving birth to Arthur Tudor on September 20, 1486. At that point her husband was thrilled to have her crowned: on November 25, 1487 she was anointed Queen of England. Everything was golden at that point, and it would remain that way for quite some time….

Still, I always wonder how Elizabeth felt about marrying Henry. I mean, she was raised as a princess, so she would have expected a marriage based on politics. But how did she really feel about her overbearing mother-in-law? And there were several instances of men claiming to be her long-lost brothers…did she ever question -even for a moment – whether they were? What must that have feel like? I need to go lose myself in some good books…feel free to suggest your favorites!

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August 17, 1510 – Henry VIII Executes Empson and Dudley

Henry VII with Empson and Dudley (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Close your eyes (metaphorically, you still have to read this…). I’m going to give you a fact pattern, you tell me who’s involved.

Picture someone close to Henry VIII, a person his entire country hates. Henry sacrifices them to his people – heaping terrible accusations upon them and charging them with treason based on suspicious and spurious facts. Their death satisfies the people’s blood lust and strengthens Henry’s position without him having to change anything in his policies. Who am I talking about?

Did you guess Anne Boleyn? Most people would. Most people think Henry got cruel and vindictive later in life, but in fact it was there all along.

Two days after his coronation, Henry made a huge move that secured his popularity: he took two of the most powerful men from his father’s Privy Council, the men who had come to represent the heavy taxes imposed under Henry VII, and charged them with treason. Not even actual treason, just “constructive treason” – and based on made up facts. Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley became symbols of everything that was wrong with the kingdom, and their executions “fixed” all that even though tax rates stayed the same.

Two years after their deaths, an Act of Parliament restored their lands to their families. Empson’s heirs lived quiet lives, while Dudley’s returned to court. John Dudley rose gradually under Henry, faster under Edward VI – becoming the boy king’s Lord President of the Council. Unfortunately, he couldn’t handle giving up his power when Edward died: he tried to force Lady Jane Grey onto the throne (right after having her marry his son) but failed and was beheaded by Mary I. His own son fared a little better: Robert Dudley became Elizabeth’s favorite, though she refused to marry him, and lived to a ripe old age.

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February 11, 1503 – Death of Elizabeth of York

Elizabeth of York, by an unknown artist (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Elizabeth of York, by an unknown artist (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Elizabeth of York was an amazing woman. Eldest child of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, she married Henry VII after he defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth. By all accounts, the marriage was a successful one. Not just on a political level (the union of the White Rose of York with the Red Rose of Lancaster ended the War of the Roses that had plagued England for too long), but on a personal one as well (it is said that Henry VII took no mistresses during his marriage – rare and admirable restraint for a king). She certainly was well-beloved by the English people, and when news of her death from childbed fever spread through the land, “the utmost sorrow was manifested among all ranks of her subjects.”

Sir Thomas More wrote an elegy for her. It starts by highlighting the folly of the astrologers who had predicted that all sorts of good fortune would befall Elizabeth in 1503 (!) then goes on to mention the people she left behind – all in careful order of protocol. After the King her husband is named (and gets two stanzas!), then comes her daughter Margaret (she had been married by proxy to James VI so she was technically Queen of Scotland though she hadn’t yet left the country); then her mother-in-law Margaret Beaufort; then Catherine of Aragon as widow to her oldest son Prince Arthur (!); then her son Henry, the new heir; then her daughter Mary and the newborn Katherine to whom she had just given birth (and who would follow her into death a few weeks later); then her sisters (first the three who remained at court, then the youngest, Bridget, who had taken the vows of a nun); and finally everyone else.

Yet was I lately promised otherwise,

This year to live in weal and in delight;

Lo! To what cometh all thy blandishing promise,

O false astrology and divinitrice,

Of God’s secrets vaunting thyself so wise!

How true for this year is thy prophecy?

The year yet lasteth, and lo! Here I lie.

Adieu! Mine own dear spouse, my worthy lord!

The faithful love, that did us both combine

In marriage and peaceable concord,

Into your hands here do I clean resign,

To be bestowed on your children and mine;

Erst were ye father, now must ye supply

The mother’s part also, for here I lie.

Where are our castles now? Where are our towers?

Goodly Richmond, soon art thou gone from me:

At Westminster, that costly work of yours,

Mine own dear lord, now shall I never see,

Almighty God vouchsafe to grant that ye,

For you and children may well edify;

My palace builded is, for lo! Now here I lie.

Farewell my daughter, lady Margarete,

God wot full oft it grieved hath my mind

That ye should go where we might seldom meet;

Now I am gone, and have left you behind.

O mortal folk! But we be very blind,

What we least fear full off it is most nigh,

From you depart I first, for lo! Now here I lie.

Farewell, madame, my lord’s worthy mother;

Comfort your son, and be of good cheer,

Take all at worth for it will be no other.

Farewell, my daughter Katherine! Late the phere

Unto prince Arthur, late my child so dear;

It booteth not for me to wail and cry,

Pray for my soul, for lo! Now here I lie.

Adieu, lord Henry! Loving son, adieu!

Our lord increase your honor and estate;

Adieu my daughter Mary! Bright of hue,

God make you virtuous, wise, and fortunate;

Adieu sweetheart, my little daughter Kate!

Thou shalt, sweet babe, such is thy destiny,

Thy mother never know, for lo! Now here I lie.

Lady Cicely, lady Anne, and lady Katherine,

Farewell! My well-beloved sisters three,

Oh! lady Bridget, other sister mine,

Lo here the end of worldly vanity!

Now are you well who earthly folly flee,

And heavenly things do praise and magnify,

Farewell, and pray for me, for lo! Now here I lie.

Adieu my lords! Adieu, my ladies all!

Adieu, my faithful servants every one!

Adieu my commons! Whom I never shall

See in this world: wherefore to Thee alone

Immortal God, verily three in one,

I me commend; thy infinite mercy

Show to thy servant, for now here I lie!

RESOURCES

As always, Wikipedia is a great place to begin for an overarching view.

And Agnes Strickland is a wonderful source for great, more in-depth material. Lives of the Queens of England, Volume IV.

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October 30, 1485 – Coronation of Henry VII

Young Henry VII, by a French artist (Musée Calvet, Avignon); public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Henry Tudor’s main claim to the English throne derived from his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, who was a great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (who was the fourth son of Edward III). A tenuous claim, but by 1483 all the other Lancastrian claimants to the throne were dead, making the then 26-year old Henry the best alternative to the unpopular Yorkist Richard III.

Richard had come to the throne after the death of his popular brother King Edward IV in April 1483. Since Edward’s oldest son was only twelve, Richard was named Lord Protector for him. Richard escorted the new King Edward V and his younger brother to lodgings in the Tower in preparation for Edward’s coronation…but that never happened. With the boys safely confined, Richard had Edward IV’s marriage to their mother declared invalid – making the boys illegitimate and ineligible to inherit the throne. Richard was crowned instead of his nephew.

Four months later came the first revolt to reinstate Edward V – though by this time a rumor began to circulate that the “Princes in the Tower” had been murdered (and Richard was of course the prime suspect). This was where Henry Tudor was put forth as the perfect candidate – especially since he would marry Elizabeth of York, who was next in line to inherit her father Edward IV’s crown. While this original rebellion collapsed, it was resurrected in 1485. Then, Henry, supported by French troops, began from Southern Wales where his popularity was strongest and where he recruited additional men. While he was still outnumbered by Richard’s forces when they met at Bosworth Field, he won the battle when Richard III was killed on the field.

The legend states that Richard’s crown landed in a hawthorn bush when he fell. When it was found, it was brought to Henry Tudor, who was first crowned king at Crown Hill, near the village of Stoke Golding. A contemporary account of the scene recounts, “Then they removyd to a mountayne hyghe, and withe a voyce they cryed ‘Kynge Henry’. The crowne of gold was delyveryd to the Lord Stanley, and unto Kynge Henry then went he, and delyveryd it, as to the most worthe to were the crowne and be theyr Kynge.”

Henry’s reign began immediately, and his formal coronation and anointing was set for two months afterward. It happened at Westminster Abbey on October 30, 1485 – 530 years ago today.

SOURCES:

As always, Wikipedia has great articles about Richard III, the Princes in the Tower, Henry VII, and the Battle of Bosworth. And the village of Stoke Golding has a wonderful account of the “Village Coronation of Henry VII.”

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