Hello, and welcome to the “Henry Tudor Experience”. This is a germ of an idea I had several months ago, but for one reason or another, had always been put off, and then put off again. Then to compound matters, I set the blog up, only to be struck down with a blogger’s version of stage fright. Give me a platform, and I can usually be relied upon to suddenly lose my voice! So for want of anything better to kick this blog off, I feel an in depth explanation, (if not justification), is in order.
First up: does Henry Tudor really need, or deserve, such attention? Obviously, I would argue that he does. All too often, Henry Tudor is passed off as nothing more than a usurping King (mostly by Richard III supporters, laughably enough), with almost no claim to the throne, and who had to hide behind the skirts of his Yorkist Queen, Elizabeth of York, to bolster his grip on the Crown. Undoubtedly, Tudor’s claim to the throne was a complicated one. However, that doesn’t necessarily make it an illegitimate one. Although born sixth in line to the throne, a series of extraordinary events led to him being propelled along the line of succession, to being sole heir to the house of Lancaster, thus a genuine contender for the crown by the end of the year 1483.
However, the last thing I would want for this blog, is for it to become mired in the row over the legitimacy of Tudor’s claim. For, whatever the detractors say, or think, about the reign of King Henry VII, the man’s impact on the country was great, and far reaching. This reason alone, I feel that a new voice, indeed, a new perspective is needed, and wholly justifiable.
A second, and altogether different reason, for the existence of a blog such as this, is to try and bring Henry Tudor from out of the long, and ever-darkening shadow of his son, King Henry VIII. Undoubtedly, King Henry VIII’s impact up the country, monarchy, and apparatus of state can never be over-emphasised, it is important to remember that the roots of his reign, in particular his attitude towards the advancement of the arts, and Renaissance, are actually embedded in the reign of King Henry VII. Another consequence of his proximity of that titan of English history, is that they’re often muddled up by the casual observer. Often, when I tell people that Henry VII has always been one of my favourite Kings, people will turn around and ask: “But didn’t he chop his wives’ heads off?” No, he didn’t. In fact, he and Elizabeth of York had a rather happy marriage, and her head remained firmly connected to the rest of her body, for her whole life.
However, and I feel most importantly of all, Henry Tudor emerged from a youth spent in exile, returned to an England still reeling from the effects of a bitter dynastic civil war, and finally brought the whole sorry charade to an end. His victory at Market Bosworth was not only an unlikely, and resounding, victory in the penultimate battle of the Cousin’s War, but it ushered in one of the most dynamic, revolutionary systems of monarchy that England has ever seen. 1485 is taken, by an overwhelming majority of historians, to be the official “end” of the medieval era, and the embryonic start of the “modern” world.
The fact that Henry Tudor came to be King, is wonder enough in itself. The fact that, during that most turbulent century, he managed to hang on to his crown, is an even greater wonder, still. As Bishop John Fisher noted, Margaret Beaufort (Henry’s mother) wept, not for pride at finally having her son in his rightful place, but for fear of how he would survive the ordeal of being King on such in such a volatile realm. Her fears were soon realised, as in 1487, Henry Tudor was riding out to defend his crown, once again (the Battle of Stoke). His extraordinary luck held, and he won the day. However, he then had the Yorkist Pretenders to deal with. First came the laughable Lambert Simnel. However, Perkin Warbecque proved to be a much stickier problem.
So, in the face of the constant threat of a resurgence in Dynastic squabbling, the angry Yorkists skulking in the shadows, and the opportunistic pretenders; Henry succeeded where all others had failed, and did so against extraordinary odds. Furthermore, he made England one of the richest countries in Europe, and through the skilful manoeuvring in the marriage markets, he also made England one of the most important countries in Europe.
So, there are ample reasons to give Henry Tudor a second thought. However, there was also a cast of thousands behind him, who paved the way for him to become what he eventually became. The most dominant figure in his life (certainly after his return from exile in 1485), was his mother, Margaret Beaufort. Before that, came his uncle, Jasper Tudor, among a host of others. It is time for these to looked at also, and that is my ultimate hope with this blog.