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Henry VII and Henry VIII (1485 - 1547)
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Henry VII and Henry VIII (1485 - 1547)Henry VII (1485-1509)
Henry Tudor was born in 1457. His father Edmund Tudor was already dead and his teenage mother, Margaret Beaufort, soon remarried. Through the Beaufort family line, Henry claimed descent from the Lancastrian “sire”, John of Gaunt.

Flimsy claims to the throne were not unusual during the Wars of the Roses, but needed troops, skill and determination to back them up. Henry led his small force into England in 1845. Victory at Bosworth won him the Crown, and a speedy marriage to Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV, began healing the wounds of a 30-year civil war.

Henry proved prudent, cautious and a financially sound manager. Yorkist uprisings supported the spurious claims of the harmless Lambert Simnel in 1487, and Perkin Warbeck ten years later. These challenges were ended firmly but without bloodbaths. The king’s foreign policy – unadventurous but commercially rewarding – laid the foundations for future Tudor prosperity. For 24 years, Henry VII gave his war-weary land the peace and security it craved.

Henry VIII (1509-1547)
Henry VIII hijacked English history, yet at his birth in 1491 it seemed unlikely that this second son of Henry VII would ever be king. However, in 1502 his 16-year-old brother Arthur died, leaving Henry to inherit not only Arthur’s position as heir to the throne but also his widow Catherine of Aragon as a future wife.

Henry VII died in April 1509. The new king, just 18, was a vigorous contrast to his sober parent. Athletic,
intelligent, a scholar, theologian, musician and poet, Henry personified Renaissance Man. Yet he disliked dealing with detail. What Henry saw was the big picture, with himself at the centre.

Henry’s two driving ambitions were to rival Europe’s foremost leaders – the kings of France and Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor – and to continue the Tudor line by producing an heir. OnNew Year’s Day 1511 he had his heart’s desire – a son – but the child was dead within two months. Bitterly disappointed, Henry threw himself into preparing for war, displaying his martial skills at lavish jousting tournaments.
Henry’s campaigns in France achieved frustratingly little, whilecosting the fortune his father had so carefully amassed. His absence also tempted the Scots to invade – and come to grief at Flodden in 1513. Yet Henry had his successes too. Fascinated by sips and guns, he turned the navy into a powerful fighting force. He won from the Pope the title Fidei Defensor (Defender of the Faith) for responding to criticisms of the Church by the Protestant Martin Luther. He picked astute men like Cardinal Wolsey to run his government.

Yet still Henry had no male heir. A daughter, Mary, arrived in 1516, but he needed a legitimate son and Catherine was too old to provide one. Thus began Henry’s marriage marathon. His break with Rome paved the way for England to become a Protestant country, although the king continued to think himself a good Catholic. Those who failed to toe Henry’s line – including Thomas More, and rebels roused in 1536 by the destruction of the monasteries – were shown no mercy. A bloated, raging tyrant had replaced the much-admired young king.

In 1537 Henry finally had his son, Edward, born to Jayne Seymour. The old king died in 1547 having failed to fulfill the golden promise of his youth, yet his legacy was an image of kingship unequalled in English history, and three children – Edward, Mary and Elizabeth – to fulfill the Tudor destiny.

A watchful winner
Aspects of Henry VII’s character emerge sharply in this painting. Calculating and careworn, the man of action who won the throne has become a watchful guardian of it.

Henry VII and Henry VIII (1485 - 1547)

Monarch of all he surveys
Henry VIII, the epitome of majestic might in 1537 and rejoicing in the birth of his baby son Edward. The handsome young king was becoming gross with advancing years and declining vigour.

Henry VII and Henry VIII (1485 - 1547)

Sport of kings
Hawking remained a favourite royal pastime in Tudor times, and Henry VIII was often to be found out riding with a hooded hawk on his gloved hand.

Henry VII and Henry VIII (1485 - 1547)

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