Henry VII’s Coronation: The Beginning of the Tudor Dynasty

Henry VII

On the thirtieth of October 1485, two months after his unlikely triumph at Bosworth, Henry Tudor, formerly the Earl of Richmond, was crowned at Westminster Abbey. His uncle Jasper had the honor of holding the crown while his stepfather, Thomas Stanley, carried the sword of state. The two men had been amply rewarded days before when they’d been created duke of Bedford and Earl of Derby respectively.

The ceremony was performed by the John Shirwood (Bishop of Durham) and Robert Stillington (Bishop of Bath and Wells), supported by Courtenay (B. Exeter) and John Morton (B. Ely). Although the Archbishop of Canterbury didn’t play a prominent role, as the head of the church in England, it still fell on him to anoint the King and place the crown on his head.

Henry VII in the
Henry VII in the “White Queen” placing the bloody crown on his head.

As with every monarch, when he was formally proclaimed as King of England, the ministry asked the crowd if they accepted him as their new monarch, to which everyone chanted: “Yea, yea!”

It was an expensive ceremony fit for a king, especially one who was doing everything in his power to convince his new people that he, and no other, was chosen by God to rule England.

“Accounts of the coronation were drawn up by Sir Robert Willoughby, and they spoke of a flurry of activity among the goldsmith, cloth merchants, embroiders, silkwomen, tailors, laborers, boatmen and saddlers of London. Instruction went out for yards of velvet and silk in royal purple, crimson and black, which were then run up into beautiful jackets, hose, hats, robes, wall hangings, cushions and curtains. Henry’s henchmen were ordered hats plumed with ostrich feathers, boots made from fine Spanish leather and striking costumes of black and crimson.” (Jones)

As for the King himself, his mother was determined that he would outshone his Yorkist and Plantagenet predecessors. And he certainly did. Not only were the courtiers dressed for the occasion (as was their new King), but the Abbey itself was filled with splendor. Margaret’s confessor wrote that upon seeing her con crowned “she wept marvelously.” And she a lot to be happy for, but her tears weren’t of joy but of fear. Margaret had lived through a tumultuous time we now know as the wars of the roses. Kings and Queens were humiliated, deposed, and it had turn everyone against each other. Henry, for all she knew, could be just another passing King. Historians such as Norton and Lisle make a point, that Margaret did become a force to be reckoned with, in her son’s reign. “What power she would have” Lisle writes, “would be behind the throne.” But in the meantime, all their worries were left behind, as Henry enjoyed this moment of triumph.

Following the Mass, Henry returned to the Tower of London for the coronation banquet. Jasper took precedence over the other nobles, riding ahead of them, his horse trapped with cloth of gold trimmed ermine. After the first course, Henry’s champion, Sir Robert Dynmock came in, issuing the customary challenge, demanding who would challenge the King’s authority. There were more performances to be found that day, among them the iconic representation of the royal arms of England and France along with those of their new king emphasized his Welsh ancestry. But more prominent among them was the Tudor rose. Henry Tudor was a religious man, and as those that came before him, he chose a rose because of its religious significance. The red rose was a symbol of Christ’s passion, while the five petals corresponded to the  five wounds Christ had suffered on the cross. Roses were ones of the most notable symbols on the Abbey, and on the courtier’s clothing.

Tudor Rose

But it wasn’t just the red rose, it was the white one as well which became representative of the late House of York. The York dynasty had relied on other symbols to represent their dynasty. Although it was a preferred symbol of Edward IV, he had also used the Sun in Splendor, to commemorate one of his victories, and his youngest brother, Richard III had opted for the white boar. Henry used this because it was simple and because it represented a new era –one in which Lancaster and York would be united and were there would be no cause for war.

While this wasn’t entirely true, it still worked because for many people, centuries afterwards, the Tudors would come to represent the union of these two warring houses, and become one of the most famous dynasties in world history. Ironically, before Henry became King of England, when he was just a child, the bards sang songs in honor of his late father (Edmund Tudor) and predicted that great things awaited his son. When he landed on Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire, Wales, the bards sang louder, praising now his uncle as well, saying “Jasper will breed us a dragon” claiming that Henry was the chosen one, the prince that was promised, of an ancient Welsh prophecy. Never forgetting who was responsible for his rise, he rewarded many of his Welsh supporters with lands, titles and offices.

Henry VII would go on to reign twenty five years. On his death, he was succeeded by his son, Henry VIII whose reign would eclipse his father’s, and to prove his greatness, he commissioned one painting known as the ‘Dynasty portrait’ where he asks viewers an important question. Who was better, the son or the father? He acknowledges his father’s achievements but says they pale in comparison to his. While Henry VIII is the most famous of the three Tudor kings, it is unfair to leave Henry VII behind. As a kid, his future was always being negotiated by his mother, uncle, and his caretaker (William Herbert), and as a teenager, he spent his teenage years and most of his young adult life in hiding, fearing for his life. When he finally came back, the odds were stacked against him and still, he won. As King, he continued to fear for his life, and although he was a good husband and father, he became a shell of his former self after his son died, followed by his wife and baby daughter a year after that.

Henry VII and Elizabeth of York tomb at the Lady Chapel located in Westminster Abbey.

Buried at Westminster Abbey, next to his wife, at the chapel he constructed for him and his descendants, is a testament to the appeal this dynasty has had -and no doubt will continue to have in many years to have.

Sources:

  • Henry VII by SB Chrismes
  • Tudor. Passion. Manipulation. Murder: The Story of England’s Most Notorious Royal Family by Leanda de Lisle
  • Margaret Beaufort by Elizabeth Norton
  • Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones
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Fire and Blood: Daenerys Targaryen & Henry Tudor -The Princes that Were Promised

Daenerys and Henry Tudor 2

As we are nearing the conclusion of the television series; and if the rumors are true that Martin is going to release the penultimate book in the series of Ice and Fire, we could be seeing as he has put it a “bittersweet ending” where winner takes all, and at the same time loses something important in the process. In the Wars of the Roses (of which the War of the Five Kings is partly based on), every House lost something and someone important.

Edward IV and Robert Baratheon

Edward IV’s death left a huge power vacuum (just as Robert’s did). The throne was up for grabs, unlike Cersei Lannister who was by her son’s side when Ned Stark forged alliances with many lords to depose her son, Elizabeth Woodville was far away and her son in Wales in the care of her brother, his uncle, Anthony Woodville (Earl Rivers). In this scenario, history’s Ned Stark (Richard, D. of Gloucester) was quick to action and intercepted the young king-to-be and his entourage. He imprisoned Lord Rivers and later executed him and other Edwardian Yorkists. Bess Woodville was forced into sanctuary and she refused to let go of her youngest son, the Duke of York when Richard ordered her to send him to him, so he could join his older brother Edward in the Tower of London. The two became known as the Princes in the Tower. They were never seen or heard from again after the summer of 1483, not long before Richard III and his Queen and son traveled to the North where the latter was invested as Prince of Wales. Rumors circulated throughout the country, even foreign contemporaries spoke about it. Edward V, the boy who would have been King, had his doctor see him before his disappearance. Doctor Argentine said that the boy looked so gaunt, almost as if he knew what was going to befall him. He never saw him again.

The rest as they say is history. But here is where it gets interesting. One boy. One boy whose father had died before he was born, and whose mother was married to a Yorkist to ensure both their survival was exiled across the Narrow Sea. He was a boy with no lands or fortune but with a great ancestry that many would have died to take advantage of, to suit their own means. That boy was born at one of the worst times in the wars of the roses, and nobody expected him to amount to anything. And yet that boy survived and thrived and was now a man and now commanded the loyalty of many disaffected Edwardian Loyalists and Lancastrians. And he was now seen as a more attractive alternative to Richard III’s rule.

Does this tale sound familiar to another exiled royal who has a great ancestry and born in an uncertain period, an orphan with no chances of ever doing anything great, and yet her banner of the three red headed dragon (similar to Henry’s banner of the red dragon) continues to stand; and who sees herself as the true heir Westeros? It should. George R. R. Martin took a lot of inspiration from mythology, science fiction (believe it or not, he’s said it) and most of all, history. Specifically late medieval and renaissance history.

Daenerys Targaryen is another archetype of Henry Tudor. A female white haired Henry Tudor. Both of them have beaten the odds. Who would have thought these two penniless orphans (in Dany’s case, both her parents are dead) would have survived to become huge contenders for the throne? After all as Tyrion says, Stannis (when he lived) would have NEVER recognized Dany’s claim, even if she had agreed to a compromise.

Tyrion discusses the politics of the realm she wants to conquer and how it will be very hard to convince everyone she is the rightful ruler, especially Stannis who was still living at the time: “His claim rests on the illegitimacy of yours.” (Tyrion 5x08).
Tyrion discusses the politics of the realm she wants to conquer and how it will be very hard to convince everyone she is the rightful ruler, especially Stannis who was still living at the time:
“His claim rests on the illegitimacy of yours.” (Tyrion 5×08).

Same with Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond and the Plantagenets from the House of York. His Lancastrians relatives had disinherited his Beaufort ancestors from the throne. Richard II legitimized the union between his uncle and one time protector, John of Gaunt, first Duke of Lancaster and Katherine Swynford. But the children never got the surname of Plantagenet. They had been born before their parents’ marriage and their last name comes from one of Gaunt’s properties abroad. When Richard II was deposed and Gaunt’s firstborn legitimate son took the crown; he added a new clause which maintained his half-siblings’ legitimacy, but added that they were excluded from the line of succession.

“Geoffrey of Monmouth’s twelfth century History of the Kings of Britain. The most significant of these popular myths concerned the wizard Merlin, King Arthur, and the life of the last British King, Cadwaladr, from whom the House of York claimed descent through the Mortimers … Henry reversed this so that he was Draco Rubius and Richard III the outsider –a narrative already proving popular in Wales, where they still spoke a ‘British’ tongue. Wales was the one place where the Tudor name had popular resonance … the Tudors maintained their contacts with the Welsh bards who were now churning out prophecies of Henry’s eventual triumph, full of references to the myths of Cadwaladr and the Red Dragon. Jasper had a red dragon as his badge and Henry now took as his principal standard the ‘Red Dragon Dreadful’.” (Lisle)
“Geoffrey of Monmouth’s twelfth century History of the Kings of Britain. The most significant of these popular myths concerned the wizard Merlin, King Arthur, and the life of the last British King, Cadwaladr, from whom the House of York claimed descent through the Mortimers … Henry reversed this so that he was Draco Rubius and Richard III the outsider –a narrative already proving popular in Wales, where they still spoke a ‘British’ tongue. Wales was the one place where the Tudor name had popular resonance … the Tudors maintained their contacts with the Welsh bards who were now churning out prophecies of Henry’s eventual triumph, full of references to the myths of Cadwaladr and the Red Dragon. Jasper had a red dragon as his badge and Henry now took as his principal standard the ‘Red Dragon Dreadful’.” (Lisle)

In the World of Ice and Fire that was released last year, we find out about an illegitimate branch of the Targaryens with a surname similar to the Beauforts. They are the Blackfyres, and instead of a three red headed dragon on a black background, we get the opposite. Yet, this hasn’t been mentioned in the series, and although there are hints that there may be one secret Blackfyre in the books; he doesn’t resemble Henry Tudor at all. It is clear that Daenerys is the Henry Tudor of the world of Ice and Fire. But Daenerys isn’t illegitimate. No, she is not, but with so many theories and hints being pointed out, we can never be sure what surprises Martin will throw at us. But one thing is certain. In the eyes of the Westeros current nobility, she is illegitimate and her claim must be seen that way, otherwise the current Kings’ power could be under threat.

But rules are made to be broken. Henry Tudor knew this. When he landed on Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, Wales, on the 7th of August 1485, he “kissed the ground meekly and reverently made the sign of the cross upon him”. Then he sent his men forward in the name of God, England and St. George. He proudly let his standard of the red dragon on a green and white field be seen. Fifteen days later his forces confronted Richard’s. Although he had amassed a great number of mercenaries and men previously loyal to Edward IV and to the Lancastrian cause (of the latter, the Earl of Oxford as Dany’s Ser Barristan, proved invaluable since he was one of the BEST military commanders England had ever seen); victory was still uncertain. In Wales, since his birth, the bards sang songs about him. The Tudors had been very loved, and thanks to his uncle Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, Henry earned a lot of support from that Region. But his forces were outnumbered by Richard’s.

Dany is currently outnumbered by the many people she intends to take on in Westeros. After all, the Lannisters have taken out most of their enemies, just as Richard III and his brother before him, dealt with their enemies. What guarantee does she have (at all!) that the people will rise for her? What guarantee did Henry Tudor have that people would support him? True, he had Wales thanks to his uncle, but even so, a few would not make a difference against the many.

And yet, these two are proof that “if you want something you can get it” as Marguerite of Anjou said in the period drama “The White Queen”. But do not take this to mean that everything is possible. Even though Henry’s goals were achieved, and Dany’s might yet be; they were all thanks in part to their ancestry. If they did not possess the lineage they did, nobody would have backed them up. As Tyrion says, with a great name comes great risks and advantages.

Henry Tudor WQ

Henry’s victory was ensured thanks to the great risk he and his supporters took, as well as his stepfather, Thomas Stanley, rushing to his rescue once he saw his standard-bearer (William Brandon) fall. This last action, ensured his victory. Likewise, Daenerys’ victory will be thanks to her ancestry and her dragons. The fact that they are the first dragons that have been seen in over a century will be regarded as a miracle by many and as a part of a prophecy by others (just like Henry was prophesized to be the prince that was promised by many of his Welsh supporters).

In the end, a song of ice and fire and the wars of the roses and the beginning of the Tudor Dynasty, are tales of great human drama, of men and women who were caught in the crossfire who were forced to grow up, who were forced to do things that they probably would not have done otherwise, and ultimately of ruin and death and of a bittersweet ending.

Sources:

  • Tudors vs Stewarts: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary, Queen of Scots by Linda Porter
  • Henry VII by SB Chrimes
  • Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones
  • Passion. Manipulation. Murder by Leanda de Lisle
  • World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, Elio M. Garcia Jr and Linda Antonsson
  • A Song of Ice and Fire 1-5 by George R.R. Martin
  • Jasper Tudor by Terry Breverton

The Battle of Bosworth Field

Henry VII Bosworth

On the 22nd of August 1485, the battle of Bosworth Field was fought, making the end of the Plantagenet Dynasty and the start of the Tudor one. When the two armies met, Richard III had the advantage, mustering more than 10,000 men. Henry’s armies barely numbered 5,000. They consisted mercenaries (French, Scottish, German) and loyal Welsh and English noblemen. Previously, Richard had been woken up early requesting a Mass to be said, the rest of his men were startled by the arrival of Henry’s troops, which had arrived earlier than expected.

Richard iii
Richard’s last prayer before engaging into battle was:
“God deign to free me thy servant King Richard from every tribulation, sorrow and trouble in which I am placed and from all the plots of my enemies… and defend me from all evil, from the devil and from all peril present, past and to come.”
Shortly after, the two armies clashed.

Henry’s loyal supporters also included the Queen Dowager’s closest relatives, Edward Yorkists, and the Earl of Oxford (John de Vere) who was a renown Lancastrian loyalist and saw Henry as the last scion of Lancaster. He was a well seasoned warrior who studied from the best military books in history, from Roman Generals to Christine de Pizan who had also written extensively on the art of warfare. He knew how to push the enemy to the point of exhaustion and that’s exactly what he did with Norfolk’s forces. After driving a wedge through his vanguard, he allowed Henry’s infantry to push right through and slay most of his men. In addition Richard III’s ally, the Earl of Northumberland faced desertion from some of his men, and others had rebelled the day before prompting the Earl to keep himself neutral during the whole ordeal. But nothing proved more decisive than the Stanleys who switched sides the moment William Brandon -Henry’s standard bearer- fell.

“Backwards we cannot fly: so that here we stand like sheep in a fold circumcepted and compassed between our enemies and doubtful friends.”
“Backwards we cannot fly: so that here we stand like sheep in a fold circumcepted and compassed between our enemies and doubtful friends.”

Before the battle began, Henry gave his own motivational speech which comes from a secondary source, the Edward Hall Chronicle written nearly seventy years after the event, but it’s likely true. Thomas Stanley was reminded of his oath the day before, his brother William, promised him that they would join. Now both stood still, watching as the two armies clashed. According to the ‘Ballad of Bosworth’, a much later account, William scouted on ‘a mountain full high’ where he looked down ‘into a dale full dread’, waiting to see what happened. While Henry doubted his stepfather’s loyalties, Richard had no reason to. He had taken his eldest son, Lord Strange, hostage. This guaranteed Stanley’s neutrality, however some historians like Chris Skidmore have stipulated that in the confusion, George Stanley must’ve fled his captors or either they were killed in battle, which would make sense why as soon as Henry’s standard bearer (Brandon) fell, he and his brother’s forces moved in to aid him.

According to various sources, when Richard saw Stanley’s men galloping down from the hill to join Henry Tudor he cried “Treason! Treason! Treason!” He was unhorsed and killed then stripped off all his clothing and put on a horse for everyone to see.

Henry VII in the
Henry VII in the “White Queen” placing the bloody crown on his head.

The story that his crown was found in a thornbush is a myth, it was picked up by William Stanley who handed it to his brother Thomas who “unto the King Henry then went he, and delivered it, as to the most worthy to wear the crown and be their King.”

Henry VII’s rule would last twenty nine years, his son would go on in history as one of the most infamous kings, dividing historians in their opinions as to whether he was a good or bad king, and his granddaughter would become one of the greatest female monarchs in history. But it all started with the first Henry Tudor, an obscure boy who was born in an uncertain time but who was destined for great things.

Sources:

  • Tudors vs Stewarts: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary, Queen of Scots by Linda Porter
  • The Rise of the Tudors by Chris Skidmore
  • Henry VII by SB Chrimes
  • Foundations: England from its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors by Peter Ackroyd

The End Game for Richard III and the Plantagenets

Richard III nforces

On the 22nd of August 1485, the Tudor Dynasty began and although Henry VII traced his reign the day before so he could judge those who fought for Richard traitors, the reality was that it began on the day that Richard died. I have done a special article on Bosworth Field and what it meant for the Tudors and mentioned Henry VII’s amazing journey. But I feel it is only fair that I do one on Richard. Whatever popular opinion is of him, he was a King and the last one of two dynasties: Plantagenet and York. With his death, died an entire era.

Richard iii
According to various sources, the priests were unprepared to give Mass as Richard requested it, they could not find bread or wine, and the cooks were not rise yet to prepare breakfast. This goes in accordance to Shakespeare’s much later colorful tale of Richard waking up early because of his nightmares. Certainly, the Crowland Chronicles made mention of this, but we can’t know for sure what was going through Richard’s mind. Most likely he was nervous as Henry Tudor had been two days prior and was showing the first signs of doubts, this was after all The decisive battle. Richard’s words that day as he prepared his men for battle were:
“And you Lord, who reconciled the race of man and the Father, who purchased with your own precious blood the confiscated inheritance of paradise and who made peace between men and the angels, deign to make and keep concord between me and my enemies. Show me and pour over me your grace and glory. Deign to assuage, turn aside, destroy, and bring to nothing the hatred they bear towards me … Stretch out your arm to me and spread your grace over me, and deign to deliver me from all the perplexities and sorrows in which I find myself … Therefore Lord Jesus Christ son of the living God deign to free me, thy servant King Richard from every tribulation, sorrow and trouble in which I am placed and from all the plots of against them, and deign, Lord Jesus Christ, to bring to nothing the evil plans that they are making or which to make against me … By all these things, I ask you, most gentle Lord Jesus Christ to keep me, thy servant King Richard and defend me from all evil, from the devil and from all peril present, past and to come, and deliver me from all the tribulations, sorrows and troubles in which I am placed, and deign to console me.”
Richard took Thomas Stanley’s eldest son, Lord Strange to guarantee of his loyalty. Several historians, among them Chris Skidmore in his recent biography of Bosworth, stipulates that Strange must’ve gotten himself free, or fled from his captors as soon as everything got in disarray, Henry’s armies had surprised everyone, they arrived to Ambion Hill earlier than had been expected. Henry Tudor sent a messenger to his stepfather Thomas Stanley reminding him of his loyalties but for obvious reasons Thomas and the rest of his men stayed put. If George did escape as has been suggested, it makes sense then why as soon as Henry’s standard bearer (Brandon) fell, Stanley and his men moved against Richard. The weather and the sun shining bright on everyone’s shield and armor made possible for a greater confusion as some men started to retreat minutes before Stanley moved in; Northumberland’s troops stayed inactive the whole time. The reason for this is because they had previously rebelled against their lord and many were not happy with the regime, therefore Northumberland spent the entire time controlling them. If worse came to pass, he would not be blamed by either monarch if his troops attacked either one.

Richard III
After Richard was unhorsed, Henry’s men struck deadly blows which shortly killed him. He was stripped from his armor and put back on his horse with barely anything to cover his genitals … While Henry’s victory has been criticized for its inhumane treatment of Richard’s body, one thing these critics often forget is that this was a common medieval practice. In fact Richard along with his brothers the Duke of Clarence and Edward IV, had done the same to the Earl of Warwick (Anne Neville’s father). Had Henry lost the battle, he would’ve received the same treatment.

Sources:

  • Richard III: Journey to Leicester by Amy Licence
  • Richard III by David Baldwin
  • The Rise of the Tudors by Chris Skidmore
  • On This Day In Tudor History by Claire Ridgway