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‘Never was a king so thoroughly disciplined by adversity before he came to the throne as was King Henry VII’.
James Gairdner’s historical biography of Henry the Seventh offers a fascinating insight into the life of the founder of England’s most famous dynasty: The Tudors.
He argues that Henry’s noble birth as the head of the house of Lancaster set him inadvertently on the path to rule, despite never displaying any desire to dispossess either Edward IV or Richard III of the throne.
Born in 1457 to a father who was already two months dead, and to a mother who was only a teenage, Henry Tudor could hardly be said to have had an easy start in life.
Tensions between the House of Lancaster and the House of York led to a turbulent upbringing for young Henry, and he was eventually implored by his mother to escape to France as a political exile, following the execution of Henry VI in 1471 in the Tower.
Fortune changed yet again for Henry after the death of Edward IV. Edward’s son, Edward V, who was just a boy of twelve, was usurped by his uncle, Richard III.
Support for Henry grew after Richard’s perceived villainy, and the pair famously met at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Henry was crowned King Henry VII on the top of Crown Hill, after Richard was defeated and killed on the battlefield.
Less well-known than his fiery, impulsive son and successor, Henry VIII who famously had a taste for lavish feasts, expensive wars, and for disposing of his wives, Henry VII’s reign was conversely characterised by thrift, prudence, and cool-headed political strategies.
His decision to marry Edward IV’s daughter, Elizabeth of York, was possibly the first example of the shrewdness of his stratagems. By combining the white rose of the House of York with the red rose of the House of Lancaster, Henry VII famously created the Tudor Rose, and stabilised the ongoing tensions that for so long had caused war throughout England.
Gairdner’s well-researched and lucid biography is essential reading for anyone interested in the Tudor dynasty.
James Gairdner (22 March 1828 – 4 November 1912) was a British historian. He specialised in 15th-century and early Tudor history, and among other tasks edited the Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII series.
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