Henry VII was the great-great-great-grandson of King Edward III of England through his mother, and his father was a half-brother of Henry VI. (These relations constituted Henry Tudor's claim to the throne of England.) He and his uncle Jasper Tudor were on the Lancaster side in the War of the Roses, and left England after their side was defeated at Tewkesbury (more than ten years before Richard III came to the throne). The two spent their time in Brittany until Henry came back in 1485 and gathered support to become the preferred candidate for the throne of the Lancaster side, since Yorkist king Richard III had no surviving children anyway. The two sides fought at Bosworth Field, where Richard was killed and Henry put on his old helmet. He was crowned king almost as soon as he could get to London, and a month later Parliament passed an act affirming his right to be king. He was also petitioned to marry Elizabeth of York, the daughter of former Yorkist king Edward IV, and did so, uniting the Lancaster and York branches of the royal family and ending the War of the Roses.

After 30 years of war, the English were happy to have some peace and the country prospered. Henry was a bit of a tightwad, but he did fund the building of palaces and some religious houses. He married his elder son Arthur to Catherine of Aragon in 1501, but Arthur died the next year with no children. Henry, suffering from gout and asthma, hung on until 1509 before dying at the age of 52, and was succeeded by his second son Henry VIII.

Henry's claim to the throne by inheritance was very weak indeed. His mother, Margaret Beaufort, was a direct descendent of Edward III by the marriage of his third son, John of Gaunt, to Katherine Sywnford. The children had been born out of wedlock, but were legitimised by an act of parliament in Richard III's reign. However, an act in Henry VI's time forbade them to sit on the throne. Henry took the throne through his victory at the Battle of Bosworth on the 22nd august 1485.

Henry's life was marred by the civil war from the very start. He was born in january 1457, his mother just a 14 year old. His father had died 3 months earlier trying to take control of Wales. Henry spent his early years at Pembroke Castle, but when Henry VI was defeated in 1461 the castle was seized by Lord Herbert.

Henry became the ward of Herbert, and was raised as a member of the Herbert household. When Herbert was executed in 1469 and Henry VI restored, there was a brief Lancastrian interlude for Henry. But it would be short-lived, as in 1471 both Henry VI and Prince Edward died, leaving Henry as the main Lancastrian claimant to the throne.

This was bad news. It left Henry extremely vulnerable, and recognising this his uncle, Jasper Tudor, took him across the channel to safety.

Henry spent 14 years in exile, mainly as the guest of Francis II of the Duchy of Brittany. Duke Francis refused to cede Henry to the new English ruler Edward IV, who was extremely keen to have the last Lancastrian claimant brought back for execution. However, he did promise to stop Henry escaping and doing Edward harm. Despite numerous attempts by Edward to coerce Francis into releasing Henry, Henry remained safe for many years.

In 1483, circumstances changed. Richard III took the throne in dubious circumstances, leaving Henry no longer the rival to a secure Yorkist throne, but the rival of an unpopular man of dubious scruples. Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beaufort began a plot to put Henry on the throne of England. To consolidate support from both sides of the traditional Yorkist/Lancastrian divide, Henry solemnly swore to take Elizabeth of York as his Queen if he should gain the throne. As this would unify the two families, it gained a lot of support.

The last crucial event was the side-switching of the Earl of Oxford - along with Jasper Tudor, he provided the money and military expertise needed for an invasion...


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