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Henry VII

Henry VII

King Henry VII of England was the founder of the Tudor Dynasty and ruled as King of England from 1485 to 1509. His rule was largely a constant fight to consolidate the Tudor Dynasty against an onslaught of political and economic rebellions. So, why did Henry VII face so many rebellions?

Henry VII's reign: timeline



1485Accession of Henry VII


Lord Lovel Revolt


Stafford Rising

1486 - 1487

Simnel Rebellion


Statute against retaining


Anti-Tax Riots

1491 - 1499

Warbeck Rebellion


Execution of Sir William Stanley


Cornish rebellion


Execution of Warbeck and Earl of Warwick


Statute against retaining

Henry VII's claim to the throne and rise to power

Henry Tudor (Henry VII) was born in 1457 to Edmund Tudor and Margaret Beaufort. In 1407, King Henry IV specifically excluded the Beauforts from any claim to the throne, so how did Henry VII become King?

Henry VII Portrait of Henry VII StudySmarterFig. 1 - Portrait of Henry VII

The House of Beaufort was one of the three branches of the House of Plantagenet, which ruled England for more than three centuries from 1154 to 1485. The other houses were the House of Lancaster and the House of York, between which the famous War of the Roses was fought from 1455 to 1485.

It is worth remembering that all these houses were members of the Plantagenet family. In 1471, Henry Tudor suddenly became the only remaining male with any link to the House of Lancaster through his distant relative John of Gaunt, who had been Duke of Lancaster.

House of Plantagenet

The House of Plantagenet, or Plantagenet family, originated from a branch of the original rulers of Anjou, a small province in France.

Tudor initially fled the country with his uncle as he had no chance against the Yorkists, but when Richard III took the throne by force in 1483, Henry Tudor decided to return.

Tudor defeated Richard III in the Battle of Bosworth in August 1485, proclaiming himself the rightful king of England. The Battle of Bosworth is regarded as one of England's defining battles: it ended Richard III's reign, put an end to the War of Roses, brought Henry VII to power, and started the Tudor dynasty. After successfully taking the crown, Henry VII married Elizabeth of York in 1486, which unified both houses of Lancaster and York.

The Tudor dynasty began in 1485 and lasted until 1603. This dynasty included the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, two of the most famous monarchs of England.

After the Wars of the Roses, Henry Tudor from House Lancaster married Elizabeth of York of House York. With this marriage, houses York and Lancaster were united. The roses from both houses were put together to create the Tudor Rose.

Henry VII Roses of Houses Lancaster, York and Tudor StudySmarterFig. 2 - Red rose of House Lancaster / Fig. 3 - White rose of House York / Fig. 3 - Tudor Rose comprising of the red rose of House Lancaster and white rose of House York.

Henry VII's consolidation of power

So, how did Henry VII consolidate his power?

Tudor adopted a two-pronged approach to government, the second of which demonstrates his position on matters other than rebellion.

  1. Henry adopted a strict approach to those involved in rebellions, mainly through the use of acts of attainder. This meant Henry VII could bypass the usual judicial procedure and act as judge, jury, and executioner for those who went against the crown.
  2. Henry VII acknowledged that a united kingdom would fare better than one which was divided. As a result, Henry VII combined his harsh treatment of those who opposed his kingdom with a system of good government that benefited the entire nation.

Opposition to Henry VII of England

Henry VII's Lancastrian ancestry caused grave issues for him as King, despite the fact that he started the House of Tudor – a completely separate house. Many Yorkists contested his right to the throne, which was one of the main reasons for the rebellions during his reign. The table below details the opposition Henry faced throughout his reign, and how he overcame these challenges.

Lord Lovell Revolt and the Stafford Uprising 1486Viscount Francis Lovell, Sir Humphrey Stafford, and Sir Thomas Stafford worked together in an attempt to restore the Yorkist monarchy. They planned to direct a rebellion in Yorkshire and Worcestershire, but this was a failure. Why?
  • They lacked support
  • Henry VII already knew about their plans

In response, Henry pardoned all the rebels except Lovell and Humphrey Stafford. Stafford was executed, whilst Lovell managed to escape.

The Simnel Rebellion 1486-7A young boy aged just 10 named Lambert Simnel was manipulated by the House of York, Richard Symonds specifically, to pretend to be the rightful heir to the English throne. He received overwhelming Yorkist support, notably from Margaret of Burgundy – the daughter of Edward IV, the Earl of Lincoln – a member of Henry VII's council, and Lord Lovell.

Although this rebellion enjoyed wide support, it also failed. Henry VII responded by:

  • battling and killing the Earl of Lincoln
  • imprisoning Richard Symonds
  • making Simnel work in the king's kitchen
  • repossessing the estates of nobles who had supported Lincoln.
Margaret of BurgundyMargeret was the sister of Edward IV and Richard III, making her a member of the York dynasty. Although Margaret resided in Burgundy, she fought tirelessly for the Yorkist cause. Following Henry VII's accession to the throne, Margaret became the chief promoter of Henry VII's pretender, Perkin Warbeck, as well as his predecessor, Lambert Simnel.
Warbeck Rebellion 1491-9Henry VII faced another impersonator, Perkin Warbeck. He impersonated Richard of Shrewsbury, the Duke of York, who had previously been assumed dead. The Duke of York was a rightful heir to the throne. Warbeck's supporters included:
  • Margaret of Burgundy
  • Prince Charles VIII of France
  • Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian
  • Sir William Stanley
  • Lord Chamberlain
  • Cornish peasants.
This presented a very real threat to Henry VII. In response, he had Sir William Stanley executed in 1495 and eventually executed Warbeck in 1499 after the rebellion failed.
Yorkshire Rebellion 1489 and Cornish Rebellion 1497In 1489 Henry encountered his first economic issue when he attempted to help the Brittany region, an independent territory in France, which required assistance to maintain its independence.Henry VII decided to offer this assistance, but he needed to raise £100,000 from taxes for it. An increase in tax was bitterly welcomed in Yorkshire, and York rebels led by Sir John Egremont rose against the king. This was quickly ended by the king's noblemen, but Henry failed to collect his required £100,000.In 1497, war taxes caused another rebellion. This time the taxes were for war against Scotland. Cornish protestors marched to London, but the uprising failed, the leaders were executed, and the county had to pay a large fine.

Henry VII's government

The War of the Roses severely affected the way the country was governed. Henry VII aimed to reverse its damaging effects and secure his own authority against challenges.

The power of the nobility

The concept of 'The Great Chain of Being' defined society before the ascension of Henry VII. It was generally accepted at this time that everyone had a specific place in society, and it was their duty to remain there. According to this, it was the duty of those who held positions of power and responsibility to do good for all and not just for those of the same standing.

During the War of the Roses, this belief crumbled. When Henry VII came to power the nobles had effectively developed their own armies to assert their authority. Reforming this power of the nobles was Henry’s most pressing challenge after the Battle of Bosworth, as he saw them as a potential threat to his power. The Simnel Rebellion further acted as proof to Henry VII that he had been right in his suspicion of the nobility.

Despite this, Henry still believed that a great and loyal nobleman was integral to his own authority. It was a difficult task for Henry VII to try and instil into the now powerful nobility a sense of loyalty to the Crown.

The previous King Edward IV had outlawed retaining, which allowed the noblemen of the country to hire peasants as their personal army. Although this had been outlawed by Edward IV, it was largely ignored by the nobility.

Retaining presented two major problems:

  1. When the king needed to rally troops they found it significantly harder due to the reduced numbers of people available.

  2. For Henry VII the more significant problem was that it allowed the possibility for a nobleman to gain enough troops to be more powerful than the king.

During Henry VII’s rule, he set out two laws in 1487 and 1506 to reinforce the illegal nature of this practice and hoped that noblemen would begin to adhere to it. This move was successful for Henry VII and yielded little to no backlash.

Local governments

Henry believed that to establish complete authority over his kingdom, he needed to develop his power on a local level.

Before Henry VII became king, the Justices of the Peace and Sheriffs acted as an extension of the king at a local government level. During peacetime, this arrangement worked well; however, it completely collapsed during the War of the Roses.

Justices of the Peace

Local governments were governed by Justices of the Peace. Justices of the Peace were responsible for maintaining public order in their local jurisdictions. The justices were also responsible for executing laws passed by the king.


Local governments consisted of a variety of offices and institutions. For example, sheriffs. Sheriffs represented the monarch in their local governments directly. Sheriffs were originally the main authority in local governments, but during Henry VII's reign, the central government began to view them as too susceptible to prioritising the interests of the nobles. This led Henry VII to appoint the justices of the peace as the chief authority figure for local governments.

To establish his authority, Henry VII decided to place only his most trusted nobles at a local level to ensure that no one in the local government became overly powerful. He wanted to strengthen links between the central and local governments, whilst also centring government around himself.

He planned to extend his rule in three ways:


The exploitation of Crown lands

Henry believed that he could increase his authority by improving the efficiency of Crown land use. This was because crown lands were spread throughout the kingdom, and if they were effectively managed, Henry VII would be the dominant authority in all of these regions.

More frequent use of the Royal Council

The Royal Council was the inner circle of nobility that advised Henry VII. Those with a religious background formed the largest group in the Royal Council. Those in the Royal Council were there for two reasons: their ability and their loyalty to the king. Henry VI believed that by using the council more frequently he would be able to further centralise his power.

Increasing the power of the Justices of the Peace

Increasing the power of the Justices of the Peace was part of Henry VII's ambition to restrict the power of the nobility. This was because the Justices of Peace were answerable to the crown and could be used as a useful source of information to report a nobleman that had become too powerful.


The nobility had already seen that loyalty to Henry would be rewarded by placing them in local government. Thus, Henry VII found it easy to exert his power over the House of Lords, which was made up of senior clergy and peers. Henry VII's leverage over the House of Lords, the most powerful body in parliament, helped him consolidate his power.

The House of Commons was primarily comprised of rich merchants and lawyers and had begun to gain a lot of power by the time Henry became King. Henry VI recognised the body's significance to England's economic growth, and this understanding greatly helped Henry VII's economy.

Royal finance

Historically, the Crown relied on the Exchequer for its financial needs. The primary weakness of the Exchequer was the fact that it was very slow in its operation. Audits could take years to complete, so the Crown always lacked money. Henry VII set out to correct this problem.


A department was tasked with collecting revenue and making payments on behalf of the monarch, auditing its accounts, and legally trying revenue-related cases

In 1487, Henry decided to change this and appoint the Chamber as the principal institution in charge of managing royal revenue. The Chamber was a relatively new institution, so it had no established operating processes and was set up in a more informal way than the Exchequer. The Chamber’s informal process worked as a strength as it was flexible in its approach.

Henry VII of England and Society

What did life look like when Henry VII was king?

Henry VII and religion

During Henry VII's rule, the relationship between the Church and the State was Erastian. This meant that the state had supremacy over the church.

The church’s main function was to spread Christian teachings. The highest position in the Church of England was held by the Pope in Rome. The Church in England was administered through two provinces, Canterbury and York.

During this period, the parish church was central to religious experience; the church and parish provided a framework for how people lived. The two churchmen who exercised the most power under Henry VII were John Morton and Richard Fox.

During this time the Church served as a centre for popular entertainment. The festivals celebrated as part of the agricultural cycle provided much-needed entertainment, while the guilds and fraternities of the village offered charity, good fellowship, and a chance for ordinary people to give back to their community.


A parish is a small administrative district typically having its own church and a priest or pastor.

Arts and education

Developments included:

  • Education: Between 1460 and 1509, 53 new grammar schools were founded. At this time Latin was a major part of the grammar school curriculum.
  • Drama: Churches, corporations, and guilds used the performances to spread religious and moral messages aimed at improving the morals of their audiences.
  • Music: During Henry VII's rule instruments such as trumpets, shawms, sackbuts, or stringed instruments, recorders, and lutes were commonly used at court or in the homes of the wealthy for music.
  • Art and Architecture: During this era, there were a large number of Gothic structures. The sheer number of churches built in the Gothic style was a clear indicator of the level of investment in the Church of England. During Henry VII's rule, printing was still only concerned with traditional medieval culture. These novels were typically were chivalric romances and adaptations of saints' stories.

Henry VII's legacy

Henry VII’s rulership was essentially a continued struggle to keep the crown and kingdom from many aristocratic noblemen who felt aggrieved by his rulership.

Henry VII faced continued political tension from the House of York, who attempted at every corner to try and relinquish his rights to the kingdom.

Henry VII’s reign ended in 1509 and although his tenure was largely focused on retaining the Tudor dynasty, unfortunately, after his death, the Tudor kingdom was still insecure.

Henry VII's children

Henry and Elizabeth had eight children, only four of which survived infancy. His children were:

Arthur1486-1502Prince of Wales
Margaret1489-1541Queen of Scotland
Henry1491-1547King of England (Henry VIII)
Mary1496-1533Queen of France

To maintain the Tudor dynasty and not revert all the work he had done to end the War of Roses, Henry needed to produce a male heir. As we can see, he managed to produce three potential male heirs but by the time of his death, his second son Henry VIII was the only surviving male heir and succeeded his father in 1509.

Henry VII - Key takeaways

  • King Henry VII was the founder of the Tudor Dynasty. Henry VII became the first Tudor king after joining together the houses of York and Lancaster by defeating Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in August 1485, ending the War of Roses, and marrying Elizabeth of York.
  • Although Henry Tudor managed to ascend to the crown, his place was far from secure and many aristocratic families, as well as political elites at the time, contested his right to the position, and this discontent acted as one of the main catalysts for the many rebellions of his time.
  • This led to The Lord Lovell Rebellion, The Stafford Uprising, The Simnel Rebellion, and the Warbeck Rebellion.
  • Henry VII not only faced issues in the political realm but also in the economic realm, facing anti-tax riots and strikes in Yorkshire and Cornwall.


  1. Fig. 2 - Red rose of House Lancaster (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Red_Rose_Badge_of_Lancaster.svg) by Sodacan (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Sodacan) Licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)
  2. Fig. 3 - White rose of House York (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:White_Rose_Badge_of_York.svg) by Sodacan (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Sodacan) Licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)
  3. Fig. 4 - White rose of House York combined with the red rose of House Lancaster making up the Tudor Rose (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tudor_Rose.svg) by Sodacan (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Sodacan) Licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)

Frequently Asked Questions about Henry VII

He died from tuberculosis.

He died on 21 April 1509.

Henry married Elizabeth of York in 1486.

Henry and Elizabeth had eight children, but only four survived infancy.

He became king in 1485.

Final Henry VII Quiz


When did Henry VII become king?

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How many children did Henry VII have?

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Who did Henry VII marry?

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Elizabeth of York

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When did Henry VII die?

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How did Henry VII die?

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Was Henry VII Lancastrian?

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No, although of Lancastrian lineage by virtue of his mother, Henry ended the Lancaster House by establishing the Tudor Dynasty.

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Why did Henry VII face so much Yorkist trouble?

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The Yorkists were unhappy with the way in which The War of Roses ended and wanted to remove Henry and re-establish a Yorkist leader.

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Why did Henry VII ban retaining?

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Henry VII banned retaining as the King worried noblemen could overthrow or gain more power than the King and it prevented the king from being able to assemble troops quickly. 

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What is the name of Henry VII’s only surviving son?

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Henry VIII

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What caused the Cornish Rebellion?

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Rise in taxation

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How many impersonations occurred during Henry VII’s leadership?

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2 – Simnel and Warbeck

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