Although Henry VII’s claim to the throne was weak and he faced many dynastic threats due to pretenders and potential Yorkist claimants, he managed to keep his position secure as he was a clever king who consolidated his power right after the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 as well as exploiting economic policies to have full control of the nobility thus securing this position as the King of England.

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Henry VII had a weak claim to the throne as he descended through the female line of his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort. However, he consolidated his power successfully thus securing his claim to the throne. He did this by dating his reign on the 21st August 1485, a day before the Battle of Bosworth to ensure that anyone who fought on the Yorkist side could be punished for treason.  Henry detained the earl of Warwick, Edward’s nephew as he was a potential claimant to the throne thus preventing his use in an effort to overtake the throne. He also held his coronation on the 30th October before the first parliament on the 7th November demonstrating his right to the throne on hereditary bases thus securing his throne and consolidating his authority. He also further consolidates his claim to the throne through his marriage to Elizabeth of York in January 1486 which was used as propaganda of merging the 2 houses of Lancaster and York as well as having the Tudor Rose emblem combine the red rose of Lancaster and the white rose of York. The birth of Prince Arthur, an heir to the throne in 1489 further secured Henry ’s position as the King of England. He made key appointments to his council and household such as Sir Reginald Bray and Sir William Stanley (although he later betrays Henry) thus helping keep his government in check and under his control. he publicly rewarded key supports and conferred 11 knighthoods during his reign. Furthermore, he also issued the order of Garter which gave prestige and honour to his closest servant. He created 37 knights of the Garter for example, the Earl of Oxford. This gave prestige to nobles but not power of land thus allowing Henry to keep their loyalty but also control them. Therefore, although Henry’s claim to the throne was weak, he managed to consolidate his power successfully thus securing his dynastic position and royal authority.

Henry VII also secured his claim to the throne by controlling the nobility through his economic policies. Generating royal finance improved the crown’s position and authority as it allowed him to control the nobility. Henry introduced Acts of Attainder which allowed him to seize titles and land of nobles he was suspicious of, for example after the Battle of Bosworth he seized the lands of the Yorkists. 138 acts of attainder were passed however 46 were reversed. This gave  Henry  the power to control nobles as he could threaten them with attainders and reverse them if the noble proves his loyalty for example Thomas Howard who fought on the Yorkist side at the Battle of Bosworth was attainted losing his titles and land and even imprisoned but after he proved his loyalty through an oath as well as crushing the Yorkshire rebellion in 1489, Henry reversed the attainder giving him back the title of Earl of Surrey as well as the Howard estates. This showed how he had control over the nobility as he used economic means to make nobles loyal to him thus securing his claim to the throne. Henry also exploited his traditional rights which was the belief that all land belonged to the King and thus anyone who held it was his tenant and this was done through feudal dues. Two examples of this are wardship and livery. Wardship gave Henry control over estates of noble heirs under adult age and Livery was a payment made by an heir after reaching adulthood and reclaiming their land. He exploited this to ensure good behaviour of nobles thus securing his royal authority. Furthermore, Henry introduced acts against illegal retaining in 1485 and 1504 which required nobles to obtain a licence for retaining men and imposed severe fines of £5 per month per illegal retainer thus allowing him to limit the power of the nobility. A victim of these acts was Lord Burgavenny who was fined £70,650 for illegally retaining 471 men however Henry was lenient and made a payment plan for him later reducing the sum thus ensuring the loyalty of nobles. A final economic method which was used to control the nobility was bonds and recognizances which gave out money to nobles to ensure good behaviour and could be withdrawn at anytime for disloyalty. 75% of nobles were bound and this helped improve finances as between 1504 and 1507, £200,000 were promised to the king but also allowed him to have control over nobles. Therefore, Henry manage to secure his claim to the throne through the use of economic means to control the nobility.     

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Finally, Henry’s claim to the throne was to an extent threatened due to pretenders and foreign support for those pretenders however Henry dealt with those threats quickly thus securing his position. For example Lambert Simnel, helped by Earl of Lincoln (a potential claimant to the throne) pretended to the Earl of Warwick in 1487 however Henry dealt with this easily through displaying the real Earl of Warwick in the streets whom he had detained in the tower thus preventing the use of Warwick in rebellions against Henry. Moreover, the Battle of Stoke Field soon after is significant in securing his claim to the throne as he ended the War of the Roses and killed Earl of Lincoln securing his position. However, the Perkin Warbeck imposture was a significant threat to Henry’s security as a king as this imposture lasted for 8 years and Warbeck attracted patronage from foreign rulers making him a serious threat as it demonstrated how fragile Henry’s position was considered by other rulers. Furthermore, Sir William Stanley, one of his close advisors betrayed him to join Warbeck’s side. However, Warbeck never managed to create a serious threat to the throne as his rebellions were always crushed and the was later executed alongside the Earl of Warwick in 1499 securing Henry’s position. Furthermore, Henry was effective with his dealings with foreign powers thus helping him secure his royal authority. In 1492, Henry signed the Treaty of Etaples with Charles of France where he agreed to withdraw support for Warbeck thus protecting dynastic and national interests securing Henry’s claim to the throne. Another example is the Intercursus Malus of 1506 with Burgundy in which they agreed to hand over Earl of Suffolk who was a Yorkist claimant thus improving dynastic security. Therefore, although Henry’s position was threatened by pretenders and foreign powers harbouring them, they were never a serious threat and Henry managed to secure is position.

Overall,  although Henry’s claim to the throne was initially weak due to him descending from the female line also he faced many dynastic threats due to pretenders and Yorkist claimants whom also received the support of foreign powers, Henry managed to secure his throne through improving foreign relations as well as controlling the nobility economically and consolidating his power soon after ascending to the throne.

Cite this article as: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team), "1485 – 1509: Henry VII’s Claim to the Throne of England," in SchoolWorkHelper, 2019, https://schoolworkhelper.net/1485-1509-henry-viis-claim-to-the-throne-of-england/.
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