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England under the Tudors By Arthur D. Innes Characters: 28251

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


HENRY VII (i), 1485-92-THE NEW DYNASTY

[Sidenote: 1485 Henry's title to the Crown]

On August 22nd, 1485, Henry Earl of Richmond overcame and slew King Richard III., and was hailed as King on the field of victory. But the destruction of Richard, an indubitable usurper and tyrant, was only the first step in establishing a title to the throne as disputable as ever a monarch put forward. To establish that title, however, was the primary necessity not merely for Henry himself, but in the general interest; which demanded a secure government after half a century of turmoil.

Henry's hereditary title amounted to nothing more than this, that through his mother he was the recognised representative of the House of Lancaster in virtue of his Beaufort descent from John of Gaunt, [Footnote: See Front. and Appendix B. The prior hereditary claims of the royal Houses of Portugal and Castile and of the Earl of Westmorland were ignored.] father of Henry IV.; whereas the House of York was descended in the female line from Lionel of Clarence, John of Gaunt's elder brother, and in unbroken male line from the younger brother Edmund of York. On the simple ground of descent therefore, any and every member of the House of York had a prior title to Henry's; the most complete title lying in Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Edward IV.; while the young Earl of Warwick, son of George of Clarence, was the first male representative, and John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, son of Edward's sister, had been named by Richard as heir presumptive.

But Henry could support his hereditary title, such as it was, by the actual fact that it was he and not a Yorkist who had challenged and overthrown the usurper Richard.

[Sidenote 1: Measures to strengthen the title]

[Sidenote 2: 1486 Marriage]

Now the idea that the rivalry of the Houses of York and Lancaster should be terminated and their union be effected by the marriage of the two recognised representatives had been mooted long before. But in Henry's position, it was imperative that he should assert his own personal right to the throne, not admitting that he occupied it as his wife's consort. His strongest line was to claim the Crown as his own of right and procure the endorsement of that claim from Parliament, [Footnote: The intricacies of descent, and the position of the crowd of hypothetical claimants, are set forth in detail in Appendix B, and the complete genealogical chart (Front.).] as Henry IV. had done on the deposition of Richard II. He could then without prejudice to his own title effectively bar other rivals by taking as his consort Elizabeth of York; since the Yorkists, as a group, would at any rate hesitate to assert priority of title to hers for either Warwick or De la Pole (who in fact never himself posed as a claimant for the throne). In accordance with this plan of operations, the contemplated marriage with Elizabeth of York was in the first instance postponed as a matter for later consideration. Henry proceeded forthwith to London, entering the City laetanter, amidst public rejoicings; [Footnote: Gairdner, Memorials of Henry VII., p. xxvi, where a curious misapprehension is explained for which Bacon is mainly responsible.] writs for a new Parliament being issued a few days later. The coronation took place on October 30th; a week afterwards Parliament met, and an Act was promptly passed, declaring-without giving any reasons, which might have been disputed-that the "inheritance of the Crowns of England and France be, rest, remain and abide, in the person of our now Sovereign Lord, King Harry the Seventh, and in the heirs of his body". This was sufficiently decisive; but the endorsement of Henry's title in the abstract was confirmed by further enactments which assumed that he had been King of right, before the battle of Bosworth (thus repudiating title by conquest), since they attainted of treason those who had joined Richard in levying war against him. Thus Henry had affirmed his own inherent right to the throne; and had hedged that round with an unqualified parliamentary title. In the meantime he had also disqualified one possible figure-head for the Yorkists by lodging the young Earl of Warwick in the Tower. It remained for him to convert the other and principal rival into a prop of his own dignities by marrying Elizabeth of York. Accordingly he was formally petitioned by Parliament in December to take the princess to wife, to which petition he graciously assented, and the union of the red and white roses was accomplished in January. Any son born of this marriage would in his own person unite the claims of the House of Lancaster with those of the senior branch of the House of York.

[Sidenote: The King and his advisers]

It is difficult to think of the first Tudor monarch as a young man; for his policy and conduct bore at all times the signs of a cautious and experienced statesmanship. Nevertheless, he was but eight and twenty when he wrested the kingdom from Richard. His life, however, had been passed in the midst of perpetual plots and schemes, and in his day men developed early-whereof an even more striking example was his son's contemporary, the great Emperor Charles V. Young as Henry was, there was no youthful hot-headedness in his policy, which was moreover his own. But he selected his advisers with a skill inherited by his son; and the most notable members of the new King's Council were Reginald Bray; Morton, Bishop of Ely, who soon after became Archbishop of Canterbury and was later raised to the Cardinalate; and Fox, afterwards Bishop of Durham and then of Winchester, whose services were continued through the early years of the next reign. Warham, afterwards Archbishop, was another of the great ecclesiastics whom he promoted, and before his death he had discovered the abilities of his son's great minister Thomas Wolsey. For two thirds of his reign, however, Bray and Morton were the men on whom he placed chief reliance.

[Sidenote: Henry's enemies]

Difficult as it was after Henry's union with Elizabeth to name any pretender to the throne with even a plausible claim, Bosworth had been in effect a victory for the Lancastrian party, and many of the Yorkists were still prepared to seize any pretext for attempting to overthrow the new dynasty. Not long after the marriage, Henry started on a progress through his dominions; and while he was in the north, Lord Lovel and other adherents of the late king attempted a rising which was however suppressed with little difficulty. A considerable body of troops was sent against the rebels, while a pardon was proclaimed for all who forthwith surrendered. Many of the insurgents came in; the promise to them was kept. Of the rest, one of the leaders was executed, Lovel escaping; but the affair, though abortive, illustrated the general atmosphere of insecurity which was to be more seriously demonstrated by the insurrection in favour of Lambert Simnel in the following year-some months after the Queen had given birth to a son, Prince Arthur.

Outside Henry's own dominions, the Dowager Margaret of Burgundy, widow of Duke Charles the Bold and sister of Edward IV., was implacably hostile to Henry, and her court was the gathering place of dissatisfied Yorkist intriguers. Within his realms, Ireland, where the House of York had always been popular, offered a perpetual field in which to raise the standard of rebellion, any excuse for getting up a fight being generally welcomed. In that country the power of the King's government, such as it was, was practically confined to the limits of the Pale-and within those limits depended mainly on the attitude of the powerful Irish noble, Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare, who held the office of Deputy.

[Sidenote: 1487 Lambert Simnel]

At the close of the fifteenth century accurate information did not travel rapidly, but vague rumours were readily spread abroad. Rumours were now rife that one of the princes murdered by Richard III. had really escaped and was still living; and on the other hand that the boy Warwick was dead in the Tower. Some one devised the idea of producing a fictitious Richard of York, or Warwick. A boy of humble birth named Lambert Simnel was taught to play the part, carried over to Ireland, and produced after some hesitation as the Earl of Warwick. Presumably the leaders of the Yorkists intended to use the supposititious earl only until the real one could be got into their hands; but Lincoln, who certainly knew the facts, espoused the cause of the pretender, in complicity with Lovel and Margaret of Burgundy. In Ireland, Simnel was cheerfully and with practical unanimity accepted as the king, and a band of German mercenaries, under the command of Martin Swart, was landed in that country to support him; though in London the genuine Warwick was paraded through the streets to show that he was really there alive. Lincoln, who had first escaped to Flanders, joined the pretender; they landed in Lancashire in June. Within a fortnight, however, the opposing forces met at Stoke, and after a brief but fierce conflict the rebel army, mainly composed of Irish and of German mercenaries, was crushed, Lincoln and several leaders were slain, and their puppet was taken captive. Henry's action was the reverse of vindictive, for Simnel was merely relegated to a position, appropriate to his origin, in the royal kitchen, and was subsequently promoted to be one of the King's falconers. Kildare, [Footnote: The narrative in the Book of Howth gives the impression that Kildare was at Stoke, and was made prisoner; but this is probably a misinterpretation arising from a lack of dates.] in spite of his undoubted complicity in the rebellion and the actual participation therein of his kinsmen, was even retained in the office of Deputy. Twenty-eight of the rebels, however, were attainted in the new Parliament which was summoned in November, the Queen's long-deferred coronation taking place at the same time.

The same Parliament is noteworthy as having given a definitely legal status to the judicial authority of the Council by the establishment of the Court thereafter known as the Star Chamber, of which we shall hear later. Besides this, however, it had the duty of voting supplies for embroilments threatening on the Continent.

The complexities of foreign affairs form so important a feature in the history of the next forty years that it is important to open the study of the period with a clear idea of the position of the Continental powers.

[Sidenote: The state of Europe]

Lewis XI., the craftiest of kings, had died in 1482, leaving a tolerably organised kingdom to his young son Charles VIII., under the regency of Anne of Beaujeu. With the exception of the Dukedom of Brittany, which still claimed a degree of independence, and of Flanders and Artois which, though fiefs of France, were still ruled by the House of Burgundy, the whole country was under the royal dominion; which had also absorbed the Duchy of Burgundy proper. The daughter of Charles the Bold, wife of Maximilian of Austria, inherited as a diminished domain the Low Countries and the County of Burgundy or Franche Comté.

East of the Rhine, the kingdoms, principalities, and dukedoms of Germany owned the somewhat vague authority of the Habsburg Emperor Frederick, but the idea of German Unity had not yet come into being. On the south-east the Turks who had captured Constantinople some thirty years before (1453) were a militant and aggressive danger to the Empire and to Christendom; while the stoutest opponent of their fleets was Venice. Switzerland was an independent confederacy of republican States: Italy a collection of separate States-dukedoms such as Milan, kingdoms such as Naples, Republics such as Venice and Florence, with the Papal dominions in their midst. In the Spanish peninsula were the five kingdoms of Navarre, Portugal, the Moorish Granada, Aragon, and Castile. The last two, however, were already united, though not yet merged into one, by the marriage of their respective sovereigns Ferdinand and Isabella. Sardinia and Sicily were attached to Aragon.

Finally we have to note that Maximilian, son of the Emperor, had married Mary of Burgundy; but on Mary's death the Netherlanders recognised as their Duke not Maximilian but his young son Philip-the father exercising only a very precarious authority as the boy's guardian; while the Dowager Margaret, the second wife of Charles the Bold, the lady whose hostility to the House of Lancaster has been already noted, possessed some dower-towns, and considerable influence. In 1486 Maximilian was elected "King of the Romans," in other words his father's presumed successor as Emperor.

[Sidenote: France and Brittany]

For the time, then, the consolidation of France was more advanced than that of any other Power; her desire was to complete the process by the absorption of Brittany. Spain, i.e., Castile and Aragon, had made considerable progress in the same direction, but for her the conquest of Granada was still the prime necessity.

The absorption of Brittany, however, was opposed alike to the interests of Maximilian, of the Spanish monarchs, and of England. To the former two, any further acquisition of power by France was a possible menace. To the last, France was traditionally the enemy, and if Breton ports became French ports, the strength of France in the Channel would be almost doubled. Henry personally was under great obligations both to France and to Brittany, especially to France; but political exigencies evidently compelled him to favour the maintenance of Breton independence.

During 1487 France had been carrying on active hostilities in Brittany, but the results had been small and a treaty had been signed. Lewis, Duke of Orleans, and others of the French nobility who were hostile to the regency of Anne of Beaujeu, were actively promoting the Breton cause within the dukedom; there was no longer an active French party there; and now that Henry in England had suppressed the Simnel rising France became anxious to secure

English neutrality. But, if Henry could not keep clear of the complication altogether; if once the parties in the contest began appealing to him; he was liable to find himself forced to take part with one side or the other. Hence the necessity for calling upon Parliament to vote money for armaments.

[Sidenote: 1488 Henry intervenes cautiously]

Thus in the opening months of 1488 we find Henry on the one hand fitting out ships, and on the other offering friendly mediation both to France and to Brittany: while his policy was not simplified by the unauthorised interposition of his queen's uncle Edward Woodville, who secretly sailed with a band of adventurers to support the Bretons. Henry repudiated Woodville's action, and extended the existing treaty of peace with France to January, 1490. In the same month (July, 1488) the Bretons suffered a complete defeat, and the Duke was obliged to sign a treaty on ignominious terms. Within a fortnight, however, the Duke was dead, and his daughter Anne, a girl of twelve, succeeded him.

The result was the renewal of war; since Anne of Beaujeu and the Breton Marshal de Rieux both claimed the wardship of the young Duchess, for whose hand the widower Maximilian was already a prominent suitor. Now up to this point Henry had refused to adopt a hostile attitude towards France, and had treated overtures from Maximilian with frigidity. But in six months' time he was concluding alliances both with Brittany and with Maximilian.

[Sidenote: England and Spain]

The determining factor in this change of attitude, practically involving a French war, is probably to be found in Henry's relations with Spain. It was of vital importance to him to get his dynasty recognised in an emphatic form by foreign Powers. In Spain under its very able rulers he saw the most valuable of allies, and during the first half of 1488 he had made it his primary concern to procure the betrothal of his own infant son Arthur to their infant daughter Katharine. And virtually his hostility to France was the price they demanded. The preliminaries were settled in July, 1488; the treaty was not definitively signed till March of the next year; and as the essential nature of the Spanish requirements became more apparent, Henry found himself compelled to accept active antagonism to France as part of the bargain. With his subjects, a French war was always secure of a certain popularity, though the provision of funds for it would entail a degree of opposition. Moreover, though foreign wars might give extreme malcontents their opportunity, it is a commonplace of politics that they distract attention from domestic grievances. Thus it is easy to perceive how the benefits of the Spanish alliance would very definitely turn the scale. And we shall still find that Henry had no intention of expending an ounce of either blood or treasure which might be saved consistently with the ostensible fulfilment of the Spanish Compact.

[Sidenote 1: 1489 Preparations for war with France]

[Sidenote 2: Spanish treaty of Medina del Campo]

So in December, 1488, Henry was sending friendly embassies to all the Powers, but while that to France was merely offering mediation, the envoy to Brittany was offering military assistance-on terms. In January a new Parliament was asked for, and after considerable debate granted, £100,000. In February the embassy to Maximilian concluded an alliance for mutual defence; while that to Brittany pledged Henry to defend the young Duchess, but exacted in return the occupation by the English of sundry military positions in the duchy, and the right to forbid any marriage or alliance except with Maximilian or Spain. Then in March the Spanish treaty was completed: whereof the terms were very significant. The children were to be betrothed. If Spain declared war on France, England was to support her. Spain might retire independently if she recovered the small districts of Roussillon and Cerdagne, which had been surrendered (though only in pledge) to Lewis XI.; England might similarly withdraw if she got back Guienne-a very much more visionary prospect. Otherwise, one was not to retire without the other being equally satisfied. If England attacked France, Spain was to help; but occupied as she was with Granada the amount of aid likely to be forthcoming was problematical. In brief, Henry was prepared to pay for the marriage, and Spain could exact a high price.

France then was occupied in the west with the contest in Brittany, and in the north she was supporting the Flemings in their normal resistance to Maximilian. The English could use Calais as a base for operations on this side, and also began to throw troops into Brittany. Incidentally there was a rising in the north of England headed by Sir John Egremont, of which the pretext was resistance to the levying of taxes; this, however, did not take very long to suppress, nor was any one of importance involved in it. Still the hostilities with France were carried on in a very half-hearted fashion; being confined to defensive operations in Brittany which were supposed to be no violation of the peace recently prolonged to January, 1490.

[Sidenote: The allies inert]

Henry was satisfied to make a show of fighting, and Spain made no haste to help him, England not being formally at war. As early as July, Maximilian, shiftiest and most impecunious of princes, concluded at Frankfort an independent treaty with France; who agreed to give up the places she occupied in Brittany if Henry were compelled to withdraw his garrisons; while there were signs that she might cede Roussillon and thus deprive Henry of his claim to Spanish support. Within the duchy itself, the Marshal de Rieux and his ward were in a state of antagonism; since he wished her to marry the Sieur D'Albret, a powerful Gascon noble who was not too submissive to the French monarchy; while the Duchess declared she would rather enter a convent. Anne at last announced her adhesion to the treaty of Frankfort; but as Henry had no intention of evacuating his forts, nothing particular resulted. The English King could not afford simply to drop the contest, and when the New Year came in, he demanded and obtained from Parliament fresh supplies for carrying on the war.

[Sidenote: 1490 Object of Henry's foreign policy]

The game Henry had to play in 1490 was a sufficiently difficult one: and he played it with consummate skill. He meant to hold his position in Brittany until he received adequate indemnities; he had to satisfy his own subjects that he was not going to draw back before the power of France; and he had to carry out the letter of his obligations to Spain under the treaty of the previous March, On the other hand, he had in fact no ambitious military projects, and while Spain abstained from sending active assistance in force, she could not complain if he merely stood on the defensive. The Duchess, finding herself no better off for accepting the Frankfort treaty, adopted the alternative policy of throwing herself on his protection. So he welcomed a mediatorial embassy from the Pope and showed no unwillingness to negotiate, but continued to strengthen his own position; while he could exhibit a sound reason for abstaining from aggressive action and still accumulate war-funds.

By Midsummer France had enlarged her demands since the treaty of Frankfort, requiring the withdrawal of the English from Brittany as a preliminary not to her own withdrawal but to arbitration on her claims. In September the shifty King of the Romans reverted to an alliance with Henry for mutual defence; and the scheme of his marriage with the Duchess Anne was pressed on. Marshal de Rieux had by this time become reconciled to the Duchess, thrown over D'Albret, and come into agreement with Henry. At this time, moreover, Henry ratified publicly the Spanish treaty which had been accepted by Ferdinand and Isabella eighteen months before; but he also submitted an alternative treaty [Footnote: Busch, England under the Tudors. pp. 59, 330; and Gairdner's note, p. 438.] (which Spain rejected) modifying the portions which placed the contracting Powers on an unequal footing. By this step he forced the Spanish monarchs to resign any pretence of having treated him generously or having placed him under an obligation; and the step itself was significant of the increased confidence he had acquired in the stability of his own position. In December Maximilian was married by proxy to Anne-whom he had never seen-and not long afterwards she assumed the style of Queen of the Romans.

[Sidenote: Apparent defeat of Henry's policy]

Ostensibly, the object of Henry's diplomacy had failed. Spain had rejected his proposals: and the direct results of Anne's marriage were that the activity of France was renewed; Spain, with the pretext of the Moorish war to plead, was less inclined than ever to render assistance; Maximilian as a matter of course proved a broken reed; D'Albret, his pretensions being finally shattered, surrendered Nantes to the French by arrangement. England was apparently to bear the entire brunt of the war. Henry was justified in appealing to his subjects for every penny that could be raised, and resorted to "benevolences"-an insidious method of extortion which had been declared illegal in the previous reign, but under the existing abnormal conditions could hardly be resisted. A great demonstration of warlike ardour was made, on the strength of which Spain was urged to pledge herself to throw herself into the war next year with more energy and on more reasonable terms than the existing treaty of Medina del Campo provided for. But in the meantime the French were reducing Brittany, and held the Duchess besieged in Rennes. The French King, Charles VIII., proposed that the marriage with a husband whom she had never seen should be annulled, and the dispute be terminated by his wedding her himself. Resistance seemed hopeless; Anne assented; the necessary dispensations were secured from Rome, and Anne of Brittany became Queen of France.

[Sidenote: 1492 Henry's bellicose attitude]

Now the defence of Brittany had been the primary ground of England's quarrel with the French; with Henry himself, however, this object had been secondary to the matrimonial alliance with Spain, from which the latter was now not likely to withdraw. Henry, moreover, had made use of the whole affair to acquire a full money-chest; and since it was of vital importance that this should be done without turning his subjects against him, it had been necessary to lend the war as popular a colour as possible. Hence it was part of his policy to emphasise at home as his ultimate end the recovery of the English rights in the French Crown, so successfully utilised by his predecessor Henry V. in the first quarter of the century. It would have been manifestly dangerous for him in establishing his dynasty to recede from a claim which both Yorkists and Lancastrians had maintained. Incidentally also, there was the matter of indemnities owing to him by Anne of Brittany for which Maximilian had been made responsible.

[Sidenote 1: France makes peace]

[Sidenote 2: Treaty of Etaples (Dec.)]

Since then it was impracticable simply to retire, the alternative course was to demonstrate; and Henry spent the greater part of 1492 in making the greatest possible display of preparation for war on a great scale-with a view to obtaining satisfying terms of peace. The one real piece of military work taken in hand was the siege and capture of Sluys in Flanders (in conjunction with Albert of Saxony, on behalf of Maximilian); from which port much injury of a piratical order had been wrought upon English merchants. Meantime negotiations had been carried on, but with no appearance of success. At last in October the King actually crossed the Channel to take command of the army of invasion; and sat down before Boulogne. Then on a sudden the air cleared. Charles in fact did not want a serious English war, out of which he could make nothing. But he had developed a very keen ambition to enter Italy and win the Crown of Naples. Henry by himself, or even in conjunction with the much offended Maximilian, was hardly likely to penetrate very far into France, if the forces of that kingdom were arrayed against him; but while he threatened, Charles could not move on Italy; moreover, his presence was an encouragement to those of the nobility whose allegiance was doubtful. So the French King resolved to buy off the English King at his own price. Lewis XI., threatened by Edward IV., had agreed to pay what Edward called a tribute, in return for which he held his claim to the French throne in abeyance. Henry need have no qualms about following his Yorkist predecessor's example. Beyond that, Charles was prepared to pay off the Brittany indemnities. Thus Henry secured Peace with Honour and a solid cash equivalent for his expenditure; besides being able to silence the complaints of the warlike by emphasising the gravity of embarking on a great campaign with winter coming on. He threw over Maximilian, but the faithlessness of the King of the Romans was so palpable and notorious that at the worst Henry was only paying him back in his own coin. As to Spain, Henry knew that the monarchs had been endeavouring to negotiate a separate peace, and they had never carried out their part of the contract. So far as he was breaking engagements with his allies, their own conduct had given him ample warrant. The event had justified Henry's management of a very difficult situation. The Peace of Etaples was ratified in December; and Henry emerged from the war with England's continental prestige restored to a respectable position, a full treasury, and his throne in England infinitely more secure than it had been three years before. He was never again driven to enter upon a foreign war; and now the appearance of Perkin Warbeck on the scene, though it kept England in a state of uneasiness for some years, was incomparably less dangerous than it would have proved at an earlier stage.

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