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This is the Legal succession issue which inspired me to do this series. It is complex so I will divide it into a couple of blog entries.

Many know that Richard III was killed at Bosworth Field on August 22 1485 in the last battle of the War of the Roses and that the victor on the field of battle, Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, a scion of the House of Lancaster, mounted the English throne to become King Henry VII. The question I ask is, did Henry VII have any legal claims to the throne? Was he a usurper or did he obtain the crown by conquest? My assertion is that his blood claim to the throne was weak, there were many ahead of him in the order of succession, therefore that he obtained the throne by right of conquest.

First of all I would like to examine his blood claim to the throne of England. His claim to the throne begins with his descent from King Edward III via his son, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. As we have already seen The House of Lancaster came to power when Henry IV usurped the throne from Richard II in 1399. Henry IV was the son of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and his first wife, Blanch of Lancaster. John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, married a second time, Constance of Castile, daughter of King Pedro the Cruel of Castile. John of Gaunt and Constance of Castile had one daughter, Catherine, who married her cousin, King Enrique III of Castile. From this union descends the Kings and Queens of Spain.

The descent from John of Gaunt which gave Henry Tudor a weak claim to the throne was through John of Gaunt’s third union with Katherine Swynford née (de) Roet. Initially Katherine was the governess to Gaunt’s daughters, Philippa and Elizabeth. After the death of Gaunt’s first wife, Blanch, John and Katherine entered into a romantic relationship which produced 4 children, all illegitimate being born out-of-wedlock. However, two years after the death of Constance of Castile, John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford legally married at Lincoln cathedral 1393.

Subsequent Letters Patent in 1397 by Richard II and a Papal Bull issued by the Pope Eugene IV legitimized the adult children of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford with full rights to the throne. However, an Act of Parliament in the reign of Henry IV confirmed their legitimacy but barred the children from having rights to the throne. Later historians would argue whether or not the barring of the children of this union from the English throne was legal or not. This Act of Parliament did weaken the claims of Henry Tudor.

I will stop here and continue this series next week.