Battle of Bosworth Field, Duke of Lancaster, Earl of Richmond, England, Henry IV, Henry Tudor, Henry VII of England, House of Lancaster, House of York, John of Gaunt, Kings and Queens of England, Richard II, War of the Roses
As we saw in the last installment Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, had a tenuous claim to the English throne. As descendents of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (son of Edward III) via a third marriage which later legitimized his children, Henry Tudor’s line once had succession rights but those rights were then legally removed. As I mentioned before, the victors get to rewrite the rules and this is evident in the rise to the throne of Henry VII.
With the death of Henry VI and the death of his son, Edward, Prince of Wales, the collateral branch of the Plantagenet, known as the House of Lancaster had come to an end. However, there were other descendants of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster to take up the Lancastrian claims. The Beaufort House, from John of Gaunt’s third marriage, were given the title Duke of Somerset and after the extinction of the male line only the female line remained, represented by Lady Margaret Beaufort and her son Henry Tudor. The year after the Battle of Tewkesbury Lady Margaret married Lord Stanley, who had been a devoted supported of King Edward IV. Stanley did not support Richard III and instrumental in putting Henry Tudor on the throne.
It was the defeat of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in August of 1485 that placed the new Tudor Dynasty on the throne. Ever since Henry IV usurped the throne from Richard II in 1399 the legality of all the subsequent kings has been a pretty messy situation. Although Henry had a slim blood claim to the throne his legal standing was even weaker given that his line had lost its succession rights. Therefore, his succession to the throne was more of a conquest than a usurpation.
One of the things the new Henry VII did was to unite the warring factions while also strengthening his position on the throne. To do that he desired to marry Elizabeth of York, daughter of King Edward IV. This would unite both the houses of York and Lancaster. However there was some resistance to that. Those that were against the union claimed that Richard III’s Act of Parliament, Titulus Regius, that had declared the marriage of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville invalid and the children illegitimate still stood as law. Henry VII disagreed with that position and had the act repealed. When he was crowned Henry VII took the throne not as a conqueror but as a legitimate descendant of John of Gaunt.
Henry and Elizabeth married on January 18, 1486. Their first son, Arthur, born on September 20, 1486 had a strong blood and legal claim to the throne. He was a descendant of the now legal King Henry VII of England and he was a multiple descendant of Edward III and heir to both the houses of York and Lancaster.
As we shall see in the next section of this series Arthur never lived to become king and the throne passed to his brother who became King Henry VIII of England. Although the succession of Henry VII and his marriage to Elizabeth of York ended the Dynastic Wars struggles for the throne would also plague the Tudor Dynasty.