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The House of Tudor (//) was an English and Welsh dynasty that held the throne of England from 1485 to 1603. They descended from the Tudors of Penmynydd, a Welsh noble family, and Catherine of Valois. The Tudor monarchs ruled the Kingdom of England and the Lordship of Ireland (later the Kingdom of Ireland) for 118 years with five monarchs: Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I. The Tudors succeeded the House of Plantagenet as rulers of the Kingdom of England, and were succeeded by the House of Stuart. The first Tudor monarch, Henry VII, descended through his mother from the House of Beaufort, a legitimised branch of the English royal House of Lancaster, a cadet house of the Plantagenets. The Tudor family rose to power and started the Tudor period in the wake of the Wars of the Roses (1455–1487), which left the main House of Lancaster (with which the Tudors were aligned) extinct in the male line.
|House of Tudor
|Tudors of Penmynydd
|1485; 539 years ago (1485)
|Henry VII (first Tudor king)
|24 March 1603
Henry VII (a descendant of Edward III, and the son of Edmund Tudor, a half-brother of Henry VI) succeeded in presenting himself as a candidate not only for traditional Lancastrian supporters, but also for discontented supporters of their rival Plantagenet cadet House of York, and he took the throne by right of conquest. Following his victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field (22 August 1485), he reinforced his position in 1486 by fulfilling his 1483 vow to marry Elizabeth of York, daughter of King Edward IV and the heiress of the Yorkist claim to the throne, thus symbolically uniting the former warring factions of Lancaster and York under the new dynasty (represented by the Tudor rose). The Tudors extended their power beyond modern England, achieving the full union of England and the Principality of Wales in 1542 (Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542), and successfully asserting English authority over the Kingdom of Ireland (proclaimed by the Crown of Ireland Act 1542). They also maintained the nominal English claim to the Kingdom of France; although none of them made substance of it, Henry VIII fought wars with France primarily as a matter of international alliances but also asserting claim to the title. After him, his daughter Mary I lost control of all territory in France permanently with the Siege of Calais in 1558.
In total, the Tudor monarchs ruled their domains for 117 years. Henry VIII (r. 1509–1547) was the only son of Henry VII to live to the age of maturity, and he proved a dominant ruler. Issues around royal succession (including marriage and the succession rights of women) became major political themes during the Tudor era, as did the English Reformation in religion, impacting the future of the Crown. Elizabeth I was the longest serving Tudor monarch at 44 years, and her reign known as the Elizabethan Era provided a period of stability after the short, troubled reigns of her siblings. When Elizabeth I died childless, her cousin of the Scottish House of Stuart succeeded her, in the Union of the Crowns of 24 March 1603. The first Stuart to become King of England (r. 1603–1625), James VI and I, was a great-grandson of Henry VII's daughter Margaret Tudor, who in 1503 had married James IV of Scotland in accordance with the 1502 Treaty of Perpetual Peace.
Ascent to the throne
The Tudors descended from King Edward III on Henry VII's mother's side from John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, one of the illegitimate children of the 14th century English prince John of Gaunt, the third surviving son of Edward III. Beaufort's mother was Gaunt's long-term mistress, Katherine Swynford.
The descendants of an illegitimate child of English royalty would normally have no claim on the throne, although Gaunt and Swynford eventually married in 1396, when John Beaufort was 25. The church then retroactively declared the Beauforts legitimate by way of a papal bull the same year, confirmed by an Act of Parliament in 1397. A subsequent proclamation by John of Gaunt's son by his first wife Blanche of Lancaster, King Henry IV, also recognised the Beauforts' legitimacy but declared the line ineligible for the throne.
Nevertheless, the Beauforts remained closely allied with Gaunt's descendants from his first marriage, the House of Lancaster, during the civil wars known as the Wars of the Roses. However the descent from the Beauforts did not necessarily render Henry Tudor (Henry VII) heir to the throne, nor did the fact that his paternal grandmother, Catherine of Valois, had been Queen of England due to her first marriage to Henry V (although, this did make Henry VII a nephew of Henry VI).
The legitimate claim was that of Henry Tudor's wife, Elizabeth of York, as daughter to Edward IV, and descendant of the second son of Edward III, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, and also his fourth son, Edmund, Duke of York. As she had no surviving brothers, Elizabeth had the strongest claim to the crown as de facto heiress of the House of York, but while she became queen consort, she did not rule as queen regnant; for the last attempt a female made at ruling in her own right had resulted in disaster when Henry II's mother, Empress Matilda, and her cousin, Stephen of Blois, fought bitterly for the throne in the 12th century.
Family connections and the Wars of the Roses
Henry Tudor had, however, something that the others did not. He had an army which defeated the last Yorkist king, Richard III, in the field of battle and the support of powerful nobles to take the crown by right of conquest. Richard III's accession to the throne had proved controversial, even among the Yorkists.
Henry Tudor, as Henry VII, and his son by Elizabeth of York, Henry VIII eliminated other claimants to the throne, including his first cousin once removed, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, and her son Henry Pole, 1st Baron Montagu, as well as Henry Courtenay, 1st Marquess of Exeter.
On 1 November 1455, John Beaufort's granddaughter, Margaret Beaufort, married Henry VI's maternal half-brother Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond. It was his father, Owen Tudor (Welsh: Owain ap Maredudd ap Tudur ap Goronwy ap Tudur ap Goronwy ap Ednyfed Fychan), who abandoned the Welsh patronymic naming practice and adopted a fixed surname. When he did, he did not choose, as was generally the custom, his father's name, Maredudd, but chose that of his grandfather, Tudur ap Goronwy, instead.
This name is sometimes given as Tewdwr, the Welsh form of Theodore, but Modern Welsh Tudur, Old Welsh Tutir is originally not a variant but a different and completely unrelated name, etymologically identical with Gaulish Toutorix, from Proto-Celtic *toutā "people, tribe" and *rīxs "king" (compare Modern Welsh tud "territory" and rhi "king" respectively), corresponding to Germanic Theodoric.
Owen Tudor was one of the bodyguards for the queen dowager Catherine of Valois, whose husband, Henry V, had died in 1422. Evidence suggests that the two were secretly married in 1428. Two sons born of the marriage, Edmund and Jasper, were among the most loyal supporters of the House of Lancaster in its struggle against the House of York.
Henry VI ennobled his half-brothers: Edmund became Earl of Richmond on 15 December 1449 and was married to Lady Margaret Beaufort, the great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, the progenitor of the house of Lancaster; Jasper became Earl of Pembroke on 23 November 1452. Edmund died on 3 November 1456. On 28 January 1457, his widow Margaret, who was only 13 at the time, gave birth to a son, Henry Tudor, at her brother-in-law's residence at Pembroke Castle.
Henry Tudor, the future Henry VII, spent his childhood at Raglan Castle, the home of Lord Herbert, a leading Yorkist. Following the murder of Henry VI and death of his son, Edward, at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471, Henry became the person upon whom the Lancastrian cause rested. Concerned for his young nephew's life, Jasper Tudor took Henry to Brittany for safety.
Lady Margaret remained in England and remarried, living quietly while advancing the Lancastrian (and her son's) cause. Capitalizing on the growing unpopularity of Richard III (King of England from 1483), she was able to forge an alliance with discontented Yorkists in support of her son. Two years after Richard III was crowned, Henry and Jasper sailed from the mouth of the Seine to the Milford Haven Waterway and defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22 August 1485. Upon this victory, Henry Tudor proclaimed himself King Henry VII.
Upon becoming king in 1485, Henry VII moved rapidly to secure his hold on the throne. On 18 January 1486 at Westminster Abbey, he honoured a pledge made three years earlier and married Elizabeth of York, daughter of King Edward IV. They were third cousins, as both were great-great-grandchildren of John of Gaunt. The marriage unified the warring houses of Lancaster and York and gave the couple's children a strong claim to the throne. The unification of the two houses through this marriage is symbolised by the heraldic emblem of the Tudor rose, a combination of the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster.
- Arthur, Prince of Wales (born 1486, died 1502)
- Henry, Duke of York (born 1491, died 1547)
- Margaret (born 1489, died 1541), who married James IV of Scotland
- Mary (born 1496, died 1533), who married Louis XII of France
Henry VII's foreign policy had an objective of dynastic security: he formed an alliance with Scotland with the marriage in 1503 of his daughter Margaret to James IV of Scotland, and with Spain through the marriage of his son Arthur to Catherine of Aragon, cementing an alliance with the Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. The newlyweds spent their honeymoon at Ludlow Castle, the traditional seat of the Prince of Wales. However, four months after the marriage, Arthur died, leaving his younger brother Henry as heir apparent. Henry VII acquired a papal dispensation allowing Prince Henry to marry Arthur's widow; however, Henry VII delayed the marriage.
Henry VII limited his involvement in European politics. He went to war only twice: once in 1489 during the French–Breton War and the invasion of Brittany, and in 1496–1497 in revenge for Scottish support of Perkin Warbeck and for the Scottish invasion of northern England. Henry VII made peace with France in 1492 and the war against Scotland was abandoned because of the Cornish rebellion of 1497. Henry VII made peace with James IV in 1502 with the Treaty of Perpetual Peace, paving the way for the marriage of his daughter Margaret.
One of the main concerns of Henry VII during his reign was the re-accumulation of the funds in the royal treasury. England had never been one of the wealthier European countries, and after the Wars of the Roses this was even more true. Through his strict monetary strategy, he was able to leave a considerable amount of money in the Treasury for his son and successor, Henry VIII. Although it is debated whether Henry VII was a great king, he certainly was a successful one if only because he restored the nation's finances, strengthened the judicial system and successfully denied all other claimants to the throne, thus further securing it for his heir.