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The Two Henry Tudors: Striving for Legitimacy


Henry VII was the founder of England's most famous dynasty. His son, Henry VIII, one of the most famous English kings of all time. However, both shared the same crushing burden of dynastic expectation. This was a newly established dynasty based on shaky foundations and both worked tirelessly to build the enduring myth of legitimacy for their family. They may have shared the same problems but as men, they shared very few characteristics.

The passing of the crown from the elder to younger Henry, in 1509, was the first peaceful transfer of power in living memory. The sharp contrast in characters of the two Henrys gave contemporaries hope that the accession of a new Henry would herald the dawn of a new epoch of rule, one where subjects openly loved their king without fear of his actions. The last decade of Henry VII's reign had become increasingly oppressive as his suspicious character and paranoid temperament dominated more and more. The death of his first born son, Prince Arthur the Prince of Wales, in 1502 followed by the death of his wife in childbirth a year later, only exacerbated matters.

Henry Tudor's world was rocked by this sudden and public threat to the stability of the dynasty. Why should the death of a child, a not uncommon experience in 16th century England, when he had another son, be such a cause for concern? That lies in a truth which the grand memory of Henry VIII and his infamous daughter Elizabeth I belies - the tenuous claim to the throne of Henry Tudor.

No one could have predicted the even greater turmoil that the second Henry would bring to the country and the very souls of his subjects through his efforts to secure an heir but, for now, the young Henry represented hope for the future.


This is part of the Tudors Factsheet Pack available for £3.50 from the British History Tours website

Henry VIII died on what would have been his father's 90th birthday, the crown of England once again passing from father to son. Only 56 years later the Tudor dynasty was to end with the death of the last surviving child of Henry VIII, the childless Elizabeth.The throne was now passed to the Stuart family, the Scottish descendants of Henry VII through his eldest daughter Margaret, and so Tudor blood still ran through the veins of the English monarchs even though by a different name.

- Philippa Brewell

History Writer and History Tour Creator


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