The Two Henry Tudors and their strive for Legitimacy

Henry VII was the founder of England’s most famous dynasty and his son, Henry VIII, one of the most famous English kings of all time yet both shared the same crushing burden of dynastic expectation. This was a newly established dynasty, with a tenuous claim to the throne of England, and both kings would work tirelessly to build an enduring myth of legitimacy for their family. Our collective memory of the now famous, almost celebrity status, family can sometimes forget these shaky foundations.

When the 28 year old Henry Tudor landed at Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire in August 1485 ready to raise support through his native Wales to take on Richard III in battle, he hadn’t set foot in his country for 14 years. Since the age of 14 he had lived in exile in France. He may have been the only Lancastrian figurehead left but his claim to the throne was so tenuous that establishing the Tudors as rightful rulers of England was a dominant theme which ran through his reign and onto that of his son’s.
Henry VII and his son Henry VIII
The two Henry Tudors, Kings Henry VII and Henry VIII
Henry and his wife Elizabeth of York were successful in producing enough children and enough of them male to at least provide security for a country tired of civil war. The heir apparent, Arthur Prince of Wales and his younger brother Henry Duke of York were healthy, strong and intellectual.
The Tudor family was rocked by the sudden death of Arthur in 1502 at Ludlow Castle, only 6 months after his marriage to Katherine of Aragon. The loss of a child in 16th century England was not uncommon but the death of Arthur rocked Henry VII's world beyond that of a grieving father. It was a personal tragedy which also threatened the already fragile stability of the fledgling dynasty. Arthur's death brought this truth into sharp focus.

Arthur's funeral and subsequent memorial at Worcester Cathedral in the Midlands was a careful balance between the reverance appropriate to the death of the hier to the throne and not drawing too much attention to the loss of a son with only one other remaining.
The Tomb of Arthur Tudor at Worcester Cathedral, nearby is the tomb of King John
The Tomb of Arthur Tudor at Worcester Cathedral, nearby is the tomb of King John
His death represented a massive change for the two Henrys, the Tudor dynasty and, although it wouldn’t be felt until further into the future, the country.
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! But, when the young Henry accended to the throne on the death of his father in 1509, he represented hope for the future. The final decade of Henry VII’s reign had become increasingly oppressive as his suspicious character and paranoid temperament dominated more and more. The death of Arthur followed by the death of his wife in childbirth a year later, only exacerbated matters.

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. 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 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 now, by a different name.

You can visit Arthur's tomb at Worcester Cathedral
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