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Henry VII

Henry VII., the first of a new dynasty, was the grandson of Owen Tudor, who married Henry V.'s widow, and of Margaret Beaufort, great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt. He was born in 1456, and was recognised by his half-brother, Henry VI. From 1471 to 1485 he lived in Brittany, the duke refusing to give him up to the Yorkists. In the autumn of 1485 he landed at Milford Haven with an army of English exiles, and on August 22 defeated Richard III. at Bosworth. He was recognised as king by an Act of Parliament, and early in 1486 married, as he had promised, Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV. He refused, however, to allow her to be crowned until after the risings of Lovel and Lambert Simnel had shown him the importance of really conciliating the Yorkists. Although, as the last male of the House of Lancaster, he had been virtually acknowledged, he had no legal claim, since Katherine Swynford was only the mistress of John of Gaunt, and her descendants had been barred from the succession by Act of Parliament. He was really king, then, by conquest, and had to maintain his position against various pretenders. The most dangerous of these was Perkin Osbeck, or Warbeck, supposed to be a Fleming, who, claiming to be a son of Edward IV., obtained the support of Burgundy and Scotland, and at first of France. In 1497 he appeared in Cornwall, but was unable to keep together his forces, and was captured. Two years later he was executed in company with the Earl of Warwick, son of Clarence, and a confession of imposture was published.

With Henry VII. begins that tendency to absolute monarchy which is only finally checked by the Revolution of 1688. Firm government and strict economy were the chief characteristics of his internal policy. He established the Star Chamber to put down the power of the nobles and especially the practice of maintenance, or the keeping of liveried retainers who backed their lord against all law and justice. The necessity for summoning Parliaments was obviated by the practice of levying benevolences, by heavy fines for breaches of actual and obsolete laws, and by money obtained from France in liquidation of English claims to the crown, in addition to that voted by the English Parliament for the war. In 1496 the "Great Intercourse," a commercial and political treaty, was concluded with Flanders. Moreover Poyning's Law (1495) first secured the supremacy of the English crown over the Irish Parliament.

In foreign affairs Henry aimed at securing the position of England by marriage alliances. He separated France and Scotland by giving the hand of his. daughter Margaret to James IV. By the marriage of his son Arthur, and after his death of Henry, with the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, he maintained the traditional alliance with Spain, and he himself proposed to marry (as his second wife) the daughter of the Emperor Maximilian. This and other matches fell through; but England was left in a firm position at his death in 1509. A history of his reign was written by Francis Bacon.