I am a research and design engineer and can program in several different programming languages. I know about natural language processing and artificial intelligence. I have a bachelor’s level knowledge of psychology and cognitive science. I can knit and crochet just about any pattern you put in front of me and know way more about various time formats than I ever thought I would need to know. I can tell you most of the plots of Star Trek The Next Generation episodes by the title, and give you the back story of Dr. Who (not that most people would care about the latter two).
But I am not ashamed to admit there are a ton of things I know nothing about. Ask me the dates of any battle in almost any war and I’ll stare at you like you have three heads. Or if you asked me about current fashion designers I’d probably hide under my bed. And don’t even try to get me to fill in the name of countries on a blank map; I’d just make a fool of myself. But, hopefully this blog will give me the opportunity to fill in those gaps.
One of my favorite shows was Showtime’s The Tudors. So let’s start with a little history lesson of everyone’s royal family…
The Tudor dynasty has arguably given us the modern prototype of royalty. It is Henry VIII that is the most famous of the Tudors. His regime, filled with corruption and scandal, has inspired countless works of art and still inspires authors today. But, this is not about Henry VIII, I know quite a bit about him. But his father, Henry VII, I knew nothing about until now. And it was Henry VII that paved the way for Henry VIII and his children to rule England.
Henry Tudor VII’s claim to the throne had little merit. Son to Margret Beaufort, the descendant of the illegitimate child of John of Gaunt, her progeny were never intended to ascend the throne… despite their being legitimized by an Act of Parliament.
Margret saw some hope when the last of the House of Lancaster heirs was killed in battle. She exiled Henry to Brittany, France to be protected. When he was old enough, Henry started to work on his plan to rule England. After one failed attempt on the throne, on August 7, 1485, starting out from Milford Haven, Wales Henry invaded England from the north and the east.
His father, Edmund Tudor was a Welsh man. This gave Henry the support of the Welsh in defeating Richard III at the battle of Bosworth Field. Henry took the throne but he still had to win over the people of England. He quickly went to work, making his way from town to town listening to the people’s concerns. While this was a noble thing to do, he didn’t take too much time addressing what he learned.
Henry VII was extremely paranoid which was somewhat justified. Not only did he take the throne by force, not by succession which was the custom, he had several others attempt to make claims to the throne. They obviously failed, but he became the first king to feel a true need for a personal body guard. He had very few people he trusted, mainly those who helped him claim the throne, his mother and Uncle Jasper Tudor.
His paranoia is what defined his reign. Every financial decision, he personally audited and signed. Unable to tax the people in any other way than on imports and exports, he abused his power by imposing fines for unlawful acts and strictly enforcing these laws. This is what brought him his fortune. And it was an impressive fortune, some historians estimate it was in the millions. His hoarding of money was further evidence of his insecurity. But his financial policies rid the English royalty of their debts and died the richest king England had ever had.
Henry also very rarely restored or granted nobility status to others and made it illegal for anyone to have people working for them beyond servants for household needs. Everyone under his regime was equal in the eyes of the law and he passed the law that allowed the burning of heretics. He rarely got involved with foreign affairs except to send aid to Brittany, France, who guarded him as a child.
While he rarely built structures, he did build the Lady Chapel in honor of his Uncle and to act as his tomb. Later, it became the Tudor mausoleum where all of the Tudors were laid to rest except Henry VIII. He was a devout pilgrim and donated a statue of himself to Our Lady at Walsingham. But to Henry the church was just another way for him to make money. He abused the fact that when a new bishop arrived at a church, he brought along all church property, trading bishops like baseball cards.
In his later years, his son Arthur was being groomed for the throne. A treaty was signed between Spain and England and Arthur married Catherine of Aragon. Unfortunately, Arthur fell ill and died. It wasn’t long till tragedy struck again. King Henry’s wife gave birth to a baby girl who died soon after being delivered and a week later his wife died from complications. His daughter Margaret married James IV of Scotland leaving him with only his son Henry VIII. As quickly as possible, Henry VIII was groomed to be King. He would marry his brother’s widow after some postponement, likely due to his father’s belief that if he had a sexual relationship at such a young age it would bring him bad health to as it did Arthur.
Towards the end of his life, Henry began to fear death. He gave donations to the church on a regular basis in attempts to repent his sins. In his will he requested ten thousand masses to be held in his name and for the donations to continue.
But all of this was just to ensure his route to heaven, which we cannot know if he succeeder. On April 21, 1509, Henry VII died making Henry VIII king. And his story is for another day…