Monday, January 18, 2010

Henry VII

This week I wanted to blog about something different. And something I knew really well. And after looking over the events that happened this week on a different site than usual, I found some promising leads. Like Monday, January 19, was the day that Thomas Crapper patented the toilet. While that is a worthwhile thing to note, since the toilet was and still is an important invention, I don’t know that I really want to research how the toilet came about. So instead I will be blogging about how on January 18, 1486 King Henry VII married Elizabeth.

At the very end of the semester of my Medieval England History class we learned about King Henry VII as a conclusion of the war of the Roses and a tie in to the Tudor family and High Middle Ages.

For those who don’t know, the War of the Roses was a battle between the Lancastrian and York families in England, basically both part of the same family, descendants of King Edward III. But since he had 12 children, this formed two branches of the family vying for the thrown. After Edward III death, young Richard II (a York) inherited the thrown. He was the grandson of Edward III, his father Edward the Black Prince was the eldest son of Kind Edward III, but died from dysentery months before Edward III own death. Thus, based on feudal law Richard, not one of his Uncles, inherited the thrown.

Now, I hope that everyone here sees that this should cause problems. Here we have a young, minor King ruling in place when there were several elder Uncles fit for the job. But the Feudal System set in place by William I, or William the Conqueror (or William the Bastard as he was known before. As my teacher said, being a bastard in the Middle Ages wasn’t the worst thing, and William had a serious upgrade in name when he invaded England) when he became King of England and brought over the French customs.

So, within a few years the Uncles got angry and the Lancastrians decided to fight Richard II, and when they won, Henry IV became King of England. So for the next 30 years the Lancastrians were the Kings in England, until the York’s saw their chance and took the thrown with Edward IV. Instead of living a long time though, he died with a minor son. In England a minor King is never a good thing since he acts through regents until he reaches his maturity. His uncle Richard saw this as a weakness for the York’s, and in order to keep the power in his family he made the decision to take the crown of England.

May I say while Richard was breaking Feudal Law by taking the crown of England, prior to William I invasion in 1066 the Anglo Saxon Kings after Alfred the Great inherited brother to sons. So, this was a previous tradition in England, but the English people then, as of now, didn’t like the idea of a King who killed the rightful heir (a child even) to gain the crown. He was extremely unpopular, and there was another claimant to the thrown other than Richard: Henry Tudor.

After about three years of reigning the rebellion against Richard, Henry Tudor finally came to England. In the climax of fighting Henry Tudor killed Richard III. This signaled his uncontested rise to be the next English King, and in many ways he used traditional Germanic means of fighting to gain the thrown. In the early days of England, when there were the seven German kingdoms, the King was chosen as the most skillful fighter, so this rise to power was similar to the early German Kings in England. Henry Tudor was the next King of England.

And now we come back to the original reason for writing: his marriage to Elizabeth. Henry was a descendant of Katherine, the wife of John of Gaunt, a Lancastrian. Thus, Henry associated more with the Lancastrians, and in order to bridge the gap between the two families, Henry decided a marriage between the two households was the best way to bridge the gap. So, he married Elizabeth a descendant of Kind Edward IV, and York (and also a woman that Richard III wanted to marry as well, but if you want to know more about that I suggest reading Shakespeare’s play Richard III).

King Henry VII was the last king before the High Middle Ages, and he brought England back to glory. He was considered one of the new reform Kings in Europe, along with Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Span, and through treaties and building up the treasury by staying out of war, he was able to rebuild England and leave it a wealthy country in peace. But, unlike father, Henry VIII would not keep the peace for long, but that is another history lesson entirely.

So now comes the fun part; why is this relevant to today? King Henry VII reigned from 1485-1509, a long time ago, so he hardly seems relevant. Perhaps it was that King Henry was able to take England and rebuild the country. Before he became King, the country was in debt from the Hundred Years War, and had internal turmoil due to the fighting between the two families. King Henry, through treaties, was able to keep England out of war with France, allowing the treasury to grow again. When he died, Henry left England financially stable and at peace with the world. The best I can think is that it was this foundation that allowed England to grow into the world power it would be during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and on. With her defeat of the Spanish Armada, Spain would no longer be a threat. And her exploration into North America with the colonies would lay the foundations for the United States and Canada. I imagine that if Henry VII hadn’t laid the foundations for her, the world may have turned out quite different.

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