CHAPTER I. HENRY VII (i), 1485-92 - THE NEW DYNASTY

[1485 Henry's title to the Crown]

On August 22nd, 1485, Henry Earl of Richmond overcame and slew King Richard III., and was hailed as King on the field of victory. But the destruction of Richard, an indubitable usurper and tyrant, was only the first step in establishing a title to the throne as disputable as ever a monarch put forward. To establish that title, however, was the primary necessity not merely for Henry himself, but in the general interest; which demanded a secure government after half a century of turmoil.

Henry's hereditary title amounted to nothing more than this, that through his mother he was the recognised representative of the House of Lancaster in virtue of his Beaufort descent from John of Gaunt, [Footnote: See Front. and Appendix B. The prior hereditary claims of the royal Houses of Portugal and Castile and of the Earl of Westmorland were ignored.] father of Henry IV.; whereas the House of York was descended in the female line from Lionel of Clarence, John of Gaunt's elder brother, and in unbroken male line from the younger brother Edmund of York. On the simple ground of descent therefore, any and every member of the House of York had a prior title to Henry's; the most complete title lying in Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Edward IV.; while the young Earl of Warwick, son of George of Clarence, was the first male representative, and John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, son of Edward's sister, had been named by Richard as heir presumptive.

But Henry could support his hereditary title, such as it was, by the actual fact that it was he and not a Yorkist who had challenged and overthrown the usurper Richard.

[Sidenote 1: Measures to strengthen the title] [Sidenote 2: 1486 Marriage]

Now the idea that the rivalry of the Houses of York and Lancaster should be terminated and their union be effected by the marriage of the two recognised representatives had been mooted long before. But in Henry's position, it was imperative that he should assert his own personal right to the throne, not admitting that he occupied it as his wife's consort. His strongest line was to claim the Crown as his own of right and procure the endorsement of that claim from Parliament, [Footnote: The intricacies of descent, and the position of the crowd of hypothetical claimants, are set forth in detail in Appendix B, and the complete genealogical chart (Front.).] as Henry IV. had done on the deposition of Richard II. He could then without prejudice to his own title effectively bar other rivals by taking as his consort Elizabeth of York; since the Yorkists, as a group, would at any rate hesitate to assert priority of title to hers for either Warwick or De la Pole (who in fact never himself posed as a claimant for the throne). In accordance with this plan of operations, the contemplated marriage with Elizabeth of York was in the first instance postponed as a matter for later consideration. Henry proceeded forthwith to London, entering the City laetanter, amidst public rejoicings; [Footnote: Gairdner, Memorials of Henry VII., p. xxvi, where a curious misapprehension is explained for which Bacon is mainly responsible.] writs for a new Parliament being issued a few days later. The coronation took place on October 30th; a week afterwards Parliament met, and an Act was promptly passed, declaring - without giving any reasons, which might have been disputed - that the "inheritance of the Crowns of England and France be, rest, remain and abide, in the person of our now Sovereign Lord, King Harry the Seventh, and in the heirs of his body". This was sufficiently decisive; but the endorsement of Henry's title in the abstract was confirmed by further enactments which assumed that he had been King of right, before the battle of Bosworth (thus repudiating title by conquest), since they attainted of treason those who had joined Richard in levying war against him. Thus Henry had affirmed his own inherent right to the throne; and had hedged that round with an unqualified parliamentary title. In the meantime he had also disqualified one possible figure-head for the Yorkists by lodging the young Earl of Warwick in the Tower. It remained for him to convert the other and principal rival into a prop of his own dignities by marrying Elizabeth of York. Accordingly he was formally petitioned by Parliament in December to take the princess to wife, to which petition he graciously assented, and the union of the red and white roses was accomplished in January. Any son born of this marriage would in his own person unite the claims of the House of Lancaster with those of the senior branch of the House of York.

[The King and his advisers]