Henry VII captured the throne in 1485 by defeating King Richard III in the battle of Bosworth, therefore earning the divine right as King. During his reign Henry was faced with many challenges including claims of illegitimacy, rebellions, foreign powers and threats from the nobility. In this essay which of these challenges was the greatest and how Henry overcame them. Rebellions were Henry’s greatest challenge to an extent because individuals and groups opposed the King causing a physical threat; therefore Henry had to spend money and waste men in the war caused by these rebellions.
For example in 1487 Lambert Simnel, a man claiming to be the Earl of Warwick (Edward IV’s nephew), was a British Yorkist who wanted power. In 1487 Simnel formed an army of mercenaries to fight in the Battle of Stoke however he was defeated by the King’s army and became Henry’s kitchen boy. This rebellion created by Lambert Simnel could be classed as a challenge because he had support from John de la pole and Margaret burgundy (Edward IV’s) mother) therefore Henry knew that important people were trying to get a Yorkist on the thrown.
However this rebellion may not be classed as the biggest challenge because Simnel’s army was made up of mercenaries (paid men) who could eventually leave or swap onto the King’s side, so they were not entirely faithful. Also there was poor leadership and organisation therefore Henry may not have found this rebellion challenging. Henry overcame Simnel’s rebellion by defeating him, during this process Henry became worried that his men would betray him like the Stanley brothers had done in the Battle of Bosworth.
So in 1487 Henry consulted with parliament and created attainders, these were used to scare and get rid of nobles by charging someone with treason without a trial. Therefore rebellions could be seen as a challenge for Henry VII because if a person or group of people opposed the king it could often result in a snowball effect leading to protesting and rebelling against the Kings policies. Another challenge that Henry VII faced was threats by the nobility, nobles often had wealth and territorial power therefore making potential rivals to the crown.
Nobles were seen as a challenge to Henry if they were found to be disloyal, the first attainders were used on men who opposed Henry in the Battle of Bosworth. They lost their titles and possessions as well as being declared guilty of treason. During Henry’s reign 138 attainders were passed 46 of which were reversed, to do this they must show secure gratitude and loyalty towards Henry as well as paying a large fine. Nobles were challenging for Henry as they often had a good financial status so could gather men to start a rebellion, nobles had the power of speaking to vast amounts of people and spreading a message.
For example a noble could say that Henry had an illegitimate claim to the throne, this would travel and people may start to protest and rebel against the King. Many people argued that Henry VII had no or very little claim to the throne. However Henry argues that he had a legitimate claim to the crown as his mother was Margaret Beaufort and his father was Edmund Earl of Richmond both of his parents came from the John of Gaunt line, therefore his mother’s heritage meant he had a link to the throne and was able to successfully become king.
Henry’s weak claim to the thrown can be seen as a challenge because many citizens doubted his claim to the throne, which meant that they started rebellions or questioned his policies. England’s relationship with France posed a large challenge for Henry throughout his reign, as they were the country’s traditional rival in the middle ages. Henry became suspicious of the French revival after Charles VIII invaded Italy in 1495. During Henry VII’s reign many parts of France were virtually independent of the French King (Charles VIII), this included Brittany and Calais (which was ruled by England).
In order to avoid conflict with the French, Henry set up a foreign policy which acted like a truce between the countries, this was set up in 1485 and was later extended to 1489. In 1491 the French king started to invade Brittany, Henry felt as though he owed the french king as he had sheltered him from the Yorkists, so Henry sent 6000 volunteers to Brittany as a defence against the French. Although this was a main factor for defending Brittany, Henry also knew that the invasion could have a massive impact on England.
As if France was to capture Brittany then Calais would become more vulnerable causing disruptions in trade between England and France, this could also leave the south coast of England in a weaker military position. England’s relationship with France was seen as a challenge for Henry as the country’s internal division could impact his own country and its citizens, in order to avoid attacks from other countries Henry introduced a series of truces between 1485 and 1492 with neighbouring countries that could potentially pose a threat.
In conclusion rebellions can be seen as Henry’s greatest challenge because he often wasted men as well as money on the attacks from rebellions and if a person or group of people opposed the king it could result in a snowball effect leading to protesting and rebelling against the Kings policies. However other factors imposed threats as well as challenges Henry’s reign, this included controlling the nobility to avoid uprising, proving the legitimacy of his claim to the thrown and maintaining a civil relationship with neighbouring countries to benefit his own country.