Henry VII was born in Pembroke, Wales, on January 28, 1457. Henry Tudor was the first king in the Tudor dynasty. He rose to the English throne in 1485, and established the foundations for the future British Empire. His father having died, Henry spent most of his childhood with his paternal uncle, Jasper Tudor. The War of the Roses, a bloody civil war between two branches of the monarchy, the House of Lancaster and the House of York, was waged while he was a young man. Jasper Tudor, Henry’s uncle, was the head of the Lancaster faction.
In 1471, Edward IV, a member of the rival York faction, rose to the English throne. Henry, the Lancastrian candidate, was forced into exile in France, where he remained for 14 years. When Edward IV died, his brother, Richard III, became king.
In 1485, Henry landed in England, and in the Battle of Bosworth defeated the sovereign’s forces thanks to help from part of the country’s nobility. He proceeded to London, and on October 30 was crowned king with the name Henry VII. The next year he married the daughter of his old enemy Henry VI, Elizabeth of York, thereby forging a peace between the two factions.
Bolstered by his new legitimacy, Henry VII set out to restore royal authority, overhauling the country’s legal and fiscal regime and in so doing reducing the power of the country’s aristocracy. Thanks to the robust reform and renewal pushed forward by the king, the English government became much more efficient. The amount of money flowing into the royal coffers made the crown immune to pressures from Parliament. In 1501, Henry VII’s firstborn son, Arthur, married Catherine of Aragon, strengthening the alliance with Spain. England went on to forge economic agreements with France.
The commercial and naval expansion policies backed by Henry VII led England to take on more and more challenges beyond its own borders, thus signaling a kind of prelude to the birth of the British Empire. Henry VII died in Richmond in 1509. He was 52. He was succeeded by his second-born son, Henry VIII. The Tudor dynasties, which ruled for more than a century, brought England both prestige and prosperity.