Monday, October 24, 2011

Henry VII – putting the Legit in Illegitimate

Henry VII was the first Tutor on the throne and although legitimacy was considered a rule for the time period, apparently this rule does not apply to men with a substantial army.  Case and point...William the Conqueror aka...William the Bastard, made claim to the throne in 1066 in spite of being born to a mistress of Robert Duke of Normandy. long as you are dude with an army, legitimacy is not required.  Not only was Henry VII the descendant of John Beaufort, illegitimate son of John of Gaunt (third surviving son of Edward III) and his mistress Katherine Swynford, but his claim was through his mother, Margret Beaufort. 

Henry VII

Now England must have been in total disarray to have allowed a king with such an unconventional linage to rule.  It’s not that they were kingless at the time and had to search for an heir to the throne.  King Richard III (The Child Killer) was on the throne, having smothered his dead brother, Edward IV’s young sons (apparently now labeled illegitimate by the church) and claiming the throne for himself.  The problem was that Richard, in the process of usurping the throne, had sufficiently pissed off enough of the wrong people to get himself killed and replaced with Henry VII, despite Henry’s somewhat tenuous claim.

Ironically, Henry VIII would use legitimacy as a tool to undo the claim of his female heirs.  Had Henry’s eldest daughter, Mary been born a son, he himself would have been just another obscure king of England and not the self-centered womanizer he is known and loved as today.  

Is Legitimacy a rule or just another tool used to rule?  Would anyone have had any interest at all in Henry VIII if he and Catherine of Aragon had male heirs, and had remain married?  Are we over demonizing Richard III?

Please leave a comment.  I would love to hear from you!

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C.G. Powell

Author of Spell Checked: Book One of The No Uncertain Logic Series

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  1. Oh, I think some believed to be valid reasoning, but as with most things political, legitimacy was just another ruling tool. However, it does make for better costume drama.

  2. I agree Ben, if they wanted to be king and enough people backed you...they would find a way to make you part of the royal line.