25. Henry VII, A.D. 1485—1509
Henry Tudor married the Lady Bessee as soon as he came to London, and by this marriage the causes of the Red and white Roses were united; so that he took for his badge a great rose—half red and half white. You may see it carved all over the beautiful chapel that he built on to Westminster Abbey to be buried in.
He was not a very pleasant person; he was stiff, and cold, and dry, and very mean and covetous in some ways—though he liked to make a grand show, and dress all his court in cloth of gold and silver, and the very horses in velvet housings, whenever there was any state occasion. Nobody greatly cared for him; but the whole country was so worn out with the troubles of the Wars of the Roses, that there was no desire to interfere with him; and people only grumbled, and said he did not treat his gentle, beautiful wife Elizabeth as he ought to do, but was jealous of her being a king's daughter. There was one person who did hate him most bitterly, and that was the Duchess of Burgundy, the sister of Edward IV. and Richard III.: the same who, as I told you, encouraged printing so much. She felt as if a mean upstart had got into the place of her brothers, and his having married her niece did not make it seem a bit the better to her. There was one nephew left—the poor young orphan son of George, Duke of Clarence—but he had always been quite silly, and Henry VII. had him watched carefully, for fear some one should set him up to claim the crown. He was called Earl of Warwick, as heir to his grandfather, the king-maker.
Suddenly, a young man came to Ireland and pretended to be this Earl of Warwick. He deceived a good many of the Irish, and the Mayor of Dublin actually took him to St. Patrick's Cathedral, where he was crowned as King Edward the Sixth: and then he was carried to the banquet upon an Irish chieftain's back. He came to England with some Irish followers, and some German soldiers hired by the duchess; and a few, but not many, English joined him. Henry met him at a village called Stoke, near Newark, and all his Germans and Irish were killed, and he himself made prisoner. Then he confessed that he was really a baker's son named Lambert Simnel; and, as he turned out to be a poor weak lad, whom designing people had made to do just what they pleased, the king took him into his kitchen as a scullion; and, as he behaved well there, afterwards set him to look after the falcons, that people used to keep to go out with to catch partridges and herons.
But after this, a young man appeared under the protection of the Duchess of Burgundy, who said he was no other than the poor little Duke of York, Richard, who had escaped from the Tower when his brother was murdered. Englishmen, who came from Flanders, said that he was a clever, cowardly lad of the name of Peter (or Perkin) Warbeck, the son of a townsman of Tournay; but the duchess persuaded King James IV. of Scotland to believe him a real royal Plantagenet. He went to Edinburgh, married a beautiful lady, cousin to the king, and James led him into England at the head of an army to put forward his claim. But nobody would join him, and the Scots did not care about him; so James sent him away to Ireland, whence he went to Cornwall. However, he soon found fighting was of no use, and fled away to the New Forest, where he was taken prisoner. He was set in the stocks, and there made to confess that he was really Perkin Warbeck and no duke, and then he was shut up in the Tower. But there he made friends with the real Earl of Warwick, and persuaded him into a plan for escape; but this was found out, and Henry, thinking that he should never have any peace or safety whilst either of them was alive, caused Perkin to be hanged, and poor innocent Edward of Warwick to be beheaded.
It was thought that this cruel deed was done because Henry found that foreign kings did not think him safe upon the throne while one Plantagenet was left alive, and would not give their children in marriage to his sons and daughters. He was very anxious to make grand marriages for his children, and make peace with Scotland by a wedding between King James and his eldest daughter, Margaret. For his eldest son, Arthur, Prince of Wales, he obtained Katharine, the daughter of the King of Aragon and Queen of Castille, and she was brought to England while both were mere children. Prince Arthur died when only eighteen years old; and King Henry then said that they had been both such children that they could not be considered really married, and so that Katharine had better marry his next son, Henry, although everyone knew that no marriage between a man and his brother's widow could be lawful. The truth was that he did not like to give up all the money and jewels she had brought; and the matter remained in dispute for some years—nor was it settled when King Henry himself died, after an illness that no one expected would cause his death. Nobody was very sorry for him, for he had been hard upon everyone, and had encouraged two wicked judges, named Dudley and Empson, who made people pay most unjust demands, and did everything to fill the king's treasury and make themselves rich at the same time.
It was a time when many changes were going on peacefully. The great nobles had grown much poorer and less powerful; and the country squires and chief people in the towns reckoned for much more in the State. Moreover, there was much learning and study going on everywhere. Greek began to be taught as well as Latin, and the New Testament was thus read in the language in which the apostles themselves wrote; and that led people to think over some of the evil ways that had grown up in their churches and abbeys, during those long, grievous years, when no one thought of much but fighting, or of getting out of the way of the enemy.
The king himself, and all his family, loved learning, and nobody more than his son Henry, who—if his elder brother had lived—was to have been archbishop of Canterbury.
It was in this reign, too, that America was discovered—though not by the English, but by Christopher Columbus, an Italian, who came out in ships that were lent to him by Isabel, the Queen of Spain, mother to Katharine, Princess of Wales. Henry had been very near sending Columbus, only he did not like spending so much money. How ever, he afterwards did send out some ships, which discovered Newfoundland. Henry died in the year 1509.