Death of Henry VII. Accession of Henry VIII
After more than a century of dynastic struggles, when Henry VII died his son succeeded him without the threat of rival candidates looming. Henry VII had so settled the country and its finances, and by his relative lack of foreign ambition made no powerful enemies overseas, that the new king inherited a land at peace.
Henry VII had supported the development of the merchant fleet, and paid for the Cabots' voyages of discovery to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland; he had imposed the rule of law throughout the kingdom; and the splendid court of his early years may have acted like a mini-Versailles, attracting and distracting the nobility. By marrying Elizabeth of York he united the Lancastrian house with hers.
The old king even left his son a fortune of £1,500,000, a fantastic sum for the age, partly by his personal overseeing of expenditure, though he was no miser, and partly by the increased revenue that peace and commercial improvements brought.
Henry died at Richmond Palace in Surrey, aged just 52. Legend has it that after the death of his favourite and eldest son Arthur in 1502, and of his wife Elizabeth the following year, he was a broken man who died of a broken heart. Unlikely, as he explored several possible marriage options after 1503 (including to Arthur's widow Catherine of Aragon ), and was vigorous enough to consider, albeit half-heartedly, a crusade against the Turks.
A more likely cause of death was tuberculosis, as there were reports of breathing difficulties in his later years, and at his funeral Bishop Fisher of Rochester preached about Henry's lengthy sufferings.
The new king came to the throne with every advantage: full coffers; a country at peace and growing in commercial power; and with no realistic rivals. And Henry VIII was said to be hugely gifted: a scholar; a philosopher; a linguist; and an athlete of power and skill. But one thing his father had left him was the right, negotiated with the pope, for Henry to marry his brother's widow, Catherine. Politically this was helpful in the immediate term, and Henry married her within two months of becoming king. But it was eventually to prove a disastrous marriage, with no male heirs ensuing; and the ending of it had ramifications of enormous significance.
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