King Henry VII worked to secure his kingdom in a way that was different to that of his predecessors. With the exception of William, Lord Catesby (the ‘cat’ in the couplet ‘the rat, the cat and Lovell our dog/All rule England under the hog) who was executed at Leicester on the 25th August 1485, three days after the Battle of Bosworth, Henry showed remarkable magnanimity to his foes offering them pardon if they laid down their arms. Of course, not all of them did as is recounted by Seward in his book The Last White Rose.
As the timeline for the year shows Henry began by honouring the promise he made in Christmas 1483 to marry Elizabeth of York. he continued the process of appointing advisors whom he could trust and he set about a progress to be seen in his kingdom. It is perhaps significant that he headed north into Richard III’s heartland where men still retained loyalty to a monarch they regarded as a fair one. It almost seems that he couldn’t quite believe that die-hard Yorkists would be so stupid as attempt another round of the vicious civil war less than six months after Bosworth. As it is, it looks as though the majority of people were either worn out or fed up with the constant strife because the 1486 plot against Henry was decidedly lack lustre.
January 16- Papal dispensation for Henry VII to marry Elizabeth of York. They were third cousins so their match was prohibited within the four degrees of consanguinity. In order to legally marry they needed the pope to agree.
January 18- Henry VII marries Elizabeth of York but she is not crowned. He is making the statement that he is king in his own right. He is not going to be Elizabeth’s consort and this delay in her coronation ensures no one forgets. The delay will possibly also antagonise the Woodville faction.
March 2- Papal dispensation is confirmed by Rome.
March 6- John Morton, Bishop of Ely becomes Henry VII’s Lord Chancellor.
March 10- Henry VII begins a royal progress to the north of England. He journeys to Waltham, Cambridge, Huntingdon and Lincoln where he spends Easter. He washes the feet of twenty-nine men reflecting his age. Whilst he is at Lincoln, Sir Reginald Bray- Margaret Beaufort’s man-warns him that Francis, Lord Lovell (and Richard III’s right-hand man) is going to leave sanctuary at Colchester where he fled after the Battle of Bosworth. He’s holed up with Sir Humphrey Stafford of Grafton and his brother Thomas. Bray’s informant, Hugh Conway is summoned but Henry doesn’t believe him, not least because Conway won’t reveal who his informant is. The plot will become known as the Sanctuary Plot or the Lovell Rebellion.
April 20- Henry VII enters the city of York. Whilst he is in York rumours of a Yorkist stirring up trouble reach the city. The man is known only as Robin of Redesdale. He is raising support for the Yorkists in Ripon and Middleham – which is, in any event, a Yorkist stronghold. The next rumour is that Lord Lovell and an army are marching on York.
April 23- There is an assassination attempt on Henry VII’s life whilst he is in York. In one source he is saved by the Earl of Northumberland. Henry deals with the threat with seeming unconcern and promises of pardon all round. Lovell ends up fleeing from Yorkshire to Broughton Tower in Furness as the rebellion fizzles to a stand-still but with King Henry’s men in hot pursuit.
There is also a Worcestershire rising led by Humphrey Stafford – there is very little support. He and his brother quickly flee having spent rather a lot of time hiding in a wood.
May 5- Riots in London in support of Edward, Earl of Warwick.
May 11- The Stafford brothers arrive at Culham in Berkshire. They claim sanctuary in the church which belongs to Abingdon Abbey.
May 13- The Staffords are dragged from Culham Church on the orders of Henry VII.
May 19- Lovell journeys under cover to Ely and from there he looks for sanctuary or a boat to take him to Flanders. He is probably hidden by the de la Pole family – the Duchess of Suffolk is Edward IV and Richard III’s sister.
June 20- Sir Humphrey Stafford appears before the King’s Bench and demands to be returned to sanctuary. The Abbot of Abingdon is unamused that the ancient rights of sanctuary have been violated. Sharply worded notes are sent to Pope Innocent VIII who sends a Papal Bull in August validating Henry VII’s actions – not that it matters much to Sir Humphrey.
July 5- Sir Humphrey Stafford’s judges decide that from now on – including Humphrey- no one can claim sanctuary for treason. He’s condemned to a traitor’s death.
July 8- Sir Humphrey Stafford is hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn but Thomas Stafford is pardoned on the grounds that Humphrey being older must have misled him.
September 19-Prince Arthur is born at Winchester.
The birth of Arthur, symbolically born in King Arthur’s Camelot, the child of the red and white rose means that Henry has a male heir which strengthens his hold on the kingdom. However Francis, Lord Lovell who has been skulking around Cambridgeshire- presumably wearing a large cloak and false beard in order to avoid capture finally makes it to Flanders in January 1487. Inevitably Henry VII’s crown won’t rest easy on his head for very long despite his best efforts to convince the population otherwise.
Seward, Desmond. (2011) The Last White Rose: The Secret Wars of the Tudors. London: Constable and Robinson.
Wagner, John A. (2001) Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. Oxford: ABC Clio