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Henry VII (1457-1509) was the first Tudor king, who wrested the English throne from Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. His claim rested on his descent from John of Gaunt.
The Wars of the Roses is the name given to the struggle between two branches of the Plantagenet family for the English throne. Called the House of York and the House of Lancaster, both were descended from Edward III.
Trouble began in 1453 when King Henry VI, of the House of Lancaster, went mad. His distant cousin, Richard, Duke of York, became Lord Protector (regent) and ruled for him. When Henry suddenly recovered, war broke out between Richard of York and his supporters and the Lancastrian advisers to Henry VI. Although Richard was killed, the Yorkists triumphed and in 1461 Richard's son became Edward IV. Henry VI was later murdered.
When Edward died 12 years later, his young son Edward V succeeded him, under the care of his uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. After a few weeks Richard seized the throne, saying that Edward V was illegitimate. Edward and his younger brother were possibly murdered. The remaining Lancastrian heir, Henry Tudor, defeated and killed Richard, becoming King Henry VII. Henry ended the feud at the heart of the Wars of the Roses by marrying the Yorkist heiress Elizabeth. His sound administration helped to mend the damage done by 30 years of civil war and his reign is often seen as the start of modern history.
Henry VII's heraldic device was a sprig of hawthorn because Richard III's crown was found under a hawthorn bush after the Battle of Bosworth Field. He also devised the 'Tudor Rose', with red and white petals symbolising the union of the red rose of Lancaster and the white rose of York.
In 1496 he joined the Holy league, made up of Milan, Venice, Maximilan I, Pope Alexander VI and Ferdinand of Spain.
Henry died at Richmond in 1509.
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