Henry VII and His Family Idolised in Paint
Henry VII would have had a large family had all his children survived. Here is a fantasy of his family in paint.
I recently came across this beautiful painting that was supposedly commissioned by Henry VII. The artist is unknown but it was apparently between 1505 and 1509, which the historians from the Historic Royal Palaces state matches the armour used in it. The date is a major point for the painting, considering the family of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.
There are a number of parts of the painting that are worth mentioning. I’m going to stick with the ones that really stand out for me to keep this to a readable length!
Henry VII's Fantasy of His Family
All Henry VII’s Children Depicted in the Painting
Henry VII shows all seven children from his marriage to Elizabeth of York
The painting shows all the children of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, making it clear that it is a fantasy world. Three children didn’t survive childhood and one died when he was just 15-years-old but all seven are shown.
One the male side, Henry VII is shown with his sons, Arthur, Henry and Edmund behind him. Arthur died in 1502 suddenly after marrying Catherine of Aragon. Henry became the notorious Henry VIII of England in 1509 and Edmund died when he was just a baby.
On the right of the painting is the female side. The first is Elizabeth of York, who died in 1503 on her 37th birthday from childbed fever. Behind her are Margaret, Elizabeth, Mary and Katherine. Margaret later became the Queen Consort of Scotland and Mary became the Queen Consort of France and then the wife of Charles Brandon. Both sisters had their own descendants take the English Crown—although Mary’s granddaughter, Lady Jane Grey, only lasted 13 days after Mary I deposed her. Elizabeth died when she was just three years old and Katherine was the final child who died shortly after birth and led to the death of Elizabeth of York. Katherine and Elizabeth were buried together as was custom when mother and baby would die at the same time.
Henry VII Pledging to Protect England and Help it Grow
Henry Tudor was extremely careful with money after the devastating Wars of the Roses
In the middle of the family is an angel, who they are all pledging to. Henry VII is promising that he will help to protect his land. He definitely tried to stick to that promise by quickly getting rid of pretenders, strengthening his claim to the throne by joining the Houses of York and Lancaster through his marriage to Elizabeth of York and avoid as many wars as he possibly could.
He also tried to help England grow and his Tudor line gain influence around the world by marrying his children into European royal families. Margaret was married to the King of Scotland to try and bring peace between the two warring realms while Arthur was married to Catherine of Aragon. However, Henry VII didn’t live long enough to see his other two surviving children marry. He died trying to arrange a wealthy marriage for Henry VIII, despite agreeing to him marrying Catherine of Aragon after Arthur’s death.
Henry VIII did continue his father’s plan by arranging a marriage for Mary Tudor to the King of France. This just lasted three months and she later married Charles Brandon in secret. Henry was furious with his younger sister because it meant he couldn’t arrange a more beneficial marriage for himself.
The Battle of Bosworth at the Top
Richard III is depicted as a dragon that Henry Tudor had to slay to 'save' England.
If you look at the top of the painting, you will see a man on a horse slaying a dragon. This is depiction of the Battle of Bosworth. Henry VII sees himself as the slayer of the dragon holding England hostage. The arrow through the dragon’s eye just adds to the rumour that Richard III was killed in battle by an arrow going through his eye—there is no proof to this rumour and he was actually killed by a heavy knock to the head that fractured his skull according to reports after finding his body.
I’m not entirely sure who the woman is in the background. My guess would be that it was his mother, Margaret Beaufort. That would make the most sense as she was always there in the background pulling the strings to get him to the throne.
The painting has hung at Holyrood House, the official residence of the Queen of Scotland. However, it has currently been moved to an exhibition on the Young Henry VIII. It’s used as a way to show his whole family, especially his parents and how he was never meant to be King of England.
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