The Lancastrian claim to the throne

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The Lancastrian claim to the throne

We need to get one thing very clear before we go on, and that is that the names of Lancaster and York for the titles of these two families have little bearing on the counties of the same names. In fact, they didn't live in these areas at all. Many Lancastrians came from the Midlands and Cheshire, and when all is said and done Henry VII was a Welshman. His father was the son of Owen Tudor a member of the local gentry, and his mother was a descendant of the illegitimate son of John of Gaunt.

Henry's claim to the throne was two-fold. He had a claim on his mother's side, down the Beaufort line of the House of Lancaster, and on his father's side, because his grandfather had married the widow of Henry V. It was the double birthright that made Henry's claim strong in the absence of any other Lancastrian contenders.

As if you are not boggled enough already, the history of this claim is even more complex as the throne had been usurped by a member of the House of Lancaster, Bolingbroke (who became Henry IV) from Richard II, the last of the Plantagenet kings. By rights Edmund of York, and not Bolingbroke should have been King in 1399.

This illustration may make things clearer:

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After the Prince of Wales was killed at Tewkesbury in 1471 Henry was the only Lancastrian champion of the red rose cause. It was soon after this that he went to live with his Uncle Jasper in Brittany.

Richard III was King of England when Henry invaded in August 1485.Richard III proclaimed himself King when Edward IV died in mysterious circumstances and the young 'princes in the tower', Edward and Richard, had disappeared. Needless, to say, Richard III was heavily implicated in both the death of his brother and the disappearances of his two nephews.

Disillusioned with Richard's rule, Henry had found himself being courted by Yorkist supporters, many making the journey to Brittany to see him personally. With their support guaranteed by a promise to marry the Yorkist heiress, Elizabeth, should he win the battle, and with the blessing of the King of France behind him, Henry set sail for the Welsh coast. Why Wales? He knew that this was where he could most easily muster support.

Henry landed at Milford Haven on the 7th August. With him were a significant number of French mercenaries, English exiles and Scots. The army made its way to Aberystwyth, and then on to Welshpool. By the 22nd August they reached Ambien Hill, in the small town of Market Bosworth. Richard had anticipated an invasion, and was not too far away with his troops in Nottingham.

The battle did not go well for Henry at first. But John de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, led a fierce attack against Richard, which placed the King's forces in an impossible position. Realising that his forces were in deadlock Richard decided to launch a final assault.

The Lancastrian claim to the throne

Possibly in an effort to save himself, Sir Stanley, at this very point, decided to switch sides. His men turned on the King himself. He was knocked to the ground and killed, his crown toppling from his head and rolling into a bush. Sir Stanley retrieved the crown and placed it upon Henry's head. Richard's body was disposed of in Leicester; there was no grand funeral.

The victory was considered ordained by God - he was the Lord's chosen ruler in the eyes of his allies on the field in Leicestershire. He was King by birthright and King by God's will.