Monarchy with David Starkey (2004–2007): Season 2, Episode 1 - The Crown Imperial - full transcript

Although Edward IV's coronation seems to end the War of the Roses, sibling ambitions within the House of York eventually throw the monarchy into turmoil. Henry Tudor forces a dynastic showdown at Bosworth Field and ushers in a new...

The story of monarchy in Britain
for the last 1 ,500 years

is one of a dialogue
between Crown and people,

monarch and parliament,

that has shaped our social
and political life to this day.

But 500 years ago,
that dialogue broke down.


A taxpayer strike
and dynastic conflict

led to civil war and revolution.

Politics fused with religion,

first strengthening the monarchy,
then bringing it to its knees.

In this revolutionary period,

the monarchy acquired
a potent new symbol -

an elaborate, outsized crown

made for the Tudor dynasty.

Known as the Crown lmperial,

it came to represent
the monarchy!s inflated claims

to rule Church as well as state

and Scotland as well as England.

But the very scale
ofthe Crown!s claims

triggered an equal
and opposite reaction,

and, within 100 years,

a king was beheaded,
the monarchy abolished

and the lmperial Crown itself
was smashed and melted down.

This series tells the story
of how and why this happened,

ofthe Tudors, who carried
the Crown of England to its peak,

ofthe Stuarts, who united
England and Scotland

but eventually mishandled both,

and ofthe revolution
which tried but failed

to e*irpate monarchy in Britain.

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The man who ordered
the lmperial Crown to be made

was Henry Tudor,
founder ofthe Tudor dynasty.

But Henrywas a man who should
never have been king at all.

He seized the throne
against all the odds.

He was helped by his teenage mother,

who became a great powerbroker...

...while his enemies - three brutal
brothers - tore themselves apart

through murder and betrayal.

But behind the beheadings
and the gore

was the fundamental question
of how England should be ruled.

Henry thought he knewthe answer,

but his cure proved
as bad as the disease.

The story begins five years before
Henry Tudor!s birth

when a 9-year-old girl
was summoned to court.

Her name was Margaret Beaufort,

and, with her fortune
of£1 ,000 a year,

she was the richest heiress
in England.

Even more importantly,

as the direct descendant of
John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster,

Margaret was ofthe blood royal.

Her cousin, the Lancastrian
King Henry Vl,

had decided that she should marry
his own half-brother, Edmund Tudor,

a man more than twice her age.

It was a sordid mi*ure
of money and power

with the technicalities fixed
by a venal and accommodating Church.

Henry Vl was weak.

He!d failed in war,

was incapacitated
by long bouts of madness

and had fathered only a single child,

thus leaving the succession
dangerously in doubt.

The union of Margaret and Edmund
would, Henry hoped,

strengthen the weakened royal family.

It might even produce
a future heir to the throne.

When Margaret was barely 12,

the earliest legally permissible age
for sexual intercourse,

he brought her to Wales,

where they lived together
as man and wife.

Shortly before Margaret!s
13th birthday,

she became pregnant.

But six months later, weakened by
imprisonment in a Welsh feud

and finished off by the plague,

Edmund died on 1 November.

And his child bride,
widowed and heavily pregnant,

sought refuge with her brother-in-law

here at Pembroke Castle.

And it was in Pembroke Castle,

in a tower chamber like this,

that Margaret gave birth
to the future Henry Vll

on 28 January 1457.

Actually, it was a miracle
that both mother and child survived.

It was the depths ofwinter.

The plague still raged,

whilst Margaret, short and slightly built,
even as an adult,

was not yet fully grown.

Probably the birth did severe damage
to her immature body,

because, despite two
further marriages,

Margaret was to have
no more children.

Yet, out ofthis traumatic birth,

an e*raordinary bond was forged

between mother and son.

Behind every successful man

it is said there is a strong woman.

In Henry!s case, it was his mother.

Margaret would need to be strong

because her son was born
into an England

torn apart by civil war,

for their family, the Lancastrians,

was not the only one
with a claim to the throne.

Their opponents were the three brothers
ofthe house ofYork.

They had at least as good
a claim to the throne,

which they determined
to make good by force.


The resulting conflict was known
as the Wars ofthe Roses

after the emblems ofthe two sides -

the red rose of Lancaster

and the white rose ofYork.

Such emblems, known as badges,

were worn not only by the followers
ofthe two rival royal houses,

but by all the servants
ofthe nobility.

And the more land you had,

the bigger the private army
of badge-wearing retainers,

as theywere called,

you could afford.


The forces ofYork and Lancaster,
their noble allies,

were evenly balanced,

with the result that after
15 years of fighting,

the Crown had changed hands twice

between the Lancastrian King Henry Vl

and his rival, Edward ofYork,

who!d made himself Edward lV.

The final showdown came
at Tewkesbury, in Gloucestershire,

in May 1471 .

Edward, young, warlike
and charismatic,

and supported by both his brothers -

the 18-year-old Richard,
Duke of Gloucester,

and George, Duke of Clarence,
who was 21 -

was determined to annihilate
the house of Lancaster

once and for all.


The battle soon turned
into a massacre,

leaving thousands dead on the field.

It was a decisive victory for York,

a disaster for Lancaster.

After the battle,

many ofthe Lancastrians
fled to Tewkesbury Abbey,

where they took refuge
in the church here.

Edward and his men then burst in
in hot pursuit.

There are two different versions
ofwhat happened ne*.

According to the official account,

Edward behaved
with exemplary decorum,

pardoning the fugitives,

offering up solemn thanks
at the higher altar for his victory.

But the unofficial accounts

tell a different
and much more shocking story.

In fact, Edward and his men had begun
to slaughter the Lancastrians

and theywere only saved
by the intervention of a priest,

vested and holding
the holy sacrament in his hands.

Edward then recovered control
ofthe situation

by issuing his pardon.

But already, enough blood
had been spilt

to pollute the church

and to require
its solemn reconsecration.

A day or two later,
despite his promise of pardon,

Edward ordered the beheading of most
ofthe remaining Lancastrian leaders.


Now only the life ofthe feeble
Lancastrian King Henry Vl

stood between Edward and
an unchallenged grasp ofthe throne.

On 21 May, Edward entered
the city of London in triumph.

That night, between the hours
of 11 :00 and 12:00 midnight,

Henry Vl was murdered
here in the Tower of London,

probablywith a hea* blow
to the back ofthe head.

Only one man is named as being
present in the Tower at the time -

Edward!s younger brother,
Richard, Duke of Gloucester,

who, at the age of only 18,

was already emerging
as the most effective hatchet man

ofthe Yorkist regime.

Now surely the Wars ofthe Roses
were over.

No-one, a Yorkist chronicler exulted,

ofthe stock of Lancaster
remained among the living

who could claim the throne.

But one Lancastrian claimant,
however remote,

did remain -

Henry Tudor.

14 years had passed since
Margaret had had her son.

Nowthe teenaged Henry
was in danger of his life.

Not even the massive walls
of Pembroke Castle

could protect the boy
against the vengeful power

of Edward ofYork,

and his mother urged him to flee.

He took ship at Tenby
and crossed the Channel to Brittany.

And there, Henrywas to endure
a decade and a half

of politically fraught exile

before he would see either England
or his mother again.

Having annihilated
his Lancastrian enemies,

Edward lV ofYork
was now king indeed.

But the problem of nobles,

who were almost as rich and powerful
as the King himself,


And richest and most powerful of all

was Edward!s middle brother,
George, Duke of Clarence.

The man Shakespeare described as
fffalse, fleeting, perjured Clarence!!.

The phrase is memorable,

but it!s misleading.

It suggests that the key to his story

lies in Clarence!s character defects.

It doesn!t.

It lies instead in his position.

For Clarence was what
Queen Elizabeth l,

who would hold the same
unenviable place herself,

called the ffsecond person!!.

His title, Duke of Clarence,

was the one that was given
in the Middle Ages

to the King!s second son.

As such, he was endowed
with vast estates

and many grand castles

like Tutbury and Warwick.

Here he kept what he called his court

with a state that was almost royal.

Only the life of Edward himself,

and in time Edward!s two young sons,

stood between Clarence
and the royal throne itself.

Some second persons were content
to remain merely loyal lieutenants.

Clarence wasn!t one ofthem.

To undermine his brother,

Clarence started to stir up
old, dangerous rumours -

rumours that cast doubts on
the legality of Edward!s marriage

to his queen, Elizabeth Woodville.

Elizabeth Woodville was one of
the most controversial women

ever to have been queen of England.

She was beautiful, ambitious, greedy

and a widow
of modest family background,

on her father!s side at least.

Edward first met her
when she petitioned him

about a problem with
her late husband!s estate.

Edward immediately propositioned her,

but Elizabeth defended herself,
it!s said, with a knife.

Edward, as seems then
to have been his habit

when women resisted his advances,

offered her marriage,

and the two were married secretly
at her father!s house.

Perhaps Edward had always intended
to repudiate this clandestine marriage

to an obviously unsuitable wife,

but he didn!t.

Had the marriage turned out
to be valid after all?

Had Edward even fallen in love?

At any rate, six months later
the marriage was made public

and Elizabeth acknowledged as Queen.

By the mid-1470s,

Elizabeth had presented Edward
with five daughters

and, crucially, two sons.

Immortalised in stained glass
at Canterbury Cathedral,

they looked like
the perfect royal family.

Edward had what every king desired -

an heir and a spare.

The elderwas called Edward,

the younger, Richard.

Historywould knowthem
as the princes in the Tower.

But iftheir parents! marriage
could be proved invalid,

the princes would become bastards

and Clarence would be heir once more.

So the ambitious second person
revived an old rumour

that his brother Edward had already
been married to anotherwoman

at the time he married Elizabeth,

thus making the union illegal.

The rumour of a previous marriage
maywell have been true.

Certainly, bearing in mind
Edward!s notorious waywith women,

it was plausible.

That only made it the more dangerous,

and, by throwing
his weight behind it,

Clarence had tested
his brother!s patience

once too often.

Clarence was arrested

and put on trial before
a specially convened parliament

in January 1478.

Edward had packed the parliament
with his own supporters.

He was himself
both judge and prosecutor,

and no-one dared to speak
on behalf ofthe accused

but Clarence himself.

The verdict of guilty
was a foregone conclusion,

and on 18 February 1478,

Clarence was executed in the Tower.

The middle brother ofYorkwas gone.

But the problem he represented
was not.

The monarchy had been further
weakened by the Wars ofthe Roses.

Much royal land had been given away

to buy support from the nobles,

some ofwhom, like Clarence himself,

had threatened to become
mightier than the King.

Edward needed to strengthen
his own position

and that ofthe Crown.

To help him do it,
he enlisted a surprising ally,

a man who!d spent 30 years
working for the enemy.

Sir John Fortescue had served as
the Lancastrian lord chiefjustice,

had spent years in exile,

then been captured after Tewkesbury.

But the King
had not only pardoned him,

he!d placed him on his council.

At first sight,
it!s rather surprising

that Edward decided
to spare Fortescue.

As an enthusiastic hanging judge,

Fortescue had planned
thejudicial murder

ofthe young Edward
and the whole Yorkist family.

He!d written powerfully and learnedly
against Edward!s claim to the throne.

But Edward set these
personal grievances aside.

He had work for the old man to do.

Fortescue, the leading intellectual
of Lancastrian England,

would play an important part

in the construction of a new,
reformed Yorkist monarchy of England.

Fortescue could be called
England!s first constitutional analyst,

his key ideas shaped
by the years of exile

he!d spent in Scotland and France.

For his experience of how
other countries were governed

led him to reflect on his own

and to ask a series
of fundamental questions.

What was unique and valuable about
the English system of government?

What had gone wrong with it

to breed the dreadful malaise
ofthe Wars ofthe Roses?

And how could the disease be cured
without killing the patient?

Fortescue set out the answers
in this remarkable book.

It!s usually called
fThe Governance of England!,

but its full title, as it appears
in this early printed edition,

is fThe Difference Between
an Absolute and a Limited Monarchy!,

or, in Fortescue!s own lawyer Latin,

fDominium Regale!
and fDominium Politicum et Regale!.

France, Fortescue says,
is the supreme exemplar

of absolute monarchy

and England of limited,

and the key to the difference
between the two

lies in the rules governing taxation.

In France, the king could tax
the common people at will,

a system Fortescue
strongly disapproved of,

as it made the king rich
but kept the people poor.

But in England, the rule established
since at least the 13th century

was that the king could only tax
with the agreement of parliament.

This certainly made the English rich,

with a standard of living
that was the en* of foreign visitors

and the boast of patriotic Englishmen
like Fortescue.

But did the rules limiting taxation

make the English king poor

and, because he was poor, weak?

Fortescue thought that they did

and that this weakness
was the explanation

ofthe Wars ofthe Roses.

The issue was the relative imbalance
ofwealth and power

between the king and his
greatest subjects, the nobility.

The king was relatively poor,

whereas a handful ofthe nobles
were e*remely rich,

which made them,
in Fortescue!s phrase, over-mighty.

One solution would be
for the king of England

to followthe path
of French absolutism

and impose by force taxes
that parliament wouldn!t vote by consent.

But such a challenge
to traditional English freedom

would be dangerously revolutionary.

Fortescue instead proposed
to strengthen the Crown

within the existing system
of limited monarchy.

The King, he said,
should acquire land

and rule by virtue of being
the richest man in the kingdom.

The execution of his brother Clarence
allowed Edward to dojust that,

by keeping Clarence!s vast estates
for himself.

The royal revenues from land
now increased rapidly,

which meant that Edward didn!t need
to call a parliament again

for the unusually long period
of almost five years.

But land, as Fortescue
also understood,

was about power as well as cash,

and Edward took advantage
of his new-found freedom

to redrawthe political map.

He carved England up
into territories,

each controlled by a trusted member
of his own household or family.

It was all very cosy,

but it depended to a dangerous e*ent

on the force
of Edward!s own personality.

It also loosened ties of loyalty

since it meant that those
outside the charmed circle

didn!t care very much
one way or another

about who the king happened to be.

But as long as Edward
remained alive and well,

none ofthat mattered,

and for the ne* five years,
the King grew rich

and his Yorkist regime grew strong.

It seemed that the Lancastrian
Henry Tudor,

still sheltering in Brittany,

would live out the rest of his life
in exile.

But at Easter 1483,

disaster struck the house ofYork.

Edward was taken ill with a fever

after going fishing on the Thames.

Within 10 days he was dead.

Only Richard,
youngest ofthe brothers, remained.

He was not his brother!s heir.

But soon he would make
his own brutal bid for power.

It is spring 1483.

After the unexpected death
of King Edward lV,

all eyes turn west towards Ludlow,

in the Welsh Marches,

where Edward!s son,
heir and namesake, Prince Edward,

was being brought up.

But at 12, was the boy old enough
to rule in his own name?

His mother thought that he was.

Others thought not.

And a faction emerged in favour
of appointing his uncle, Richard,

as protector or regent

until the boywas old enough
to exercise power himself.

But Queen Elizabeth Woodville
was determined

to get her son crowned quickly,

and the Council agreed

that the coronation should take place
without delay.

On 23 April, Edward left Ludlow

for London, his coronation
and his reign.

His escort,
as the Council had insisted,

was limited to 2,000 men.

It was enough to put on a fine show

as the young King
took possession of his kingdom.

But other ofthe great lords

were able to muster
as many men or more.

Unbeknown to the boy or his mother,

Richard was summoning his own troops.

He was heading south.

Late on the night of 30 April,

Queen Elizabeth Woodville,

waiting in London for the arrival
of her son Prince Edward,

received alarming news -

Edward!s cavalcade had been
intercepted by his Uncle Richard,

who!d taken possession
of his young nephew.

Elizabeth, immediately suspicious
of Richard!s motives,

fled that night with her younger son

into the safe sanctuary
ofthe abbey at Westminster.

Richard entered London
with his nephew a few days later.

The Council quickly ratified
Richard!s role as protector.

Young Edward!s coronation
was postponed until late in June.

And he was placed in lodgings
in the Tower.

What was Richard doing, and why?

Hitherto he!d had the reputation,

in contrast with
the flighty Clarence,

for rock-solid loyalty
to his brother Edward,

who!d rewarded him
with the government

ofthe whole ofthe north of England.

There he!d won golden opinions
as a fine soldier and a fairjudge.

Nevertheless, his portrait suggests
a man not entirely at ease.

He!s tight-lipped
and he!s fiddling nervously

with the rings on his fingers.

He also had the tic
of biting hard on his lower lip

and pushing and pulling constantly
his dagger in and out of its sheath.

Was he repressed? Paranoid?

A hypocrite with
an iron grip on himself?

Or did he genuinely believe,

in view of Edward!s
tangled marital history,

that he, Richard, was now
rightful King of England?

On 10 June, Richard summoned
his troops to London.

His bid for the Crown
had begun in earnest.

Aweek later, Queen Elizabeth
was compelled

to give up her younger son, Richard,

into his uncle!s charge.

The young prince nowjoined
his brother at the Tower.

Richard had both nephews -
the first and second in line to the throne -

under lock and key.

And, on 25 June, parliament decreed

that King Edward!s marriage
to Queen Elizabeth was invalid

and the princes bastards.

Richard had succeeded
where his brother Clarence had failed.

He!d robbed his nephews
oftheir right to the Crown...

...and cleared his own path
to the throne.

He was crowned King Richard lll
at Westminster on July 6

with the full blessing of parliament.

During those frantic weeks,

the two princes had been seen
less and less around the Tower.

Nowthey seemed to have
disappeared altogether.

By the late summer of 1483,

everybody, including the princes!
own mother, Elizabeth Woodville,

took for granted that theywere dead.

They also took it as read
that the responsibility for their deaths

rested with Richard.

For only Richard had the power,
the opportunity

and, above all, the motive.

To this day, their exact fate
remains a mystery.

Writing 30 years later,

Thomas More claimed that Richard
ordered the constable ofthe Tower

to ffDo them to death,!!

But that he refused.

Others, however, proved willing

and the two boys, More says,

were smothered to death with pillows
in their sleep.

His brothers were dead,

the princes gone.

The Crown was his.

But apparently doing away
with the rightful heirs to the throne

was a step too far,

and opposition to Richard
was growing.

Soon he would be fighting
to the death

for the Crown
that he!d taken by force.

It was a plot between
two powerful mothers -

Queen Elizabeth Woodville,
whose sons were lost,

and Margaret Beaufort, whose son,
Henry Tudor, was in exile -

that would prove Richard!s undoing

and decide England!s fate.

At some time
in the late summer of 1483,

Queen Elizabeth Woodville,
still in sanctuary

here in the abbot!s lodging
at Westminster,

received a visit
from a singular Welshman,

Dr Lewis Caerleon.

Dr Caerleon was
a scientificjack-of-all-trades -

mathematician, astronomer,
astrologer and physician -

and he was a master of all ofthem.

The sanctuary, of course,
was heavily guarded by the King!s men,

but Dr Caerleon was waved through

because he was the Queen!s physician.

He was also, not coincidentally,

physician to Lady Margaret Beaufort
as well.

And in his doctor!s bag, he carried,
on Lady Margaret!s behalf,

a remarkable proposal -

that the Queen!s eldest daughter,
also called Elizabeth,

should marry Margaret!s son, Henry,

and that York, Woodville and Tudor

should join together against
the usurping Richard lll.

That Elizabeth accepted the proposal
confirms that she was convinced

that her sons were dead.

That Margaret made it
shows that she!d realised

that Richard!s murderous ambition
had opened her son!s path

to the throne of England.

Margaret, now in her 40s,

had been nursing her hopes for
her exiled son, Henry Tudor, for years.

Now she could put them into practice.

His mother!s plot underway,

the 28-year-old Henry
set sail from Brittany,

where he!d lived in exile
for 15 years,

to make his bid for England!s throne.

On 7 August 1485, at Milford Haven,

just a few miles from his birthplace
at Pembroke Castle,

Henry Tudor!s army
made landfall in the evening.

His years of exile were at an end.

As soon as he stepped ashore,
Henry knelt

and, overcome with emotion

after his return from
a decade and a half of exile,

began to recite the psalm

ffJudge me, Lord,
and fight my cause...!!

Then he kissed the sand

and, making the sign ofthe cross,

called in a loud voice on his troops
to follow him

in the name of God and St George.

It was a magnificent beginning
for a would-be king of England.

But only 400 of Henry!s men
were English.

Instead, most ofthe rest
of his little army of 2,000 or 3,000

were French,

and they!d come in French ships

with the aid of French money

and the blessing ofthe French King.

Indeed, most of Henry!s own ideas
about kingship

were probably French as well.

Sojust what kind of king of England
would he be?

Assuming, that is, that he was
able to wrench the Crown

from Richard!s powerful grasp.

The two sides came face to face
at Bosworth in the Midlands,

where the fate of England!s monarchy
would be decided.

The battle began when
the vanguard of Richard!s army,

thinking to overwhelm
Henry!s much smaller force,

charged down the hill here.

But instead of breaking and running,

Henry!s front line
smartly re-formed themselves

into a dense wedge-shaped formation.

Against this, the attack crumbled.


Richard, high up there
on Ambion Hill,

now caught sight of Henry
with only a small detachment oftroops

at the rear of his army.

With courage or desperation,

Richard decided that the battle
would be settled by single combat -

Richard with Henry.

Wearing his battle crown

with a light robe with the royal arms
over his armour,

Richard led a charge of his
heavily armed household knights

down the hill.

With magnificent courage,

Richard cut down
Henry!s standard bearer

and came within an inch
of Henry himself.

But once again,
Henry!s foot soldiers proved capable

of assuming an effective
defensive position

and Richard, isolated, was unhorsed,

run through by an unknown
Welsh pikeman,

mutilated and stripped.

The third and last ofthe brothers
ofthe house ofYorkwas dead.

By his reckless ambition,

Richard had split the Yorkist party

and handed victory and the Crown
to Henry Tudor.

Henrywas crowned Henry Vll
two months later,

promising to restore the glory days
of his namesake, King Henry V.

The symbolic union
ofYork and Lancaster

was made flesh in January 1486

when Henry Tudor married
Elizabeth ofYork,

just as their respective mothers
had planned.

A new iconographywas created

merging the two once-warring roses
into one - the Tudor Rose.

But two years after the wedding,

Henry ordered a new, ostentatious crown
to be made,

one that hinted
at political ambitions

that went well beyond
Fortescue!s limited monarchy.

The crown was soon known
as the Crown lmperial.

Its unusual size,
weight and splendour

symbolised the recovery
ofthe monarchy

from the degradation
ofthe Wars ofthe Roses,

while the French fleur-de-lis

alternating with
the traditional English cross

round the band ofthe crown

looked back nostalgically to
England!s lost conquests in France.

But might there be more to it
than that?

Henry had witnessed at first-hand

the powers ofthe absolute monarchy
in France

and, some said,
he!d liked what he!d seen.

Might the lmperial Crown
be the means bywhich these ideas,

as Fortescue had feared,

could be smuggled back into England?


At Winchester in 1486,

it seemed that the newTudor dynasty
had set the seal

on its triumphant beginnings.

The Queen had borne King Henry Vll
a son and heir.

He was named Arthur,

and his christening
at Winchester Cathedral

was designed to signal the start

of a newArthurian age.

The baby!s godmotherwas the Yorkist
dowager queen, Elizabeth Woodville,

whose kinsmen also played their part.

King Henry had, it seemed,

ushered in a new age
of reconciliation.

But it was to be short-lived.

Just a few months
after the christening,

Elizabeth Woodville
was stripped of her lands

and sent to a nunnery,

effectively banishing her
from court forever.

What had happened?

It was almost certainly because
there were too many queen mothers

and would-be queen mothers around.

For Elizabeth Woodville,
in her moment of restored glory,

had reckoned without her
sometime fellow conspirator

Lady Margaret Beaufort.

Henry Vll had already honoured
Lady Margaret

with the title of
My Lady the King!s Mother.

But since she hadn!t actually
been crowned queen,

she had to defer
to Elizabeth Woodville, who had,

and Lady Margaret
didn!t like that one little bit.

So Elizabeth Woodville,
Margaret decided, had to go.

Indeed, Margaret gave precedence
only reluctantly

to Queen Elizabeth ofYork herself.

She wore the same robes,

signed herself fMargaret R!

And walked only half a pace
behind the Queen.

Lady Margaret, in short,
was proving to be

the mother-in-law from hell.

Margaret!s behaviour
was a political disaster.

She was the heiress
ofthe house of Lancaster.

The humiliated Elizabeth
was ofthe house ofYork,

and the Yorkist nobility
felt spurned too.

Henry!s dream of reconciliation
was fading,

and within a year
he faced a major uprising

by rebellious Yorkists,

which he only narrowly beat off.

But in 1491 ,
foreign affairs intervened.

The French invaded Brittany,

where Henry had spent his exile.

Hoping to strengthen
his position at home

through victory abroad,

Henry followed the traditional path

of declaring war on France.

The result was
a curiously half-hearted affair.

A reluctant parliament
made part of its grant conditional

on the duration ofthe war

whilst Henry himself
delayed setting sail for France

until almost the end
ofthe campaigning season

in October 1492.

Three weeks later,
the French offered terms

and, on 3 November,
Henry agreed to withdraw

in return for an annual payment

The English soothed
their injured pride

by calling the payment a ftribute!.

But the world knew better.

Once the English armies
had aroused terror throughout France.

Nowtheywere a mere nuisance
to be got rid of

by the payment
of an easily affordable bribe.

It was a sharp lesson for Henry.

England!s limited monarchy
couldn!t match

the financial and military might
of French absolutism.

Now he!d failed
to achieve glory in war

and failed to unite
York and Lancaster.

There was nothing left
but to lower his sights

and return to the financial methods
previously advocated by Fortescue

and implemented by Edward lV.

But he did so with a novel degree
of personal involvement,

as each surviving account book
ofthe treasurer ofthe chamber shows.

Henry has checked
every single entry in it,

and, to confirm the fact,

he!s put his initials, H.R.,

known as the sign manual, alongside.

Indeed, he had to make
the sign manual so often

that he changes his style
of handwriting

from this rigid grid here
of laborious separate strokes

to a much more fast, fluid
cursive hand here.

It was privatised government

with England run as the King!s
personal landed estate.

It would make Henry rich,

but would it make him secure?

Events showed not.

In 1497,
he faced another rebellion.

This one nearly cost him his throne.

The uprising was fronted
by a ghost from the past,

a man claiming to be Richard,
Duke ofYork,

the younger ofthe princes
in the Tower,

returned from exile
to claim his crown.

He was a fraud,

a Fleming called Perkin Warbeck,

but he had powerful backers,
the Scots,

who threatened to invade England.

A reluctant parliament granted
a substantial tax to the King


and the royal army
began to move north.

But the tax sparked rebellion
in Cornwall.

The rebels could see no reason
why they should pay

to fight the 400-mile-distant Scots.

And with the south empty oftroops,

a rebel Cornish army
marched unopposed

across the breadth of England.

As the Cornish rebels approached

dangerously near London,

Queen Elizabeth ofYork collected
her beloved second son, Prince Henry,

from Eltham

and took refuge with the boy
in the Tower.

It was a close-run thing.

If his fatherwere to be defeated,

Prince Henrywould share the fate
of his Yorkist cousins,

the princes in the Tower,

and be done to death
in the grim fortress.

Instead, on 17 June 1497,

Henry Vll defeated
the Cornish rebels at Blackheath,

and, on 5 October,
Perkin Warbeck himselfwas captured,

as the treasurer ofthe chamber!s
account book notes exultantly.

But Henry Vll had learned his lesson.

In the remaining dozen years
of his reign,

he would summon only
a single brief parliament

and he would impose no more
direct parliamentary taxation.

Without parliament, contact between
King and people was weakened.

The narrowing of government
was further intensified

by a series of personal tragedies.

In 1502, Arthur,
Henry!s son and heir, died,

perhaps oftuberculosis, aged 15.

Worse was to come.

A year later,
Henry!s much-loved wife, Elizabeth,

died in childbirth.

She was only 37,

and her funeral saw
an outpouring of public grief.

Most grief-stricken of all
was Henry Vll himself,

and the deaths in quick succession
of his son and his wife

changed him greatly.

His character became harder,

his style of government
more authoritarian.

The sole purpose of Henry!s kingship

became to make him rich.

Racking up rents on royal lands
was no longer enough.

Instead, in direct defiance
of Magna Carta,

he resorted to selling justice,

turning fines on the nobility
for running private armies

into a method of revenue raising.

He!d ceased to be a king

and become, so his
disgruntled subjects thought,

a money-grubbing miser.

He!d crushed his
over-mighty subjects,

avoided the trap ofweak kingship,

but along the way
he!d become a tyrant,

a kind of absolute monarch.

Was Sir John Fortescue,
seen here in effigy

on his fine tomb in Ebrington Church,

turning in the grave

where he!d rested
for the last 30 years

since his death in 1479?

For Fortescue believed passionately

that a monarchy
richly endowed with land

would be a guarantor of
English freedom and property right.

But it hadn!t quite
turned out like that.

Henry had acquired
the land and the money,

getting his hands on more of both

than any king since
the Norman Conquest.

What he hadn!t delivered on, however,

were Fortescue!s twin ideals
of freedom and property.

Instead, by the end of his reign,

they both seemed as dead and buried

as the old chiefjustice himself.

Henry died on 21 April 1509.

He!d reigned for almost 24 years.

Henrywas buried here,
ne* to his beloved wife,

in this magnificent Lady Chapel
he commissioned at Westminster Abbey.

A few feet awaywould soon lie
the other significant woman in his life,

but forwhom he might never
have been king - his mother.

Henry died in his bed
and he died rich.

But ifthe last 40 years
had proved anything at all,

it was that traditional
English limited monarchy

had, in the age
of continental absolutism

and increasingly professional armies,

ceased to work.

Henry!s successor
would give it one last try,

and then, to his surprise
and everyone else!s,

he would create a new, revolutionary
imperial monarchy.

This successorwas
Henry!s second son and namesake.

And, reigning as King Henry Vlll,

he would change the face
of England forever.