By David Grummitt
A Companion to Tudor Britain, edited by: Robert Tittler and Norman Jones (Blackwell, 2004)
Introduction: On 1 August 1485 Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond, led a small group of followers from exile in France to lay claim to the English throne. He landed at Milford Haven in South Wales on 7 August and three weeks later defeated Richard III at the battle of Bosworth and was proclaimed Henry VII, the first Tudor king of England. Henry Tudor was an unlikely king.
He had been an exile in Brittany and later France since June 1471 when he and his uncle, Jasper, had fled England on the collapse of the restored monarchy of Henry VI. Henry Tudor’s Lancastrian credentials, through his mother’s Beaufort blood and the fact of his grandfather Owen’s marriage to Katherine of Valois, widow of Henry V, made him a potential rallying-point for opposition to the Yorkist Edward IV. In exile Henry had been the plaything of princely diplomacy. In 1471 he and Jasper had probably planned to go to the court of the French king, Louis XI, where Jasper was a pensioner, but storms had forced them to the coast of Brittany. In Brittany Henry proved a useful bargaining counter for Duke Francis II, who sought English help against his feudal overlord the king of France. In 1475 Edward IV had requested the return of the exiled Tudors, ostensibly to marry Henry to one of his own daughters, and Henry had even been put aboard a ship at St Malo bound for England. At the last minute he feigned illness and escaped capture and an uncertain fate in England.