How Successful Was Henry Vii in Dealing with Challenges to His Royal Authority in the Years 1489 to 1499?

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How successful was Henry VII in dealing with challenges to his royal authority in the years 1489 to 1499?

Between the years 1489 and 1499, Henry received three main threats to his royal authority: the Yorkshire Rebellion in 1489; the pretender, Perkin Warbeck (from 1491 to 1499); and the Cornish uprising in 1497. All of these threats were quelled successfully; however each one presented problems to Henry and highlighted his instability on the throne. I believe that Henry dealt with the challenges successfully, but his policies suffered as a result.

In 1489, the Yorkshire Rebellion arose due to conflict between the Earl of Northumberland and the Commons of Northumberland and Yorkshire, who were reluctant to pay more taxes. The rebellion was sparked after the Earl of Northumberland was killed – when attempting to explain the need for a new set of taxes. It is significant that though his own entourage were present, they stood by as their master was attacked – this highlights the resentment felt by ordinary people over the high tax demands, and explains some of the anger felt. Henry managed to quell the rebellion swiftly after this; the ringleader – John Chamber – was hanged, along with his accomplices. However, following the rebellion Henry did not attempt to raise taxes so significantly in Yorkshire and Northumberland again; this is an example of his policies suffering as a result of the challenges to his throne. Overall, although just a local affair with no significant impact to Henry’s royal authority, the Yorkshire Rebellion highlighted some key issues. Colin Pendrill points out how the whole debacle was “another reason for Henry to feel insecure” and highlights the fact that his country “saw him as a foreign usurper”. In addition, it took the death of the Earl of Northumberland to make Henry pay attention to the whole affair; this suggests that he was out-of-touch and insensitive towards the ordinary people of Britain. Therefore, although Henry successfully dealt with this fairly minor challenge, it was still a nasty shock for him and drew attention to his continued instability – after four years on the throne.

Having successfully quelled the Yorkshire Rebellion, Henry was met with an even harder challenge: Perkin Warbeck. After overcoming the previous Yorkist pretender – Lambert Simnel – Henry was supposedly safer in his position as king. However, Warbeck proved to be an even greater threat than Simnel. Warbeck exploited the sympathy towards the ‘Princes in the Tower’ by claiming to be the younger of the two – Richard, Duke of York. If Warbeck’s claim turned out to be true, his claim to the throne would be superior to Henry Tudor’s; this immediately made him a serious threat. J.R Lander states how Warbeck “for the next six years, became a notorious international figure and a dangerous embarrassment to Henry VII”.

Warbeck began his “international [notoriety]” in Ireland, but the Irish had seemingly learnt from the Lambert Simnel affair and gave him little support. However, he was then received by Charles VIII (King of France) as a prince. This was a grave warning signal to Henry; he himself had persuaded the French king to support him in his own invasion and usurpation of the throne in 1485. Henry’s response was to invade France in 1492 with 15000 men; rather than fighting the French, Henry negotiated the Treaty of Etaples, which ensured that France would no longer support pretenders. Although this was successful in making Warbeck flee France, it required a great deal of time and effort on Henry’s part – this shows how seriously he regarded the threat and emphasises Henry’s paranoia concerning his royal authority. In addition, it shows that Henry’s foreign policy was becoming dictated by Warbeck’s actions.

Following his flee from France Warbeck was sheltered by Henry’s long-standing rival, Duchess Margaret, in Burgundy. The Italian cleric, Polydore Vergil, wrote how “she publicly congratulated her...
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