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This Week in History: 18 January 1486 Henry VII marries Elizabeth of York

ByHarry Vavasour

Jan 18, 2018

On 18 January 1486, Henry VII married Elizabeth of York in a ceremony which symbolised the unison of the houses of York and Lancaster and reinforced Henry’s hold on the crown.

Having brought the Wars of the Roses to an end with his victory over Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in August of the previous year, Henry was wasting no time in establishing a Tudor dynasty that would end the turmoil that had plagued England throughout the 15th century.

When choosing a bride, Henry resisted the temptation to take a foreign princess’s hand in marriage, as many previous Kings had done in hope of securing valuable allies abroad.

Instead, Henry identified that his most dangerous enemies would come from within his own kingdom. He therefore chose to marry Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV and niece of the defeated Richard III, in the hope that Yorkist supporters would be placated in the knowledge that his heirs would be continuing the Yorkist succession.

For Elizabeth, it must have been difficult to wed the man who had overthrown her uncle and removed her own hopes of claiming the throne. Yet, in a world in which the same uncle had killed her brothers to become king, forgiveness may not have been as hard.

The marriage had its desired effect and gave birth to one of Britain’s most famous kings, Henry VIII, establishing the foundations of the Tudor dynasty, which would reign over England for the next century. In fact, every monarch who has ruled over England since can trace their lineage back to the marriage.

The Tudors’ presence is still seen in the modern day with 20p coins bearing the Tudor rose, which symbolised Henry and Elizabeth’s marriage by combining the red and white roses of York and Lancaster. They even continue to influence the modern entertainment industry with recent years seeing Starz’s adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s novel The White Princess.

As another royal Henry prepares to walk down the aisle with Meghan Markle, its unlikely they will match the significant influence of their Tudor ancestors who have helped to form the basis of the modern Britain we know today.

Image: Lisby via Flickr

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