Would anyone please be able to give me some tips on this short essay?
Rebellions can be seen as the greatest challenge facing Henry VII’s rule, 1485 – 1509. Explain why you agree or disagree with this view.
Regarding any royal dynasty, a rebellion of one’s subjects is not ideal to a King. The ultimate aim of a rebellion is to test the King’s power, leading to the disruption of one’s authority, the questioning of one’s divine right to be monarch, which essentially destabilizes the position of the crown. However, although Henry VII faced a few notable rebellions during his reign, there were also other challenges that arose under his rule. Henry VII claimed the throne at a time of social unrest after the Hundred Years war, the conflict and divide between the two Yorkist and Lancastrian families was arguably one of his largest challenges. Furthermore, like many monarchs in his time, Henry VII struggled to control his nobles and to orchestrate foreign policy, which often proved more of a threat to his crown than rebellion, as the power of the nobles was what he truly feared. Historian K. Dockrey maintains that the rebellions and the attitudes of the North were the greatest threat to Henry VII, as here he had little control and his authority was often questioned. The alternative argument is that Henry’s greatest challenge came during the end of his reign, when he tried to gain prestige and links for England. I also take the view that although Henry VII was targeted by multiple rebellions, some with a large power base, I think that it was Henry’s struggle for foreign alliances and diplomacy that was his greatest challenge.
The ambiguity surrounding Henry’s claim to be first in line to the throne, due to the unknown whereabouts of the tower princes who had a more legitimate claim than him, caused many to question whether Henry VII was the rightful King, but also opened up loopholes for pretenders. Many of Henry’s rebellions surrounded this issue, for example, the rebellion that came closest to threatening Henry’s government was the Cornish rebellion which had marched to Blackheath near London. Proximity wise this was the nearest any rebellion came to the central hub of Tudor authority and it was led by none other than Perkin Warbeck, pretender of Prince Richard. This was a prevalent threat to Henry’s crown as Perkin had managed to commandeer 6,000 Cornish supporters and his legitimacy was supported by James IV of Scotland. To reduce the threat that pretenders posed, Henry faced a big challenge. It was virtually impossible to prove Warbeck or Simnel’s falsehood, as the majority of the population would not know what the tower princes truly looked like, there was no evidence to prove their illegitimacy. Instead, Henry VII had to overcome this challenge by punishing or compromising with pretender supporters. Regarding the Warbeck rebellion, Henry signed the ‘Truce of Ayton’ with James IV which forced Perkin to return to Waterford in Ireland and later give himself up. Although Henry’s tactics regarding Warbeck were expensive, it cost £13,000 from his already struggling state finances, it is clear that this the rebels were not as difficult for Henry to crush as one might expect. Because Henry VII had declared war with Scotland in 1496 it meant that all he had to do was divert his forces to Perkin’s rebellion, meaning he was one step ahead. Overall rebellions were a physical threat to the crown, but Henry was effective at disbanding them by using diplomacy and violence. These two tactics he used ensured that after the Warbeck rebellion, there were few prominent nobles that dared to risk their power and join in another uprising. To brand rebellions such as these as ‘the greatest challenge’ to Henry’s reign, personally, I think is an overstatement. Although financially and strategically these threats were a challenge, they were easier to overcome than some of Henry’s foreign policy difficulties because with rebels, he had advantageous power, whereas with other foreign diplomats, he had more difficulty making them do what he wanted.
At the end of Henry VII’s reign, the Kingdom of England was isolated and vulnerable on the European stage. Henry’s aim, to secure a well allied and supported England for his successor had failed. His challenge to tie England to up and coming European powers such as Spain or Burgundy had actually resulted in his being more isolated than before. For example, Henry signed the Treaty of Windsor in an attempt to unite with the powerful Phillip of Burgundy, he also would benefit from Edward de la Pole, a political opponent to the King, being returned, as this treaty ensured a secure throne. However, this attempt at foreign diplomacy backfired in the Castille Crisis because after Henry sided with Phillip for the Spanish sovereignty, Phillip died and Ferdinand resumed control. It is evident that after this event Henry had made European trade and diplomacy even more challenging because England was left out of the League of Cambrai, which signifies that England was not considered an ally of France, Spain nor The Vatican. This constant struggle for foreign security towards the end of his reign, was, I argue, Henry VII”s biggest struggle because it was never overcome; he kept digging deeper and deeper and never achieved international glory nor prestige for England.
In Conclusion, the rebellions which occurred during the first half of Henry’s reign were a physical threat to his crown; many of the rebels wanted his head. However, even in the North where heretical attitudes were more prevalent, Henry had control and power of systems of justice and most of the local nobility, enabling him to control opposition. Even when his power was outweighed due to foreign intervention in these rebellions, his position as King gave him the power to negotiate and get himself out of sticky situations using diplomacy. On the other hand, achieving foreign alliances was an area in which Henry struggled with until his death, and never truly succeeded in. This was not always his fault, it is true, he could not have foreseen Phillip of Burgundy’s death. But he struggled with the challenge of sorting out the diplomacy between the other European powers after the Castille crisis, and it is this key event as to which his International prestige never recovered. He had failed.
That is the end of my essay, most of my teachers have told me that my work is not very concise or not very clear, any tips would be very much appreciated!