Henry VII’s hated henchmen

In 1485, the first Tudor king did something unusual: he invited a new wave of lowborn henchmen to England's court. What they lacked in breeding, these men made up for in talent. But, says Steven Gunn, Henry's meritocracy wasn't popular with all...

Illustrations by Sarah Young, based on contemporary portraits where available

This article was first published in the October 2016 issue of BBC History Magazine

In 1497 Perkin Warbeck, the pretender to Henry VII’s throne, claimed that the Tudor king had “none in favour and trust about his person” but men “of simple birth”, whose advice led him into “misrule and mischief”. In some respects, Warbeck – who was hanged by the king after attempting to raise rebellion – was wrong: Henry did take counsel from great churchmen and trusted nobles. But, for all that, there was more than a kernel of truth to Warbeck’s allegations. Henry was increasingly relying on a group of ‘upstart’ advisers who had used their considerable skills to rise to the top of the political ladder from comparatively humble origins. And, in doing so, the king was transforming the way his nation was governed.

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