False Brought up of Nought

Thomas Penn

  • Henry VII’s New Men and the Making of Tudor England by Steven Gunn
    Oxford, 393 pp, £60.00, August 2016, ISBN 978 0 19 965983 8

In a dawn raid on 24 April 1509, troops reporting to England’s new king, the 17-year-old Henry VIII, arrested two of his late father’s closest councillors and took them to the Tower of London. Three days earlier, Henry VII, the first Tudor king, had died aged 52, in his privy chamber at Richmond Palace. But Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley, though rarely straying from the king’s side in his last disease-ridden and paranoid years, had been away from court and nobody had bothered to tell them. More than that: a faction of the late king’s advisers had decided to keep his death a secret while they arranged matters. Deeply concerned about the widespread unpopularity of Henry VII’s exploitative, extrajudicial methods of government, and anxious to secure the smooth succession of his young son as well as their own place in the new regime, they needed scapegoats onto whom to ‘shift the noise’ of Henry VII’s ‘tyrannies’, as one contemporary chronicler put it, ‘for to satisfy and appease the people’. Empson and Dudley were top of their list.

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