Why Henry VII was the Lancastrian Heir

In 1483 King Edward IV died unexpectedly aged 41. His younger brother, the future King Richard III, claimed Edward’s children were illegitimate as a result of Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville being bigamous as result of Edward already having been married to Elizabeth Talbot on the basis of Bishop Richard Stillington’s evidence, he, Stillington, having officiated at, and been the only witness to, the earlier marriage ceremony.

In opposition the House of Lancaster was represented by Henry Tudor, future Henry VII, although there were some 35 extant male great great grandchildren of John of Gaunt, the progenitor of the House of Lancaster having married the heiress Blanche of Lancaster, second daughter and eventual heir of Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster. John of Gaunt was created Duke of Lancaster in his own right aged 22 in 1362.

Henry VII’s claim to be the most senior representative of the House of Lancaster was based on his being the closest in the male line. His descent was senior to the descendants of Philippa of Lancaster, Elizabeth of Lancaster and Catherine of Lancaster since his great grandfather John Beaufort 1st Marquess Dorset 1st Marquess Somerset took precedence over those half-sisters as result of being male. The order of precedence of John of Gaunt’s children was as follows:

John Beaufort 1st Marquess Dorset 1st Marquess Somerset
Philippa of Lancaster
Elizabeth of Lancaster
Catherine of Lancaster
Joan Beaufort

Henry VII and Henry Stafford 2nd Duke Buckingham were both great grandchildren of John Beaufort 1st Marquess Dorset 1st Marquess Somerset. Henry Tudor, however, took precedence over Henry Stafford since Henry Tudor’s grandfather John 1st Duke Somerset was the elder brother of Edmund Beaufort 2nd Duke Somerset. The Stewart brothers, including James III King Scotland, were descended from Joan Beaufort so had a lower precedence than Henry Stafford.

Charles Somerset 1st Earl Worcester was excluded as a result of his being illegitimate. Its is interesting to note that the Beaufort were all originally illegitimate. Their legitimacy was subsequently confirmed after John of Gaunt had married Katherine Roet but they were excluded from the succession. By this argument none of the Beaufort descendants should have succeeded. In that case the heir of the House of Lancaster would be John II King of Portugal. A ‘foreign’ king on the English throne was likely to be unacceptable to the general public so it appears the Beaufort bar to succession was ignored.

The following table shows the great great grandchildren alive in 1483 by order of birth date:

John of Gaunt
Philippa of Lancaster
Edward “The Philospher”
John II King Portugal
Manuel I King Portugal
Maximillian I Holy Roman Emperor
John II King Portugal
Manuel I King Portugal
Elizabeth of Lancaster
Constance Holland
Edmund Grey
George Grey 2nd Earl Kent
John Holland
Anne Holland
Ralph Neville 3rd Earl Westmoreland
Catherine of Lancaster
John Trastamara
John Prince Asturias
John Beaufort 1st Marquess Dorset 1st Marquess Somerset
John 1st Duke Somerset
Margaret Beaufort
King Henry VII
Joan Beaufort
Joan Stewart
John Douglas 2nd Earl Morton
James II King Scotland
James III King Scotland
Alexander 1st Duke Albany
David 1st Earl Moray
John 1st Earl Atholl
John 2nd Earl Atholl
James 1st Earl Buchan
Alexander 2nd Earl Buchan
James Traquair
Edmund Beaufort 2nd Duke Somerset
Henry Beaufort 3rd Duke Somerset
Charles Somerset 1st Earl Worcester (Illegitimate)
Margaret Beaufort
Henry Stafford 2nd Duke Buckingham
Joan Beaufort
Elizabeth Ferrers
Ralph Greystoke
Robert Greystoke
Richard Neville 5th Earl Salisbury
Joan Neville
Thomas Fitzalan 17th Earl Arundel
Katherine Neville
Edward Hastings 2nd Baron Hastings
Eleanor Neville
George Stanley 9th Baron Strange
Edward Stanley 1st Baron Monteagle
James Stanley Bishop Ely
George Neville 1st Baron Latimer
Henry Neville
Richard Neville 2nd Baron Latimer
Edward Neville 3rd Baron Abergavenny
George Neville 4th Baron Abergavenny
George Neville 5th Baron Abergavenny
Edward Neville
Margaret Neville
Thomas Brooke 8th Baron Cobham
Katherine Neville
John Mowbray 3rd Duke Norfolk
John Mowbray 4th Duke Norfolk
Joan Beaumont
Francis Lovell 1st Viscount Lovell
Eleanor Neville
Henry Percy 3th Earl Northumberland
Henry Percy 4th Earl Northumberland
Katherine Percy
George Grey 2nd Earl Kent
Anne Neville
Humphrey Stafford
Henry Stafford 2nd Duke Buckingham
Catherine Stafford
George Talbot 4th Earl Shrewsbury
John Stafford 1st Earl Wiltshire
Edward Stafford 2nd Earl Wiltshire

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