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The Death of King Henry VII

Late 1508 Henry VII fell ill and by February he traveled to Richmond Palace. When April came it was clear to the people around the King that he was a dying man. In his final hours, Bishop John Fisher gave Henry the last sacraments, which he received with "a marvelous compassion and flow of tears" and "many knockings and beatings of his breast". King Henry VII died at Richmond Palace on 21 April 1509 at the age of 52. The cause of death was arthritis and tuberculosis (or asthma).


Henry VII painting by Dmitry Yakhovsky
Henry VII portrait based on the bust by Pietro Torrigiano (1509-1511) by Dmitry Yakhovsky

Henry was the only child of Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond (son of Henry V’s widow Catherine de Valois and Owen Tudor) and Margaret Beaufort (who died two months after her son’s death and a few days after the coronation of her grandson Henry VIII at the Abbot of Westminster’s house) Henry VII was married to Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV, with whom he had seven children.

Henry VII Deatbed drawn by Thomas Wriothesley, British Library

Henry VII at his Deathbed: Sir Thomas Wriothesley (d. 1534) the Garter King of Arms, wrote a comprehensive account of the proceedings surrounding the dying Henry VII and drew this image of the King on his deathbed. The drawing is kept at the British Library. The dying King is in his Privy Chamber, encircled by his closest courtiers and household. '(clockwise round the bed): Richard Fox, Bishop of Winchester (d. 1528); George, Lord Hastings (d. 1544); Richard Weston, Esquire of the Body (a household officer in constant attendance on the king) and Groom of the Privy Chamber (d. 1541); Richard Clement, Groom of the Privy Chamber (d. 1538); Matthew Baker (or Basquer), Esquire of the Body (d. 1513); John Sharpe and William Tyler, Gentlemen Ushers; Hugh Denys, Esquire of the Body; and William Fitzwilliam, Gentleman Usher (d. 1542), holds a staff of office and closes the King’s eyes. Also present are two tonsured clerics and three physicians holding urine bottles.'

Portrait Bust Henry VII
Portrait Bust Henry VII 1509-1511 by Pietro Torrigiano, V&A Museum

Henry’s death was kept secret for two more days and announced shortly before his son, Henry VIII, was proclaimed king. He was buried at Westminster Abbey, alongside his queen.


Source Henry VII deathbed: British Library: Additional Ms. 45131, f.54

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