murreyandblue

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We like to answer our readers’ queries …

On Thursday, someone enquired: “Who had a better claim to the throne than Henry VII”?

The short answer (excluding the right by conquest): almost anyone.
Conventionally, his mother was descended from Edward III through the Beaufort line, but they were only legitimised “excepta dignitate regali”. However, the balance of evidence suggests that his parents were undispensed first cousins, making Henry personally illegitimate. Then again, his great-grandfather, the first Beaufort, may have been a legitimate Swynford, giving him no royal descent at all. According to the latest DNA evidence, this latter conclusion is at least 5% probable.

The long answer: In summer 1485, apart from the reigning King Richard III, his Suffolk nephews all had claims and there were a few of those. Even if we discount women from reigning in their own right, many of his nieces later had sons. His father’s sister, Isobel, was married to an Earl of Essex and had Bourchier issue. His grandmother Anne Mortimer was the last of her line but Richard of Cambridge had a sister, Constance, through whom Anne Neville and the Barons Bergavenny descend. After Anne Mortimer but before Cambridge’s cousins would come the legitimate, unattainted Lancastrians in Portugal. Then there was an Earl of Kent and, as soon as attainders could be reversed, there was an Earl of Warwick and a Stafford heir.

Have we forgotten anyone?

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5 thoughts on “We like to answer our readers’ queries …

  1. sighthound6 on said:

    The Earl of Westmorland of the time had quite a decent ‘Lancastrian’ claim as he descended from Elizabeth of Lancaster, Henry IV’s sister. Unfortunately Elizabeth’s children by her second husband, Sir John Cornwall, apparently died before they could have children of their own.

    Constance of York was sister, not aunt, of Richard earl of Cambridge; she was Edmund of Langley’s only daughter, and the descendants of her daughter Isabelle, by Thomas Despenser are still about today. But for the (cough) uncertain nature of her connection to Edmund Holland, Earl of Kent, which may *possibly* have been another of the York family collection of secret marriages, the claimants would be legion. The Audley family was fruitful, and again there are many representatives to this day.

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  2. Esther on said:

    IIRC, John of Gaunt had a daughter — Katherine — by his second wife, who married into the royal house of Castile; her great-granddaughter is known as Katherine of Aragon. If the marriage between Edward IV and Elizabeth Wydville really was invalid, then Henry VIII’s first wife had a better claim to the throne of England than he did!

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  3. David on said:

    His parents were first cousins!!! This is clearly wrong. I am assuming by the term by the balance of evidence you mean in JAH’s dreams –

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