Henry VII was a naughty boy with a lot of illegitimate children….?

Henry - Dodd, Old London Bridge 1745 Before I start, I have to confess that the inspiration for this article is not mine, but Merlyn MacLeod’s. I am writing in her stead.

There is always a suggestion that ‘untruths’ about Richard have a habit of sticking, like the proverbial mud, but it is not so often that the same thing happens to Henry VII. Henry is regarded as somewhat staid, and (guesswork here, and I clearly do not write in my capacity as author of the Cicely Plantagenet book series!) never straying from his wife’s bed. As indeed was said of Richard, which means that so far in this respect they are neck-and-neck.

Most people with an interest in the period will know of Roland de Velville (numerous spellings), who is said to have been Henry’s illegitimate son, conceived early in exile in Brittany, i.e. around 1473/4, when Henry was in his mid-teens. But Roland is, as far as I know, Henry’s only baseborn child, and was conceived before any dynastic marriage to join York and Lancaster. And he may not be Henry’s at all, of course. There is no proof one way or the other. Only circumstantial evidence.

Now, from nowhere, I have been sent this link:- http://boards.ancestry.com/surnames.fullilove/159/mb.ashx I had never heard of Bess Fullilove, who was supposedly a lady in Margaret Beaufort’s household. Somehow, miraculously, one might say, she is supposed to have had a liaison with Henry in 1473, resulting in a son. I say miraculously, because Henry was in exile in Brittany at this time, and certainly nowhere near his mother’s household. Unless, of course, he was Welsh enough to have assistance from Merlin! This unfortunate son was never acknowledged, received nothing from his supposed father, and died at the age of seventeen.

The Ancestry.com page then goes on to say that Henry had many more illegitimate children. Huh? Henry VII? If that were so, we’d know about it. So, I have to conclude that it isn’t the first Henry Tudor who was a bad boy between the sheets, but the second, who was a bad boy in almost every way, not just in bed. Henry VIII did have illegitimate children, including a son, Henry Fitzroy, who died at seventeen. But this son was acknowledged, titled and at one time was considered as his father’s heir . . . until Jane Seymour produced a legitimate heir. Exit Henry Fitzroy, surplus to requirement. Incidentally, his mother was Bessie Blount. Maybe not Fullilove, but a Bess at least.

However, the possibility of confusion with Henry VIII and Henry Fitzroy founders upon the date for Bess Fullilove’s supposed child. 1473. Henry VIII certainly wasn’t even a twinkle in Henry VII’s eye at that time. Henry VII’s eye hadn’t twinkled much at all that early on. Unless he was a rampant teenager, which is always possible, although looking at his portraits, one somehow cannot imagine it. But, they do say that still waters run deep.

So, what conclusion can I reach in this mystery . . . which may be based on nothing at all, except a family tradition? Well, the obvious one is that over the years, a mix-up has arisen between the two Henry Tudors, and between Henry Fitzroy and Roland de Velville.

If anyone knows more, please tell.


  1. Henry VII was not a popular king and was both hated and feared during his reign – so I would have thought that any indiscretions and bastard children would have been far more widely muttered about, had they occurred. But it’s an interesting avenue for research

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Don’t share the previous posters assessment of Henry VII. Roland de Velville was not Henry’s son. He was granted a coat of arms indication that his ancestry was known and legitimate. Neither was he born in 1473 / 1474. Velville was a translation of his Breton surname into French. Under that Breton name he appears at a muster of nobles in 1481 showing he was of military age at that date and was born before Henry arrived in Brittany.

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  3. Hello David. I didn’t write that Roland WAS Henry’s son, just that he was thought to be. That was the point of the post; mud sticks. And let’s face it, Henry VII was a great one for flinging that mud around! A belief in Roland’s connection with Henry has come down through the centuries, and in this case I think it has become muddled with Henry VIII and Henry Fitzroy. Hence, Henry VII has acquired (in some quarters) the reputation of siring a lot of illegitimate children. And Richard III is accused of crimes of which he was innocent.


  4. Richard was crowned king in 1483 and would have been aware that his nephews provided a potential target for those wishing to supplant him. A prudent king would have removed them from the picture. Richard was by all accounts a religious man and killing his nephews would have been sinful, even in those days. It would also be disloyal to his brother to whom Richard had been devoted in life. The act would also be a Godsend to any enemy that wished to turn the kingdom against him and, therefore, foolish. Chronicles prove that Richard was neither imprudent, sinful or foolish. So why, when rumours of the death began circulating, did he not just produce the boys? A lot has been read into this and it does seem to suggest that he could

    Liked by 1 person

  5. All I can think, Karasel, is that Richard didn’t have them to produce. Someone else got to them first…OR, he’d moved them somewhere safe and wasn’t about to reveal where. What the reason, I feel certain it WASN’T because he’d had them murdered. As you say, it just wasn’t in his character. He’s been stitched up by “history”.


  6. You forgot that Henry VII had a few years between his wife’s death and his (she died at 1503, he died at 1509) and he might have had plans to remarry for political reasons, although it is known he loved Elizabeth of York. Nobody will see him as “naughty” if he had a mistress after his wife’s death, and I read somewhere that he had another child, illegal, after Elizabeth’s death.


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