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Henry Tudor – ruler by right of conquest?

I have seen it asserted recently that Henry VII ruled ‘by right of conquest.’ This may be the de facto position, but it is not the de jure one.  Parliament would never have allowed him to claim by conquest – it would have destroyed everyone’s – and I mean everyone’s – title to their lands. (This is why Henry IV was not allowed to claim by conquest either, following the advice of Chief Justice Thirning.)

Henry VII ruled by virtue of a Parliamentary statute that acknowledged he was king. Though it is not generally acknowledged, all subsequent sovereigns of England have their ‘claim’ ultimately based on this statute.

Now, given that in 1485 Parliament had the right to create a sovereign by statute, it follows as night follows day that they had the same right in 1483. The only difference is that Richard had an hereditary claim that it was possible to publish and justify with arguments, whereas Henry’s statute did not contain any reference at all to his hereditary claim. Possibly because there were elderly peers and prelates attending the Parliament who might have wet themselves laughing at something so improbable.

It is surprising that so many Tudor devotees wish to stress the ‘conquest’ element of Henry’s kingship. In doing so, they are unconsciously arguing that the Tudor regime was an illegal and arbitrary tyranny, established against the law and custom of the land and against existing statute law – Titulus Regius. And ultimately with no more legitimacy than a German army of occupation would have had, had we been conquered in 1940. Which is a very odd position for a pro-Tudor person to take. If I were them, I should be inclined to put more stress on the accession statute.


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