King Edward IV (Plantagenet) had seemingly won the War of the Roses against his cousin, Henry Tudor, a few years prior to his death in 1483. Edward had two brothers: George, Duke of Clarence, whom he had executed for plotting his overthrow in 1478; and Richard, who became Regent during the minority of Edward's young son, Edward. King Edward IV left two sons, Edward V and Richard, who became famous as the two little princes who were murdered in the Tower of London, either by King Edward's brother Richard, who made himself King Richard III; or by his cousin, King Henry VII (Tudor), who finally won the War of the Roses after returning from exile in France, killing King Richard III in the process.
After the death of the two little princes, and with King Richard III having no male heir, Henry VII completed his victory over the House of York by executing the young son of George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, thus eliminating the last male Plantagenet. He also married Elizabeth, daughter of King Edward IV (Plantagenet), thus uniting the Houses of York and Lancaster, hopefully to truly end the War of the Roses once and for all.
There were then no male Plantagenets left to challenge the Tudors for the throne of England. Margaret (Plantagenet) Pole was the only survivor of the House of York, but neither she nor any of her descendants - even the males - were considered a serious threat to the reign of the Tudors since the crown could not then be passed through a woman.
Henry VII died in 1509 and, since his oldest son, Arthur, had preceded him in death, was succeeded by his second son, Henry, who became King Henry VIII.
In a political marriage to unite the kingdoms of Spain and England, Arthur had wed Catherine of Arragon when he was only 15, but the young prince died within a year. Just before his death, King Henry VII had approved the marriage of Catherine to his second son, King Henry VIII, having received special dispensation from the Pope, who acknowledged that the earlier marriage to Arthur had never been consumated because of the age of Arthur. Thus, the long marriage of Henry and Catherine began.
Margaret Plantagenet was a cousin of King Henry VIII, and for a number of years, she and her family were well received at court. In fact, Henry made her the governess of his daughter, Mary; and he once referred to her as "the most saintly woman in England."
That all changed, however, once Henry broke with the Catholic Church when the Pope refused to annul his marriage to Catherine when he wanted to take a second wife because Catherine had failed to produce a male heir. Margaret and her family were devout Catholics.
Reginald Pole, son of Margaret, had become a priest and was studying abroad when Henry broke with the church. To make matters even worse for the family, the Pope made him a cardinal shortly after the break, which further enraged Henry. Furthermore, Reginald publicly disapproved of Henry's divorce of Catherine.
Reginald was a cousin of King Henry, and the king tried to entice him back to England with honeyed words of assurance. When that failed (Reginald knew his cousin too well to fall for that trap), Henry tried to have him assassinated or kidnapped and returned to England. The king charged him with treason and sought his extradition from every kingdom where Reginald sought asylum. The cardinal survived only because he was under the protection of the Pope and other Catholic monarchs on the continent.
It is important to note that the charge of treason against Reginald Pole was based on an alleged plot to place him on the throne of England as a descendant of the Plantagenets (though not the senior descendant), thus restoring Catholicism to the land. It was also alleged that Pole planned to marry Henry's daughter, Mary; thus again uniting the two families as Henry's own father had done, but this time with the Plantagenets regaining the throne they had lost in the Wars of the Roses. Thus Henry himself acknowledged the threat of the Plantagenet Poles to the Tudor dynasty.
Failing to lure Cardinal Pole back to England, Henry set out to destroy the rest of his family. He confided to the French ambassador that he intended to destroy them all!
I will deal with that in the next session.
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