This is part 2 of a 15 part series examining the historical antecedents of the Anglican Communion.
Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. “Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
Sometime after the death of King Henry V in 1422, a man named Owen Tudor entered the service of the king’s widow, Catherine Valois, probably as her wardrobe master. They became enamored of one another, and were probably married, although there is no record of this marriage. Married or not, they had six children together, including Edmund and Jasper Tudor, who were acknowledged by King Henry VI. Edmund Tudor, as half-brother to the king, was entitled to marry a woman of high station.
Lady Margaret Beaufort was a great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, who was a son of King Edward III. Descent from John of Gaunt was the claim that the Yorkists had to the throne. The Yorkists, however, were descended from a legitimate child produced by the first marriage of John of Gaunt. Lady Margaret was descended from John Beaufort, an illegitimate son of John of Gaunt. John Beaufort had been legitimized after his father married his mother, but that legitimacy had later been rescinded by the Lancastrian King, Henry IV. The Beauforts could advance only a very tenuous claim to the throne, but they were a very respectable and highly ranked noble family.
In 1455, the year that the Wars of the Roses erupted, Edmund Tudor was wed to Lady Margaret. He was 24. She was 12. She became pregnant a year later. Shortly after his wife became pregnant, Edmund, a prominent Lancastrian, was captured by a Yorkist army, was imprisoned, became infected with the plague, and died. Two months after his death, his only son, Henry Tudor, was born.
The Yorkists captured the throne from the weak Lancaster king, Henry VI. It was held first by Edward IV and then by his brother, Richard III. Henry Tudor grew to adulthood and became head of the House of Lancaster. Through his Beaufort mother, he could make a claim to the throne, however tenuous and convoluted that claim may have been. He allied himself with England’s enemies in France and Scotland, who supplied him with troops, weapons, and money. In 1485, two years into the reign of the Yorkist Richard III, Henry Tudor, accompanied by his uncle, Jasper Tudor, landed in Wales, which was a Lancastrian stronghold. As they moved through the Welsh countryside they picked up supporters until they had amassed an army of nearly 5,000.
Henry and Jasper Tudor and their army met the army of Richard III on August 22, 1485, at Bosworth Field near Leicestershire. Richard was dependent for help in the battle on three allies, the Earl of Northumberland, Lord Thomas Stanley, and Sir William Stanley. But these allies either switched sides or refused to join the battle. This proved a decisive factor. His army defeated, Richard III was slain, the last English king to die in battle (though not, as we shall see, the last English king to meet a violent death). His naked body was paraded through the streets of Leicestershire.
Henry Tudor, whose grandfather had been Master of the Royal Wardrobe, was crowned King Henry VII on October 30, 1485. He married Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and niece of the defeated king, Richard III. She was the older sister of the two missing princes whom Richard had taken to the Tower of London. This marriage united the houses of Lancaster and York and ensured that Henry’s descendants would have an undisputed claim to the throne through both Henry and Elizabeth. Henry created the Tudor rose as a new heraldic badge for his family. It contained both the red rose of Lancaster and the white rose of York. Henry and Elizabeth had four children who survived early childhood.
Father, forgive us in your mercy. We have betrayed those to whom we have sworn loyalty. We have accepted aid and comfort from our enemies. We have used children to advance our own political ambitions. We have committed murder. We have rebelled against lawful authority and against you, our most high God. We have induced others to acts of betrayal. We have allowed greed and lust for power to control our actions.
Father, the sins of our ancestors remain with us. We, too, are traitors and rebels. We seek material gain rather than spiritual gain. We are seduced by the ruler of this world. We crave power and self-aggrandizement. We worship at the altar of self-idolatry.
Have mercy, Father. Use the blood shed by Jesus on the cross to cleanse the sins of our ancestors and our own sins. Wipe clean this stain on our history. Restore us. Break the cycle of repeated sins. Free us from bondage to this history. Begin a new creation in which you are our God and we are your people.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord and true King.