Henry the Accountant – was there more to Henry VII?

Royal sobriquets are often colourful, grandiose or emotive – Ivan the Terrible, Bloody Mary, Good Queen Bess, the Sun King or Suleiman the Magnificent. Some are obscure – William the Silent, the Universal Spider (for Louis XI of France) or John Soft-Sword. But few are as dull as Henry VII – the accountant king.

It is true that the founder of the Tudor dynasty earned some racier nicknames – the Huckster King, the Welshman and the Winter King. But Thomas Penn’s biography of Henry VII, Winter King – the Dawn of Tudor England, makes it clear that this king knew his numbers and understood the power of revenue to make or break a dynasty.

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A “French-style security force” – the origin of the yeomen of the guard

In Thomas Penn’s ‘The Winter King’, Henry VII is depicted as neurotically protecting his precarious grasp on the English throne. On page 20, Penn describes the security measures the new monarch puts in place:

“One of his first acts was to create a new French-style security force, three hundred strong: the yeoman of the guard.”

The Yeoman of the Guard? French? This was enough to pique my interest and find out more about the force I had always assumed was as British as the beef they legendarily consumed (or not – see below).

The Body Guard of the Yeoman of the Guard was formed by Henry VII in the dazed aftermath of the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. Richard III was slain during this bloody culmination to the Wars of the Roses and Henry was determined to avoid a similar fate.

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