Composed between 1500 and 1502, The Life of Henry VII is the first “official” Tudor account of the triumph of Henry VII over Richard III. Its author, the French humanist Bernard André, was a poet and historian at the court of Henry VII and tutor to the young Prince Arthur. Steeped in classical literature and familiar with all the tropes of the ancient biographical tradition, André filled his account with classical allusions, invented speeches, and historical set pieces.
Although cast as a biography, the work dramatizes the dynastic shift that resulted from Henry Tudor’s seizure of the English throne at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 and the death of Richard III. Its author had little interest in historical “facts,” and when he was uncertain about details, he simply left open space in the manuscript for later completion. He focused instead on the nobility of Henry VII’s lineage, the moral character of key figures, and the hidden workings of history. André’s account thus reflects the impact of new humanist models on English historiography. It is the first extended argument for Henry’s legitimate claims to the English crown.
The Life of Henry VII survives in a single manuscript, edited by James Gairdner in the nineteenth-century Rolls Series. It occupies an important place in the literary tradition of treatments of Richard III, begun by André, continued by Thomas More and Polydore Vergil, and reaching its classic expression in Shakespeare.
First English translation.
Introduction, bibliography, index.