Richard III had been a friend to York. His defeat by Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 was a cause of great concern in an already declining city.
Two Visits by the New King
The first Tudor king, Henry VII, visited York within a year of his accession. If the city was to prosper again it was vital that its citizens made a good impression and won his favour. No expense was spared, no eulogy left unsaid in the efforts to win over the first of the Tudor dynasty.
When Henry arrived in 1486 at the York boundary, he was met by York’s sheriffs and two aldermen with 60 horses. He was accompanied from Bilborough Cross by the Mayor and the remaining aldermen in scarlet gowns, the town clerk and council in violet, the chamberlains in mulberry and many citizens in red on horseback.
At Micklegate Bar, the royal entrance to the city, children called ‘King Henry’ in suitably joyful voices, and a red and white rose symbolised the union of the former enemies, the houses of York and Lancaster.
Crowds sprinkled the royal entourage with rose water and showered it with sweetmeats as it processed through York. Citizens dressed as the six previous King Henrys were introduced to the monarch, as was a resident posing as Solomon, who said that Henry governed 'by righteous providence'. And in Stonegate a woman portraying the Virgin Mary blessed the king.
Just a year later, in July 1487, Henry VII was back in very different circumstances. He efficiently quashed a plot to depose him and put the pretender Lambert Simnel on the throne.
In an effective show of force he entered York accompanied by a thousand noblemen in their military garb. The Mayor and corporation met him at Micklegate Bar, but there was no time to commission new pageants. Instead they staged a performance of the Mystery Plays which Henry watched from the Coney Street house of Thomas Scott.
Several rebels were then executed and the York Mayor knighted in gratitude for the city’s loyalty during the crisis.
Henry VIII succeeded his father to the throne in 1509. During his reign York would hit rock bottom.
Unable to balance its books it was bailed out by a central government which acknowledged York could no longer pay the taxation levels set when it was a highly prosperous medieval metropolis.
After a dispute over the election of York’s Mayor, Henry VIII imposed a new charter on the city which excluded the common people from voting and insulated the corporation from popular pressure.
But it was the king’s religious revolution which was to have the greatest impact on York.