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Abstract

Henry VII is generally seen as the initiator of a vigorous campaign of ‘Tudor propaganda’ about the events which led to his accession. This article argues that his policy was rather one of selective obfuscation, even deliberate concealment. As late as 1512 the conscientious compiler of the London ‘Great Chronicle’ could provide only a confused account of Richard III's reign, and very little on Henry's own family background or on his time in exile. Only slightly less vague were the poems and declamations produced in Henry's court, and these had little circulation in the country at large. Even the alleged confession to the murder of the ‘princes in the Tower’ by Tyrell in 1502 was not publicized. A reasonably rounded account of Richard's reign and of Henry's own life before Bosworth was only established with the investigations by Polydore Vergil and Thomas More between 1512 and 1518; and even then their diffusion had to await the first printing of Vergil in 1534 and Grafton's plagiarizing of both authors in 1543. Until then silence was evidently thought to be the best policy. Historians too readily make the working assumption that the people they study had access to an ordered view of the recent past without establishing how far this was so in a particular case.