Henry VII is often portrayed as cold, calculating and ambitious; and if you look at his politics and policy, these qualities are certainly present in his dealings. However, there is another side to him, the fatherly side. There are many examples of Henry VII as a generous, kind father, husband and son. One such is a conversation between Henry and Spanish diplomat Don Pedro De Ayala.
On the 25th July, 1498, De Ayala wrote to Ferdinand and Isabella about the concerns Henry had about the proposed marriage alliance between his daughter, Princess Margaret, and King James IV of Scotland:
‘I am really sorry that I have not a daughter or a sister for him ; for I have loved him most sincerely since the conclusion of the peace ; not to mention that he is my relative. He has behaved very well towards me. I wish to see him as prosperous as myself. But I have already told you, more than once, that a marriage between him and my daughter has many inconveniences. She has not yet completed the ninth year of her age, and is so delicate and weak that she must be married much later than other young ladies. Thus it would be necessary to wait at least another nine years. Besides my own doubts, the Queen and my mother are very much against this marriage. They say if the marriage were concluded we should be obliged to send the Princess directly to Scotland, in which case they fear the King of Scots would not wait, but injure her, and endanger her health.’
You may recognise the sentiments in this letter regarding the fears of ‘the Queen and my mother’ – Elizabeth of York and Margaret Beaufort, respectively – that James would initiate the sexual aspect of the marriage when Princess Margaret was too young and injure her. What is often overlooked, though, is the preceding words ‘Besides my own doubts.’ Henry was also worried about his daughter marrying too young; it was not just the concerns of his wife and mother that made him hesitate and delay. Henry had worked hard to accomplish the Treaty of Perpetual Peace with Scotland, of which the marriage was an integral part, and De Ayala’s Spanish masters were keen on the alliance, so it seems unlikely that Henry was considering breaking the alliance, or dissembling to the Spanish diplomat.
I think it is quite clear that Henry was concerned for his daughter’s youth and health: ‘She has not yet completed the ninth year of her age, and is so delicate and weak that she must be married much later than other young ladies. Thus it would be necessary to wait at least another nine years.’ Though it is likely that ‘another nine years’ is somewhat hyperbolic, as 18 was fairly late for a 15th century Princess to be wed, it is clear that he had genuine concerns for his daughter’s well being. These concerns perhaps were not quite as sharp as Margaret Beaufort’s, who had experienced the horrors that came along with pregnancy whilst too young; but even so, Henry was worried.
In the end, the betrothal was delayed; it wasn’t until the 25th January, 1503 that Princess Margaret married James IV of Scotland by proxy, when she was 13 years old. Despite the importance of the alliance, Henry VII valued his daughter’s well being more highly.