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Henry VII was king of England between 1485 and 1509. His accession to the throne ended the long-running Wars of the Roses, which had plagued England for the better part of three decades. When Henry Tudor came to the throne, there was only one church in Western Europe, with the Pope as its head. This was in the days before the Reformation, in which Henry's son, Henry VIII, played such a leading role.

Unlike his more famous—and infamous—son, Henry VII was conventionally devout in his religious beliefs and practices. At the same time, Henry shared his son's view of the Church as a source of substantial wealth. He presided over an unprecedented level of what was called translation—the transfer of a bishop from one diocese to another. Moving bishops around in this way regularly ensured that dioceses were left vacant. In turn, this meant that the revenues of the diocese would go to the king. This novel accounting trick was developed to an even greater extent by Henry VII's granddaughter Queen Elizabeth I.

Nevertheless, Henry remained a pious Christian throughout his whole life. Even by the standards of the time, he was a deeply devout man, with a strong attachment to the cult of saints. During his lifetime, Henry endowed a number of religious houses such as monasteries and convents with generous financial bequests; this largesse even continued after his death under the terms of his will. And in that will, Henry further showed his exceptional devotion to traditional religious practices by requesting that 10,000 masses be said for his soul.

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