Francis Bacon wrote his The History of the Reign of King Henry the Seventh during 1621 after his fall from power and during his initial period of disgrace. He had, of course, contemplated some such history for a long time; and his exile from the Jacobean court allowed him time to complete this project. Exactly how much “research” he did remains a matter of debate. But this history of Henry VII exists as an exceptional example of Tudor-Stuart historical writing. Given Bacon's fascination with questions of history, broached in The Advancement of Learning (1605) and expanded in De Augmentis Scientiarum (1623), one might reasonably expect to find an example of Bacon's practice of history. The History of Henry VII exists as Bacon's only finished full-scale history of an era, although other fragments survive.
A favorite scholarly pastime, at least since the late nineteenth century, has been to detect Bacon's “errors” in his history—that is, how and where he got things wrong. Sometimes, for example, he apparently duplicated the error of a source. He does not, however, stand alone among historians on this score. In any event, modern historical research affords a clearer view of the accuracy of Bacon's account. None of this detracts, however, from Bacon's considerable achievement. Part of the recognition of his accomplishment derives from understanding the different influences that impinge on Bacon's writing Henry VII. I intend, for example, to assess the indebtedness to the life of the Jacobean court as a model or influence on Bacon's portrait of King Henry's relationship with his wife Queen Elizabeth.