The Tudor dynasty or House of Tudor was a royal house of Welsh origin, descended in the male line from theTudors of Penmynydd, which ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including their ancestral Wales and theLordship of Ireland, later the Kingdom of Ireland, from 1485 until 1603. Its first monarch was Henry VII, a descendant through his mother of a legitimised branch of the English royal House of Lancaster. The Tudor family rose to power in the wake of the Wars of the Roses, which left the House of Lancaster, to which the Tudors were aligned, extinct.
Henry Tudor was able to establish himself as a candidate not only for traditional Lancastrian supporters, but also for the discontented supporters of their rival House of York, and he rose to capture the throne in battle, becoming Henry VII. His victory was reinforced by his marriage to Elizabeth of York, symbolically uniting the former warring factions under a new dynasty. The Tudors extended their power beyond modern England, achieving the full union of England and the Principality of Wales in 1542 (Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542), and successfully asserting English authority over the Kingdom of Ireland. They also maintained the nominal English claim to the Kingdom of France; although none of them made substance of it, Henry VIII fought wars with France trying to reclaim that title. After him, his daughterMary I lost control of all territory in France permanently with the fall of Calais in 1558.
In total, five Tudor monarchs ruled their domains for just over a century. Henry VIII of England was the only male-line male heir of Henry VII to live to the age of maturity. Issues around the Royal succession (including marriage and the succession rights of women) became major political themes during the Tudor era. The House of Stuart came to power in 1603 when the Tudor line failed, as Elizabeth I died without issue.
Ascent to the throne
The Tudors descended on Henry VII’s mother’s side from John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, one of the illegitimate children of the 14th century English PrinceJohn of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster (the third surviving son of Edward III of England) by Gaunt’s long-term mistress Katherine Swynford. The descendants of an illegitimate child of English Royalty would normally have no claim on the throne, but the situation was complicated when Gaunt and Swynford eventually married in 1399, when John Beaufort was 25. The church retroactively declared the Beauforts legitimate by way of a papal bull the same year, confirmed by an Act of Parliament in 1397. A subsequent proclamation by John of Gaunt’s legitimate son, Henry IV of England, also recognised the Beauforts’ legitimacy, but declared them ineligible ever to inherit the throne. Nevertheless, the Beauforts remained closely allied with Gaunt’s legitimate descendants from his first marriage, the House of Lancaster.
On 1 November 1455, John Beaufort’s granddaughter, Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby, married Henry VI of England‘s half-brother Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond. It was his father, Owen Tudor (Welsh: Owain ap Maredudd ap Tewdur ap Goronwy ap Tewdur ap Goronwy ap Ednyfed Fychan), who abandoned the Welsh patronymic naming practice and adopted a fixed surname. When he did, he did not choose, as was generally the custom, his father’s name, Maredudd, but chose his grandfather’s instead. Tewdur or Tudor is derived from the words tud “territory” and rhi “king”.
Owen Tudor was one of the body guards for Queen Dowager Catherine of Valois, whose husband, Henry V of England, had died in 1422. Evidence suggests that the two were secretly married in 1429. The two sons born of the marriage, Edmund and Jasper, were among the most loyal supporters of the House of Lancaster in its struggle against the House of York.
Henry VI ennobled his half brothers. Edmund became earl of Richmond and was married to Margaret Beaufort, the great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, the progenitor of the house of Lancaster. Jasper became earl of Pembroke and by 1460 had collected so many offices in Wales that he had become the virtual viceroy of the country. Edmund died in November 1456. On 28 January 1457, his widow, who had just attained her fourteenth birthday, gave birth to a son, Henry VII of England, at her brother-in-law’s castle of Pembroke.
Henry Tudor spent his childhood at Raglan Castle, the home of William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, a leading Yorkist. Following the murder of Henry VI and his son, Edward, in 1471, Henry became the person upon whom the Lancasterian cause rested. Concerned for his young nephew’s life, Jasper Tudor took Henry toBrittany for safety. Lady Margaret remained in England and remarried, living quietly while advancing the Lancasterian, and her son’s cause. Capitalizing on the growing unpopularity of King Richard III of England, she was able to forge an alliance with discontented Yorkists in support of her son. Two years after Richard IIIwas crowned, Henry and Jasper sailed from the mouth of the Seine to the Milford Haven Waterway and defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Upon this victory, Henry Tudor proclaimed himself King Henry VII.
Family tree of the principal members of the house of Tudor.
Now King, Henry’s first concern was to secure his hold on the throne. On 18 January 1486 at Westminster, he honoured a pledge made three years earlier and married Elizabeth of York. They were third cousins, as both were great-great-grandchildren of John of Gaunt. The marriage unified the warring houses of Lancaster and York and gave his children a strong claim to the throne. The unification of the two houses through this marriage is symbolized by the heraldic emblem of the Tudor rose, a combination of the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster.
Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth had several children, four of whom survived infancy: Arthur, Prince of Wales; Henry, Duke of Richmond; Margaret, who married James IV of Scotland; and Mary, who married Louis XII of France. One of the objectives of Henry VII’s foreign policy was dynastic security, which is portrayed through the alliance forged with the marriage of his daughter Margaret to James IV of Scotland and through the marriage of his eldest son. Henry VII married his son Arthur to Catherine of Aragon, cementing an alliance with the Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, and the two spent their honeymoon at Ludlow Castle, the traditional seat of the Prince of Wales. However, four months after the marriage, Arthur died, leaving his younger brother Henry as heir apparent. Henry VII acquired a Papal dispensation allowing Prince Henry to marry Arthur’s widow; however, Henry VII delayed the marriage. Henry VII limited his involvement in European politics. He went to war only twice, once in 1489 during the Breton crisis and the invasion of Brittany, and in 1496–1497 in revenge for Scottish support of Perkin Warbeck and for their invasion of Northern England. Henry VII made peace with France in 1492 and the war against Scotland was abandoned because of the Western Rebellion of 1497. Henry VII came to peace with James IV in 1502, paving the way for the marriage of his daughter Margaret.
One of the main concerns of Henry VII during his reign was the re-accumulation of the funds in the royal treasury. England had never been one of the wealthier European countries, and after the War of the Roses this was even more true. Through his strict monetary strategy, he was able to leave a considerable amount of money in the Treasury for his son and successor, Henry VIII. Although it is debated whether Henry VII was a great king, he certainly was a successful one if only because he restored the nation’s finances, strengthened the judicial system and successfully denied all other claimants to the throne, thus further securing it for his heir.
The new King Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon on 11 June 1509; they were crowned at Westminster Abbey on 24 June the same year. Catherine was Henry’s older brother’s wife, making the path for their marriage a rocky one from the start. A papal dispensation had to be granted for Henry to be able to marry Catherine, and the negotiations took some time. Despite the fact that Henry’s father died before he was married to Catherine, he was determined to marry her anyway and make sure that everyone knew he intended on being his own master. When Henry first came to the throne, he had very little interest in actually ruling; rather, he preferred to indulge in luxuries and to partake in sports. He let others control the kingdom for the first two years of his reign, and then when he became more interested in military strategy, he took more interest in ruling his own throne. In his younger years, Henry was described as a man of gentle friendliness, gentle in debate, and who acted as more of a companion than a king. He was generous in his gifts and affection and was said to be easy to get along with. However, the Henry that many people picture when they hear his name is the Henry of his later years, when he became OBESE, volatile, and was known for his great cruelty.Unfortunately, Catherine did not bear Henry the sons he was desperate for; Catherine’s first child, a daughter, was stillborn, and her second child, a son named Henry, Duke of Cornwall, died 52 days after the birth. A further set of stillborn children were conceived, until a daughter Mary was born in 1516. When it became clear to Henry that the Tudor dynasty was at risk, he consulted his chief minister Cardinal Thomas Wolsey about the possibility of annulling his marriage to Catherine. Along with Henry’s concern that he would not have an heir, it was also obvious to his court that he was becoming tired of his aging wife, who was six years older than he. Wolsey visited Rome, where he hoped to get the Pope’s consent for an annulment. However, the church was reluctant to rescind the earlier papal dispensation and felt heavy pressure from Catherine’s nephew, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, in support of his aunt. Catherine contested the proceedings, and a protracted legal battle followed. Wolsey fell from favour as a result of his failure to procure the annulment, and Henry appointed Thomas Cromwell in his place. Despite his failure to produce the results that Henry wanted, Wolsey actively pursued the annulment—divorce was synonymous with annulment at that time—however, he never planned that Henry would marry Anne Boleyn, with whom the king had become enamoured while she was lady-in-waiting in Queen Catherine’s household. It is unclear how far Wolsey was actually responsible for the Reformation, but it is very clear that Henry’s desire to marry Anne Boleyn precipitated the schism with the Church. Henry’s concern about having an heir to secure his family line and increase his security while alive would have prompted him to ask for a divorce sooner or later, whether Anne had precipitated it or not. Only Wolsey’s sudden death at Leicester on his journey to the Tower of London saved him from the public humiliation and inevitable execution he would have suffered upon his arrival at the Tower.
Break with Rome
In order to allow Henry to divorce his wife, the English parliament enacted laws breaking ties with Rome, and declaring the king Supreme Head of the Church of England (from Elizabeth I the monarch is known as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England), thus severing the ecclesiastical structure of England from the Catholic Church and the Pope. The newly appointedArchbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, was then able to declare Henry’s marriage to Catherine annulled. Catherine was removed from Court, and she spent the last three years of her life in various English houses under “protectorship,” similar to house arrest. This allowed Henry to marry one of his courtiers Anne Boleyn, the daughter of a minor diplomat Sir Thomas Boleyn. Anne had become pregnant by the end of 1532 and gave birth on 7 September 1533 to Elizabeth named in honour of Henry’s mother.Anne may have had later pregnancies which ended in miscarriage or stillbirth. In May 1536, Anne was arrested, along with six courtiers. Thomas Cromwell stepped in again, claiming that Anne had taken lovers during her marriage to Henry, and she was tried for high treason, witchcraft and incest; these charges were most likely fabricated, but she was found guilty, and executed in May 1536.
Henry married again, for the third time, to Jane Seymour, the daughter of a Wiltshire knight, and with whom he had become enamoured while she was still a lady-in-waiting to QUEEN ANNE. Jane became pregnant, and in 1537 produced a son, who became King Edward VI following Henry’s death in 1547. Jane died of puerperal fever only a few days after the birth, leaving Henry devastated. Cromwell continued to gain the king’s favour when he designed and pushed through the Laws in Wales Acts, uniting England and Wales.
In 1540 Henry married for the fourth time to the daughter of a Protestant German duke, Anne of Cleves, thus forming an alliance with the Protestant German states. Henry was reluctant to marry again, especially to a Protestant, but he was persuaded when the court painter Hans Holbein the Younger showed him a flattering portrait of her. She arrived in England in December 1539, and Henry rode to Rochester to meet her on 1 January 1540. Although the historian Gilbert Burnet claimed that Henry called her aFlanders Mare, there is no evidence that he said this; in truth, court ambassadors negotiating the marriage praised her beauty. Whatever the circumstances were, the marriage failed, and Anne agreed to a peaceful annulment, assumed the title My Lady, the King’s Sister, and received a massive divorce settlement, which included Richmond Palace, Hever Castle, and numerous other estates across the country. Although the marriage made sense in terms of foreign policy, Henry was still enraged and offended by the match. Henry chose to blame Cromwell for the failed marriage, and ordered him beheaded on 28 July 1540. Henry kept his word and took care of Anne in his last years alive; however, after his death Anne suffered from extreme financial hardship because Edward VI’s councillors refused to give her any funds and confiscated the homes she had been given. She pleaded to her brother to let her return home, but he only sent a few agents who tried to assist in helping her situation and refused to let her return home. Anne died on 16 July 1557 in Chelsea Manor.
The fifth marriage was to the Catholic Catherine Howard, the niece of Thomas Howard, the third Duke of Norfolk, who was promoted by Norfolk in the hope that she would persuade Henry to restore the Catholic religion in England. Henry called her his “rose without a thorn”, but the marriage ended in failure. Henry’s fancy with Catherine started before the end of his marriage with Anne when she was still a member of Anne’s court. Catherine was young and vivacious, but Henry’s age made him less inclined to use Catherine in the bedroom; rather, he preferred to admire her, which Catherine soon grew tired of. Catherine, forced into a marriage to an unattractive, OBESE man over 30 years her senior, had never wanted to marry Henry, and conducted an affair with the King’s favourite, Thomas Culpeper, while Henry and she were married. During her questioning, Catherine first denied everything but eventually she was broken down and told of her infidelity and her pre-nuptial relations with other men. Henry, first enraged, threatened to torture her to death but later became overcome with grief and self-pity. She was accused of treason and was executedon 13 February 1542, destroying the English Catholic holdouts’ hopes of a national reconciliation with the Catholic Church. Her execution also marked the end of the Howard family’s power within the court.
By the time Henry conducted another Protestant marriage with his final wife Catherine Parr in 1543, the old Roman Catholic advisers, including the powerful third Duke of Norfolk had lost all their power and influence. The duke himself was still a committed Catholic, and he was nearly persuaded to arrest Catherine for preaching Lutheran doctrines to Henry while she attended his ill health. However, she managed to reconcile with the King after vowing that she had only argued about religion with him to take his mind off the suffering caused by his ulcerous leg. Her peacemaking also helped reconcile Henry with his daughters Mary and Elizabeth and fostered a good relationship between her and the crown prince.
Meanwhile, Edward was brought up a strict and devout Protestant by numerous tutors, including Bishop Richard Cox, John Belmain, and Sir John Cheke. The lady in charge of his upbringing was Blanche Herbert Lady Troy, whose ancestors had residual Lollard connections. Her elegy includes the lines: …To King Edward she was a true – (And) wise lady of dignity, – In charge of his fosterage (she was pre-eminent)….
Edward VI: Protestant extremity
Henry died on 28 January 1547. His will had reinstated his daughters by his annulled marriages to Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn to the line of succession, but did not legitimise them. (Because his marriages had been annulled, they legally never occurred, so his children by those marriages were illegitimate.) In the event that all 3 of his children died without heir, the will stipulated that the descendant of his younger sister Mary would take precedence over the descendants of his elder sister, Margaret, Queen of Scotland. Edward, his nine-year old son by Jane Seymour, succeeded as Edward VI of England. Unfortunately, the young King’s kingdom was usually in turmoil between nobles who were trying to strengthen their own position in the kingdom by using the Regency in their favour.
Duke of Somerset’s England
Although Henry had specified a group of men to act as regents during Edward’s minority, Edward Seymour, Edward’s uncle, quickly seized complete control, and created himself Duke of Somerset on 15 February 1547. His domination of the Privy Council, the king’s most senior body of advisers, was unchallenged. Somerset aimed to unite England and Scotland by marrying Edward to the young Scottish queen Mary, and aimed to forcibly impose the English Reformation on the Church of Scotland. Somerset led a large and well equipped army to Scotland, where he and the Scottish regent James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran, commanded their armies at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh on 10 September 1547. Somerset’s army eventually defeated the Scots, but the young Queen Mary was smuggled to France, where she was betrothed to the Dauphin, the future Francis II of France. Despite Somerset’s disappointment that no Scottish marriage would take place, his victory at Pinkie Cleugh made his position appear unassailable.
Meanwhile, Edward VI, despite the fact that he was only a child of nine, had his mind set on religious reform. In 1549, Edward ordered the publication of the Book of Common Prayer, containing the forms of worship for daily and Sunday church services. The controversial new book was not welcomed by either reformers or Catholic conservatives; and it was especially condemned in Devonand Cornwall, where traditional Catholic loyalty was at its strongest. In Cornwall at the time, many of the people could only speak theCornish language, so the uniform English Bibles and church services were not understood by many. This caused the Prayer Book Rebellion, in which groups of Cornish non-conformists gathered round the mayor. The rebellion worried Somerset, now Lord Protector, and he sent an army to impose military solution to the rebellion. One in ten of the indigenous Cornish population was slaughtered. The rebellion did not persuade Edward to tread carefully, and only hardened his attitude towards Catholic non-conformists. This extended to Edward’s elder sister, the daughter of Catherine of Aragon, Mary Tudor, who was a pious and devout Catholic. Although called before the Privy Council several times to renounce her faith and stop hearing the Catholic Mass, she refused. He had a good relationship with his sister Elizabeth, who was a Protestant, albeit a moderate one, but this was strained when Elizabeth was accused of having an affair with the Duke of Somerset’s brother, Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley, the husband of Henry’s last wife Catherine Parr. Elizabeth was interviewed by one of Edward’s advisers, and she was eventually found not to be guilty, despite forced confessions from her servants Catherine Ashley and Thomas Parry. Thomas Seymour was arrested and beheaded on 20 March 1549.
A small boy with a big mind: Edward VI, desperate for a Protestant succession, changed his father’s will to allow Lady Jane Grey to become queen
Lord Protector Somerset was also losing favour. After forcibly removing Edward VI to Windsor Castle, with the intention of keeping him hostage, Somerset was removed from power by members of the council, led by his chief rival, John Dudley, the first Earl of Warwick, who created himself Duke of Northumberland shortly after his rise. Northumberland effectively became Lord Protector, but he did not use this title, learning from the mistakes his predecessor made. Northumberland was furiously ambitious, and aimed to secure Protestant uniformity while making himself rich with land and money in the process. He ordered churches to be stripped of all traditional Catholic symbolism, resulting in the plainness often seen in Church of England churches today. A revision of the Book of Common Prayer was published in 1552. When Edward VI became ill in 1553, his advisers looked to the possible imminent accession of the Catholic Lady Mary, and feared that she would overturn all the reforms made during Edward’s reign. Perhaps surprisingly, it was the dying Edward himself who feared a return to Catholicism, and wrote a new will repudiating the 1544 will of Henry VIII. This gave the succession to his cousin Lady Jane Grey, the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister Mary Tudor, who, after the death ofLouis XII of France in 1515 had married Henry VIII’s favourite Charles Brandon, the first Duke of Suffolk. Lady Jane’s mother wasLady Frances Brandon, the daughter of Suffolk and Princess Mary. Northumberland married Jane to his youngest son Guildford Dudley, allowing himself to get the most out of a necessary Protestant succession. Most of Edward’s council signed the Devise for the Succession, and when Edward VI died on 6 July 1553 from his battle with tuberculosis, Lady Jane was proclaimed queen. However, the popular support for the proper Tudor dynasty–even a Catholic member–overruled Northumberland’s plans, and Jane, who had never wanted to accept the crown, was deposed after just nine days. Mary’s supporters joined her in a triumphal procession to London, accompanied by her younger sister Elizabeth.
Mary I: A troubled queen’s reign
However, Mary soon announced that she was intending to marry the Spanish prince Philip, son of her mother’s nephew Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. The prospect of a marriage alliance with Spain proved unpopular with the English people, who were worried that Spain would use England as a satellite, involving England in wars without the popular support of the people. Popular discontent grew; a Protestant courtier, Thomas Wyatt the younger led a rebellion against Mary, with the aim of deposing and replacing her with her half-sister Elizabeth. The plot was discovered, and Wyatt’s supporters were hunted down and killed. Wyatt himself was tortured, in the hope that he would give evidence that Elizabeth was involved so that Mary could have her executed for treason. Wyatt never implicated Elizabeth, and he was beheaded. Elizabeth spent her time between different prisons, including the Tower of London.
Mary married Philip at Winchester Cathedral, on 25 July 1554. Philip found her unattractive, and only spent a minimal amount of time with her. Despite Mary believing she was pregnant numerous times during her five-year reign, she never reproduced. Devastated that she rarely saw her husband, and anxious that she was not bearing an heir to Catholic England, Mary became bitter. In her determination to restore England to the Catholic faith and to secure her throne from Protestant threats, she had many Protestants burnt at the stake between 1555 and 1558. Mary’s main goal was to restore the Catholic faith to England; however, theMarian Persecutions were unpopular with the Protestant majority of England, though naturally supported by the Catholic minority. Because of her actions against the Protestants, Mary is to this day referred to as “Bloody Mary”. English author Charles Dickensstated that “as bloody Queen Mary this woman has become famous, and as Bloody Queen Mary she will ever be remembered with horror and detestation”
Mary’s dream of a resurrected Catholic Tudor dynasty was finished, and her popularity further declined when she lost the last English area on French soil, Calais, to Francis, Duke of Guise, on 7 January 1558. Mary’s reign, however, introduced a new coining system that would be used until the 18th century, and her marriage to Philip II created new trade routes for England. Mary’s government took a number of steps towards reversing the inflation, budgetary deficits, poverty, and trade crisis of her kingdom. She explored the commercial potential of Russian, African, and Baltic markets, revised the customs system, worked to counter the currency debasements of her predecessors, amalgamated several revenue courts, and strengthened the governing authority of the middling and larger towns. Mary also welcomed the first Russian ambassador to England, creating relations between England and Russia for the first time. Had she lived a little longer, then the Catholic religion that she worked so hard to restore into the realm may have taken deeper roots than it did; however, Mary died on 17 November 1558 at the relatively young age of 42. Elizabeth Tudor, age 25, then succeeded to become Elizabeth I of England.
The age of intrigues and plots: Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I, who was staying at Hatfield House at the time of her accession, rode to London to the cheers of both the ruling class and the common people.
When Elizabeth came to the throne, there was much apprehension among members of the council appointed by Mary, due to the fact that many of them (as noted by the Spanish ambassador) had participated in several plots against Elizabeth, such as her imprisonment in the Tower, trying to force her to marry a foreign prince and thereby sending her out of the realm, and even pushing for her death. In response to their fear, she chose as her chief minister Sir William Cecil, a Protestant, and former secretary to Lord Protector the Duke of Somerset and then to the Duke of Northumberland. Under Mary, he had been spared, and often visited Elizabeth, ostensibly to review her accounts and expenditure. He was the cousin and friend of Blanche Parry, the closest person to Elizabeth for 56 years. Elizabeth also appointed her personal favourite, the son of the Duke of Northumberland Lord Robert Dudley, her Master of the Horse, giving him constant personal access to the queen.
The early years
Elizabeth had a long, turbulent path to the throne. She had a number of problems during her childhood, one of the main ones being after the execution of her mother, Anne Boleyn. When Anne was beheaded, Henry declared Elizabeth an illegitimate child and she would, therefore, not be able to inherit the throne. After the death of her father, she was raised by his widow, Catherine Parr and her husband Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley. A scandal arose with her and the Lord Admiral to which she stood trial. During the examinations, she answered truthfully and boldly and all charges were dropped. She was an excellent student, well-schooled in Latin, French, Italian, and somewhat in Greek, and was a talented writer. She was supposedly a very skilled musician as well, in both singing and playing the lute. After the rebellion of Thomas Wyatt the younger, Elizabeth was imprisoned in theTower of London. No proof could be found that Elizabeth was involved and she was released and retired to the countryside until the death of her sister, Mary I of England.
Imposing the Church of England
Elizabeth was a moderate Protestant; she was the daughter of Anne Boleyn, who played a key role in the English Reformation in the 1520s. She had been brought up by Blanche Herbert Lady Troy. At her coronation in January 1559, many of the bishops – Catholic, appointed by Mary, who had expelled many of the Protestant clergymen when she became queen in 1553 – refused to perform the service in English. Eventually, the relatively minor Bishop of Carlisle, Owen Oglethorpe, performed the ceremony; but when Oglethorpe attempted to perform traditional Catholic parts of the Coronation, Elizabeth got up and left. Following the Coronation, two important Acts were passed through parliament: the Act of Uniformity and the Act of Supremacy, establishing the Protestant Church of England and creating Elizabeth Supreme Governor of the Church of England (Supreme Head, the title used by her father and brother, was seen as inappropriate for a woman ruler). These acts, known collectively as the Elizabethan Religious Settlement, made it compulsory to attend church services every Sunday; and imposed an oath on clergymen and statesmen to recognise the Church of England, the independence of the Church of England from the Catholic Church, and the authority of Elizabeth as Supreme Governor. Elizabeth made it clear that if they refused the oath the first time, they would have a second opportunity, after which, if the oath was not sworn, the offenders would be deprived of their offices and estates.
Pressure to marry
Even though Elizabeth was only twenty-five when she came to the throne, she was absolutely sure of her God-given place to be the queen and of her responsibilities as the ‘handmaiden of the Lord’. She never let anyone challenge her authority as queen, even though many people, who felt she was weak and should be married, tried to do so. The popularity of Elizabeth was extremely high, but her Privy Council, her Parliament and her subjects thought that the unmarried queen should take a husband; it was generally accepted that, once a queen regnant was married, the husband would relieve the woman of the burdens of head of state. Also, without an heir, the Tudor dynasty would end; the risk of civil war between rival claimants was a possibility if Elizabeth died childless. Numerous suitors from nearly all European nations sent ambassadors to English court to put forward their suit. Risk of death came dangerously close in 1564 when Elizabeth caught smallpox; when she was most at risk, she named Robert Dudley as Lord Protector in the event of her death. After her recovery, she appointed Dudley to the Privy Council and created him Earl of Leicester, in the hope that he would marry Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary rejected him, and instead married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, a descendant of Henry VII, giving Mary a stronger claim to the English throne. Although many Catholics were loyal to Elizabeth, many also believed that, because Elizabeth was declared illegitimate after her parents’ marriage was annulled, Mary was the strongest legitimate claimant. Despite this, Elizabeth would not name Mary her heir; as she had experienced during the reign of her predecessor Mary I, the opposition could flock around the heir if they were disheartened with Elizabeth’s rule.
Numerous threats to the Tudor dynasty occurred during Elizabeth’s reign. In 1569, a group of Earls led by Charles Neville, the sixthEarl of Westmorland, and Thomas Percy, the seventh Earl of Northumberland attempted to depose Elizabeth and replace her withMary, Queen of Scots. In 1571, the Protestant-turned-Catholic Thomas Howard, the fourth Duke of Norfolk, had plans to marry Mary, Queen of Scots, and then replace Elizabeth with Mary. The plot, masterminded by Roberto di Ridolfi, was discovered and Norfolk was beheaded. The next major uprising was in 1601, when Robert Devereux, the second Earl of Essex, attempted to raise the city of London against Elizabeth’s government. The city of London proved unwilling to rebel; Essex and most of his co-rebels were executed. Threats also came from abroad. In 1570, Pope Pius V issued a Papal bull, Regnans in Excelsis, excommunicating Elizabeth, and releasing her subjects from their allegiance to her. Elizabeth came under pressure from Parliament to execute Mary, Queen of Scots, to prevent any further attempts to replace her; though faced with several official requests, she vacillated over the decision to execute an anointed queen. Finally, she was persuaded of Mary’s (treasonous) complicity in the plotting against her, and she signed the death warrant in 1586. Mary was executed at Fotheringay Castle on 8 February 1587, to the outrage of Catholic Europe.
There are many reasons debated as to why Elizabeth never married. It was rumoured that she was in love with Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, and that on one of her summer progresses she had birthed his illegitimate child. This rumour was just one of many that swirled around the two’s long-standing friendship. However, more important to focus on were the disasters that many women, such as Lady Jane Grey, suffered due to being married into the royal family. Her sister Mary’s marriage to Philip brought great contempt to the country, for many of her subjects despised Spain and Philip and feared that he would try to take complete control. Recalling her father’s disdain forAnne of Cleves, Elizabeth also refused to enter into a foreign match with a man that she had never seen before, so that also eliminated a large number of suitors.
The Spanish Armada: Catholic Spain’s attempt to depose Elizabeth and take control of England
It was how Mary and Elizabeth were the last of the Tudor Dynasty
Last hopes of a Tudor heir
Despite the uncertainty of Elizabeth’s – and therefore the Tudor dynasty’s – hold on England, she never married. The closest she came to marriage was between 1579 and 1581, when she was courted by Francis, Duke of Anjou, the son ofHenry II of France and Catherine de’ Medici. Despite Elizabeth’s government constantly begging her to marry in the early years of her reign, it was now persuading Elizabeth not to marry the French prince for his mother, Catherine de’ Medici, was suspected of ordering the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre of tens of thousands of French Protestant Huguenots in 1572. Elizabeth bowed to public feeling against the marriage, learning from the mistake her sister made when she married Philip II of Spain, and sent the Duke of Anjou away. Elizabeth knew that the continuation of the Tudor dynasty was now impossible; she was forty-eight in 1581, and too old to bear children. By far the most dangerous threat to the Tudor dynasty during Elizabeth’s reign was the Spanish Armada of 1588. Launched by Elizabeth’s old suitor Philip II of Spain, this was commanded by Alonso de Guzmán El Bueno, the seventh Duke of Medina Sidonia. The Spanish invasion fleet outnumbered the English fleet’s 22 galleons and 108 armed merchant ships; however, the Spanish lost as a result of bad weather on the English Channel and poor planning and logistics, and in the face of the skills ofSir Francis Drake and Charles Howard, the second Baron Howard of Effingham (later first Earl of Nottingham).
While Elizabeth declined physically with age, her running of the country continued to benefit her people. In response to famine across England due to bad harvests in the 1590s, Elizabeth introduced the poor law, allowing peasants who were too ill to work a certain amount of money from the state. All the money Elizabeth had borrowed from Parliament in 12 of the 13 parliamentary sessions was paid back; by the time of her death, Elizabeth not only had no debts, but was in credit. Elizabeth died childless at Richmond Palace on 24 March 1603. She never named a successor. However, her chief minister Sir Robert Cecil had corresponded with the Protestant King James VI of Scotland, son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and James’s succession to the English throne was unopposed. The Tudor dynasty survived only in the female line, and the House of Stuart occupied the English throne for most of the following century.
Before and after comparisons
Public interference regarding the Roses dynasties was always a threat until the 17th century Stuart/Bourbon re-alignment occasioned by a series of events such as the execution of Lady Jane Grey, despite her brother in law, Leicester’s reputation in Holland, the Rising of the North (in which the old Percy-Neville feud and even anti-Scottish sentiment was discarded on account of religion; Northern England shared the same Avignonese bias as the Scottish court, on par with Valois France and Castile, which became the backbone of the Counter-Reformation, with Protestants being solidly anti-Avignonese) and death of Elizabeth I of England without children.
The Tudors made no substantial changes in their foreign policy from either Lancaster or York, whether the alliance was with Aragon or Cleves, the chief foreign enemies continuing as the Auld Alliance, but the Tudors resurrected old ecclesiastic arguments once pursued by Henry II of England and his son John of England. Yorkists were tied so much to the old order that Catholic rebellions (such as the Pilgrimage of Grace) and aspirations (exemplified by William Allen) were seen as continuing in their reactionary footsteps, when in opposition to the Tudors’ reformation policies, although the Tudors were not uniformly Protestant according to Continental definition—instead were true to their Lancastrian Beaufort allegiance, in the appointment of Reginald Pole.
The essential difference between the Tudors and their predecessors, is the nationalization and integration of John Wycliffe‘s ideas to the Church of England, holding onto the alignment of Richard II of England and Anne of Bohemia, in which Anne’s Hussite brethren were in alliance to her husband’s Wycliffite countrymen against the Avignon Papacy. The Tudors otherwise rejected or suppressed other religious notions, whether for the Pope’s award of Fidei Defensor or to prevent them from being in the hands of the common laity, who might be swayed by cells of foreign Protestants, with whom they had conversation as Marian exiles, pursuing a strategy of containment which the Lancastrians had done (after being vilified by Wat Tyler), even though the phenomenon of “Lollard knights” (like John Oldcastle) had become almost a national sensation all on its own.
In essence, the Tudors followed a composite of Lancastrian (the court party) and Yorkist (the church party) policies. Henry VIII tried to extend his father’s balancing act between the dynasties for opportunistic interventionism in the Italian Wars, which had unfortunate consequences for his own marriages and the Papal States; the King furthermore tried to use similar tactics for the “via media” concept of Anglicanism. A further parallelism was effected by turning Ireland into a kingdom and sharing the same episcopal establishment as England, whilst enlarging England by the annexation of Wales. The progress to Northern/Roses government would thenceforth pass across the border into Scotland, in 1603, due not only to the civil warring, but also because the Tudors’ own dynasty was fragile and insecure, trying to reconcile the mortal enemies who had weakened England to the point of having to bow to new pressures, rather than dictate diplomacy on English terms.
Tudor monarchs of England and Ireland
The six Tudor monarchs were:
1. ^ To the Tudor period belongs the elevation of the English-ruled state in Ireland from a Lordship to a Kingdom (1541) under Henry VIII.
Tudor Coats of Arms
Earlier arms of the Tudors as Welsh noble house.
Coat of arms of Edmund Tudor, first Earl of Richmond. As he was the son of a princess of France and a minor Welsh Squire, the grant of these arms to him by his half-brother Henry VIrecognizes his status as part of the Lancastrian Royal Family.
Coat of Arms of Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford, and Earl of Pembroke, brother of Edmund Tudor
Patrilineal descent, the descent from a male ancestor in which all intervening ancestors are also male, is the principle behind membership in royal houses, as it can be traced back through the paternal line. Note that as siblings, Edward, Mary and Elizabeth, share a generation number.
Royal House of Tudor
- Ednyfed Fychan, d. 1246
- Goronwy ab Ednyfed, Lord of Tres-gastell, d. 1268
- Tudur Hen, Lord of Penmynydd, d. 1311
- Goronwy ap Tudur Hen, d. 1331
- Tudur ap Goronwy, Lord of Penmynydd, d. 1367
- Maredudd ap Tudur, d. 1406
- Owen Tudor, 1400–1461
- Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond, 1430–1456
- Henry VII of England, 1457–1509
- Henry VIII of England, 1491–1547
- 20a. Edward VI of England, 1537–1553
- 20b. Mary I of England, 1516–1558
- 20c. Elizabeth I of England, 1533–1603
Tudor Royal Armory
Coat of Arms of Henry VII of England (1485-1509) & Henry VIII of England (1509-1547) in the first part of his reign.
Coat of Arms of Henry VIII (1509-1547) in the later part of his reign & Edward VI (1547–1553)
Coat of Arms Elizabeth I (1558-1603) with her personal motto: “Semper eadem” or “always the same”
The Welsh Dragon supporter honored the Tudor’s Welsh origins. The most popular symbol of the house of Tudor was the Tudor rose (see top of page). WhenHenry Tudor took the crown of England from Richard III in battle, he brought about the end of the Wars of the Roses between the House of Lancaster (whose badge was a red rose) and the House of York (whose badge was a white rose). He married Elizabeth of York to bring all factions together. On his marriage, Henry adopted the Tudor Rose badge conjoining the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster. It was used by every British Monarch since Henry VII as a Royal Badge.
In popular culture
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Also see the entries on individual members of the Tudor dynasty.