English Royalty: The Tudors

Figure 1.--The boy king Edward VI is the often forgotten Tudor. He was nit a commanding person like his father and grand father. He health was not good and he died at a young age. Yet Edward's reign was a critical. He was a Protestant and his regin gave the Reformation a critical 9 years tonconsolidate. Without this period, his sister Mary may have well succeeded in returning England to Catholcism.

It was the Tudors that ushered England into the modern age and under the Tudors Britain began its acendancy from a backwatd country on the perifery of Europe to a commanding presence on the Seas. What a cast of characters tghe Tudors were. They still fascinate us today--especially Henry VIII. It was Henry's father who launched the Tudor dynasty and ended the War of the Roses by fuseing the Lanacaterian and Yorkist factions. The first Tudor king, Henry VII, defeated Richard III and the Yorkists after 30 years of war. The Tudors produced two of England's greast monarchs, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. It was Henry VIII who made the Protestant Reformation possible in England. Henry also layed the foundation for the Royal Navy. It was Elizabeth who with the defeat of the Great Armada began the rise of England as the world's preeminent naval power. Surely the central figure in the Tudor drama was the larger than life Henry VIII--a commanding presence of a man. In many ways though, he was a man caught between two of the most resolute women in history, Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boylen, neither of which he could control. The graetest irony of all was that Henry annulled his marriage to the Queen, risked his throne, and launched the Protestant Revolution (which he did not approve of) in England--to obtain a male heir. Yet it was his daughter Elizabeth who may have been the greatest monarch in English history.

Henry VII (1485-1509)

Henry VII founded the Tudor dynasty. His father was Edmund Tudor and his mother Margaret Beaufort. Henry was born in 1457. He married Elizabeth of York in 1486. There were four children, Arthur, Henry (the future Henry VIII), Margaret and Mary. Henry's ancestry descended from John of Gaunt, by an illicit affair with Catherine Swynford. Henry was Lancastrian in the War of the Roses. Henry's army at the Battle of Bosworth (1485) resulted in defeat of the Yorkists and Richard III's death and Henry and the Lancasterians in control of England. His marriage to Elizabeth of York helped to unite the two dynasties in the Tudor line

Henry VIII (1509-47)

Henry is probably the most famous of all English monarchs. It was Henry who made the Protestant Reformation possible in England. Henry is probably best known, for his many wives. He was the second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Thus he was the first English monarch with both Lancastrian and York blood. Henry after the untimely death of his older brother married Arthur's new bride, Catherine of Aragon (1509). When the union produced only a daughter, Mary, Henry divorced Catherinn and married the already pregnant Anne Boleyn (1533). Anne gave birth to another daughter, Elizabeth, but was tried and executed for trason (infidelity) (1536). Next he married Jane Seymour who died in child birth, but produced a male heir, Edward VI (1536). Henry then married Anne of Cleves after seeing a ratger flatering portrait by Hans Holbein. When Anne arrived in England, Henry was shocked at her actual appearance and never consummated the marriage. Henry next married Catherine Howard (1540). She was also executed for treason (infidelity) (1542). By this time Henry was notably aging. He married Catherine Parr (1543) who dutifully cared for the aging monarch and his children until he died in 1547. While it is all his wives that fire the public interest, Henry's role in the Reformation and laying the foundation for the Royal Navy mark him as one of the most important English monarchs.

Edward VI (1547-1553)

Edward VI was the only son of Henry VIII. His mother was Jane Seymour. Edward was born in 1537. He ascended the throne on the death of his larger than life father when he was only 9 years old. He was betrothed to his cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, but deteriorating relations with Scotland prevented their marriage. The frail, Protestant boy died of consumption at age 16 having never married. His efforts to prevent the accession of his Catholic half sister, Mary Tudor failed disasterously for his friend Lady Jane Grey. Edward was a rather intellectual and very pious boy. He was badly served by the powerful Council of Regency which ruled in his name. His frail health led to an early death. If nothing else, Edward's reign gave England 7 more years of protestantism. If Mary has succed her father in 1547, she would have had a much better chance of turning England back to Catholocism.

Lady Jane Grey (1553)

Historians vary as to whether Lady Jane Grey should b includd in a list of Tudor monarchs. Jane Grey had no burning ambition to be queen. Many in England, however, were fearful of a Catholic queen following Elizabeth. It was her ambitious parents that planned the attempt to seize the throne. Her parents and her husband, Guilford Dudley, conspired to keep a Protestant on the throne. Edward died July 6, 1553. Jane was proclaimed Queen 4 days later. Mary, was the rightful heir to the throne according to Henry VIII's will, but she was Catholic. Edward on his deathbed supported Jane Grey because she was a Protestant. But it was Mary's claim that generated the mist support, in spite of her Catholocism. Mary and her supporters rode into London 9 days later. Jane and her followers were arrested and imprisoned in the Tower.

Mary I (1553-58)

Queen Mary I is one of the least popular British monarchs. She was the Catholic daughter of Henry VIII and the last Catholic monarch of England. The Queen is known to history as "Bloody Mary" for her efforts to supress protestantism and reinstate the Catholic church. She is particularly remembered for burning Protestants at the stake. Queen mary was mairred to Philip of Spain, but they failed to produce a n heir who potentially could have returned England to the Catholic church. They did found some schools, such as the Boston Grammar School, to replace Catholic institutions closed by the Queen's father and brother.

Elizabeth I (1558-1603)

Elizabeth was the Protestant child of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. As a younger girl with a claim to the throne she was in great danger. The slightest indescretion as a inexperienced teenager could have meant her life. She narrowly escaped execution at the hand of her Catholic half-sister Mary I. It is believed that her husband Philip II may have concinved Mary to spare her sister. It was Elizabeth who with the defeat of the Great Armada began the rise of England as the world's preeminent naval power. While Mary ruled only 5 years, Elizabeth ruled 45 years and firmly put her stamp on England, a firmly Protestant stamp. It was under Elizabeth that England emerged as an important world power.


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Created: March 3, 2002
Last updated: October 10, 2003