Toggle

The Tudors (1485- 1603) - Kings

Tudor Kings

HENRY 7th

  • Henry 7th 1485-1509
  • Born 1457 in Pembroke Castle in Wales
  • Henry was 28 when crowned

Henry Tudor’s claim to the throne was firstly by conquest when his followers beat those of Plantagenet King Richard 3rd at Bosworth Field and secondly by his linage via Owen Tudor, his Welsh grandfather and his illicit sexual liaison with Queen Katherine the widow of the most famous of Lancastrian Kings, Henry 5th.

Henry Tudor was born at the start of the Wars of the Roses and had to live in hiding in France until his late twenties to avoid being murdered by Yorkist Plantagenets or their thugs.

Immediately following his victory at Bosworth he married the Yorkist heiress, Edward 4th ‘s daughter, Elizabeth to consolidate the warring families and they lived in married bliss thence forth.

Almost immediately after his coronation he had to contend with uprisings from those who had greater rights to the throne than himself, 18 individuals in all. They were all eliminated quickly and ruthlessly. Indeed he set the trend for the whole of the Tudor period when more “troublesome” people were murdered per head of population than by Russia’s Stalin , the most gruesome killer of  the 20th century. He did however bring a much needed period of peace and stability to England after the Civil “Wars of the Roses” setting the climate for considerable economic and population growth. Indeed England has probably never had a more astute King and this coupled with his toughness and generosity was exactly what was needed at the time.

Henry was keen to support the new age of world exploration and discovery brought about by the powerful Muslim Ottomans blocking all Christian trade routes to the east. (China and the Spice Islands). He financed John Cabot (Italian Giovanni Caboto) and his son Sebastian to sail over the Atlantic to discover new lands for England so as not to be out done by Spain and Portugal who had also hired Italian seamen to look for new sea routes to China. They all found the Americas instead. In 1497 Cabot discovered  the rich cod fishing grounds off Newfoundland for England.

Henry and Elizabeth produced a number of healthy children, notably Henry 8th who separated England from the dominance of the Christian church in Rome and their daughter Margaret who he married to the Scottish King James 4th thus creating the linage for the Stuart line of James 6th of Scotland and 1st of England. 

Chronological events.

1457 Henry was born in Pembroke Castle, south Wales as grandson of Lancastrian Queen, Catherine de Valois and son of Margaret Beaufort, (descended from John of Gaunt). His father died before he was born.

1471 Henry aged 14 fled to Brittany, France, when Lancastrian King Henry 6th is murdered by Yorkist King Edward 4th making Welsh Henry next in line to the throne.

1483 Henry now aged 26 and supported by the duke of Buckingham and spurred on by the seizure of the throne by Richard 3rd lands in England but is forced to flee when overpowered by Richards men. At this point he vows to marry the 17 year old Yorkist princess Elizabeth to create a peace between the warring Lancashire and Yorkist English royal dynasties.

1485 Henry attempts another landing from Brittany this time at Milford Haven close to his birth place in south west Wales and marches towards Nottingham Castle the stronghold of Richard 3rd.  Close-by at Bosworth and with the belated help of Lord Stanley he defeats Richard to be crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey on the 30th of October.

As promised Henry now 28 married the 19 year old Elizabeth of York and they begin one of the happiest English royal marriages of all time.

1486-96 This ten year period is remembered for continuous uprisings by Yorkists who considered they had more right to rule England than Henry. All were squashed but it should be noted that most pretenders used either Ireland or France from which to plan invasions and raise military support thus making the English permanently suspicious of these two neighbours.

1491 Henry makes a surprise invasion of France and so frightens the French King that Henry wins a huge annual tribute to add to his already improving country finances.

1496 Henry makes a similar rapid excursion into Scotland when James 4th supports the Yorkist pretender Perkin Warbeck.

1497 Henry marries off his eldest children to form a military alliance with Spain and Scotland against the natural enemy France.

Henry who claimed to be a descendant of the legendary British King, Arthur, named the eldest of his two sons Arthur.

1501 Henry arranged for Arthur to be married to the daughter of the most powerful royal family in Europe- Princess Katherine of Aragon, the daughter of the murderous royal couple King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. (Note Queen Isabella was also a descendant of John of Gaunt.) Arthur was then only 11 years old.

1502 Henry’s eldest daughter Margaret, he married to the Scottish King James 4th in thus creating the potential for the future union with the troublesome Scots.

1503 Prince Arthur aged 13 is now married to Katherine of Aragon but dies leaving her a widow in England. His brother Prince Henry is 12. (Prince Henry when 18, with the blessing of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella married their daughter Katherine 6 years later in 1509)

1503 Also in this year King Henry’s wife Elizabeth of York dies. Henry is devastated and lived out his remaining 6 years of kingship largely as a recluse.

Note

Henry, following the Battle of Bosworth and his subsequent marriage to Elizabeth of York became by far the biggest land owner in England and thus richer and more powerful than many of his predecessors. This allowed him to ignore parliament and run the country with only his few key advisors in his Privy Council. He was never a likable figure but was honest and shrewd and without question one of the most effective of all English Kings creating the stable environment after years of international and civil wars.   

HENRY 8th

Henry was the second son of Henry 7th who never expected nor wanted to be King as he was not the eldest son. He enjoyed a life of sport and warring rather than ruling, so he handed the boring task of running the country to a religious crook, Cardinal Wolsey, who conveniently died before Henry could murder him. Other advisors followed including Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell, both who he murdered along with 50 or so others who crossed his path.

Henry is probably best remembered for having 6 wives, in a vain attempt to produce a healthy son and heir who could succeed him. Or so the story goes. Actually after 24 years with Katherine of Aragon he started falling in love with younger more glamorous models. Those not producing a boy, he murdered as he could only have one wife at a time, unless they conveniently died in childbirth or could be spirited away to live out their days in one of England’s many remote and dank castles.

Soon after his coronation he began to see himself as the reborn Henry 5th (Conqueror of all France) and set out to expand his territories back into France, north into Scotland and west to cover Wales and Ireland. He made little progress in France and Scotland but successfully annexed Wales and made himself King of Ireland but only ever occupied the area around Dublin.

Henry was a murderer executing about 130 people who stood in his way but on the positive side should be remembered for creating the first serious English Navy. He should also be remembered for changing the face of England for ever by shutting the many monasteries which over the years had become lazy and corrupt. This later lead to the creation of alternative secular independent “grammar” schools eventually allowing freedom from the old dogma of religious teaching and thought.

Chronological events

1491 Henry born at Greenwich, one year after his brother Arthur.

As the second in line to the throne he was not educated to be a future king which gave him time to pursue all his favourite pastimes including hunting, jousting and archery. However he was an accomplished musician with the Lute and learnt French and Latin but not how to manage the finances of a country.

1502 Arthur Henry’s elder brother died. Henry is only 11.

1509 Henry aged 18 is crowned King when his father died.

Henry married the widow of his eldest brother Arthur, the Spanish princess Katherine of Aragon who is now 24.

1510 To make himself popular he gets rid of his father’s two top tax collectors and financial advisors, Empson and Dudley who had helped Henry 7th  turn round the financial fortunes of England. He murdered them on trumped up charges of treason.

1511 Henry as a devout Catholic joined the Holy League with Spain and Germany to protect the Pope from French aggression. He sends an army into southern France (Navarre) to link up with a Spanish army under King Ferdinand. The Spanish fail to turn up and the English, disillusioned, hungry and sick, return home.

1512 Henry now sees himself as a reborn medieval, victorious Henry 5th and determines to retrieve the vast tracts of land in France inherited from Henry 2nd. He invades the north of France between Calais and Paris and takes three substantial towns. (Battle of the Spurs)

1513 The Battle of Flodden Field. The old enemy of England the Scots, making use of a perceived weakness as the English armies are in France invade the north of England with a huge army of more than 10,000 men under their king James 4th. Henry asked Thomas Howard the Earl of Surrey to form an army and confront the Scots who were supported with men and weapons from France.

Surrey won a decisive battle annihilating the Scots leaving all the 10,000 dead, one of them being James 4th King of Scotland. It was the last so called Medieval battle with both sides mixing cannon with archers and foot soldiers who used both pikes and axes. Surrey won using better tactics and James was the last British king to die in battle.

1515 Henry appoints Cardinal Thomas Wolsey as Chancellor to run the country on a day by day basis to allow Henry to continue to entertain his nobles, fight battles, enjoy his favourite sports of Stag Hunting, jousting, archery and lavish dining.

Wolsey runs the country for 14 years.

1516 Queen Katherine after 7 years of continuous pregnancies producing only still borns or children who died almost immediately after birth produces a healthy daughter, Mary (who will become Queen Mary 1st)

1517 The start of the Protestant movement in Germany. Priest Martin Luther pins a list of 95 acts of corruption regularly being made by Catholic priests and condoned by the Pope.

1520 Peace conference at the “Field of the Cloth of Gold”. Henry took an entourage of 5000 English Earls to France to meet with an even bigger contingent of French nobility under their new king Francis 1stEngland and France were at war again. in an attempt to sign a lasting peace treaty. In spite of much eating, drinking and sport two years later

1521 Henry wrote an essay defending the dogma of the Catholic Church of Rome against the (Protestant) theological attack from Martin Luther. The Pope, Leo 10th rewarded him by giving him the title of “Defender of the Faith”.

1522/3 Henry invades France twice with small forces and with limited vision and achieves nothing other than an unnecessary spending of cash he is quickly running out of.

1527 Henry has now been married to Katherine of Aragon for 18 years and the poor woman has been pregnant almost every year producing only one child who lives, Mary and no son. She has understandably also grown rather fat and Henry falls in love with vivacious and attractive daughter of an Earl, Anne Boleyn. Anne’s sister Mary had already been one of Henry’s mistresses, indeed his forth, the others being; Lady Anne Hastings, Jane Popicourt and Elizabeth Blount. Elizabeth produced a son for Henry whom he called Henry Fitzroy. Had the boy not died aged aged 17 in 1536, he would have been a claimant to the throne. Henry was not inclined to marry any of these women, even though at least one had produced a son, but chose instead to marry Anne Boleyn. This was impossible under the law of the Church of Rome so Henry instructed Cardinal Wolsey to find a way in negotiations with the Pope. Unfortunately The Pope had at the time been put in prison by none other that the Holy Roman Emperor Charles 5th who was Katherine of Aragon’s nephew. Unsurprisingly Wolsey failed, is accused of High Treason but dies in 1529 before he can be brought to trial.  

1529 Henry is now supported by two new favourites; Sir Thomas More as Chancellor in the supreme role and Thomas Cramner as Archbishop of Canterbury. Cramner is a supporter of the new Protestant doctrines of Luther and More is a Catholic as is King Henry. To solve the problem of annulling his marriage to Katherine, Cramner suggests that Henry should split with Rome altogether and that the King of England should become the supreme head of a new Church of England then they can make up their own rules on divorce. Henry desperate to get into bed with Anne Boleyn goes along with the idea but Thomas More does not. Henry sends More to the Tower and he is beheaded in 1535.

1533 Protestant Cramner now has no opposition to his concept of making Catholic Henry the supreme head of the English Church. Queen Katherine is divorced on invented grounds and Henry finally marries an already pregnant Anne Boleyn. Their daughter Elizabeth is born a few months later.

1536 After only three years of marriage to vivacious and intelligent Anne, Henry falls in love with 21 year old Jane Seymour one of Anne’s illiterate ladies in waiting. Henry now with no moral overseer can easily get rid of Anne, this time by invented charges of adultery and she in beheaded.

The English Reformation under Thomas Cromwell.

Meanwhile under Thomas Cromwell who Henry gives the new title Vicar General and supported by Parliament, the English Reformation gathers apace. In Europe under Luther it is mainly under the guise of getting rid of beliefs which alow corruption in the Church like the selling of indulgencies ie corrupt priests demanding money from parishioners to guarantee their passage or that of their loved ones to heaven after death. In England under Cromwell it was closing corrupt monasteries where they had identified six appalling practices which had been condoned by Cardinal Wolsey including.

  • Excessive money being taken from local poor people via monasteries for land rents or trumped up fines enabling Bishops and other church leaders like Cardinal Wolsey to live like lords. Wolsey gained enough money to build Hampton Court Palace.
  • If poor people hadn’t enough money to pay, for example to graze livestock on monastery land, the monks would simply confiscate the peasant’s sheep.
  • Many priests and monks were non resident preferring a life at a university rather than tending the poor.

Cromwell dealt with corrupt Monasteries by closing the small ones and transferring their income to the state.

In the north of England this resulted in riots called the Pilgrimages of Grace which were suppressed by Henry’s supporters.

Cromwell then authorised the distribution of a new Bible written for the first time in English to all churches.

Meanwhile Jane Seymour gives birth to the long sort after healthy son who they called Edward. Unfortunately Jane dies soon after childbirth.  

1539 Cromwell now transferred his attention to the larger monasteries which were just as corrupt and extremely wealthy. In all some 3000 were destroyed and their wealth transferred to the crown. At the same time Henry reinforced the Catholic elements of Church doctrine which the Protestant preachers were against notably;

  • The priests must remain celibate
  • The doctrine of transubstantiation, ie the supposed miraculous change of wine into blood and bread into the flesh of Jesus during mass.

1540 Cromwell advises Henry to marry again and suggests a 25 year old German princess Anne of Cleves. After Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour poor Anne appears ugly and Henry not only refuses to sleep with her but determines to get rid of Cromwell for bringing him such an ugly girl. Cromwell who is never allowed to defend himself is beheaded on trumped up charges at Tower Hill. 6 months later Henry, now 49 and getting fat marries a 15 year old beauty but unfortunately uneducated and illiterate, Katherine Howard. Katherine is not what Henry is looking for and she is beheaded, again on trumped up charges of adultery.

1542 Henry now recommences his military campaigns against Scotland who had again invaded the north of England and then back to France because they supported the Scots. Henry annihilated the Scottish army and the Scottish king James 5th died in sorrow soon after. Hid baby daughter Mary Queen of Scots inherited the Scottish throne. In France Henry who still ruled Calais attacked and occupied the neighbouring town of Boulogne. This minor skirmish netted England 2 million crowns from France as a fine for supporting Scotland and Boulogne was retained as surety.

1543 Henry now 52 and getting old, tired and fat marries the  31 year old twice widowed Katherine Parr who makes an excellent step mother to the royal children, Mary 27, Elizabeth 10 and Edward aged 6 and nurses rather than sleeps with the ageing Henry.

1544 The Protestant movement gathers pace under Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cramner. Henry instructs Cramner to produce a book of Common Prayer in English. All written church material is in Latin in the Catholic Church. However in Henry’s last speech to Parliament before he dies he denounces Lutherism as a faith developed by the Devil.

1547 Henry dies and is succeeded by his son Edward aged 9 under the guidance of his uncle Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, a staunch Protestant. 

EDWARD 6th

Edward was only 9 when his father Henry 8th died and as had been normal for 100s of years previously, an overseer or Protector was appointed to run the country. Edwards protectors were both powerful and ruthless men so much of what happened during his reign and attributed to him was more likely to be the work of firstly his uncle Edward Seymour and secondly Robert Dudley the Duke of Northumberland.

Edward Seymour could not control the countries finances, was determined to continue the military campaigns against France and Scotland and was a staunch Protestant. In the latter he was encouraged and supported by Edward himself and Archbishop Thomas Cramner. The English Reformation moved forward apace with the banning of Catholic services to be replaced by Lutheran practices and the removal from churches of all things that could be seen to be idolatrous, like paintings and statues of Jesus and stained glass windows. With the economy falling into tatters as a result of expensive wars and with the despair of a huge number of Catholics who did not like the new religion the country descended into chaos and Edward Seymour was removed from office, beheaded and replaced by an equally ruthless Protestant, Robert Dudley. Edward was 12 and he seemed unmoved just recording in his diary “Somerset had his head cut off”.

One of the results of going Protestant was the cessation of the need for a priest to be available full time to say prayers for the recently dead. In the Catholic faith such prayers were necessary as otherwise, according to the priests; the dead would have no chance of getting into heaven. This activity had to be paid for by the relatives of the deceased and was expensive but very profitable for the church. When not praying these priests served a useful role in educating the young and their demise saw the end of this. Young Edward who himself was very intelligent and could speak Latin and Greek at the age of 5 used the same tutors of his sister Princess Elizabeth and his cousin Lady Jane Grey. To fill the education role left by the sacked priests he instructed that “Grammar Schools” be set up and hence the large number of schools still now providing a good education called “King Edward” school.

When Edward was 14 he contracted TB and Robert Dudley had to move fast to ensure his successor was a Protestant when elder sister Mary, the next in line was a devout Catholic and Elizabeth’s religion was not clear. The next overtly Protestant with royal blood was Lady Jane Grey, the grand daughter of Henry 7th. Edward, on his death bed was persuaded  to sign the necessary document and when he died Jane Grey became Queen.

Chronological Events

1537 Edward born at Hampton Court the first and only son of Henry 8th. Jane Seymour his mother died 2 weeks after giving birth. Edward had a succession of stepmothers, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard who was beheaded and Catherine Parr.

1543 Edward is 6 and can already read and speak Latin and Greek and had been educated alongside sister Elizabeth and cousin Jane Grey. Catherine Parr takes responsibility for the royal children who become fond of her.

1547 Father Henry 8th dies and Edward at 9 years old becomes king under the artful guidance of his ambitious uncle Edward Seymour.  Seymour as Protector and Duke of Somerset immediately attacks Scotland. The fight with Scotland is intended to force a marriage between Edward and his cousin Mary Queen of Scots aged 5. Although the Scots are defeated Mary escapes to France where she is betrothed to the next in line to the French throne, the Dauphin Francis.

At the same time Somerset authorises Archbishop Thomas Cramner to enforce Protestant ideals and ban Catholic practices.

1549-1552 This was a period of civil and religious turbulence involving riots in England’s second biggest city Norwich against Edward Seymour and Cramner’s Protestant changes and “Land Enclosures” and in the West Country against the new religion. Edward Seymour commonly called Somerset was blamed and was tried for treason and executed under the equally ruthless new Protector, John Dudley the Earl of Warwick and Duke of the powerful region of Northumberland.

1553 Edward is now 16 and is clearly  dying from TB. His eldest sister Mary a devout Catholic is next in line to the throne but Dudley is determined that a Protestant must rule. Unfortunately for Dudley he is not at all well but he has time to persuade Edward to sign documents making Lady Jane Grey next in line and also to marry Jane to his own son Lord Guilford.