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The Tudors (1485- 1603) - Summary

tudorsSummary of the Tudor Kings and Queens in chronological order

Henry 7th, brought peace and economic stability to England after almost 150 years of continuous wars. Of Welsh descent and from bastard Lancastrian birth, but faithfully and lovingly married to the daughter of Edward 4th and hence a royal heiress, Elizabeth of York. He supported world exploration west over the uncharted Atlantic Ocean to find alternative routes to the riches in the East which were blocked by the Ottoman Muslims in Turkey. Henry and Elizabeth of York produced two sons and two daughters. Both daughters married and their lines produced two Queens, Lady Jane Grey-murdered by Queen Mary and Mary Queen of Scots murdered by Elizabeth 1st. Mary Queen of Scots son became King James 6th of Scotland and King James 1st of England.

Henry 8th, should be remembered for:

  • Initially preferring sport including hunting and jousting rather than ruling the country
  • Thinking he was a re-born Henry 5th he thought he could win back all the old English territories in France and failed.
  • Murdering anybody who stood in his way. In all about 130 people including 2 of his 6 wives.
  • Appointing a religious crook, Cardinal Wolsey to run the country for him.
  • Creating the Church of England where he was in charge rather than the Pope in Rome.
  • But still following the religious doctrines from Rome not the new Protestant code of Luther but introducing a Bible and Prayer Book in English giving illiterates the incentive to learn to read.
  • Having six wives in an attempt to produce a son and heir or just because he fell in love with a prettier one.
  • Being the founder of the British Navy with ships with guns (cannon) rather than ships designed to capture other ships with boarding parties.
  • Introducing guns into to English army, initially along side archers.

Edward 6th, the only son of Henry 8th by his third wife Jane Seymour, was only 9 when his father died and lived himself to only 15. As was customary in those times, any child King was told what to do by a “Lord Protector” usually a close relation. In Edwards case it was initially his maternal uncle Edward Seymour who was ambitious and of the new Protestant religion. His ambition was not matched by an ability to rule sensibly but his religious convictions were well supported by the young King himself and his court advisors who included the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cramner and the Scottish Protestant convert John Knox. 

Edward was a very intelligent youngster and was given the best possible education by his father who was nurturing him as the future King. Edward could fluently read Latin and Greek at the age of seven and studied the writings of the Dutch Humanist Erasmus who wrote in Latin and who had personally met with Henry 8th. Edward loved to argue in depth with his theological advisors as they did with this young prodigy.

Edward should also be remembered for supporting a large number of the new secular Grammar Schools which replaced the monasteries closed by his father. Many scholastic establishments today are still called King Edward’s collage or school in recognition.

He died aged 15 after a long bout of TB and was determined to not let the English throne return to a Roman Catholic. Under extreme pressure from his protector Robert Dudley, he nominated his childhood playmate and cousin, a niece of Henry 8th, and Dudley’s daughter in law, Lady Jane Grey.  

Lady Jane Grey,

Following Edward all the other close contenders to the throne were girls. In order of linage, with their ages in 1553, they were;

  • Mary daughter of Henry 8th and Spanish Katherine of Aragon, a devout Roman Catholic. Age 37.
  • Elizabeth daughter of Henry 8th and English Anne Boleyn, a Protestant. Aged 20.
  • Mary, Queen of Scots, granddaughter of Henry 8th‘s sister Margaret who was married to King James 4th of Scotland, a Catholic. Age 11
  • Jane Grey granddaughter of Henry 8th younger sister Mary whose daughter Francis married Henry Grey. Aged 15

Henry 8th had specified that in the event of Edward dying early that firstly his  daughter Mary should reign and secondly is daughter Elizabeth, but Edward changed it on his deathbed why?

Edward reigned as a minor and died a minor and hence he ruled under a Lord Protector. Firstly his Uncle Edward Seymour and secondly the powerful and equally ambitious and ruthless Robert Dudley Earl of Warwick and Northumberland. It was the ambitious Robert Dudley who persuaded Edward to nominate the 15 year old Protestant Jane Grey as his successor in-order to secure the Protestant line. Unfortunately for him he went one step too far by marrying his son Guilford to the Lady Jane. Mary’s supporters saw through this obvious plot and more than 10,000 of them fell upon Queen Jane, her husband Guilford Dudley and his father Robert who was immediately executed. Queen Jane and Guilford Dudley were sent to the Tower of London by Mary and six months later they both were beheaded.

Poor Jane ruled for just 9  days.

Mary 1st,

Catholic Mary only reigned for six years and did nothing to keep the momentum of positive change going as had Henry7th & 8th and Edward 6th. Nicknamed “Bloody Mary” because of the large number of Protestant followers she murdered, the only thing Mary achieved was to build into the English people a lasting fear and hatred of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church.

Elizabeth 1st.

Elizabeth should be best remembered for being

  • A successful woman in a man’s world
  • Proving for the first time that it was possible for a woman to rule a country as well as a man.
  • Combining the Roman Catholic theologies with the new freer thinking Protestant ideas to create the Church of England.
  • Supporting exploration and colonisation, the development of better ships, pirates and the slave trade.
  • Her battles against the huge Spanish empire and their shipping with the help of her pirates culminating in the defeat of the Spanish invading Armada.
  • She did not support the arts but the English Renaissance flourished under her with the likes of Shakespeare.
  • For not marrying but using both her exceptional intelligence and her good looks to get powerful men to do what she wanted.