Tudor Period 1485 – 1603 CE
The Tudor period. Use the Tudor timeline, drill down to discover the latest articles and images. Unravel the intricacies of this complicated period, the power of monarchs, people and the church.
What conclusions can be drawn about this tumultuous time? Read on for a synopsis of the Tudors.
The Tudor period arrives on the battlefield of Bosworth
In 1485 when Henry Tudor stood, victorious, on the battlefield at Bosworth, there can have been no idea of the impact that the new age, the time of the Tudors, would have. It must have seemed for most, just another twist in the story that would become known as the War of The Roses. Just another grab for the throne of England. Henry Tudor lacked a good claim to the throne. It depended on the one hand upon the marriage of his grandfather Owen ap Tudor to the widow of King Henry V. On the other, it depended upon the descent from an illegitimate child of John of Gaunt, whose line had been specifically excluded from succession but had subsequently been recognized upon the legitimate marriage to Katherine Swynnford. Not an auspicious start then. However half a century later the accession of the Tudors seemed logical and indeed the beginning of a new era but how was that acceptance achieved?
One man with a head on his shoulders is worth a dozen without
Queen Elizabeth I
The new Tudor King
Henry VII took care not to be too radical and he strove to keep control of all government matters, he was organized and oversaw all he could, without involving others. He knew his position was tenuous. He was, on the face of it, industrious and ruled with a powerful authority, with Majesty. He believed in the crown, he had to, if the Tudors were to become successful. He had to eliminate rival claimants and there were many. The previous royal family had married and intermarried with a range of aristocratic families and there were many who could claim ‘royalty’, it had got too complicated. Henry married Elizabeth of York, seemingly uniting the houses York and Lancaster and in that moment created a brand, the Tudor Rose that came to symbolize the new era, the Tudor Period.
Tudor Politics had replaced war as the key to power.
In the Tudor Period the Court became the place to aspire to. The monarch became ‘Majestic’ and pomp and ceremony were prevalent throughout the court. When Henry VII died there was a succession without bloodshed. The loss of his heir Arthur, resulted in the crowning of his second son Henry. King Henry VIII was an academic, a sportsman, a man who loved arts and music. What he did not love quite as much was government.
The rise of Cardinal Wolsey
Henry got around this by having at his side another man whose brilliance matched his own, Cardinal Wolsey. Wolsey was an extraordinary man, risen from a very humble background, he was right hand man to the King but the King took a direction with which Wolsey could not agree, the annulment of his marriage to Catherine his widowed brothers wife. The battle with the Catholic church had begun. The string began to unravel and nobody could have foreseen the long term consequences of the King’s desire. Wolsey was removed and Henry turned to his council to give him the support he needed. He was lucky they had had enough of the power and wealth of the church and were in no mood for another Wolsey.
The English Reformation.
This was one of the most important events in English history. Although hostility to Papal power was no new thing in England under Henry it took on a new and purposeful dimension, wrapped up in his matrimonial problems.
The new man, Thomas Cromwell, was capable of masterminding the King’s plan and parliament towed the line. An act known as the Submission of Clergy delivered the church into Henry’s hands and then the Act in Restraint of Appeals which severed the church in England from Rome and created the Church of England and replaced the Pope with the King.
The next step seemed obvious, the King needed to tie in those who had supported him, he could split the spoils of the land and property with them and he needed money. The dissolution of the monasteries had begun.
What is surprising that there was so little resistance amongst the people, only in the north was resistance met and this was dealt with harshly. Cromwell continued to mould parliament to the needs of the King and his influence changed England forever but he too died at the hands of a fickle king.
King Henry VIII Six Wives
The six wives of Henry VIII are just as fascinating as the King himself. Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleeves and Catherine Parr.
The need for Henry to produce an heir was his constant concern to his death in 1547
He left three children, Mary, Elizabeth and Edward and they were as polarized in their religion as much of the country now was, Mary the Catholic, Edward the Protestant and Elizabeth somewhere in between. And so the country entered a turbulent decade not just about religion but high inflation, landowners keeping more sheep to raise more money led to enclosure. The need to raise money to counter inflation led to the creation of merchants companies to an expansion of the trade markets. Land ownership became the new power house. The rich got richer but enclosure and poor harvests meant the poor became poorer.
Tudor King Edward VI
The Duke of Somerset was made protector of the realm, a weak politician but a man with heart who cared about the conditions of the poor. He was in charge of an intelligent, opinionated young king who wanted religious change taken further. Reformers placed more and more constraints on religious practices. The churches were stripped and the Book of Common Prayer was written. Somerset was ousted and that old style battle amongst the great families for control of a young king began all over again. Another Warwick, the Duke of Cumberland dominated the king. The rush to grab control escalated when the young King Edward was known to be dying. Desperate not to allow the succession to pass to the Catholic Mary, the King and Northumberland scrabbled to marry his son to the niece of King Henry VIII and then to bully parliament into changing the succession and Lady Jane became Queen.
Tudor Queen Mary I
This was a huge mistake Mary gathered her supporters and took the throne but the support was for her not her faith. She would only marry the Habsburg Emperor Charles V’s son Philip. A gentle return to the Catholic faith may have worked for Mary but her zealous passion for her faith, the revival of the heresy laws, left her totally exposed. Through her marriage England became dragged into war with France and the short reign of Mary came to an end.
Tudor Queen Elizabeth I
How fortunate was England that the third of King Henry’s children was Elizabeth. She reigned for forty Five years and was the last Tudor to sit upon the throne. She was a Queen who understood her people, she was perceptive and cautious, her judgement sound. England reverted to being Protestant but it was a more radical form of Protestantism than Elizabeth wanted. She attempted to sail a course through statutes to bring to the people the middle road of Protestantism, where there was tolerance of Catholics but it was a difficult course and the state of the Anglican church evolved only slowly through her reign.
Things changed when the Pope excommunicated the Queen, the people now had to choose between their Queen and the Pope, the majority chose the former. Catholics became further marginalized and the martyrdoms began.
Queen Elizabeth’s reign was extraordinary, she showed courage in the face of the Spanish Armada, she encouraged exploration and the opening up of new lands and markets. She ruled as no monarch before her ever had. She did not marry and sorted her succession from a point of well thought through wisdom.
When Queen Elizabeth I died she left a country that was completely different to that of her grandfather King Henry VII. The Tudor Period lasted for 118 years and the face of England was changed forever.