The 16th Century 1500 – 1599
The 16th Century. A time of exploration, invention, creativity and discovery. Use our timeline and map to capture this exciting century and delve more deeply.
|1500||Leonardo da Vinci designed a helicopter||Scientist|
|1502||Margaret, daughter of Henry VII, marries James IV of Scotland.||Royalty|
|1502||Pocket Watch, invented by Peter Henlein||Science|
|1506||Christopher Columbus died||Explorer|
|1509||King Henry VIII crowned King||Royalty|
|1513||Battle of Flodden Field (fought at Flodden Edge, Northumberland) in which invading Scots are defeated by the English||Political|
|1515||Thomas Wolsey, Archbisop of York, is made Lord Chancellor of England and Cardinal||Ecclesiastical|
|1516||Utopia by Thomas More gives a classic account of a perfect state||Writer|
|1517||Martin Luther nails his "95 Theses" against the Catholic practice of selling indulgences, on the church door at Wittenberg||Ecclesiastical|
|1519||Leonardo da Vinci died in Amboise||Science Art|
|1520||Field of Cloth of Gold: Francois I of France meets Henry VIII but fails to gain his support against Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V||Political|
|1520||A map is published by Peter Apian that shows the continent of America||Cartography|
|1521||Henry VIII receives the title "Defender of the Faith" from Pope Leo X||Royalty|
|1522||The first Arithmetic book published in England, by Cuthbert Turnstall||Writer Science|
|1526||Hans Holbein artist arrives in England and stays for 13 years||Art|
|1529||Lord Chancellor Thomas Wolsey dismissed for failing to obtain the Pope's consent to his divorce from Catherine of Aragon; Sir Thomas More appointed Lord Chancellor; Henry VIII summons the "Reformation Parliament" and begins to cut the ties with the Church of Rome||Political|
|1530||Thomas Wolsey died||Political|
|1532||Sir Thomas More resigns over the question of Henry VIII's divorce||Political|
|1533||King Henry VIII marries Anne Boleyn||Royalty|
|1533||Art limited to portraits and allegorical scenes, other subjects being banned after 1533 in Protestant England. Now painting was almost entirely in the hands of foreigners.||Art|
|1534||Act of Supremacy. King Henry VIII declared supreme head of the Church of England||Law|
|1535||Thomas More beheaded in Tower of London||Politics|
|1536||Anne Boleyn is beheaded; Henry VIII marries Jane Seymour; dissolution of monasteries in England begins||Royalty|
|1536||St James Palace Westminster built||Architecture|
|1537||Jane Seymour dies after the birth of a son, the future Edward VI||Royalty|
|1539||Henry VIII dissolves Great Abbey of Reading||Church and Religion|
|1540||King Henry VIII marries Anne of Cleves||Royalty|
|1540||King Henry divorces Anne of Cleves and marries Catherine Howard; Thomas Cromwell executed on charge of treason||Royalty|
|1542||Catherine Howard is executed||Royalty|
|1543||Hans Holbein dies in London||Art|
|1543||Nicolaus Copernicus' published, "De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium", the great book which changed our view of the universe, the Earth and other planets orbiting the sun||Science|
|1543||King Henry VIII marries Catherine Parr||Royalty|
|1547||King Henry VIII died at Whitehall Palace||Royalty|
|1547||Edward is crowned King Edward VI and Duke of Somerset becomes Lord Protector||Royalty|
|1547||Artist Nicholas Hilliard born. His inspiration Holbein.||Art|
|1551||Leonard Digges invents the theodolite||Science|
|1552||Christ's Hospital School built||Architecture|
|1553||King Edward VI died and Lady Jane Grey becomes Queen for nine days||Royalty|
|1553||Mary is crowned Queen of England||Royalty|
|1553||Restoration of Roman Catholic bishops in England||Ecclesiastical|
|1554||Execution of Lady Jane Grey||Royalty|
|1554||Thomas Wyatt led the 'Wyatt Uprisings' in London. A rebellion against the marriage of Queen Mary and Philip of Spain||Social|
|1555||Under Queen Mary's rule, England returns to Roman Catholicism. Protestants are persecuted and about 300, including Cranmer, are burned at the stake||Ecclesiastical|
|1557||Stationers Company London charted||Mercantile|
|1558||Queen Mary died||Royalty|
|1558||Elizabeth is crowned Queen of England||Royalty|
|1558||Repeal of Catholic legislation in England||Law|
|1559||Custom House built||Mercantile|
|1560||Treaty of Berwick between Elizabeth I and Scottish reformers||Political|
|1562||Witchcraft is made a capital offense in England||Law|
|1564||Christopher Marlowe born in Canterbury||Writer|
|1564||William Shakespeare born in Stratford||Writer|
|1564||Michaelangelo painter and sculptor died||Art|
|1564||Peace of Troyes between England and France||Political|
|1567||Murder of Lord Darnley, husband of Mary Queen of Scots. There is a suspicion he was murdered by Earl of Bothwell and that he and Mary Queen of Scots were lovers. She then marries Bothwell, is imprisoned, and forced to abdicate. Her son James VI, becomes King of Scotland||Royalty|
|1568||Gerardus Mercator introduces the map projection that bears his name||Science|
|1571||Johannes Kepler born||Science|
|1577||Francis Drake sets off to sail around the world||Exploration|
|1582||Gregorian calender introduced||Ecclesiastical|
|1583||University of Edinburgh founded||Organisations|
|1584||Expedition of Sir Francis Drake to the West Indies||Exploration|
|1584||Conspiracy against Elizabeth I involving Mary Queen of Scots||Royalty|
|1586||Sir Walter Raleigh brings tobacco to England||Exploration|
|1588||The Spanish Armada is defeated by the English fleet under Lord Howard of Effingham, Sir Francis Drake, and Sir John Hawkins||War|
|1589||Englishmen, William Lee invents a knitting machine called the stocking frame.||Science|
|1593||Galileo invents a water thermometer.||Science|
|1594||John Napier discovers and develops the logarithm, a brilliant method of simplifying difficult computations.||Science|
|1596||John Gerards 'Herbal' is published. A description of European plants||Writer Science|
|1597||John Hartington, Godson of Queen Elizabeth I invents the first flushing toilet||Science|
|1598||Stow's 'Survey of London' published||Writer|
|1599||Globe Theatre opens on London's Southbank||Art|
The preceding 15th century, closed with explorers, Columbus, Vasco de Gama, John Cabot, Cabral and many others besides, opening up new trade routes and discovering new parts of the world for European exploitation and as the century turned the corner, it seemed for the people of Europe, that they stood on the cusp of new beginnings, when so much more seemed and was possible.
The 16th Century became a hothouse for brilliantly creative minds.
Leonardo da Vinci completed the Mona Lisa, Michelangelo began work on the Sistine Chapel and Hans Holbein painted his masterpieces.
Erasmus was writing satire and Machiavelli was driven to write his book ‘The Prince’. Thomas More published Utopia and Martin Luther his 95 Theses, Wittenburg. His beliefs cause great angst in the church and the Edict of Worms, declares him a heretic but could not curb the progress of Protestant Reformation. There was the beginning of a change in the way people were thinking, a slight but perceptible move from the magic and alchemy of the Middle Ages towards, science based on observation and reason but it would take the whole of the century before the new thinking gathered acceptance.
A peace at last was forged between England and France, following the alliance at the ‘Field of the Cloth of Gold’ but it would be fairly short lived.
The shape of the future Britain was created in the 16th Century
During this 16th century, Britain cut adrift from the Catholic church, carving out a new national church, the Church of England, with the monarch as it’s supreme head. The actions of King Henry VIII resulted in the ‘Act of Supremacy’ and Roman Catholicism was banned. The Tudor dynasty was part of the greater Reformation movement of the rest of Europe, where the discontent with the Roman Catholic church of the previous century blasted through Germany and the Netherlands.
King Henry VIII now turned his attention to the wealth of the church and he stripped the cupboards bare.
Henry dissolved the monasteries, took their money and gave away their lands. The population were unhappy for they had no quarrel with the church but plenty to say about King Henry’s reckless behaviour. England was on the verge of an uprising.
In the meanwhile, the Spanish and Portugese were amassing wealth from the gold and silver deposits they were discovering in South America. The Jesuits were founded and the great Copernicus was basing his new theory ‘The Revolution of the Heavenly Bodies’ on observation (not necessarily his own) and the geocentric universe theory, exploded.
How much more could this 16th Century deliver?
The Mercator world map, the rule of Ivan the Terrible, the massacre of the Hugenots, the works of Titian, pirates and privateers upon the seas, a revision to the Julian calender, the founding of the Roanoke Colony in America, the Spanish Armada and …
So much in one century that remains with us to this day, the 16th Century is a period of time when so much divides and yet there is a coalescence of talent and thinking that reinforces itself from start to finish.
Our 16th century chronology and timelines are being created and curated but already via each century page you can quickly locate our collections for each 100 years of history. These evolve as we explore topical themes, but if you are looking for something you can’t see here then please feel free to contact us and request, Thanks for taking a look.