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16th century 1500-1599

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.

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1500Leonardo da Vinci designed a helicopterScientist
1502Margaret, daughter of Henry VII, marries James IV of Scotland.Royalty
1502Pocket Watch, invented by Peter HenleinScience
1506Christopher Columbus diedExplorer
1509King Henry VIII crowned KingRoyalty
1513Battle of Flodden Field (fought at Flodden Edge, Northumberland) in which invading Scots are defeated by the EnglishPolitical
1515Thomas Wolsey, Archbisop of York, is made Lord Chancellor of England and CardinalEcclesiastical
1516Utopia by Thomas More gives a classic account of a perfect stateWriter
1517Martin Luther nails his "95 Theses" against the Catholic practice of selling indulgences, on the church door at WittenbergEcclesiastical
1519Leonardo da Vinci died in AmboiseScience Art
1520Field of Cloth of Gold: Francois I of France meets Henry VIII but fails to gain his support against Holy Roman Emperor, Charles VPolitical
1520A map is published by Peter Apian that shows the continent of AmericaCartography
1521Henry VIII receives the title "Defender of the Faith" from Pope Leo XRoyalty
1522The first Arithmetic book published in England, by Cuthbert TurnstallWriter Science
1526Hans Holbein artist arrives in England and stays for 13 yearsArt
1529Lord 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 RomePolitical
1530Thomas Wolsey diedPolitical
1532Sir Thomas More resigns over the question of Henry VIII's divorcePolitical
1533King Henry VIII marries Anne BoleynRoyalty
1533Art 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
1534Act of Supremacy. King Henry VIII declared supreme head of the Church of EnglandLaw
1535Thomas More beheaded in Tower of LondonPolitics
1536Anne Boleyn is beheaded; Henry VIII marries Jane Seymour; dissolution of monasteries in England beginsRoyalty
1536St James Palace Westminster builtArchitecture
1537Jane Seymour dies after the birth of a son, the future Edward VIRoyalty
1539Henry VIII dissolves Great Abbey of ReadingChurch and Religion
1540King Henry VIII marries Anne of ClevesRoyalty
1540King Henry divorces Anne of Cleves and marries Catherine Howard; Thomas Cromwell executed on charge of treasonRoyalty
1542Galileo diedScience
1542Catherine Howard is executedRoyalty
1543Hans Holbein dies in LondonArt
1543Nicolaus Copernicus' published, "De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium", the great book which changed our view of the universe, the Earth and other planets orbiting the sunScience
1543King Henry VIII marries Catherine ParrRoyalty
1547King Henry VIII died at Whitehall PalaceRoyalty
1547Edward is crowned King Edward VI and Duke of Somerset becomes Lord ProtectorRoyalty
1547Artist Nicholas Hilliard born. His inspiration Holbein.Art
1551Leonard Digges invents the theodoliteScience
1552Christ's Hospital School builtArchitecture
1553King Edward VI died and Lady Jane Grey becomes Queen for nine daysRoyalty
1553Mary is crowned Queen of EnglandRoyalty
1553Restoration of Roman Catholic bishops in EnglandEcclesiastical
1554Execution of Lady Jane GreyRoyalty
1554Thomas Wyatt led the 'Wyatt Uprisings' in London. A rebellion against the marriage of Queen Mary and Philip of SpainSocial
1555Under Queen Mary's rule, England returns to Roman Catholicism. Protestants are persecuted and about 300, including Cranmer, are burned at the stakeEcclesiastical
1557Stationers Company London chartedMercantile
1558Queen Mary diedRoyalty
1558Elizabeth is crowned Queen of EnglandRoyalty
1558Repeal of Catholic legislation in EnglandLaw
1559Custom House builtMercantile
1560Treaty of Berwick between Elizabeth I and Scottish reformersPolitical
1562Witchcraft is made a capital offense in EnglandLaw
1564Christopher Marlowe born in CanterburyWriter
1564William Shakespeare born in StratfordWriter
1564Michaelangelo painter and sculptor diedArt
1564Peace of Troyes between England and FrancePolitical
1567Murder 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 ScotlandRoyalty
1568Gerardus Mercator introduces the map projection that bears his nameScience
1571Johannes Kepler bornScience
1577Francis Drake sets off to sail around the worldExploration
1582Gregorian calender introducedEcclesiastical
1583University of Edinburgh foundedOrganisations
1584Expedition of Sir Francis Drake to the West IndiesExploration
1584Conspiracy against Elizabeth I involving Mary Queen of ScotsRoyalty
1586Sir Walter Raleigh brings tobacco to EnglandExploration
1588The Spanish Armada is defeated by the English fleet under Lord Howard of Effingham, Sir Francis Drake, and Sir John HawkinsWar
1589Englishmen, William Lee invents a knitting machine called the stocking frame.Science
1593Galileo invents a water thermometer.Science
1594John Napier discovers and develops the logarithm, a brilliant method of simplifying difficult computations.Science
1596John Gerards 'Herbal' is published. A description of European plantsWriter Science
1597John Hartington, Godson of Queen Elizabeth I invents the first flushing toiletScience
1598Stow's 'Survey of London' publishedWriter
1599Globe Theatre opens on London's SouthbankArt

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.

16th century

Georg Giese by Hans Holbein 1532

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.

16th Century

William Shakespeare Southwark Cathedral

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 …

William Shakespeare

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.