Peoples and Nations

The Tudors - Overview of the Royal Dynasty

The Tudors - Overview of the Royal Dynasty

The Tudors are one of the most remarkable dynasties in English history. Henry VII, of Welsh origin, successfully ended the Wars of Roses and founded the House of Tudor. He, his son Henry VIII, and his three children Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I ruled for 118 eventful years.

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The Tudors - The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Kathryn Howard, Katherine Parr

Divorced, beheaded, died; Divorced beheaded survived

This popular rhyme tells of the fate of Henry VIII's six wives

Catherine of Aragon - Henry VIII's first wife and mother of Mary I

Catherine was the youngest daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain and she came to England in 1501 at the age of 16 to marry Henry VII's eldest son and heir to the throne, Arthur.

By 1527 Henry was having serious doubts about his marriage to Catherine. He believed that he had no sons because God was punishing him for having married his brother's wife. He had found a passage in the Bible that backed this belief.

He had also fallen for Anne Boleyn, the daughter of Thomas Boleyn, who had recently returned to England from the French court.

Catherine refused to grant Henry a divorce or retire to a convent. Henry therefore began the Reformation in England so that he could divorce Catherine without the Pope's permission and marry Anne Boleyn.

Catherine was divorced by Henry in 1533 and died in 1536.

Anne Boleyn - Henry VIII's second wife and mother of Elizabeth.

Anne Boleyn was born in 1501. At the age of fourteen she was sent with her sister, Mary, to the French court as a maid to Queen Claude.

She returned to England in 1522 and attracted many admirers. Her sister, Mary managed to attract the King's attention and became his mistress.

In 1526 Henry asked Anne to become his mistress, but she refused because he was a married man. Henry was determined to win Anne Boleyn and became determined to divorce Catherine and marry Anne.

The couple eventually secretly married in 1533 after Anne became pregnant. The King's second marriage was not popular. Many people believed that Anne was a witch and had cast a spell on Henry.

When the baby was born in September 1533 Henry was cross that the baby was a girl. She was called Elizabeth.

Henry and Anne began arguing. Although Anne became pregnant twice more each time the babies were stillborn.

Henry was by now tired of Anne and wanted rid of her. He had no intention of waiting for a divorce so his ministers invented evidence showing that Anne had been unfaithful and had plotted the death of the King.

She was found guilty and was executed in May 1536.

Jane Seymour - Henry VIII's third wife and mother or Edward VI.

Jane Seymour was a quiet shy girl who attracted Henry because she was so different to his first two wives, Catherine and Anne.

Henry married Jane Seymour just 11 days after the death of Anne Boleyn. He was 45 years old, Jane was 28.

Although Henry became concerned when Jane did not become pregnant immediately, he was delighted when she gave birth to a son, Edward, in October 1538.

Henry was very upset when Jane died a month later. On his deathbed, Henry requested to be buried next to Jane.

Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII's fourth wife. She was divorced after six months.

After the death of Jane, Henry remained single for two years. He had the son that he had wanted for so long and although Edward was weak and sickly, he continued to live.

Having broken free from Rome in the 1530s England was isolated from much of Europe and Henry's advisers thought it would be a good idea for him to marry a German princess and make an alliance with the other great Protestant nation in Europe - Germany.

Two suitable princesses were chosen and Hans Holbein was sent to paint their portraits. The girls were sisters and daughters of the Duke of Cleves. Henry chose the older daughter, Anne, to be his fourth wife.

The 24 year old German Princess arrived in England in December 1539, However, Henry was horrified when he saw her and demanded that his ministers find him a way out of the marriage. Unfortunately for Henry they could not and the marriage went ahead in January 1540.

Henry was unable to consummate the marriage and the couple divorced amicably six months later.

Anne was well provided for and lived out her days in England in comfort. She outlived Henry and died in 1557.

Kathryn Howard, Henry VIII's fifth wife. She was executed for adultery after two years of marriage.

Henry had chosen his fifth wife before his divorce to Anne was finalised. The lady in question was the 15 year old daughter of Edmund Howard, Kathryn, cousin of Anne Boleyn.

The marriage took place in July 1540. Henry was 49 years old, overweight and unable to walk far due to his weight and an injury to his leg that festered and refused to heal.

Kathryn was young, lively and flirtatious. She was bored with having an old husband and sought out young friends among the courtiers.

Unfortunately for Kathryn one of the courtiers in question was a man named Francis Dereham who had known Katherine before her marriage.

He knew that she had had affairs before her marriage and used this to bribe her into giving him a good position at court.

Katherine's actions led to her being accused of adultery and subsequently executed in 1542.

Katherine Parr Henry VIII's sixth wife. She outlived Henry and died in 1548.

Henry married for the sixth time in 1543. The lady in question was Katherine Parr who had been twice widowed.

She was a kindly lady and proved a good stepmother to the King's three children. She was also an excellent nursemaid and bathed Henry's leg wound and comforted him when he was sick.

She came close to being tried for treason in 1546 when her enemies at court attempted to prove that she was a committed Protestant. However, she managed to convince Henry that she was loyal to him and his Church and was spared.

After Henry's death she married Edward's uncle, Thomas Seymour.

Katherine Parr died in childbirth in 1548.

Tudors and Stuart Timeline

The Tudors and Stuart Monarchs and some of the main events of their reigns

Timeline - The Tudor and Stuart Monarchs

A detailed Timeline showing the Tudors and Stuart Monarchs and some of the main events of their reigns.


The Tudors - Tudor and Stuart Timeline

The Tudors and Stuart Monarchs and some of the main events of their reigns.

The Tudors - Elizabethan Poor Law 1601

Before the Reformation it had always been considered Christian duty to carry out the instructions laid down in Matthew chapter 25 - that all Christians shall:

  • Feed the hungry
  • Give drink to the thirsty
  • Welcome the stranger
  • Clothe the naked
  • Visit the sick
  • Visit the prisoner
  • Bury the dead.

After the Reformation, many of these values disappeared and the poor were left without help. It became increasingly clear that something had to be done to help those who were genuinely in need, and something else had to be done about the increasing numbers of those who chose to beg and steal rather than work.

In 1552 Parish registers of poor were introduced. This meant that there was now an official register of poor in a parish.

In 1563 Justices of the Peace were given the power to raise funds to support the poor. Categories were also drawn up for the different types of poor and beggars that were found on the streets.

Deserving Poor This category was for those people who wanted to work but were unable to find suitable employment. These people were to be given help in the form of clothes, food or maybe money. (Outdoor Relief)


Those who were too old, young or ill to work. These people were to be looked after in almshouses, orphanages, workhouses or hospitals. Orphans and children of the poor were to be given an apprenticeship to a tradesman. (Indoor Relief)

Undeserving Poor Also called idle beggars or sturdy beggars, this category was for those who could work but chose not to. They were to be whipped through the town until they learnt the error of their ways.

In 1572 it was made compulsory that all people pay a local poor. The funds raised were to help the deserving poor.

In 1597 It was made law that every district have an Overseer of the Poor. The overseer had to do the following things:

  • Work out how much money would be needed for the numbers of poor in that district and set the poor rate accordingly
  • Collect the poor rate from property owners
  • Relieve the poor by dispensing either food or money
  • Supervise the parish poor house

In 1601 An act of Parliament called The Poor Law was passed by Parliament. The Act brought together all the measures listed above into one legal document.

The Tudors - The Spanish Armada


Shortly after Elizabeth's accession to the throne of England, in 1559, a peace treaty was signed between England, France and Spain bringing peace to Europe.

Without the burden of having to pay for a war, England became prosperous and in 1568 Elizabeth used money to increase the size of the navy. The new ships that were built were faster and easier to steer than before.

At the end of the year the English navy seized a treasure ship bound for the Netherlands, which was controlled by Spain. Philip II of Spain was very cross and relations between England and Spain worsened.

Philip was also annoyed that Elizabeth had restored Protestantism in England. His anger with England increased further after Elizabeth knighted Francis Drake. The countries of Europe had an agreement that there would be free trade between them, Drake, however, preferred to trade privately and Philip saw Elizabeth's knighthood of him as an insult to the free trade agreement and began to prepare for war.

After the Protestant leader of the Netherlands, William of Orange, was assassinated, Elizabeth provided Drake with a navy of 25 ships and told him to harass Spanish ships. The English sailor did as he was asked and took Spanish possessions from Colombia and Florida. Philip retaliated by seizing all English ships in Spanish ports.

Elizabeth allied England with the Protestant Dutch states who wanted freedom from Spain and sent an English army to assist them.

Philip made plans for a fleet of 130 Spanish ships to block the Channel and allow the Duke of Parma to invade England.

When Elizabeth ordered the execution of Catholic Mary Queen of Scots in 1587, Philip increased the numbers of ships bound for England and planned an invasion force. Once again his plans were upset by Drake who managed to enter Spanish waters and burn large numbers of the ships bound for England.

The Armada set sail from Lisbon on May 28th 1588 but encountered storms and was forced to put in to the port of Corunna to make repairs. It was July 1588 before Philip's Armada was ready to set sail again.

29th July 1588

The Armada under the control of Medina Sidonia, reached the western approaches to the English Channel. Warning beacons were lit all along the South Coast and the English navy was put to sea.

The English defending fleet, commanded by Lord Howard of Effingham, included ships captained by Drake, Frobisher and Hawkins. Effingham sailed in the 'Ark Royal', which had been built for Raleigh in 1581, while Drake captained 'The Revenge'. However, instead of concentrating all his resources in the straits of Dunkirk as Philip had thought he would, Effingham stationed a large contingent at Plymouth to shield the south-west coast from a direct landing.

The story is told that Drake was playing a game of bowls when the Armada was sighted, but insisted on completing the game before setting sail.

Many of the Armada's Captains favoured a direct assault on England, but Medina Sidonia's orders strictly forbade this. The fleet therefore sailed on from the Lizard to Calais to meet the Duke of Parma. However, on reaching Calais, the Duke of Parma was not to be seen. The Armada dropped anchor to await his arrival.

Route taken by the Spanish Armada.

8th August 1588

At midnight, Howard sent eight fire ships into the congested Spanish ranks. Many Spanish Captains cut their cables in their haste to escape the flames. They blundered away from the blaze straight into the gunfire of the waiting English. Unfortunately for the Spanish, their fire power was vastly inferior to that of the English.

A change of wind blew the Armada North out of the range of English fire. However, the wind became a gale and the Spanish were driven further North and many were dashed on the Northern rocks. The survivors were forced to make their way round the Orkneys and down the Irish coast. The remains of the proud Armada limped home to Spain.

The Defeated Spanish Armada

Recent Research

The defeat of the Armada may not have been due to the superiority of the English. Examination of cannon balls found on the bottom of the North Sea has shown that Spanish cannonballs were not all the same size. Different sizes of gun required different sizes of cannonballs. It has been suggested that the Spanish ships were not equipped with the right cannonballs for the guns on board their ships and were therefore unable to fire on the English ships that attacked them. They therefore chose to retreat, possibly to the Netherlands. The high winds prevented them from reaching port and dashed the ships against the rocks of northern Scotland.

The Tudors - Discoverers and Explorers

In the Tudors period Europeans began to explore the world more than ever before. Some of those who left their homeland and journeyed across the seas were looking for new lands and peoples to trade with, some were looking for better and quicker routes to China and India.

Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) was an Italian explorer who, financed by the king and queen of Spain, set sail to find a new route to India.

He left Europe early in September 1492 and when land was sighted one month later he believed he had found India and named the native people living there, Indians.

Columbus had not reached India as he thought but had reached Central America. He claimed the land for Spain and from 1492 onwards Europeans began to settle in America. They called it the New World.

Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521) was a Portuguese explorer and the first sailor to sail all around the world.

He did not discover America because he sailed around the bottom of South America.

Magellan also named the Pacific Ocean.

Sir Francis Drake (1545-1596) was a British explorer and navy captain. He was financed by Queen Elizabeth to discover lands and riches for England. Drake was the second man to sail all around the world and was knighted by the queen for his services to the country.

In 1588 he was one of the Captains that sailed to meet and defeat the Spanish Armada. It is a well known legend that he insisted on finishing a game of bowls before going to his ship.

Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) was an adventurer and explorer who became one of queen Elizabeth's favourites after putting down a rebellion in Ireland. Elizabeth gave him land and the position of captain of the Queens Guard.

Raleigh led an expedition to the New World and claimed North Carolina and Virginia for England. Virginia was named after Elizabeth who was known as the Virgin Queen because she never married.

In the New World Raleigh discovered potatoes and tobacco and brought them back to England.

While Raleigh had been in the New World Elizabeth had found herself a new favourite, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex.

In 1592 Elizabeth found out that Raleigh had married one of her maids. She was very angry and put him into the Tower of London. When he was released three years later he left England for the New World in search of gold.

Walter Raleigh had always had enemies and after Elizabeth's death they convinced James I that he did not support the king, a crime punishable by execution. Raleigh was not executed but was sent to the Tower of London where he spent his time writing. It is thought that his unfinished book 'History of the World' was written at this time.

In 1616 he was released from the Tower and once again set off to search for gold. However, while on his expedition he destroyed a Spanish town in the New World. The king of Spain was furious and demanded that Raleigh be punished. James decided to use the execution notice served on Raleigh in 1603. Sir Walter Raleigh was beheaded at Whitehall in 1618.

The Tudors - Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots

For more information on counter-intuitive facts of ancient and medieval history, see Anthony Esolen's The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization.

Elizabeth I (1533-1603) became Queen of England in 1558 after her sister Mary died.

She was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and had had a troubled childhood. Her mother had been executed when she was three years old and her father had married four more times. The only constant person in her life was her nanny, Kat Ashley.

Her father had separated the church from Rome and Elizabeth was a Protestant.

When Elizabeth's sister Mary, a Catholic, came to the throne in 1553 she made England Catholic again and Elizabeth was put into the Tower of London so that she could not lead a Protestant rebellion against Mary and take her place on the throne.

When Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558 she made England Protestant. Consequently she had many Catholic enemies who wanted to see her replaced by Mary Queen of Scots. In 1558 Mary Queen of Scots, granddaughter of Henry VIII's elder sister Margaret, had challenged Elizabeth for the throne of England, but had failed. The Catholics believed that because Elizabeth had been declared illegitimate in 1536, Mary's challenge to the throne was stronger than Elizabeth's.

Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587) was the daughter of James V of Scotland and Mary of Guise. She became Queen of Scotland when she was six days old after her father died at the Battle of Solway Moss.

A marriage was arranged between Mary and Edward, only son of Henry VIII but was broken when the Scots decided they preferred an alliance with France. Mary spent a happy childhood in France and in 1558 married Francis, heir to the French throne. They became king and queen of France in 1559.

Sadly, Francis died in 1560 and Mary, not wanting to stay in France, returned to Scotland. During Mary's absence, Scotland had become a Protestant country. The Protestants did not want Mary, a Catholic and their official queen, to have any influence.

In 1565 Mary married her cousin and heir to the English throne, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. The marriage was not a happy one. Darnley was jealous of Mary's close friendship with her secretary, David Rizzio and in March 1566 had him murdered in front of Mary who was six months pregnant with the future James I. Darnley made many enemies among the Scottish nobles and in 1567 his house was blown up. Darnley's body was found inside, he had been strangled.

Three months later Mary married the chief suspect, the Earl of Bothwell. The people of Scotland were outraged and turned against her. She was removed from the throne and fled to England. She appealed to Elizabeth for help and support, but Elizabeth, suspicious that she was going to raise Catholic support and take the throne of England, kept Mary a virtual prisoner for the next eighteen years.

In 1586 letters sent to Mary by a Catholic called Thomas Babington, were found. The letters revealed a plot to kill Elizabeth and replace her with Mary. Elizabeth had no choice but to sign Mary's death warrant. Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded at Fotheringay Castle on February 8th 1587.

The Tudors - Bloody Mary Counter Reformation

Mary I

Mary I, daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, has the misfortune of being remembered as 'Bloody Mary'. The nickname implies that she was hated throughout the land for the burning of Protestants in her bid to restore Catholicism to England, but this was not the case. The nickname is the result of Protestant propaganda that portrays those burnt as heroes and Mary as an evil Queen.

Mary became Queen in 1553 following the death of her brother Edward and the deposement of Jane Grey. As a devout Catholic, Mary believed that unless Catholicism was restored in England, all her subjects would go to hell.

The Counter Reformation in England - Restoration of Catholicism

Mary's prime goal from the time of her accession was to restore Catholicism. There were factors both in her favour and against:

In Mary's Favour:

Protestantism had only been the official religion in England for six years, Catholicism had been the official religion for hundreds of years before.

The Protestants had not received the support of the people when they tried to replace Mary with Jane Grey.

Many Protestant leaders had fled to Europe when she became Queen.

Against Mary:

Henry VIII had closed the monasteries and sold the land to nobles and courtiers.

Mary was not married and at the age of 37 was almost beyond childbearing age. Next in line to the throne was her sister Elizabeth, a Protestant.

Although many Protestants had fled to Europe there were still many in England who would protest strongly against a return to Rome.


In 1554, Mary married Philip II of Spain. Spain was a Catholic country and Philip joined Mary in her bid to restore England to Rome. However, the marriage was not popular, the people had no wish to be governed by a foreigner and there was racial tension between the English and Spanish merchants in London. Thomas Wyatt led some 3,000 men from Rochester in Kent to London in protest against the Queen's marriage and her anti-Protestant policies.

In 1555 Mary announced that she was pregnant and that the baby was due in June 1555. Many believed it to be a phantom pregnancy and they were proved right when no baby arrived. We now know that Mary probably had cancer of the womb.

Catholicism Enforced

The Catholic service, Holy Communion, and the elaborate fixtures and fittings of Catholic churches taken away during Edward's reign were immediately restored. In 1555, Parliament passed a set of Heresy laws that made it a crime to be Protestant in England.

All Protestants who refused to convert to Catholicism were to be burnt. One of the first to go to the stake was John Rogers who had translated Tynedale's Bible into English. The Bishops, Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer and Thomas Cranmer followed soon afterwards. In all Mary was responsible for the burnings of 227 men and 56 women, mostly in the South East of England.

The Loss of Calais

In 1557 Philip persuaded Mary to commit England to helping him fight against France. Mary duly declared war on France. However, the move was disastrous for England and for Mary. The French invaded and reclaimed Calais, England's last possession in France and the people were fed up with paying higher taxes to pay for a war that had only been started to help Spain.

The Tudors - Lady Jane Grey

Lady Jane Grey was born in October 1537. She was the daughter of Henry Grey and Frances Brandon, daughter of Henry VIII's youngest sister, Mary. She was well educated and also a devout Protestant.

At the age of 9 years she was sent to court under the protection of Katherine Parr. After the death of Henry VIII she stayed with Katherine Parr. When Katherine Parr married Thomas Seymour, Jane joined their household.

Following Katherine Parr's death in 1548, Jane became the ward of Thomas Seymour. Seymour tried, unsuccessfully, to arrange a marriage between Jane and Prince Edward. In 1549 Thomas Seymour was executed for treason and Jane became the ward of John Dudley.

In 1551 John Dudley was created Duke of Northumberland and Edward VI's chief councillor.

By 1552 it was apparent that Edward VI would not survive to adulthood. John Dudley realised that if Mary or Elizabeth were to take the throne he would lose his high position. Since both Mary and Elizabeth had been declared illegitimate, Jane Grey had a claim to the throne. Dudley therefore decided to marry Jane to his son Guildford. The wedding took place on 25th May 1553.

Edward VI died on 6th July 1553. He had proclaimed Jane Grey as his successor on his deathbed over-ruling the terms of the Third Succession Act of 1543 which had restored Mary and Elizabeth to the line of succession.

Dudley attempted to withhold the news that Edward had died because he wanted to capture Mary and prevent her from gathering support and taking the throne from Jane. However, the plan failed and although Jane was officially proclaimed Queen on 10th July 1553, it was Mary that the people believed should be Queen.

Although Dudley attempted to raise a force against Mary, support for Mary was greater and on 19th July Mary was proclaimed Queen. Jane and her husband were imprisoned in the Tower of London. John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland was executed on 21st August 1553.

In January 1554 Thomas Wyatt led a rebellion against the marriage of Mary to Philip II of Spain. Many nobles joined the rebellion and called for Jane to be restored as Queen. Mary was pressured into authorising the execution of Jane Grey and Guildford Dudley to prevent further rebellions.

Jane Grey and her husband were executed on 12th February 1554.

The Tudors - Edward VI - Protestantism

Edward VI was just nine years old when his father died and he became King. His father had made provision for a Regency government comprised of 16 trusted men. However, Edward's uncle, Edward Seymour, seized the regency for himself and the title 'Protector of all the realms and dominions of the King's majesty.' Seymour placed Edward firmly under his control by removing him from his home and forbidding contact with his stepmother or sisters. He also gave himself the title Duke of Somerset.