Wikijunior:Kings and Queens of England/The Tudors
Henry VII (1485-1509)
Henry VII, also known as Henry Tudor, was born at Pembroke Castle on 28 January 1457. He was King of England and Lord of Ireland from 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509. He was the founder of the House of Tudor. He was the only son of Edmund Tudor, who died two months before Henry was born. He spent much of his early life with his uncle Jasper Tudor. When Edward IV returned to the throne in 1471, Henry VII was forced to flee to Brittany, where spent most of the next fourteen years. After his second cousin's revolt failed in 1483, Henry VII became the leading Lancastrian contender for the throne of England. With French help, Henry made an unsuccessful attempt to land in England but turned back after coming across Richard III's forces on the Dorset coast. Henry then gained the support of the in-laws of the late Yorkist King Edward IV and landed with a largely French and Scottish force in Pembrokeshire, and marched into England, with his uncle, Jasper Tudor, and the experienced Earl of Oxford. Henry's forces decisively defeated the Yorkists at the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22 August 1485 when several of Richard's key allies, switched sides or deserted the field of battle. Richard III himself died at the battle. This effectively ended the long-running Wars of the Roses, though it wasn't the final battle.
Henry then had to establish his rule. His own claim to the throne was limited, and there were a number of false claimants, or pretenders, to the throne. The main one was Perkin Warbeck, who pretended to be Richard, Duke of York, the younger of the Princes in the Tower. These pretenders were backed by disaffected nobles. Henry, however, succeeded in securing his crown. He also strengthened his position by marrying Elizabeth of York, daughter and heir of King Edward IV.
Policies as king
Henry VII restored the fortunes of the Exchequer by introducing efficiently ruthless mechanisms of taxation. He was supported by his chancellor, Archbishop John Morton, whose "Morton's Fork" made sure the nobles paid more taxes. Morton's Fork said of the nobles: one who lives frugally must be saving well, and so can give much money to the King. However, one who spends freely must have lots of extra money, and can afford to give generously to the king. By the time of his death, Henry had amassed a personal fortune of a million and a half pounds.
As well as coming to terms with the French, Henry VII made an alliance with Spain by marrying his son, Arthur Tudor, to Catherine of Aragon. He made an alliance with Scotland by marrying his daughter, Margaret, to King James IV of Scotland. And he made an alliance with the Holy Roman Empire, under the emperor Maximilian I.
Henry is also noted for starting the Court of Star Chamber. This revived an earlier practice of using a small (and trusted) group of the Privy Council as a personal court, able to cut through the red tape in the legal system and act swiftly. Serious disputes involving the use of personal power, or threats to royal authority, were dealt with by the Court.
In 1502, Henry's heir, Arthur, died. Henry's wife died in childbirth a few months later. Henry asked the Pope for permission to marry his second son, also called Henry to Catherine of Aragon to help him keep his alliance with Spain. The Pope agreed, but Henry changed his mind, and the marriage did not happen in Henry VII's lifetime. Although Henry VII himself made half-hearted plans to re-marry and get more heirs, this never came to anything. On his death in 1509, he was succeeded by his second, more famous son, Henry VIII. King Henry VII was buried at Westminster Abbey.
Henry VIII (1509-1547)
Henry VIII was born at the Palace of Placentia at Greenwich on 28 June 1491. Henry VIII was the third child of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Only three of Henry VII's six siblings, Arthur, Margaret and Mary, survived infancy. In 1493, the young Henry was appointed Constable of Dover Castle and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. In 1494, he was created Duke of York. He was later appointed Earl Marshal of England and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, though still a child. When his brother Arthur died in 1502, Henry found himself heir-apparent to the throne and soon after, he was created Prince of Wales. When his father died in 1509, Henry became King of England and Lord (later King) of Ireland, positions he held till his death on 28 January 1547.
Henry is famous for marrying six times and for having more power than any other British monarch. Notable events during his reign include the break with the Roman Catholic Church and the subsequent establishment of the independent Church of England, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the union of England and Wales. He is known to have been an avid gambler and dice player. During his youth he excelled at sport, especially jousting, hunting and tennis. He was also a good musician, author and poet. Henry was also involved in the construction and improvement of several significant buildings, including Westminster Abbey.
Henry's father had previously prevented him from marrying Catherine of Aragon. King Ferdinand II of Aragon, however, was eager for the marriage to take place, and Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon about nine weeks after he became king. Queen Catherine's first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage in 1510. She gave birth to a son, Henry, on 1 January 1511, but he only lived until 22 February. She had one more short-lived child and one stillborn one, and then in 1516, Queen Catherine gave birth to a girl, Mary, who was to survive into adulthood, and later become Queen Mary I.
The King's Great Matter
Henry VIII's accession was the first peaceful one England had witnessed in many years. But the English people were distrustful of female rulers, and Henry felt that only a male heir could secure the throne. Although Queen Catherine had been pregnant at least seven times (for the last time in 1518), only one child, the Princess Mary, had survived beyond infancy. In 1526, when it became clear that Queen Catherine could have no further children, Henry became determined to divorce Catherine, as he was very infatuated with Anne Boleyn.
Henry's long efforts to end his marriage to Queen Catherine became known as "The King's Great Matter". Cardinal Wolsey and William Warham quietly began an inquiry into the validity of her marriage to Henry. Queen Catherine, however, testified that her marriage to Arthur, Prince of Wales had never been consummated, and that there was therefore no impediment to her subsequent marriage to Henry. The inquiry could proceed no further, and was dropped.
Without informing Cardinal Wolsey, Henry directly appealed to Pope Clement VII, who did not agree to annul the marriage. Further attempts were made to persuade the Pope to consent. Eventually Henry effectively fired Wolsey and replaced other churchmen who were in key government roles with laymen. Power then passed to Sir Thomas More (the new Lord Chancellor), Thomas Cranmer (the Archbishop of Canterbury) and Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex (the Secretary of State). On 25 January 1533, Cranmer participated in the wedding of Henry and Anne Boleyn. In May, Cranmer pronounced Henry's marriage to Catherine void, and shortly afterwards declared the marriage to Anne valid. The Princess Mary was deemed illegitimate, and was replaced as heiress-presumptive by Queen Anne's new daughter, the Princess Elizabeth. (They were each heiress "presumptive" because the birth of a brother—a male heir—would make him the heir to the throne and put his sister in second place.) Catherine lost the title of Queen, becoming the Dowager Princess of Wales; Mary was no longer a Princess, but a mere Lady. Sir Thomas More, who had left office in 1532, accepted that Parliament could make Anne Queen, but refused to acknowledge its religious authority. Instead, he held that the Pope remained the head of the Church. As a result, he was charged with high treason, and beheaded in 1535. Judging him to be a martyr, the Catholic Church later made him a saint.
The Pope responded to these events by excommunicating Henry in July 1533. Religious upheaval followed. Urged by Thomas Cromwell, Parliament passed several Acts that sealed the breach with Rome in the spring of 1534. Parliament validated the marriage between Henry and Anne with the Act of Succession 1534. Opposition to Henry's religious policies was quickly suppressed. Several dissenting monks were tortured and executed. Cromwell, for whom was created the post of "Vicegerent in Spirituals", was authorised to visit monasteries. It was claimed this was to make sure that they followed royal instructions, but really it was to assess their wealth. In 1536, an Act of Parliament allowed Henry to seize the possessions of the lesser monasteries (those with annual incomes of £200 or less).
In 1536, Queen Anne began to lose Henry's favour. After the Princess Elizabeth's birth, Queen Anne had two pregnancies that ended in either miscarriage or stillbirth. Henry VIII, meanwhile, had turned his attentions to another lady of his court, Jane Seymour. Henry had Anne arrested on charges of using witchcraft to trap Henry into marrying her, of having adulterous relationships with five other men, of incest with her brother, of injuring the King and of conspiring to kill him, which amounted to treason. The charges were most likely false. The court trying the case was presided over by Anne's own uncle. In May 1536, the Court condemned Anne and her brother to death, either by burning at the stake or by beheading, whichever the King pleased. The other four men Queen Anne had allegedly been involved with were to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Anne's brother was beheaded soon after the trial ended The four had their sentences reduced to beheading. Anne was also beheaded soon afterwards.
Only days after Anne's execution in 1536, Henry married Jane Seymour. The Act of Succession 1536 declared Henry's children by Queen Jane to be next in the line of succession, and declared both the Lady Mary and the Lady Elizabeth illegitimate, thus excluding them. The King was granted the power to further determine the line of succession in his will. Jane gave birth to a son, Edward, in 1537, and died two weeks later. After Jane's death, the entire court mourned with Henry for some time. Henry also considered her to be his only "true" wife, being the only one who had given him the male heir he so desperately sought.
At about the same time as his marriage to Jane Seymour, Henry granted his assent to the Laws in Wales Act 1535, which legally annexed Wales, uniting England and Wales into one nation. Henry also continued with his persecution of his religious opponents. In 1536, an uprising known as the Pilgrimage of Grace broke out in Northern England. Henry agreed to allow Parliament to address their concerns and he agreed to grant a general pardon to all those involved. He kept neither promise, and a second uprising occurred in 1537. As a result, the leaders of the rebellion were convicted of treason and executed. In 1538, Henry sanctioned the destruction of shrines to Roman Catholic Saints. In 1539, England's remaining monasteries were all dissolved, and their property transferred to the Crown.
Henry's only surviving son, Edward, was not a healthy child. Therefore, Henry wanted to marry again to ensure that a male could succeed him. Thomas Cromwell suggested Anne of Cleves, the sister of the Protestant Duke of Cleves, who was seen as an important ally in case of a Roman Catholic attack on England. Hans Holbein the Younger was dispatched to Cleves to paint a portrait of Anne for the King. After seeing Holbein's flattering portrayal, and hearing a complimentary description of Anne from his courtiers, Henry agreed to wed Anne. On Anne's arrival in England, Henry is said to have found her utterly unattractive, calling her a "Flanders Mare". She was painted totally without any signs of her pockmarked face. Nevertheless, he married her on 6 January 1540. Soon, however, Henry wanted to end the marriage, not only because of his personal feelings but also because of political considerations. The Duke of Cleves had become involved in a dispute with the Holy Roman Emperor, with whom Henry had no desire to quarrel. Queen Anne did not try to stop Henry getting an annulment. She testified that her marriage was never consummated. The marriage was subsequently annulled, slightly more than six months after it began, on the grounds that Anne had previously been contracted to marry another European nobleman. She received the title of "The King's Sister", and was granted Hever Castle, the former residence of Anne Boleyn's family, eventually outliving both Henry and his last two wives. Thomas Cromwell, though, fell out of favor for his role in arranging the marriage, and was later beheaded.
On 28 July 1540 (the same day Cromwell was executed) Henry married the young Catherine Howard, Anne Boleyn's first cousin. Soon after her marriage, however, Queen Catherine was soon found to have committed adultery against Henry. An Act of Parliament condemned her to death. Catherine's marriage was annulled shortly before her execution, which was on 13 February 1542. She was only about eighteen years old at the time.
Henry married his last wife, the wealthy widow Catherine Parr, in 1543. She argued with Henry over religion; she was a Protestant, but Henry remained a Catholic. She helped reconcile Henry with his first two daughters, the Lady Mary and the Lady Elizabeth. In 1544, an Act of Parliament put them back in the line of succession after Edward, though they were still deemed illegitimate. The same Act allowed Henry to determine further succession to the throne in his will.
A rhyme to remember the fates of Henry's wives is "divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived".
Death and succession
Later in life, Henry was grossly overweight, with a waist measurement of 54 inches (137 cm), and he possibly suffered from gout. Henry's increased size dated from a jousting accident in 1536. He suffered a thigh wound which not only prevented him from taking exercise, but also gradually became ulcerated and may have indirectly led to his death, which occurred on 28 January 1547 at the Palace of Whitehall. Henry VIII was buried in St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, next to his wife Jane Seymour. He was succeeded as king by his son Edward, but within a little more than a decade after his death, all three of his children sat on the English throne.
Edward VI (1547-1553)
Edward VI was born at the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich on 12 October 1537. He was the son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour. He was King of England and King of Ireland from 28 January 1547 until his death on 6 July 1553. Edward was England's first Protestant ruler. Although his father, Henry VIII, had broken the link between the English church and Rome, it was during Edward's reign that the decisive move was made from Catholicism to a form of Protestantism which came to be known as Anglicanism.
Edward VI was an extremely sickly child. Edward's physical difficulties did not impede his education; indeed, he was a very bright child, able to speak Latin at the age of seven. He later learned to speak French and Greek.
Henry VIII died on 28 January 1547. His will named sixteen executors, who were to act as a Council of Regency until Edward VI achieved majority at the age of eighteen (although it was agreed by the Council in 1552 that Edward would reach his majority at 16). These executors were to be supplemented by twelve assistants, who would only participate when the others deemed it fit. The executors were all inclined towards religious reformation, whose most prominent opponents, were excluded. Henry VIII also appointed Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford, to serve as Lord Protector of the Realm and Governor of the King's Person during Edward VI's minority. Lord Hertford, who was Edward VI's uncle, was only supposed to act on the advice of the other executors. A few days after Henry VIII's death, Lord Hertford was created Duke of Somerset and appointed to the influential positions of Lord High Treasurer and Earl Marshal.
On 13 March 1547, Edward VI created a new Council of twenty-six members. The Council consisted of all the executors and assistants, except for Somerset and one other. The Duke of Somerset was no longer merely a "first among equals"; instead, he was allowed to act without the consent of the Council, the composition of which he was permitted to change at his whim. The Lord Protector thus became the real ruler of England; Edward VI was demoted to a ceremonial role. Another powerful influence on Edward VI was Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Both Cranmer and the Duke of Somerset began the process of creating a 'Protestant England'. Various Catholic rites were replaced with Protestant ones. The Duke of Somerset, however, did not encourage persecution.
One of the Duke of Somerset's primary aims was to achieve a union between England and Scotland. In late 1547, an English army marched into Scotland and took control of the Lowlands. In 1548, however, Mary, the daughter of the Scottish King James V, married the Dauphin, the heir-apparent to the French Throne, which strengthened the alliance between France and Scotland.
In 1549, there was an uprising by poor peasants. Taking advantage of this internal strife, the French formally declared war on England. The Duke of Somerset became extremely unpopular, and was deposed by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick. Warwick did not make himself Lord Protector, and encouraged Edward VI to declare his majority as soon as he was sixteen. In 1550, Warwick made peace with the peasants and with France, giving up all of England's possessions in Scotland without compensation.
The rise of the Earl of Warwick saw the fall of Catholicism in England. Thomas Cranmer introduced the Book of Common Prayer for use in all Church services. All official editions of the Bible were accompanied by anti-Catholic annotations. Catholic symbols in churches were desecrated by mobs. Religious dissenters were often persecuted and burnt at the stake. In 1550 and 1551, the most powerful Roman Catholic Bishops, Edmund Bonner (the Bishop of London), Stephen Gardiner (the Bishop of Winchester) and Nicholas Heath (the Bishop of Worcester) included, were deposed. Their places were taken by Protestant reformers such as Nicholas Ridley.
Meanwhile, the Duke of Somerset, who agreed to submit to Lord Warwick, was released from prison and readmitted to the Privy Council. Within a few months, he found himself powerful enough to demand the release of other political and religious prisoners, and he opposed the religious Reformation. Warwick attempted to increase his own prestige. On his advice, Edward created him Duke of Northumberland and gave honours to his numerous supporters. The Duke of Northumberland began a campaign to discredit the Duke of Somerset. The people of London were informed that the Duke of Somerset would destroy their city; Edward was told that the Duke would depose and imprison him and seize his Crown. It was also suggested that the Duke of Somerset had plotted to murder the Duke of Northumberland. In December 1551, the Duke of Somerset was tried for treason on the grounds that he had attempted to imprison a member of the King's Council. The treason charge, however, could not be proven. Instead, Somerset was found guilty of participating in unlawful assemblies, but was still sentenced to death. The Duke of Somerset was subsequently executed in January 1552. On the day after the Duke of Somerset's execution, a new session of Parliament began. It passed the Act of Uniformity 1552, under which a second Book of Common Prayer was required for church services. Unauthorised worship was punishable by up to life imprisonment.
Death and the succession
The fragile health of the King did not improve. During the winter of 1552-53, Edward VI contracted a cold, which was made more serious as it was compounded by other illnesses. Doctors tried to help by administering various medicines, but their efforts left Edward in perpetual agony. By early 1553 Edward was dying, and, having been brought up a Protestant, did not wish to be succeeded by his Roman Catholic half-sister, Mary.
At the same time, the Duke of Northumberland was eager to retain his own power. He did not believe he could do this through the two closest heirs, Mary and Elizabeth. Under Henry VIII's will, third in the succession was Lady Frances Brandon, the daughter of Henry's younger sister Mary. However, Northumberland feared that the Frances's husband, Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk, would claim the Crown as his own. He therefore chose to try to rule through the Duchess of Suffolk's daughter, the Lady Jane Grey and Jane was married off to Northumberland's younger son, Guilford Dudley. On 11 June 1553, Northumberland got senior judges to draw up a draft will for Edward. The plan was illegal for many reasons. The judges at first resisted, as it was treason to attempt to vary the laws of succession established in 1544. Edward, however, ensured their co-operation by promising a pardon.
The first draft of the will excluded Mary, Elizabeth, the Duchess of Suffolk and the Lady Jane from the line of succession on the theory that no woman could rule England. The Crown was to be left to the Lady Jane's heirs-male. This plan, however, was not to Northumberland's liking, and the draft was changed to leave the Crown to Jane and her heirs-male. Mary and Elizabeth were excluded because they were officially illegitimate; the Duchess of Suffolk agreed to renounce her own claims.
Edward VI died in Greenwich on 6 July 1553, probably of tuberculosis, arsenic poisoning or syphilis. Edward VI was buried in Henry VII Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey by Thomas Cranmer with Protestant rites on 9 August, while his half-sister Mary, who by then was Queen, had Mass said for his soul in the Tower.
Edward VI's death was kept secret for a couple of days so that preparations could be made for Jane's accession. High civic authorities privately swore their allegiance to the new Queen, who was not publicly proclaimed until 10 July. But the people were much more supportive to Mary. On 19 July, Mary rode triumphantly into London, and Jane was forced to give up the Crown. Jane's proclamation was revoked as an act done under coercion; her succession was deemed unlawful. The Duke of Northumberland was executed, but the Lady Jane and her father were originally spared. In 1554, when Mary faced Wyatt's Rebellion, the Duke of Suffolk once again attempted to put his daughter on the Throne. For this crime, Jane, her husband and the Duke of Suffolk were executed.
Mary I (1553-1558)
Mary I (also known as Mary Tudor) was born at the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich on 18 February 1516. She was the only surviving child of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. She was Queen of England and Queen of Ireland from 6 July 1553 (or 19 July 1553 if you count Lady Jane Grey as Queen Jane of England) until her death on 17 November 1558. Mary is best remembered for her attempt to return England from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism. To this end, she had almost three hundred religious dissenters executed, giving her the nickname Bloody Mary. Her religious policies were in many cases reversed by her successor and half-sister, Elizabeth I.
Mary became an extremely well-educated child under the direction of her governess. She learned to speak Latin, Spanish, French and Italian. Other studies included Greek, science and music. In July 1520, when four and a half years old, she entertained some visitors with a performance on the virginals (a smaller harpsichord).
Even when she was a young child, Mary' marital future was negotiated by her father. When she was young, she was promised to the Dauphin, the heir to the French throne. After three years, the contract was ended. In 1522, Mary was instead contracted to her first cousin, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. Within a few years, however, the engagement was broken off. In 1526, Mary was sent to Wales to preside over the Council of Wales and the Marches. It was then suggested that the Princess Mary wed, not the Dauphin, but his father Francis I, who was eager for an alliance with England. A marriage treaty was signed; that provided that Mary would marry either Francis or his second son, Henry, Duke of Orléans. Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII's chief advisor, however, managed to secure an alliance without a marriage.
Meanwhile, the marriage of Mary's parents ended with an annulment, which meant their marriage was formally declared void and Mary was deemed illegitimate. She lost the dignity of a Princess, becoming a mere "Lady". She was expelled from the Royal Court, her servants were dismissed from her service, and she was forced to serve as a lady-in-waiting to her own infant half-sister Elizabeth. She was not permitted to see her mother, or attend her funeral in 1536 after she died from cancer. Her treatment and the hatred Queen Anne had for her was perceived as unjust. All Europe regarded her as the only true heir and daughter of Henry VIII, although she was illegitimate under English law. She only became fully reconciled with her father in the later years of his life.
In 1547, Henry died, to be succeeded by Edward VI. Edward was England's first Protestant monarch. Mary asked to be allowed to worship in private in her own chapel. After she was ordered to stop her practices, she appealed to her cousin, Emperor Charles V. Charles threatened war with England if the Lady Mary's religious liberty were infringed, after which the Protestants at court let her continue her worship.
After seeing off Lady Jane, Mary rode into London as Queen, triumphantly and unchallenged, with her half-sister, Elizabeth, at her side, on 3 August 1553. One of her first actions as monarch was to order the release of the Catholic Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk and Stephen Gardiner from imprisonment in the Tower of London, and Mary's first Act of Parliament retroactively validated Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, thereby legitimising the Queen.
Now 37, Mary looked at getting a husband to father an heir to prevent her Protestant half-sister from succeeding to the Throne. She agreed to a suggestion from her first cousin, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, that she marry his only son, the Spanish Prince Philip. The marriage was a purely political alliance for Philip, who strongly disliked her and was extremely unpopular with the English. Lord Chancellor Gardiner and the House of Commons asked Mary to consider marrying an Englishman. Insurrections broke out across the country when she refused. The Duke of Suffolk once again proclaimed that his daughter, the Lady Jane Grey, was Queen. Sir Thomas Wyatt led a force from Kent, and was not defeated until he had arrived at London's gates. After the rebellions were crushed, both the Duke of Suffolk and the Lady Jane Grey were convicted of high treason and executed. Since the rebellion was designed to put her on the throne, the Lady Elizabeth was imprisoned in the Tower of London, but was put under house arrest in Woodstock Palace after two months.
Mary married Philip on 25 July 1554 at Winchester Cathedral. Under the terms of the marriage treaty, Philip was to be styled "King of England", all official documents (including Acts of Parliament) were to be dated with both their names and Parliament was to be called under the joint authority of the couple. Coins were to also show the head of both Mary and Philip. Philip's powers, however, were extremely limited, and he and Mary were not true joint Sovereigns. The marriage treaty further provided that England would not be obliged to provide military support to Philip's father, the Holy Roman Emperor, in any war.
Mary fell in love with Philip and, thinking she was pregnant, had thanksgiving services at the diocese of London in November 1554. But Philip found his queen, who was eleven years his senior, to be physically unattractive and after only fourteen months left for Spain under a false excuse. Philip released the Lady Elizabeth from house arrest so that he could be viewed favourably by her in case Mary died during childbirth., but Mary wasn't really pregnant and was instead suffering from a phantom pregnancy.
Mary then turned her attention to religious issues, and she tried to reverse the split from the Roman Catholic Church that happened in Henry VIII's reign. Edward's religious laws were abolished by Mary's first Parliament and numerous Protestant leaders were executed. The persecution lasted for three and three-quarter years.
Philip inherited the throne of Spain when his father abdicated. He then returned to England from March to July 1557 to persuade Mary to join with Spain in a war against France in the Italian Wars. English forces fared badly in the conflict, and lost Calais, its last remaining French possession. Mary later lamented that when she lay dead the words "Philip" and "Calais" would be found inscribed on her heart.
During her reign, Mary's weak health led her to suffer numerous phantom pregnancies. After such a delusion in 1558, Mary decreed in her will that her husband Philip should be the regent during the minority of her child. No child, however, was born, and Mary died at the age of forty-two of cancer at St. James's Palace on 17 November 1558. She was succeeded by her half-sister, who became Elizabeth I. Mary was interred in Westminster Abbey on 14 December, in a tomb she would eventually share with Queen Elizabeth.
Elizabeth I (1558-1603)
Elizabeth I was born on 7 September 1533. She was Queen of England and Queen of Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death on 24 March 1603. Sometimes referred to as The Virgin Queen (since she never married), Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth I was the fifth and final monarch of the Tudor dynasty. She reigned during a period of great religious turmoil in English history.
Elizabeth's reign is referred to as the Elizabethan era or the Golden Age and was marked by increases in English power and influence worldwide. Playwrights William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson all flourished during this era. Francis Drake became the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe; Francis Bacon laid out his philosophical and political views; English colonisation of North America took place under Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Humphrey Gilbert. Elizabeth was a short-tempered and sometimes indecisive ruler. Like her father Henry VIII, she was a writer and poet. She granted Royal Charters to several famous organisations, including Trinity College, Dublin (1592) and the British East India Company (1600).
Elizabeth was the only surviving child of King Henry VIII by his second wife, Anne Boleyn. She was born in the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich. On her birth, Elizabeth was the heir to the throne. After Boleyn failed to produce a male heir, Henry had her executed. Elizabeth was two years old at that time and was also declared illegitimate and lost the title of princess. Thereafter she was addressed as Lady Elizabeth and lived apart from her father as he married his succession of wives. Henry's last wife Catherine Parr helped reconcile the King with Elizabeth, and she, along with her half-sister, Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon, was reinstated in the line of succession after Edward.
In terms of personality, Elizabeth was far more like her mother than her father: neurotic, glamorous, flirtatious, charismatic and religiously tolerant. However, from her father she did inherit his red hair.
Henry VIII died in 1547 and was succeeded by Edward VI. Catherine Parr married Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley, Edward VI's uncle, and took Elizabeth into her household. There, Elizabeth continued her education. She came to speak or read six languages: her native English, as well as French, Italian, Spanish, Greek and Latin. Under the influence of Catherine Parr and others, Elizabeth was raised a Protestant.
In November 1558, on Mary I's death, Elizabeth ascended the throne. She was far more popular than her sister, and it is said that upon Mary's death, the people rejoiced in the streets. One of the most important concerns during Elizabeth's early reign was religion. The Act of Uniformity 1559 required the use of the Protestant Book of Common Prayer in church services. Communion with the Catholic Church, reinstated under Mary I, was ended by Elizabeth. The Queen assumed the title "Supreme Governor of the Church of England".
Many bishops were unwilling to conform to the Elizabethan religious policy. These were removed. She also appointed an entirely new Privy Council, removing many Catholic counsellors in the process. Elizabeth also reduced Spanish influence in England.
Plots and rebellions
At the end of 1562, Elizabeth had fallen ill with smallpox, but later recovered. In 1563, alarmed by the Queen's near-fatal illness, parliament demanded that she marry or nominate an heir to prevent civil war upon her death. She refused to do either, and in April, she ended the parliament. Parliament did not reconvene until Elizabeth needed its assent to raise taxes in 1566. The House of Commons threatened to withhold funds until the Queen agreed to provide for the succession.
Different lines of succession were considered during Elizabeth's reign. One possible line was that of Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII's elder sister, which led to Mary I, Queen of Scots. The alternative line descended from Henry VIII's younger sister, Mary Tudor, Duchess of Suffolk. The heir in this line was Lady Catherine Grey, Lady Jane Grey's sister. An even more distant possible successor was Henry Hastings, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon, who could claim descent only from Edward III. Each possible heir had his or her disadvantages: Mary I was a Catholic, Lady Catherine Grey had married without the Queen's consent and the Puritan Lord Huntingdon was unwilling to accept the Crown.
Mary, Queen of Scots, had to suffer her own troubles in Scotland. Elizabeth had suggested that if she married the Protestant Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, then Elizabeth would make Mary her heir. Mary Stuart refused, and in 1565 married the Catholic Lord Darnley. Lord Darnley was murdered in 1567 after the couple had several disputes, and Mary then married the alleged murderer, the Earl of Bothwell. Scottish nobles then rebelled, imprisoned Mary and forced her to abdicate in favour of her infant son, who became King James VI of Scotland.
In 1568, the last viable English heir to the throne, Catherine Grey, died. She had left a son, but he was deemed illegitimate. Her heiress was her sister, the Lady Mary Grey, a hunchbacked dwarf. Elizabeth was once again forced to consider a Scottish successor, from the line of her father's sister, Margaret Tudor. Mary, Queen of Scots, however, was unpopular in Scotland. She later escaped from her prison and fled to England, where she was captured by English forces. Elizabeth was faced with a problem: sending her back to the Scottish nobles was deemed too cruel; sending her to France would put a powerful pawn in the hands of the French king; forcefully restoring her to the Scottish Throne may have been seen as an heroic gesture, but would cause too much conflict with the Scots; and imprisoning her in England would allow her to participate in plots against the Queen. Elizabeth chose the last option: Mary was kept confined for eighteen years.
In 1569 Elizabeth faced a major uprising, known as the Northern Rebellion. Pope Pius V aided the Catholic Rebellion by excommunicating Elizabeth and declaring her deposed in a Papal Bull. Elizabeth then found a new enemy in her brother-in-law, Philip II, King of Spain. After Philip had launched a surprise attack on the English privateers Sir Francis Drake and John Hawkins in 1568, Elizabeth assented to the detention of a Spanish treasure ship in 1569. Philip was already involved in putting down a rebellion in the Netherlands, and could not afford to declare war on England. Philip II participated in some conspiracies to remove Elizabeth. The first of these plots was the Ridolfi Plot of 1571. After the Catholic Ridolfi Plot was discovered (much to Elizabeth's shock) and foiled, Mary lost the little liberty she had remaining. Spain, which had been friendly to England since Philip's marriage to Elizabeth's predecessor, ceased to be.
In 1586, a further scheme against Elizabeth, the Babington Plot, was revealed by Sir Francis Walsingham, who headed the English spy network. Having put the court on full proof of the charge, Mary Stuart was convicted of complicity in the plot on foot of disputed evidence and executed at Fotheringhay Castle on 8 February 1587. In her will, Mary had left Philip her claim to the English Throne, and Philip set out his plans for an invasion of England. In April 1587, Sir Francis Drake burned part of the Spanish fleet at Cádiz, delaying Philip's plans. In July 1588, the Spanish Armada, a grand fleet of 130 ships bearing over 30,000 men, set sail across the English Channel from the Netherlands. Elizabeth encouraged her troops with a notable speech, known as the Speech to the Troops at Tilbury, in which she famously declared, "I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a King, and of a King of England too". The Spanish attempt was defeated by the English fleet under Charles Howard, 2nd Baron Howard of Effingham, and Sir Francis Drake, aided by bad weather. The Armada was forced to return to Spain, with appalling losses on the north and west coasts of Ireland due to a storm which scattered the fleet and wrecked many of the ships. The victory tremendously increased Elizabeth's popularity.
Death and succession
Elizabeth I fell ill in February 1603, suffering from frailty and insomnia. She died on 24 March at Richmond Palace, aged 69. Elizabeth was buried in Westminster Abbey, immediately next to her sister Mary I. King James VI was proclaimed King of England as James I a few hours after Elizabeth's death. James I's proclamation broke precedent because it was issued not by the new Sovereign him or herself, but by a Council of Accession, as James was in Scotland at the time.