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House of Tudor

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House of Tudor
House of Tudor Rose
General Information
Location

Europe

Affiliation

England



The Tudor dynasty or House of Tudor was a royal house of Welsh origin, descended from Rhys ap Tewdwr, the last "king of the Britons," which ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including their ancestral Wales and the Lordship of Ireland, later the Kingdom of Ireland, from 1485 until 1603. Its first monarch was Henry VII, a descendant through his mother of a legitimized branch of the English royal House of Lancaster. The Tudor family rose to power in the wake of the Wars of the Roses, which left the House of Lancaster, to which the Tudors were aligned, extinct.

Background Edit

The Tudors descended on Henry VII's mother's side from John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, one of the illegitimate children of the 14th century English Prince John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster (the third surviving son of Edward III of England) by Gaunt's long-term mistress Katherine Swynford. The descendants of an illegitimate child of English Royalty would normally have no claim on the throne, but the situation was complicated when Gaunt and Swynford eventually married in 1399, when John Beaufort was 25. The church retroactively declared the Beauforts legitimate by way of a papal bull the same year, confirmed by an Act of Parliament in 1397. A subsequent proclamation by John of Gaunt's legitimate son, Henry IV of England, also recognized the Beauforts' legitimacy, but declared them ineligible ever to inherit the throne. Nevertheless, the Beauforts remained closely allied with Gaunt's legitimate descendants from his first marriage, the House of Lancaster.

Henry VII Edit

Now King, Henry's first concern was to secure his hold on the throne. On January 18, 1486 at Westminster, he honored a pledge made three years earlier and married Elizabeth of York. They were third cousins, as both were great-great-grandchildren of John of Gaunt. The marriage unified the warring houses of Lancaster and York and gave his children a strong claim to the throne. The unification of the two houses through this marriage is symbolized by the heraldic emblem of the Tudor rose, a combination of the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster.

Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth had several children, four of whom survived infancy: Arthur, Prince of Wales; Henry, Duke of Richmond; Margaret, who married James IV of Scotland; and Mary, who married Louis XII of France. One of the objectives of Henry VII's foreign policy was dynastic security, which is portrayed through the alliance forged with the marriage of his daughter Margaret to James IV of Scotland and through the marriage of his eldest son.

Henry VIII Edit

The new King Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon on June 11, 1509; they were crowned at Westminster Abbey on June 24 the same year. Catherine was the widow of Henry's older brother Arthur making the path for their marriage a rocky one from the start. A papal dispensation had to be granted for Henry to be able to marry Catherine, and the negotiations took some time. Despite the fact that Henry's father died before he was married to Catherine, he was determined to marry her anyway and make sure that everyone knew he intended on being his own master. When Henry first came to the throne, he had very little interest in actually ruling; rather, he preferred to indulge in luxuries and to partake in sports. He let others control the kingdom for the first two years of his reign, and then when he became more interested in military strategy, he took more interest in ruling his own throne. In his younger years, Henry was described as a man of gentle friendliness, gentle in debate, and who acted as more of a companion than a king. He was generous in his gifts and affection and was said to be easy to get along with. However, the Henry that many people picture when they hear his name is the Henry of his later years, when he became obese, volatile, and was known for his great cruelty.

Trouble for Queen Catherine Edit

Unfortunately, Catherine did not bear Henry the sons he was desperate for; Catherine's first child, a daughter, was stillborn, and her second child, a son named Henry, Duke of Cornwall, died 52 days after the birth. A further set of stillborn children were conceived, until a daughter Mary was born in 1516. When it became clear to Henry that the Tudor dynasty was at risk, he consulted his chief minister Cardinal Thomas Wolsey about the possibility of annulling his marriage to Catherine.

The Break with Rome Edit

In order to allow Henry to divorce his wife, the English parliament enacted laws breaking ties with Rome, and declaring the king Supreme Head of the Church of England (from Elizabeth I the monarch is known as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England), thus severing the ecclesiastical structure of England from the Catholic Church and the Pope. The newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, was then able to declare Henry's marriage to Catherine annulled.

5 more wives & children Edit

Catherine was removed from Court, and she spent the last three years of her life in various English houses under house arrest This allowed Henry to marry one of his courtiers Anne Boleyn, the daughter of a minor diplomat Sir Thomas Boleyn. Anne had become pregnant by the end of 1532 and gave birth on September 7, 1533 to Elizabeth named in honor of Henry's mother. Anne may have had later pregnancies which ended in miscarriage or stillbirth. In May 1536, Anne was arrested, along with six courtiers. Thomas Cromwell stepped in again, claiming that Anne had taken lovers during her marriage to Henry, and she was tried for high treason, witchcraft and incest; these charges were most likely fabricated, but she was found guilty, and executed in May 1536.

Henry married 4 more times: Jane Seymour: mother of Edward VI, Anne of Cleves: married for 6 months then the marriage was annulled, then Catherine Howard who was beheaded for adultery, and finally Catherine Parr who was his Queen at the time of his death in 1547.

The Frail King Edward VI Edit

King Henry died on January 28, 1547. His will had reinstated his daughters by his annulled marriages to Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn to the line of succession, but did not legitimize them. (Because his marriages had been annulled, they legally never occurred, so his children by those marriages were illegitimate.) In the event that all 3 of his children died without heir, the will stipulated that the descendant of his younger sister Mary would take precedence over the descendants of his elder sister, Margaret, Queen of Scotland. Edward, his nine-year old son by Jane Seymour, succeeded as Edward VI of England. Unfortunately, the young King's kingdom was usually in turmoil between nobles who were trying to strengthen their own position in the kingdom by using the Regency in their favor.

Edward VI, despite the fact that he was only a child of nine, had his mind set on religious reform. In 1549, Edward ordered the publication of the Book of Common Prayer, containing the forms of worship for daily and Sunday church services. The controversial new book was not welcomed by either reformers or Catholic conservatives; and it was especially condemned in Devon and Cornwall, where traditional Catholic loyalty was at its strongest.

King Edward's death = Succession Trouble Edit

When Edward VI became ill in 1553, his advisers looked to the possible imminent accession of the Catholic Lady Mary, and feared that she would overturn all the reforms made during Edward's reign. Perhaps surprisingly, it was the dying Edward himself who feared a return to Catholicism, and wrote a new will repudiating the 1544 will of Henry VIII. This gave the succession to his cousin Lady Jane Grey, the granddaughter of Henry VIII's sister Mary Tudor, who, after the death of Louis XII of France in 1515 had married Henry VIII's favorite Charles Brandon, the first Duke of Suffolk. Lady Jane's mother was Lady Frances Brandon, the daughter of Suffolk and Princess Mary. Northumberland married Jane to his youngest son Guildford Dudley, allowing himself to get the most out of a necessary Protestant succession. Most of Edward's council signed the Devise for the Succession, and when Edward VI died on July 6, 1553 from his battle with tuberculosis, Lady Jane was proclaimed queen. However, the popular support for the proper Tudor dynasty–even a Catholic member–overruled Northumberland's plans, and Jane, who had never wanted to accept the crown, was deposed after just nine days. Mary's supporters joined her in a triumphal procession to London, accompanied by her younger sister Elizabeth.

Queen Mary I & Phillip of Spain Edit

However, Mary soon announced that she was intending to marry the Spanish prince Philip, son of her mother's nephew Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. The prospect of a marriage alliance with Spain proved unpopular with the English people, who were worried that Spain would use England as a satellite, involving England in wars without the popular support of the people. Popular discontent grew; a Protestant courtier, Thomas Wyatt the younger led a rebellion against Mary, with the aim of deposing and replacing her with her half-sister Elizabeth. The plot was discovered, and Wyatt's supporters were hunted down and killed. Wyatt himself was tortured, in the hope that he would give evidence that Elizabeth was involved so that Mary could have her executed for treason. Wyatt never implicated Elizabeth, and he was beheaded. Elizabeth spent her time between different prisons, including the Tower of London.

Mary married Philip at Winchester Cathedral, on July 25, 1554. Philip found her unattractive, and only spent a minimal amount of time with her. Despite Mary believing she was pregnant numerous times during her five-year reign, she never reproduced. Devastated that she rarely saw her husband, and anxious that she was not bearing an heir to Catholic England, Mary became bitter. In her determination to restore England to the Catholic faith and to secure her throne from Protestant threats, she had many Protestants burnt at the stake between 1555 and 1558. Mary's main goal was to restore the Catholic faith to England; however, the Marian Persecutions were unpopular with the Protestant majority of England, though naturally supported by the Catholic minority. Because of her actions against the Protestants, Mary is to this day referred to as "Bloody Mary". English author Charles Dickens stated that "as bloody Queen Mary this woman has become famous, and as Bloody Queen Mary she will ever be remembered with horror and detestation.

Queen Elizabeth I Edit

Mary died on November 17, 1558 at the relatively young age of 42. Elizabeth Tudor, age 25, then succeeded to become Elizabeth I of England. Elizabeth I, who was staying at Hatfield House at the time of her accession, rode to London to the cheers of both the ruling class and the common people. When Elizabeth came to the throne, there was much apprehension among members of the council appointed by Mary, due to the fact that many of them had participated in several plots against Elizabeth, such as her imprisonment in the Tower, trying to force her to marry a foreign prince and thereby sending her out of the realm, and even pushing for her death. In response to their fear, she chose as her chief minister Sir William Cecil, a Protestant, and former secretary to Lord Protector the Duke of Somerset and then to the Duke of Northumberland. Under Mary, he had been spared, and often visited Elizabeth, ostensibly to review her accounts and expenditure. He was the cousin and friend of Blanche Parry, the closest person to Elizabeth for 56 years. Elizabeth also appointed her personal favorite, the son of the Duke of Northumberland Lord Robert Dudley, her Master of the Horse, giving him constant personal access to the queen.

Even though Elizabeth was only twenty-five when she came to the throne, she was absolutely sure of her God-given place to be the queen and of her responsibilities as the 'handmaiden of the Lord'. She never let anyone challenge her authority as queen, even though many people, who felt she was weak and should be married, tried to do so. The popularity of Elizabeth was extremely high, but her Privy Council, her Parliament and her subjects thought that the unmarried queen should take a husband; it was generally accepted that, once a queen regnant was married, the husband would relieve the woman of the burdens of head of state.

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