"His only claim is through a bastard on his mother's side; his father seized the crown on a battlefield!" -Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, on King Henry and House Tudor's lack of claim to the Throne
House of Tudor is the ruling Royal Family of England, Ireland and Wales during The Tudors, created as a result of the War of the Roses between the Houses of York and Lancaster. The Tudor dynasty was the last English Royal House to originate from within England (the Tudors' successors originated in Scotland, Holland and the German States) until the establishment of House Windsor during World War I. Although one of the shorter and more chaotic dynasties in England/ Britain- ruling barely more than a century- the Tudors facilitated the transformation of England into a Protestant country, created the Royal Navy, centralized and increased the power of the government, re-established and increased English presence in Ireland, and produced among its' five monarchs two of England's most famous rulers: Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, both of whom appear in the series.
Background and course of the Tudor Family in history: Edit
The Tudor dynasty ruled from 1485 to 1603 and contained five monarchs spanning three generations. It was born out of the conclusion of the War of the Roses, the civil war between the English Houses of York and Lancaster- both of which were cadet branches of the Plantagenet dynasty (the previous ruling family in England) and both of which had strong claims to the throne.
War of the Roses Edit
The War of the Roses waged on and off from 1455-1487, beginning during the reign of the insane King Henry VI of House Lancaster. Henry's Lord Protector and cousin, Richard Duke of York, eventually declared that he had a better claim to the throne than Henry. He rebelled against the King in 1455 supported by his wife's nephew, the powerful Earl of Warwick (who was later known as "The Kingmaker") and other ambitious nobles. Richard of York was initially forced to flee to Ireland, but Warwick managed to win a decisive victory for him when he captured Henry VI at the Battle of Northampton in 1459 and secured control of both London and Calais.
The Lancaster faction, however, remained powerful in the north and west, led by Henry's French Queen Margaret of Anjou. When Richard set out to challenge them the next year, he was defeated and killed at the Battle of Wakefield, and the Lancastrians managed to rescue Henry VI (though, due to his insanity, he was mainly used as a figurehead). However, Margaret failed to take London; meanwhile, Warwick transferred his allegiance to Richard's son, Edward, using his political connections to win Edward support abroad on the Continent. In 1461, Edward and Warwick won a spectacular victory at Towton; most of House Lancaster's strongest supporters were captured or killed, while Henry VI and Margaret fled to Scotland and then the continent. Edward IV of York was crowned King the same year, with Warwick as his unofficial "First Minister".
However, in 1464 Edward angered Warwick by secretly marrying Elizabeth Woodville, the widow and daughter of former Lancastrian supporters, when Warwick was attempting to secure the King's support abroad through a French marriage-alliance. As Warwick was increasingly sidelined by the now-powerful Woodville family, he eventually rebelled against the King in 1467, supported by Edward's younger brother, the Duke of Clarence. While Warwick initially won a victory at Edgecote Moor and captured Edward IV, he found he could not run the country in Clarence's name due to Edward's popularity, and was forced to release the King. Edward, mindful of his shaky position, initially attempted to reconcile with Warwick and Clarence, but they rebelled again in 1470 at Lincolnshire; this time, the rebels were defeated, and Warwick fled to France, now seeking the support of his former enemy, Queen Margaret of Anjou.
Warwick managed to secure the support of Margaret and the French King Louis XI for an invasion of England in exchange for returning House Lancaster to the throne. In the face of the formidable invasion, Edward was forced to flee the country, and Henry VI was restored. However, Edward IV and his supporters found refuge in Burgundy and gained the support of Louis' rival Charles Duke of Birgundy; he promptly re-invaded England from the north in 1471, and his brother Clarence defected back to his side. Warwick attempted to intercept him, but was defeated and killed at the Battle of Barnet, costing the Lancastrians their most valuable supporter. Edward then won his final, decisive victory at Tewkesberry, capturing both Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou and killing their son Edward, Prince of Wales. Henry VI died (either from illness or murder) as Edward entered London, ending virtually all opposition to the Yorkist rule. To secure the support of Warwick's followers, Edward had both his brothers (George, Duke of Clarence and Richard, Duke of Gloucester) married to Warwick's daughters.
Edward ruled unopposed for the next twelve years, though his ineffective wars against Scotland and France gradually weakened his popularity. He died suddenly of illness in 1483, naming his surviving brother Richard Duke of Gloucester as Lord Protector for his young son (Edward V) by Elizabeth Woodville. However, Richard, having secured his two nephews in the Tower of London, ordered an inquest that declared Edward and Elizabeth's marriage illegitimate, allowing him to be crowned Richard III of England. Neither of Edward's sons was seen again, although it is unclear how responsible Richard III was for their disappearance; regardless, the boys were most likely murdered by his supporters, and rumors of this ignited outrage against his reign. The Duke of Buckingham raised support for the last, distant claimant to the House of Lancaster, in exile in Europe: a young Anglo-Welsh nobleman named Henry Tudor. Henry's first attempt to invade England failed and resulted in Buckingham's execution, but Henry remained at large in France, where he gathered support for a second, more powerful invasion.
Having secured the support of the former Queen Elizabeth Woodville and her family, he landed a second invasion force in 1485. The York and Lancaster armies met at Bosworth Field; despite having a larger army and the support of the powerful Duke of Norfolk, Richard was decisively defeated and killed when the powerful Stanley family joined Henry late in the battle. This allowed Henry to declare himself King Henry VII of England by right of conquest (since his claim to the throne by blood was not especially strong). With Richard's death, the House of York had no real champion left (Richard's only son had died the year before Bosworth Field).
The following two years saw Henry ennobling many of his most loyal supporters- and executing several prominent battlefield opponents/rivals who had continued to resist him, including the father of Thomas Howard (who would later become Duke of Norfolk and harbored strong resentment towards the Tudors because of this). Feeling these reprisals were necessary (but knowing they would make him enemies), Henry attempted to secure his claim to the throne in the eyes of the Yorkists by marrying Princess Elizabeth of York, Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville's daughter. As a result, Henry's new heraldry was a white rose (symbol of the House of York) upon a larger, dominant red rose (House of Lancaster). Thus, with the birth of their four children (Arthur, Henry, Margaret and Mary) the House of Tudor was established.
Henry VII: Rebuilding from Civil War Edit
Henry VII was a cautious, intelligent and frugal King, carefully consolidating the resources of his relatively small country after decades of civil war, with the result that the Royal treasury had a large surpluss of gold at his death. In The Tudors, Henry VIII (his son and the main character of the series) describes his father as shrewd, careful, and "a businessman". There were a few minor revolts by nobles who claimed descent from House Plantagenet, but Henry crushed them all.
He initially had hostile policies with Scotland, but later settled these by arranging a betrothal between his daughter Margaret and King James. To secure his country abroad, Henry also made an alliance with Spain after the House of Trastámara united that country; he had his son Arthur, Prince of Wales, betrothed to Isabella and Ferdinand's youngest daughter, Catherine of Aragon. Arthur died shortly after the marriage, which was unconsummated, so King Henry obtained Papal dispensation and re-married Catherine to his other son, Henry. This is another event frequently mentioned in the first season of The Tudors; Henry VIII speculates that he was married to his brother's widow because "My father didn't want to lose her dowry... or the prestige of a Spanish marriage". He also made a betrothal alliance with France's King Louis XII and his daughter Mary; thus, England remained at peace with all three of it's nearest neighbors during his reign. Henry further secured his throne by persuading Pope Innocent VIII to excommunicate any pretender to the English Crown.
Henry VII also re-established England's presence in eastern Ireland, created as a result of the attempted Norman invasion of Ireland centuries before. In practice, however, the English only controlled the port of Dublin and a small surrounding area during Henry VII's reign; many Irish lords and clans continued to act of their own accord beyond this small sphere of influence. Henry also constructed a small fleet of powerful warships, but it was his son and granddaughters who developed it into a real Navy. Less is established about Henry's actual personality, as in both public and private life he was a rather asocial person, except when attending to matters of state. Unlike his successor, however, he and his wife shared a happy marriage, despite its' political beginnings; both Henry VII and his children were devastated by Elizabeth's death in 1503.
Note: Henry VII is the only Tudor monarch who is never shown in The Tudors.
Henry VII's reign: August 1485 to April 1509 (24 years)
Henry VIII: Half Innovator, Half Monster (The Tudors) Edit
On his death in 1509, Henry VII was succeeded as King by his son Henry VIII, the central character of The Tudors. Although much more social and outgoing than his father, Henry was also more impatient, which (as shown in the series) proved to be a great weakness to his role as a national leader. His father also never trained him properly in how to rule, largely because everyone believed Arthur would be Henry VII's successor until the former's unexpected death. Henry VIII's reign coincided with both the Northern Renaissance Period and the rise of the Protestant Reformation in central Europe, as well as the rise of Spain (England's on-and-off ally/rival) as a great power.
Henry implemented several vital changes to England during his 38-year reign, the most central of which was the English Reformation. Although Henry was never a serious believer in Protestantism, like his father he feared greatly for the survival of the Tudor dynasty; he and Catherine had only one surviving daughter, Mary, and no sons (traditionally England had NEVER had a Queen Regnant). In the 1520's, unable to gain Papal dispensation to re-marry and produce a legitimate son (partly due to foreign pressure from Catherine's nephew Emperor Charles V), Henry instead turned to several prominent Reformers in the English court- including his love interest, Anne Boleyn- who convinced him to declare himself Head of the English Church and annul the marriage himself. As Henry approved further reforms, monastic houses were increasingly closed down and their wealth transferred to the royal coffers; clergy privileges were sharply reduced, centralizing and increasing the power of England's government. Unfortunately, Henry's increasing self-indulgence and warmongering squandered all the new revenue he gained, putting England deeply in debt. It also gained hostility from the powerful Habsburg Empire, France, the Papal States and even many of the English people- as demonstrated by the only rebellion during Henry's reign, the Catholic-led Pilgrimage of Grace. Henry eventually rolled back on many of his reforms, but never completely removed Protestantism from his new church; the Lutheran and Catholic factions within his court continued to fight a shadow war throughout his reign.
Henry also expanded his father's minute territory in Ireland (an area outside Dublin known as "The Pale") by bribing or making marriage-alliances with Irish nobles in some of the southern counties, and he eventually declared himself King of Ireland in 1542. However, the Anglo-Irish and Irish clan nobles obeyed English laws when it was convenient for them; most were determined Catholics who opposed Henry's Reformation and more centralized government, and several minor rebellions occurred. Meanwhile, Henry warred back and forth with Spain and France ( both of whose monarchs he saw as personal rivals), nearly always ransoming back anything he gained to pay off his debts. He made betrothal alliances with both countries on several occasions, but they were never followed through. Henry had more success against Scotland; after a period of hostility known as "the Rough Wooing" which ended with a Scottish defeat at Solway Moss, Henry managed to cow them into submission, he attempted to unite England and Scotland through marriage, through the engagement of his son, Prince Edward to Mary, Queen of Scots. But eventually the Scots broke the treaty and betrothed her to the Dauphin. Henry is also credited with establishing the Royal Navy, which gave England relative safety from the rest of Europe to compensate for its' smaller army; he was fascinated by warships, and greatly expanded the small but formidable fleet inherited from his father.
Once the annulment from Catherine was declared in 1533, Henry married a pregnant Anne, but was disappointed when she produced a daughter (Elizabeth) just as Catherine had. Impatient and pressured by Anne's many enemies, Henry had her executed on trumped-up charges of adultery in 1536 after just three years of marriage, promptly remarrying to Jane Seymour. She finally bore him the son he desired, but died from post-natal complications less than two years after her marriage, to Henry's grief. Henry would go on to marry three more times before his death, but produced no other legitimate children. Before his death, he restored both his daughters to the succession after their younger brother Edward(since Catherine and Anne's marriages had been annulled, Elizabeth and Mary were thus 'illegitimate').
While Henry in his youth was an enlightened, energetic and generous man, keenly interested in the innovations of the Renaissance, he became increasingly self-indulgent, egotistical and brutal as his reign progressed. He constantly cheated on his Queens, and in 1536 received a jousting wound that gave him ulcers and infections for the rest of his life, gradually causing his obesity and shortened temper. While keenly determined to rule, Henry tended to delegate many matters to his chief ministers (such as Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell) but then blame them for any failures. Far more people were executed during his reign than that of his father- either because they 'failed' him in some manner and were then framed for treason, or because he suspected them of plotting to usurp him.
Henry VIII's reign: April 1509 to January 1547 (38.5 years)
Edward VI: Boy King and Protestant extremist Edit
Henry died in 1547. His son and successor, King Edward VI, was still a minor, and thus his uncle (Edward Seymour) was made Lord Protector of England. Although his mother Jane had been a Catholic, Edward had been raised by Protestants (his Seymour uncles, Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer and Henry's last wife, Catherine Parr) and was, in spite of his youth, determined to push for much further religious reforms than his father. Edward's reign saw increasing wars with Scotland; despite enjoying many battlefield victories the English were unable to follow through, as France (with whom Edward also warred frequently) backed Scotland financially. These inconclusive wars continued to put the crown in debt, as they had in the time of Edward's father.
The more significant feature of Edward's short reign were his vast religious reforms, developed by Cranmer and enforced by the Seymour brothers with the young King's approval. Clerical celibacy and Catholic-favored masses were abolished, services and religious texts were provided in English rather than Latin (thus making religious teachings more accessible for the uneducated), and compulsory Protestant-themed sermons were introduced. When these reforms raised some significant protests (just as Thomas Cromwell's had under Henry VIII) Edward and his elder uncle oversaw the execution/imprisonment of several prominent Catholics who refused to acknowledge Edward as Head of the Church or accept his reforms. Overall, Edward's Protestant administration was at least as erratic as Henry's, although this had more to do with his youth than his personality. Rivalry between his uncles Edward and Thomas Seymour resulted in the latter's execution for treason, and Edward Seymour himself was eventually executed on similar charges after his harsh policies incited a number of revolts. Edward replaced him as Lord Protector with the Earl of Northumberland, another strong Protestant supporter.
Edward became dangerously and unexpectedly ill in 1553 and died at age 15-16, without any issue.
Edward VI's reign: January 1547 to July 1553 (6.5 years)
The issue of Edward's successor: the Nine-Days Queen Edit
Determined- along with his Privy Council- to prevent Catholicism from being restored in England, Edward had removed both his sisters from his succession in his will (he only intended to remove the Catholic Mary originally, but his councilors insisted he must either remove Elizabeth as well or neither of them). He and Northumberland had instead named his distant cousin Lady Jane Grey (a Protestant granddaughter of his father's sister, Margaret Tudor, and daughter-in-law of Northumberland) as his successor. Upon Edward's death, Jane was recognized as Queen by the Privy Council and Parliament (though she was never formally crowned). However, even most Protestants (initially) viewed Mary as Edward's most legitimate successor despite her Catholicism. Meanwhile, many pro-Catholic nobles were flocking to join Mary, who had fled London before she could be arrested by Jane's supporters; she was accompanied by her half-sister Elizabeth.
Nine days after she was named Queen, Jane faced an overwhelming uprising in favor of Mary. As Mary, Elizabeth and their supporters marched on London, Jane's government supporters deserted her and proclaimed Mary Queen Regnant of England on October I, 1553. Jane and Northumberland were swiftly deposed, imprisoned and finally executed in February 1554.
Mary I: Burning the Reformation Edit
Mary's initial, overwhelming popularity didn't last long. A staunch Catholic, Mary was determined to halt the spread of Protestantism in England, and quickly had most of Edward's reforms reversed. She also had many of Edward's major Reformist supporters, including Archbishop Cranmer, imprisoned or executed, and installed her council with several old, conservative Catholics who had lost favor under her father and brother (such as Bishop Stephen Gardiner, Thomas Howard the Duke of Norfolk and her cousin Reginald Pole). After a failed revolt led by the pro-Lutheran Thomas Wyatt the Younger, Mary ruthlessly increased her persecution of the Reformation, ordering hundreds of Protestants burned at the stake as heretics- earning herself the hateful nickname, "Bloody Mary".
In terms of foreign policy, Mary further made herself unpopular by taking increasingly submissive actions towards Rome and Spain- not the least of which was her marriage to the Spanish King Philip II, her first cousin once removed. Although Mary loved her husband, he seldom visited her and viewed the marriage only as a means to gain influence over England. Her popularity fell still further when, dragged into a war against France by Spain, England lost the port of Calais, their last possession on the European continent.
Despite her blunders concerning her own people, Mary's administration did begin the work of repairing England's damaged economy, and paying the staggering debts accumulated during the reigns of her father and brother. A new coin system was introduced, trade within Spain's vast empire proved bountiful, and military expenditures were reduced, as there was no further need to defend Calais. Also, while Mary did restore Catholicism, she was determined to win concessions for England in return; in exchange for England being returned to the Catholic fold, the Pope renounced his claim on the revenues previously sent to him from the Royal Exchequer.
Although Mary was less enthusiastic about expanding England's navy compared to her father (her brother had all but abandoned Henry's shipbuilding program) she did have her warships improved, to match the capabilities of their Spanish counterparts. She also settled further English colonists in the Irish midlands (outside the small territory her father had controlled, known as "the Pale"), increasing England's influence over Ireland. Mary's reign, unfortunately for the harvests, was consistently wet, causing several famines and furthering unrest despite her attempts to improve the economy.
When Mary became severely ill in 1558 after two false pregnancies, she was forced to concede that she would not have children; this left Elizabeth as the only viable option for the throne, as the English people would never recognize the Spanish Phillip as their King. Mary's initial alliance with Elizabeth had frayed after Wyatt's rebellion, as Mary suspected her Protestant half-sister (and the daughter of her former enemy, Anne Boleyn) of plotting to usurp her. In fact, she had placed Elizabeth in the Tower of London and threatened her with execution, though she later reduced this to house arrest because of lack of evidence. Now on her deathbed, however, Mary was forced to recognize Elizabeth as her only heir and successor. On November 17th, Mary died, and Elizabeth became Queen Regnant.
Mary I's reign: July 1553 to November 1558 (5.25 years)
Elizabeth I: a Queen of Balance Edit
The most intelligent and moderate-minded of her siblings, Elizabeth was determined not to embrace one religious pole over the other- exemplified by her motto, "I see, and say nothing". Although she was a staunch Protestant (she had merely pretended to conform to the Catholic Church during Mary's reign), she refused to attack her own people for their choice of worship- which would have motivated Catholics to revolt against her, just as Protestants had against her sister Mary. After restoring most of her brother's religious doctrines, Elizabeth implemented a policy in which Catholics would be allowed to worship as they chose, but would be fined if they did not worship in the Church of England, and those who did not accept her authority over England's clergy would forfeit their goods but not be arrested or executed. Elizabeth was careful to listen to her advisors and not impulsively have them executed for failures, as her father had; her government was mainly led by her Chief Minister Sir William Cecil and Francis Walsingham, her spymaster. When she came to the throne England was bankrupted, militarily weak in an annual debt of £ 266,000 (her income was only £ 200,000)
Elizabeth's reign- often referred to as England's 'Golden Age'- was marked by many good harvests and increasingly efficient agricultural techniques. It also featured a vast increase in foreign trade routes overseas (including with Holland, France, Russia and the Ottoman Empire), increasing the revenue of the crown and allowing her to pay off some of the debts she incurred by borrowing money from Parliament. The explorations of many of Elizabeth's 'privateers' (government-funded English pirates) and their efforts to start overseas trading posts and settlements marked England's first attempts to build a trade and colonial empire in India and America, although lasting colonies would not be established until her successor James I.
Innovative and tolerant though she was, Elizabeth continued to face many threats during her 44 years as Queen, and her patience was often severely tested. In 1570, the Pope declared Elizabeth a heretic and excommunicated her, declaring that her Catholic subjects were following an illegitimate claimant. This gave many Catholics in Ireland (where Elizabeth was attempting to increase English hegemony by settling English plantation owners and deploying troops) an excuse to rise in revolt against her, especially when the Spanish began backing the rebellions financially. Although the Irish noble-led revolts were defeated and Elizabeth's control over Ireland did increase- giving England control over Ulster, Ireland's most rebellious region- the constant rebellions and expensive reprisals drove a permanent wedge of hatred between the Protestant English and the Catholic Irish.
Meanwhile, at home Elizabeth faced several attempts to oust her by assassination from Catholic extremists. She was determined never to marry (despite constant pressure from her advisers, who viewed it necessary for her to produce a child and heir), earning her the nickname "The Virgin Queen". Assuming they could somehow claim the throne in the event of her death without a successor, her maternal cousin, the Duke of Norfolk, plotted with her paternal cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, to oust her and restore 'legitimate' Catholic rule to England; as a descendant of Henry VII, Mary was considered by Catholic Europe to be England's true Queen. The plot was exposed by Walsingham's intelligence network, and Elizabeth had Norfolk beheaded. When Mary was forced to flee from Scotland by her pro-Protestant nobles, Elizabeth "offered her sanctuary" by placing her under house arrest, leaving Scotland cowed by England. After several more attempts to assassinate Elizabeth in favor of Mary, Elizabeth reluctantly had Mary executed in 1587, to the anger of her Catholic subjects.
By far the greatest threat to Elizabeth's power, however, was her sister's widower King Philip II. The Catholic Spanish Empire was at the height of its' power during most of the 16th century, and Philip was determined to maintain the dominance over England he had held during Mary's reign; he was angered by repeated attacks on his trade routes and treasure ships by Elizabeth's privateers. The execution of Mary Queen of Scots- removing the last Catholic candidate for the throne- was the last straw for Philip, and he assembled a massive invasion fleet known as the Spanish Armada in 1588. However, the fleet was destroyed by a combination of foul weather and superior English ship caliber and naval commanders; Elizabeth had continued her father's work in strengthening the Royal Navy, and her victory bolstered Protestant England's reputation abroad. Meanwhile, Elizabeth increased her ties with Spain's rival France (which was in the midst of a religious civil war), and with Dutch Protestant rebels in the Low Countries. Although her army's attempts to drive the Spanish out of Flanders failed miserably and Spain's naval power remained strong, England continued to harass Spanish superiority overseas for the remainder of the 16th century; while Philip remained by far the most powerful monarch in Europe, Elizabeth was a constant thorn in his side. The defeat of the Spanish Armada also caused the resistance to Elizabeth's rule within England to drop significantly, as it was viewed as an act of divine intervention on her behalf.
In Elizabeth's late years, her personality became increasingly vain, her temper shorter and her policies harsher and more erratic, leading to growing unpopularity and a gradual decrease of the economy; nonetheless, Elizabeth had been frugal with her resources, and she established a level of credit with Parliament. England's national identity and culture continued to flourish, especially with the establishment of theatrical and literary figures such as Charles Marlowe and William Shakespeare. Elizabeth's death (March 24, 1603) was received with mourning by the vast majority of the English people. Although she never named a successor, her Privy Council arranged to give the English crown to King James of Scotland (James was the son of Mary, Elizabeth's Catholic cousin and rival, yet he had been raised Protestant). This succession united Scotland to England, creating the nation of Britain. With Elizabeth dead and childless, the Tudor dynasty came to an end, succeeded by the Scottish House of Stuart under James I.
Elizabeth I's reign: November 1558 to March 1603 (44.25 years)
Members of the House of Tudor by birth (shown in the Series):Edit
Henry VIII, King of England and Ireland, second born son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.
Princess Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, sister to Henry. Dowager Queen of Portugal.
Princess Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry and Catherine of Aragon, his first wife. Later to become Mary I, Queen of England and Ireland.
Princess Elizabeth Tudor, daugher of Henry and Anne Boleyn, his second wife. Later to become Elizabeth I, Queen of England and Ireland.
Prince Edward Tudor, son of Henry and Jane Seymour, his third wife. Later to become Edward VI, King of England and Ireland.
Members of House of Tudor by marriage (Shown in the series):Edit
- Catherine of Aragon, Queen Consort of England- first wife of Henry VIII and mother of Queen Mary I.
Anne Boleyn, Queen Consort of England- second wife of Henry VIII and mother of Queen Elizabeth I.
Jane Seymour, Queen Consort of England- third wife of Henry VIII and mother of King Edward VI.
Anne of Cleves, Queen Consort of England- fourth wife of Henry VIII.
Katherine Howard, Queen Consort of England- fifth wife of Henry VIII.
Catherine Parr, Queen Consort (briefly Queen Regent) of England- sixth wife of Henry VIII.