Tudor Dynasty (England)

views updated May 29 2018


TUDOR DYNASTY (ENGLAND). Henry Tudor (ruled 14851509) traced his royal blood through his mother, Margaret Beaufort, who was a descendant of John of Gaunt, the younger son of Edward III (ruled 13271377). After the death of Henry, Prince of Wales, son of Henry VI (ruled 14701471), in 1471, Henry Tudor was the surviving male heir of the house of Lancaster. In 1485 he deposed the usurper, Richard III (ruled 14831485) at the Battle of Bosworth Field, and was crowned Henry VII. Henry survived numerous plots early in his reign but seemed secure on the throne by 1500. His heir, Prince Arthur (born 1486) died in 1502 and his brother, Henry, duke of York, succeeded to the throne in April 1509 as Henry VIII, shortly after marrying his brother's widow, Catherine of Aragón. Henry's desire for a male heir led him, in the late 1520s, to seek a divorce from his wife. This could only be achieved by breaking with the Roman Catholic Church and thus heralded the beginning of the English Reformation.

Henry died in 1547, leaving the throne to Edward VI, his nine-year-old son by his third wife, Jane Seymour. Edward actively supported Protestant reform but on his premature death in 1553, the throne passed to his elder sister, Mary, the daughter of Catherine of Aragón, despite efforts to place the Protestant Lady Jane Grey on the throne. Mary restored Catholicism and in 1554 married the Spanish prince, who became King Philip II in 1556. Mary died childless in 1558 and the throne passed to Elizabeth, Henry VIII's daughter by his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth again broke from Rome and asserted her authority by refusing to marry or name her successor. The second half of Elizabeth's reign was dominated by war with Spain from 1585 over English support for Philip's rebellious Dutch subjects. Elizabeth survived the plots of her Stuart rival, Mary, Queen of Scots (whom she had executed in 1587) and the Spanish Armada of 1588. Despite a decade of war, factional intrigue at court, and economic crisis, it was Elizabeth's greatest achievement to pass the throne peacefully to her chosen successor, James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England in 1603.

See also Church of England ; Edward VI (England) ; Elizabeth I (England) ; England ; Henry VII (England) ; Henry VIII (England) ; James I and VI (England and Scotland) ; Mary I (England) ; Stuart Dynasty (England and Scotland) .


Brigden, Susan. New Worlds, Lost Worlds: The Rule of the Tudors, 14851603. London, 2000.

Guy, John. Tudor England. Oxford, 1988.

David Grummitt

Tudor dynasty

views updated May 14 2018

Tudor dynasty

A series of monarchs that ruled England and Ireland from 1485 until 1603. The Tudor kings and queens reigned as England developed into a powerful and influential state, an important center of Protestant resistance to papal authority, and a leader in Renaissance letters, science, and art. The Tudor line began with a Welsh squire, Owen Tudor, a member of the court of King Henry V. On the king's death Tudor married his widow, Catherine of Valois; his eldest son was Edmund Tudor, who in turn fathered Henry Tudor. During the War of the Roses, this Lancastrian nobleman defeated King Richard III in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth Field and then was enthroned as the first Tudor king, Henry VII.

The brother of this king, Henry VIII, began his reign in 1509. Henry married his brother's widow, Catherine of Aragon, who gave birth to his first child Mary but failed to provide the new king with a male heir. Falling out of favor with Henry, Catherine was replaced by the king's mistress, Anne Boleyn. When Henry found himself unable to convince the pope to sanction his divorce from Catherine, he declared papal authority ended in his realm and founded the Church of England. He then married Anne Boleyn, who gave birth to a single daughter, Elizabeth. Anne ran afoul of powerful nobles allied with the king and was accused of treason and incest, which brought about her arrest and execution. Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour, died giving birth to the king's sole male offspring, Edward.

At the age of nine, Edward VI succeeded his father in 1547. This young and sickly king died in 1553, leaving the throne to his half sister Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon. A loyal Catholic, Bloody Mary made futile attempts to return England to the Catholic Church, ordering the seizure and execution of several Protestant nobles and clergymen. Mary died in 1558 without an heir, which brought the accession of her half sister Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn. Devoted to the memory of her mother, Elizabeth felt determined to reign in the religious conflict and political intrigue that plagued the Tudor court since the time of Henry VII.

Elizabeth restored the Church of England and encouraged playwrights, musicians, and poets at her court. Talented men such as William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, and Ben Jonson flourished during the Elizabethan Age, when England was also home to a leading scientific philosopher, Sir Francis Bacon. During her reign England began to colonize North America, and the English captain Sir France Drake led the first voyage of English ships around the world. She also defeated the attempt by her cousin, the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, to overthrow her, and regretfully ordered Mary's execution in 1587. In the next year, an immense armada of Spanish warships was sent by the king of Spain, scattered by storms in the English Channel, marking the rise of English power on the continent and the beginning of a steady decline in the power of Spain.

With Elizabeth remaining unmarried and childless, the Tudor dynasty came to an end with her death in 1603. The throne passed to James I, the king of Scotland and the first monarch of England's Stuart dynasty.

See Also: Edward VI; Elizabeth I; England; Henry VIII