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The Tudor/Stuart era in history was one rife with intrigue, drama, telling of unimaginable horrors and even speculation of royal murders. The house of Tudor rose to power immediately following the War of the Roses. There was to be a total of five Tudor monarchs who ruled their lands for just over a century. Although each monarch had their own celebrations as well as times when their countrymen lost faith in them, one of the issues that began to cause true dissention among the people began in the era of the rule of King Henry the 8th.
King Henry VIII was married to Catherine of Aragon on June 11th 1509. Their marriage began to suffer after several pregnancies and births that ultimately ended in deaths. Several of her children were stillborn until one son was born, christened Henry, Duke of Cornwall, who unfortunately died 52 days later. Many miscarriages followed. King Henry found himself very worried about his legacy and his failure to create a viable heir to his throne. He began to consider what was virtually unheard of in his day and age and almost certainly impossible for a king. Divorce.
King Henry consulted his chief minister who then left to visit Rome to ask the Pope for permission for the King to end his marriage. Although it was not something that the church easily considered, in the end King Henry’s persistence won out. But first, to make it possible for King Henry to gain his divorce the English Parliament had to enact laws to break ties with Rome.
Having lead troops during the siege of Boulogne, Henry died on January 28th 1547, and although his will had reinstated his daughters by his previous marriages, the daughters of Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn to succeed him, he did not legitimize them. So all of Henrys efforts and King power in the end assured that his will had to be ignored because since his marriages had been annulled, legally they never occurred. So children by those marriages were considered illegitimate. Illegitimate offspring were not considered in line for the throne. He did state in his will that should all three of his children die without issue, that the descendent of his younger sister Mary would be in line for the throne before his older sister Margaret, Queen of Scotland. So as it stood, Edward, his 9 year old son by Jane Seymour succeeded as Edward the 6th of England.
Henry had the foresight to appoint regents or those who would act on Edwards’s behalf until he came of age. But Edward Seymour, young King Edwards’s uncle, seized the opportunity for control and gave himself a new title, Duke of Somerset. Somerset’s goal was to unite England and Scotland by married young King Edward to the young Scottish queen Mary.
While Somerset set off with a large army heading to Scotland to forcibly impose the English Reformation on the Church of Scotland, Edward VI, even at his young age was already focusing his mind on religious reform. His efforts to instill some of his religious beliefs did not go over well as it caused the prayer book rebellion where an unruly mob surrounded the mayor. This rebellion did not intimidate Edward VI; in fact, it only strengthened his determination to remain hardened towards Catholic non-conformist.
When Edward VI became ill in 1553, close advisors considered the possible immediate accession of Lady Mary who was Catholic. They had great fears that she would rescind all of the new laws put into place by Edwards’s efforts. Even the dying Edward feared a return to Catholicism. Because of this he wrote a new will changing the 1544 will of Henry the 8th. With the political side stepping out of the way, this turned over succession of the throne to Lady Jane Grey, granddaughter of Henry the 8th sister, Mary Tudor. When Edward died on July 6th 1553, Lady Jane Grey was crowned Queen of England. However, the almost unanimous support for the Tudor dynasty caused Lady Grey to be deposed just 9 days after taking the throne. With many of Mary Tudor’s supporters joining her in the exuberant procession through London, including her sister Elizabeth, it didn’t take long for Mary to take her seat upon the throne. Lady Jane Grey and her husband were subsequently executed.
Although the early reign of Queen Mary the 1st was very successful. Eventually it seems that all good things in Royalty come to an end. Mary’s reign was no exception. After Mary announced that she fully intended to marry a Spanish prince, her supporters’ discontent swelled. A protestant named Thomas Wyatt the younger formed a mob that led a rebellion against Mary. He had high hopes that he could dethrone Mary in favor of her half sister Elizabeth. Unfortunately for Thomas and his band of supporters, the plot was exposed and all involved were hunted down and executed.
Mary did indeed marry Philip at Winchester Cathedral on July 25th 1554. Unfortunately for her, Philip found her very distasteful and only spent the small required amount of time with her. Whether it was from their lack of time together or that perhaps even Mary was infertile, they never conceived a child. Eventually Mary became bitter but she didn’t get the chance to stay that way for long. She died November 17th 1558. Her half sister, Elizabeth Tudor, was like Elizabeth the 1st of England.
As she had remained in various places imprisoned because of Mary’s fears that Elizabeth was plotting her demise, she rode from Hatfield house to London to the explosive cheering of the people, the rich and the poor stood alongside one another celebrating their new Queens ascension.
As was the right of any king or queen, Elizabeth appointed one of her most favorite people and most cherished friend, Lord Robert Dudley, the Master of the Horse. This gave him constant personal access to the queen. Queen Elizabeth the 1st was notoriously known as the Virgin queen, indeed the US state of Virginia was named so because Sir Walter Raleigh wanted to name it after his virgin queen whom he was loyal to. But there was always speculation as to the closeness of the friendship that Elizabeth shared with Robert Dudley. Though never dared spoken aloud if one wanted to keep ones head on their body.
Some still speculate why Elizabeth refused to marry. There have been those who said that she did not want to share her power with anyone. There are others who would say that she had the best friend and lover in Robert Dudley who didn’t aspire to be her king, and was more than satisfied with that arrangement. The Privy Council cared less if Elizabeth had a lover then they did that Elizabeth could not create a legitimate heir without marrying. Fear that something could happen to her anytime and England would have no Tudor to ascend the throne. Attempts to persuade her to marry failed every single time. The Privy councils’ fear was intensified when Elizabeth almost died of smallpox in 1564. As she thought she was going to succumb to the illness she named Robert Dudley as Lord Protector in the event of her demise.
She miraculously recovered and immediately appointed Robert Dudley to the Privy Council and gave him the title of Earl of Leicester. Her plan was that he would marry Mary the Queen of Scots. Mary snubbed his offer and instead married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Being married to a descendent of a Stuart king, gave Mary even more of a claim to the English throne. And in spite of all of this, Elizabeth would still not name Mary as her heir should she die before producing one of her own.
This remained a cause of dissension for the upper echelon as well as the common folk and in 1569, a group of titled gentlemen attempted to take the throne from Elizabeth and place Mary upon it. Elizabeth’s reign was riddled with plots once it became clear that she intended to remain the virgin queen forever. The next plot arrived in 1571 when the Duke of Norfolk had plans to marry Mary, Queen of Scots, and then replace the two queens with one another. As seemed usual, the plot was discovered and Norfolk was beheaded.
Elizabeth began to feel the pressure from Parliament who wanted her to execute Mary to prevent further attempts to assassinate Elizabeth as well as to calm down the social unrest that their attempts had caused. It was said that Elizabeth was a strong women, definitely considered cold or frigid by some who didn’t know her intimately but there was no doubt that having her half sister beheaded was not something she wanted to do. It took many people many stories to convince Elizabeth of Mary’s treachery, but in the end she did sign the death warrant for Mary. Mary was beheaded at Fotheringay Castle on February 8th 1587.
There is no question that the largest threat to Queen Elizabeth, even beyond her lack of heirs, was the Spanish Armada of 1588. Launched by Philip the 2nd of Spain, 200 Galleons and 108 armed merchant ships forged their way through the rough seas towards England. Yet the English and the Dutch republic still outnumbered them by far. In the end, the Spanish Armada forgot one thing in their plan to invade England. They forgot all about the churning boat tossing waters that the English Channel can produce on most days, and couldn’t have fathomed what it did on its worst days. The war the Spanish brought towards England ended in right there in that very channel.
All in all, Elizabeth is hailed as one of the best Tudor monarchs of them all. Even though in her declining age she still ran her country that was thriving well. During a famine that raged across England during her reign she instituted a new law called the Poor Law. It allowed those who were too ill to work to gain an amount of money from the state. And by the time of her death all of the money that was borrowed to fund her causes had been paid back.
As everyone knew it would eventually happen, Elizabeth died childless on March 24th 1603. With no successor ever having been named by her, her chief minister corresponded with King James the 6th of Scotland. He was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots. There was no doubt; James’s succession to the throne was never opposed. Alas the Tudor dynasty was now coming to an end. The House of Stuart would occupy the English throne for most of the next century.
Given a very warm welcome and a smooth transition to the throne of England, there were still conspiracies, albeit unsuccessful ones, in the first years of his reign. James had a dream to join the houses of England and Scotland together to give them one parliament, one law. He met with great opposition from both sides. He further annoyed the politicians of both countries when he asked his title to be changed to King of Great Britain. In spite of what the Commons had decreed, he assumed the title King of Great Britain for himself anyway.
He finally brought peace to the long standing war between England and Spain in August of 1604.
James was always rumored to have had male courtiers. In his day and age he was known for this and it was said of him that Elizabeth was King and James was queen. The statement, referring to his power in post-Elizabethan times, was easily misinterpreted to mean other things. James wasn’t a lay about kind of King either. He was very well education and spoke many languages and could read many more. At the age of 23 he and 300 of his most trusted men preformed a gallant rescue of Anne of Denmark as she was stranded on the coast of Norway.
After her knight in shining armor rescued her, she married King James and gave him 7 children, sadly only 3 of them survived.
During the last years of King James of England, or King James of Great Britain as he preferred to call himself, he was often very seriously ill. He was stricken with the gout, severe arthritis, fainting fits, and a serious ague and if that weren’t enough he suffered a serious stroke. His illnesses kept him abed and it was not very often that he could or would be capable of making a trip to London. James died on March the 27th from a severe attack of dysentery.
This king was mourned. The people who had loved him so for so many years found themselves heartsick that he was now gone. Young Jamie as they had called him as a youth to Our Jamie or Our King Jamie was now just another member of a royal family that had always suffered many painful losses. The people remembered of him how peaceful the land had been during his reign. The reveled in the memories of days gone by where their children were safe to play in places they wouldn’t be safe to play in for much longer. They basked in the memory of how their King Jamie had spared them the high taxes that some monarchs imposed, while dreading the new higher taxes for they were sure the next King or Queen would impose them.
But dear King Jamie did leave behind a legacy like no royal ever had before him. To this day it is still the most sold book ever on earth. It is the King James Version of the Bible. King James convened the Hampton Court Conference in 1604. He commissioned them to write the bible in his version which was to translate it into a version that would reflect the Episcopal structure of the Church of England. Forty seven scholars worked on the translation for five years.
While the King James Authorized Version was supposed to replace an older version of the bible as the official version for all churches in England to use, it was never actually authorized. The Authorized Version acceptance by the general public took a bit longer. The original printing of the Authorized Version was published by Robert Barker in 1611. It was sold in a loose-leaf form for only ten shillings. It seems that two versions of the bible were produced with their only distinguishing feature being that the passage of Ruth 3:15 in the first edition read ‘he went into the city’, whereas the second edition bible reads ‘she went into the city.’
The first printings came with several tools and diagrams. There was a table for reading the Psalms at Matins, an almanac and a list of holy days and observances. These items have become extinct with the addition of the Gregorian calendar.
So the Tudor dynasty although abounding with problems and a constant struggle with politics, religions and wars from outside enemies, still has made a huge impact on our society. The Stuart dynasty with its harsh beginnings in murder and intrigue eventually grew to be one of a much respected monarchy. The legends and lessons still carry on to this day.
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