Oktober 25, 2012



1. King Henry VII (King of England)

Born: 28 January 1457
Pembroke Castle, Wales

Accession: 22 August 1485
Battle of Bosworth Field

Coronation: 30 October 1485
Westminster Abbey

Died: 21 April 1509
Richmond Palace

Buried: 11 May 1509
Westminster Abbey

The very fact that Henry Tudor became King of England at all is somewhat of a miracle. His claim to the English throne was tenuous at best. His father was Edmund Tudor, a Welshman of Welsh royal lineage, but that was not too important as far as his claim to the English throne went. What was important though was his heritage through his mother, Margaret Beaufort, a descendant of Edward III. This descent from King Edward was through his third son, John of Gaunt. John's third wife, Katherine Swynford had borne him several children as his mistress before he married her. The children born before the marriage were later legitmized, but barred from the succession. Margaret Beaufort was descended from one of the children born before the marriage of John and Katherine.

By 1485 the Wars of the Roses had been raging in England for many years between the Houses of York and Lancaster. The Lancastrian Henry later took for his bride Elizabeth of York thereby uniting the houses.

The real matter was decided on the battlefield, at the Battle of Bosworth Field. It was here that Henry and his forces met with Richard III and Henry won the crown. (see quotation above) It was truly through the defeat of Richard and the 'right of conquest' that Henry claimed the throne. It was solidified however, by his marriage to Elizabeth of York, the eldest child of the late king, Edward IV.

The main problem facing Henry was restoring faith and strength in the monarchy. He also had to deal with other claimants, with some of them having a far stronger claim than his own. To deal with this, Henry strengthened the government and his own power, at the expense of the nobles. Henry also had to deal with a treasury that was nearly bankrupt. The English monarchy had never been one of the wealthiest of Europe and even more so after the War of the Roses. Through his monetary strategy, Henry managed to steadily accumulate wealth during his reign, so that by the time he died, he left a considerable fortune to his son, Henry VIII.

It could be debated whether or not Henry VII was a great king, but he was clearly a successful king. He had several goals that he had accomplished by the end of his reign. He had established a new dynasty after 30 years of struggle, he had strengthened the judicial system as well as the treasury and had successfully denied all the other claimants to his throne. The monarchy that he left to his son was a fairly secure one and most definitely a wealthy one.

Henry had seven children by Elizabeth of York, four of whom survived infancy: Arthur, who died shortly after his marriage to Catherine of Aragon (a point of some importance during "The Divorce"), Henry, Margaret and Mary.

2. King Henry VIII

Born: 28 June 1491
Greenwich Palace

Accession: 21 April 1509

Coronation: 24 June 1509
Westminster Abbey

Died: 28 January 1547
Whitehall Palace

Buried: 16 February 1547
St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle

Prince Henry

Henry Tudor, named after his father, Henry VII, was born by Elizabeth of York June 28, 1491 in Greenwich Palace. Since he was the second son, and not expected to become king, we know little of his childhood until the death of his older brother Arthur, Prince of Wales. We know that Henry attended the wedding celebrations of Arthur and his bride, Catherine of Aragon, in November 1501 when he was 10 years old.

Shortly after the wedding, Arthur and Catherine went to live in Wales, as was tradition for the heir to the throne. But, four months after the marriage began, it ended, with Arthur's death.

A treaty was signed that would allow Catherine to marry the next heir to the throne -- Prince Henry. Until then, Catherine's parents, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain would send over 100,000 crowns worth of plate and gold as a wedding gift and Henry would pay the agreed upon dowry.

It was deemed necessary for a papal dispensation to be issued allowing Henry to marry Catherine, as she was his dead brother's wife, and this marriage was prohibited in Leviticus. At the time, and throughout her life, Catherine denied that her marriage to Arthur had even been consummated (and given the boy's health, that is most likely the case) so no dispensation was needed. However, both the parties in Spain and England wanted to be sure of the legitimacy of the marriage, so permission from the pope was sought and received. This issue would be very important during the Divorce and the Break with Rome.

The marriage still did not take place however. Henry VII had been slow to pay his part of the arrangement and her parents were refusing to send the marriage portion of plate and gold. The stalemate continued until Henry VII died on April 22, 1509 and his son became Henry VIII.

Henry was just shy of 18 years old when he became king, and had been preparing for it from the time of his older brother Arthur's death. At this age, he was not the image that we usually call to mind when we hear the name Henry VIII. He was not the overweight and ill man of his later years. In his youth, he was handsome and athletic. He was tall and had a bright red-gold cap of hair and beard, a far cry from the fat, balding and unhealthy man that is often remembered

Henry's marital career is probably the thing that he is most known for. The story of Henry's wives is told on their own pages.

The Young King

Shortly after becoming king, Henry VIII took Catherine of Aragon as his bride on 11 June 1509. He inherited £1.5 million pounds from his father and succeeded in the first peaceful transition of power after the Wars of the Roses. Henry brought a youth and vigor to the Court that had long been lacking and Henry dreamed of glory beyond the hunt and joust.

Catherine of Aragon gave birth to their first child, a son named Henry after his father, in January 1511. The child died two months later, and was destined to be the first of many unhappy births the couple would suffer. Henry consoled himself by going to war against France, hoping to emulate his ancestors Edward III and Henry V.

Henry met with some success in France, but while he was distracted on the Continent, his Scottish brother-in-law James IV used the opportunity to attack. Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey led the English forces against James and defeated the Scots army at the Battle of Flodden Field. James was killed, leaving his infant son as the new king James V and Henry VIII's sister Margaret a widow.

By 1514, Thomas Wolsey had risen to power in Henry's court and was to eventually rival Henry himself in wealth and opulance. He built Hampton Court Palace, which he eventually "gave" to Henry as a gift as he began to fall from power in the 1520s.

3. Edward VI

Born: 12 October 1537
Hampton Court Palace

Accession: 28 January 1547

Coronation: 20 February 1547
Westminster Abbey

Died: 6 July 1553

Buried: 8 August 1553
Westminster Abbey

Henry VIII died in 1547, secure in the knowledge that he had left behind the male heir to the throne that he had longed for. Unfortunately, the boy was young, not even 10 years old, when he became king. His uncle, Edward Seymour became Lord Protector, and through Edward, sought to control England. Seymour's brother, Thomas, was made Lord Admiral and was an early influence on the life of the King's sister, the Princess Elizabeth.

Protector Somerset was later overthrown by John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, who then took control as Edward's chief advisor.

Protestants in England were happy for the young king's ascension to the throne, but feared what might happen if the boy died. It was common knowledge that Mary, Henry's eldest daughter and heir after Edward (according to Henry VIII's will), would return the country to Roman Catholicism. To prevent this from happening, several of the nobles plotted to bring another woman to the throne in her place. Some rallied behind the other heir of Henry VIII: Elizabeth. Others looked to the descendants of of Henry VIII's sister Mary. The oldest of these descendants was the Lady Jane Grey.

4. Lady Jane Grey (Queen of Nine Days)

Born: 1537

Proclaimed Queen: 10 July 1553

Deposed: 19 July 1553

Executed: 12 February 1554
The Tower of London

Buried: 12 February 1554
Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London

It could be debated whether or not Jane should be included as a "Tudor Monarch" but her story is such a fascinating one that it bears telling.

The true tragedy of Jane Grey is that her death was through no fault of her own, but of the unfortunate fact of her heritage and of her religion. She most likely never really wanted to be Queen, but it was not something that was under her control. Her ambitious parents (Frances Brandon and Henry Grey), along with John Dudley, father of her husband, Guilford Dudley, sought to keep a Protestant monarch on the throne if Edward were to die without an heir of his body and to have that monarch under their thumbs. The best way to do that was to make their own children King and Queen.

Four days after Edward's death on July 6, 1553, Jane was proclaimed Queen of England. However, Mary, who was the rightful heir to the throne according to Henry VIII's will, was gathering support in Suffolk. She and her followers rode into London nine days later and imprisoned Jane and her supporters. Mary was the next Queen of England.

Jane and her husband were held in the Tower of London but were not executed until after a second ill-fated uprising in their name.

5. Mary I (Queen "Bloody" Mary)

Born: 18 February 1516
Greenwich Palace

Proclaimed Queen: 19 July 1553
St. Paul's Cathedral, London

Coronation: 1 October 1553
Westminster Abbey

Died: 17 November 1558
St. James's Palace

Buried: 14 December 1558
Westminster Abbey


Mary Tudor was the only child born to Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon to survive childhood. Had she been born a boy, it is likely that the whole of English history would have been different (but probably less interesting!).

Mary had a good childhood as a young princess, and was the center of court attention in her earliest years. But, as the years progressed and no little brothers followed, Mary's father began to look into the alternatives. Eventually, Henry sought an annulment from Catherine, and married his second Queen: Anne Boleyn. Mary was declared illegitimate and was to no longer be called "princess", but rather "The Lady Mary".

When Anne Boleyn gave birth to Elizabeth, Mary was sent to attend the new young Princess in her household. Soon Elizabeth would be declared a bastard as well, since her mother also failed to produce a male heir for Henry.

Shortly after the death of Anne Boleyn, Henry wed Jane Seymour, who sought to reconcile the King with his two daughters. Henry and Jane visited Mary and after, she wrote letters to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (her cousin) and the Pope stating that her parent's marriage had not been valid. [Mary was able to get an additional message to them, in secret, saying that she wrote the letters under duress.] After that, she returned to court, although her title of Princess still had not been restored.

In October 1537, Queen Jane gave birth to Edward, Henry's longed for son and Mary stood as the young Prince's godmother at the christening. The court was soon plunged into mourning as Jane died two weeks after Edward's birth.

In January 1540, Mary gained yet another stepmother: Anne of Cleves. Although they shared different religions (Mary was Catholic, Anne a Lutheran), the two women became fast friends and would remain so until Anne's death in 1557. Unfortunately Anne's marriage to Henry wasn't so long-lived and she was divorced in July of the same year.

Shortly after the annulment of his marriage to Anne of Cleves,Henry took another wife [now his 5th], Kathryn Howard. Kathryn was probably 18 years old, making Mary six years older than her new stepmother. Mary was apparently appalled at her father's action and there were come quarrels between Mary and Kathryn during the young Queen's reign. That reign turned out to be all too short, as she was arrested, tried and executed for adultery in 1542.

At this time of emotional upheaval, Mary fell seriously ill and may have been in danger of losing her life. Her father was concerned enough to send his own doctors to look after her.

Henry's last Queen was Katherine Parr, who was about four years older than Mary. They were married in 1543, and she survived Henry at his death in 1547. All three of Henry's children attended the wedding at Hampton Court. Mary was friends with her last stepmother, although they too had religious differences, as Katherine was a strong supporter of the Reformed Church.

When Henry VIII began to fall ill, he drafted his will declaring that Edward would be his heir and Mary was to follow him if the young Prince were to die childless. Elizabeth was also included, and she would take the throne if Mary were to die without an heir. As we know in hindsight, this is exactly what was to happen.


Henry VIII died January 28, 1547, leaving his 9 year-old son as King. The young Edward was a supporter of the Protestant faith, although Mary seems to have hoped at one point he would see the error of his ways and return England to the Church of Rome.

Alas, this was not to be. She defied Edward's Act of Uniformity and openly celebrated Mass, which had been abolished. Edward and Mary struggled with this issue through the rest of the King's short reign.

Some time in 1552, Edward began to show signs of the illness that would eventually claim his life. He was reported to have a hacking cough that eventually resulted in him spitting up blood and tissue. Medical historians generally agree that he had tuberculosis.

Fearing Mary would return the country to the Catholic faith, powerful men in the realm, such as John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland and Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk began to make their plans. Although they made moves to court Mary's favor, they worked secretly with their own agenda. Northumberland married his son Guildford to Suffolk's daughter Jane Grey, who would be in line for the throne after Mary and Elizabeth. By placing Jane on the throne in Edward's wake, they thought they would have a puppet they could control [although Jane seems to have had other ideas about that!].

Northumberland put his plans into action and convinced Edward to leave his crown to his cousin Jane.


Mary realized that a plot was being hatched to place Jane on the throne. She had been urged by some friends to flee the country since they feared her life would be in danger. Mary knew that if she fled, she would forfeit all chances of becoming Queen and returning England to Catholicism, so she chose to remain and make a stand for her crown.

Edward died on July 6, 1553. Shortly afterwards, Northumberland informed Jane at Syon house that Edward had left the crown to her and that she was now Queen of England. Mary, meanwhile, was in East Anglia. Northumberland and three of his sons went to take Mary into custody. Mary was at this time moving around with a growing army of supporters. She knew that he must have confirmation of her brother's death, because it would be treason to declare herself Queen otherwise. She received news from a reliable source that Edward was indeed dead, and promptly sent proclamations throughout the country announcing her accession to the throne.

Mary went to Framlingham Castle in Suffolk, which was better fortified. Her number of supporters was increasing and Mary took time to inspect her troops personally. The people of Suffolk were flocking to Mary and many of the leaders who were supposed to take her into custody instead went and begged for her pardon.

By this time, the Privy Council in London realized their error in going along with Northumberland's plot and declared Mary the true Queen of England. She left Framlingham for London on July 24.

6. Elizabeth I

Born: 7 September 1533
Greenwich Palace

Became Queen: 17 November 1558

Coronation: 15 January 1559
Westminster Abbey

Died: 24 March 1603
Richmond Palace

Buried: 28 April 1603
Westminster Abbey

Elizabeth's life was troubled from the moment she was born. Henry VIII had changed the course of his country's history in order to marry Anne Boleyn, hoping that she would bear him the strong and healthy son that Catherine of Aragon never did. But, on September 7, 1533 in Greenwich Palace, Anne bore Elizabeth instead.

Anne did eventually conceive a son, but he was stillborn. By that point, Henry had begun to grow tired of Anne and began to orchestrate her downfall. Most, if not all, historians agree that Henry's charges of incest and adultery against Anne were false, but they were all he needed to sign her execution warrant. She was beheaded on the Tower Green on May 19, 1536, before Elizabeth was even three years old.

Elizabeth was probably at the royal manor at Hunsdon when her mother was arrested and executed after being at court for Christmas (and likely the last time she saw her mother). Henry had remarried and was eagerly awaiting the son he hoped Jane Seymour was carrying. As it turned out, she was indeed to bear Henry a son, Edward (future Edward VI). Jane died shortly after her son was born.

Elizabeth's last stepmother was Katherine Parr, the sixth queen to Henry VIII. Katherine had hoped to marry Thomas Seymour (brother to the late Queen Jane), but she caught Henry's eye. She brought both Elizabeth and her half-sister Mary back to court. When Henry died, she became the Dowager Queen and took her household from Court. Because of the young age of Edward VI, Edward Seymour (another brother of Jane's and therefore the young King's uncle) became Lord Protector of England.

Elizabeth went to live with the Queen Dowager Katherine, but left her household after an incident with the Lord Admiral, Thomas Seymour, who was now Katherine's husband. Just what occurred between Elizabeth and Thomas will never be known for sure, but rumors at the time suggested that Katherine had caught them kissing or perhaps even in bed together. Katherine was pregnant at the time of the incident. She later gave birth to a daughter named Mary. Katherine died not too long afterwards and was buried at Sudeley Castle. This left Thomas Seymour as an eligible bachelor once again.

Because Elizabeth was a daughter of the late King Henry VIII, she was in line to the throne (despite several attempts to remove her from the chain, she was in Henry's will as an heir) and was therefore a most sought-after bride. During the reign of Edward VI, Thomas Seymour asked for Elizabeth's hand in marriage, which she refused. From this incident, both Thomas and Elizabeth were suspected of plotting against the king. Elizabeth was questioned, but was never charged. Seymour however, after an attempt to kidnap the boy king, was arrested and eventually executed for treason. Elizabeth was reported to have said, upon hearing of the Lord Admiral's death (although it is probably apocryphal): "Today died a man of much wit, and very little judgment."

Edward may have contracted what was then called consumption (possibly tuberculosis) or had a severe respiratory infection. When it looked inevitable that the teenager would die without an heir of his own body, the plots for his crown began. Reports of the young King's declining health spurred on those who did not want the crown to fall to the Catholic Mary. It was during this time that Guilford Dudley married Lady Jane Grey, who was a descendant of Henry VIII's sister Mary, and was therefore also an heir to the throne. When Edward VI died in 1553, Jane was proclaimed Queen by her father Henry Grey and her father-in-law John Dudley, who rallied armies to support her. However, many more supported the rightful heir: Mary, daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Nine days after Jane was proclaimed Queen, Mary rode into London with her sister Elizabeth. Jane Grey and her husband Guilford were imprisoned in the Tower.

Shortly after becoming Queen, Mary was wed to Prince Philip of Spain, which made the Catholic Queen quite unpopular. The persecuted Protestants saw Elizabeth as their savior, since she was seen as an icon of "the new faith". After all, it was to marry her mother Anne Boleyn that Henry instituted the break with Rome. Because of this, several rebellions and uprisings were made in Elizabeth's name, although she herself probably had little or no knowledge of them. However, Mary sensed the danger from her younger sister, and imprisoned her in the Tower.

The story, possibly apocryphal, of Elizabeth's entry into the Tower is an interesting one. She was deathly (pun intended) afraid of the Tower, probably thinking of her mother's fate in that place, and when she was told she would be entering through Traitor's Gate, she refused to move. She had been secreted to the Tower in the dark so as not to raise the sympathy of supporters. That night was cold and rainy, and the Princess Elizabeth sat, soaking wet, on the stairs from the river to the gate. After her governess finally persuaded Elizabeth to enter, she did so and became yet another famous prisoner of the Tower of London.

Elizabeth was released from the Tower after a few months of imprisonment and was sent to Woodstock where she stayed for just under a year. When it appeared that Mary had become pregnant, Elizabeth was no longer seen as a significant threat and the Queen let her return to her residence at Hatfield, under semi- house arrest. Mary Tudor was nearly 40 years old when the news of her "pregnancy" came. After a few months, her belly began to swell, but no baby was ever forthcoming. Some modern historians think that she had a large ovarian cyst, and this is also what lead to her failing health and eventual death.

News of Mary's death on November 17, 1558 reached Elizabeth at Hatfield, where she was said to be out in the park, sitting under an oak tree. Upon hearing that she was Queen, legend has it that Elizabeth quoted the 118th Psalm's twenty-third line, in Latin: "A Dominum factum est illud, et est mirabile in oculis notris" -- "It is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes."

Elizabeth had survived and was finally Queen of England.


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