Tudor period

Last updated

Tudor period
Tudor Rose.svg
Including Elizabethan era
Preceded by Late Middle Ages
Followed by Jacobean era

The Tudor period occurred between 1485 and 1603 in England and Wales and includes the Elizabethan period during the reign of Elizabeth I until 1603. The Tudor period coincides with the dynasty of the House of Tudor in England whose first monarch was Henry VII (b.1457, r.14851509). Historian John Guy (1988) argued that "England was economically healthier, more expansive, and more optimistic under the Tudors" than at any time since the Roman occupation. [1]


Population and economy

Old London bridge in 1543 Panorama of London in 1543 Wyngaerde Section 2.jpg
Old London bridge in 1543

Following the Black Death and the agricultural depression of the late 15th century, the population began to increase. It was less than 2 million in 1600. The growing population stimulated economic growth, accelerated the commercialisation of agriculture, increased the production and export of wool, encouraged trade, and promoted the growth of London. [2]

The high wages and abundance of available land seen in the late 15th century and early 16th century were replaced with low wages and a land shortage. Various inflationary pressures, perhaps due to an influx of New World gold and a rising population, set the stage for social upheaval with the gap between the rich and poor widening. This was a period of significant change for the majority of the rural population, with manorial lords beginning the process of enclosure of village lands that previously had been open to everyone. [3]

English Reformation

The Reformation transformed English religion during the Tudor period. The five sovereigns, Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I had entirely different approaches, with Henry VIII replacing the pope as the head of the Church of England but maintaining Catholic doctrines, Edward imposing a very strict Protestantism, Mary attempting to reinstate Catholicism, and Elizabeth arriving at a compromise position that defined the not-quite-Protestant Church of England. It began with the insistent demands of Henry VIII for an annulment of his marriage that Pope Clement VII refused to grant. [4]

Historians agreed that the great theme of Tudor history was the Reformation, the transformation of England from Catholicism to Protestantism. The main events, constitutional changes, and players at the national level have long been known, and the major controversies about them largely resolved. Historians until the late 20th century thought that the causes were: a widespread dissatisfaction or even disgust with the evils, corruptions, failures, and contradictions of the established religion, setting up an undertone of anti-clericalism that indicated a rightness for reform. A secondary influence was the intellectual impact of certain English reformers, such as the long-term impact of John Wycliffe (1328–1384) and his “Lollardy” reform movement, together with a stream of Reformation treatises and pamphlets from Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other reformers on the continent. The interpretation by Geoffrey Elton in 1960 is representative of the orthodox interpretation. He argued that:

The existing situation proved untenable because the laity feared, resented, and despised much about the Church, its officers, its courts and its wealth. ... A poverty-stricken and ignorant lower clergy, wealthy bishops and abbots, a wide ramification of jurisdiction, a mixture of high claims and low deeds did not make for respect or love among the laity. [5]

Social historians after 1960 investigated English religion at the local level, and discovered the dissatisfaction had not been so widespread. The Lollardy movement had largely expired, and the pamphleteering of continental reformers hardly reached beyond a few scholars at the University of Cambridge—King Henry VIII had vigorously and publicly denounced Luther's heresies. More important, the Catholic Church was in a strong condition in 1500. England was devoutly Catholic, it was loyal to the pope, local parishes attracted strong local financial support, religious services were quite popular both at Sunday Mass and at family devotions. Complaints about the monasteries and the bishops were uncommon. The kings backed the popes and by the time Luther appeared on the scene, England was among the strongest supporters of orthodox Catholicism, and seemed a most unlikely place for a religious revolution. [6] [7]

Tudor government

Henry VII: 1485–1509

Henry VII, founder of the House of Tudor, became King of England by defeating King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, the culmination of the Wars of the Roses. Henry engaged in a number of administrative, economic and diplomatic initiatives. He paid very close attention to detail and, instead of spending lavishly, concentrated on raising new revenues. His new taxes were unpopular, and when Henry VIII succeeded him, he executed Henry VII's two most hated tax collectors. [8] [9]

Henry VIII: 1491–1547

King Henry VIII aged 21, on his way to open Parliament on 4 February 1512. HenryVIII ParliamentProcessionRoll 1512.png
King Henry VIII aged 21, on his way to open Parliament on 4 February 1512.

Henry VIII, flamboyant, energetic, militaristic and headstrong, remains one of the most visible kings of England, primarily because of his six marriages, all of which were designed to produce a male heir, and his heavy retribution in executing many top officials and aristocrats. In foreign-policy, he focused on fighting France—with minimal success—and had to deal with Scotland, Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire, often with military mobilisation or actual highly expensive warfare that led to high taxes. The chief military success came over Scotland. [10] The main policy development was Henry's taking full control of the Church of England. This followed from his break from Rome, which was caused by the refusal of the Pope to annul his original marriage. Henry thereby introduced a very mild variation of the Protestant Reformation. There were two main aspects. First Henry rejected the Pope as the head of the Church in England, insisting that national sovereignty required the Absolute supremacy of the king. Henry worked closely with Parliament in passing a series of laws that implemented the break. Englishmen could no longer appeal to Rome. All the decisions were to be made in England, ultimately by the King himself, and in practice by top aides such as Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell. Parliament proved highly supportive, with little dissent. The decisive moves came with the Act of Supremacy in 1534 that made the king the protector and only supreme head of the church and clergy of England. After Henry imposed a heavy fine on the bishops, they nearly all complied. The laws of treason were greatly strengthened so that verbal dissent alone was treasonous. There were some short-lived popular rebellions that were quickly suppressed. The league level in terms of the aristocracy and the Church was supportive. The highly visible main refusals came from Bishop Fisher and Chancellor Thomas More; they were both executed. Among the senior aristocrats, trouble came from the Pole family, which supported Reginald Pole who was in exile in Europe. Henry destroyed the rest of the family, executing its leaders, and seizing all its property. The second stage involved the seizure of the monasteries. The monasteries operating religious and charitable institutions were closed, the monks and nuns were pensioned off, and the valuable lands were sold to friends of the King, thereby producing a large, wealthy, gentry class that supported Henry. In terms of theology and ritual there was little change, as Henry wanted to keep most elements of Catholicism and detested the "heresies" of Martin Luther and the other reformers. [11]

Father of the Royal Navy

Henry VIII embarking at Dover. Dover Castle is depicted at top left. Basire Embarkation of Henry VIII.jpg
Henry VIII embarking at Dover. Dover Castle is depicted at top left.

Biographer J.J. Scarisbrick says that Henry deserved his traditional title of "Father of the English navy." [12] It became his personal weapon. He inherited seven small warships from his father, and added two dozen more by 1514. In addition to those built in England, he bought up Italian and Hanseatic warships. By March 1513, he proudly watched his fleet sail down the Thames under command of Sir Edmund Howard. It was the most powerful naval force to date in English history: 24 ships led by the 1600 ton "Henry Imperial"; the fleet carried 5000 combat marines and 3000 sailors. It forced the outnumbered French fleet back to its ports, took control of the English Channel, and blockaded Brest. Henry was the first king to organise the navy as a permanent force, with a permanent administrative and logistical structure, funded by tax revenue. His personal attention was concentrated on land, where he founded the royal dockyards, planted trees for shipbuilding, enacted laws for in land navigation, guarded the coastline with fortifications, set up a school for navigation and designated the roles of officers and sailors. He closely supervised the construction of all his warships and their guns, knowing their designs, speed, tonnage, armaments and battle tactics. He encouraged his naval architects, who perfected the Italian technique of mounting guns in the waist of the ship, thus lowering the centre of gravity and making it a better platform. He supervised the smallest details and enjoyed nothing more than presiding over the launching of a new ship. [13] He drained his treasury on military and naval affairs, diverting the revenues from new taxes and the sales of monastery lands. [14] [15] [16]

Elton argues that Henry indeed build up the organisation and infrastructure of the Navy, but it was not a useful weapon for his style of warfare. It lacked a useful strategy. It did serve for defence against invasion, and for enhancing England's international prestige. [17]

Cardinal Wolsey

Professor Sara Nair James says that in 1515–1529 Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, "would be the most powerful man in England except, possibly, for the king." [18] Historian John Guy explains Wolsey's methods:

Only in the broadest respects was he [the king] taking independent decisions....It was Wolsey who almost invariably calculated the available options and ranked them for royal consideration; who established the parameters of each successive debate; who controlled the flow of official information; who selected the king's secretaries, middle-ranked officials, and JPs; and who promulgated decisions himself had largely shaped, if not strictly taken. [19]

Operating with the firm support of the king, and with special powers over the church given by the Pope, Wolsey dominated civic affairs, administration, the law, the church, and foreign-policy. He was amazingly energetic and far-reaching. In terms of achievements, he built a great fortune for himself, and was a major benefactor of arts, humanities and education. He projected numerous reforms, but in the end English government had not changed much. For all the promise, there was very little achievement of note. From the king's perspective, his greatest failure was an inability to get a divorce when Henry VIII needed a new wife to give him a son who would be the undisputed heir to the throne. Historians agree that Wolsey was a disappointment. In the end, he conspired with Henry's enemies, and died of natural causes before he could be beheaded. [20] [21]

Thomas Cromwell

Historian Geoffrey Elton argued that Thomas Cromwell, who was Henry VIII's chief minister from 1532 to 1540, not only removed control of the Church of England from the hands of the Pope, but transformed England with an unprecedented modern, bureaucratic government. [22] Cromwell (1485–1540) [23] replaced medieval government-as-household-management. Cromwell introduced reforms into the administration that delineated the King's household from the state and created a modern administration. He injected Tudor power into the darker corners of the realm and radically altered the role of the Parliament of England. This transition happened in the 1530s, Elton argued, and must be regarded as part of a planned revolution. Elton's point was that before Cromwell the realm could be viewed as the King's private estate writ large, where most administration was done by the King's household servants rather than separate state offices. By masterminding these reforms, Cromwell laid the foundations of England's future stability and success. Cromwell's luck ran out when he picked the wrong bride for the King; he was beheaded for treason, More recently historians have emphasised that the king and others played powerful roles as well. [24] [25]

Dissolution of the Monasteries: 1536–1545

The king had an annual income of about £100,000, but he needed much more in order to suppress rebellions and finance his foreign adventures. In 1533, for example, military expenditures on the northern border cost £25,000, while the 1534 rebellion in Ireland cost £38,000. Suppressing the Pilgrimage of Grace cost £50,000, and the king's new palaces were expensive. Meanwhile, customs revenue was slipping. The Church had an annual revenue of about £300,000; a new tax of 10% was imposed which brought in about £30,000. To get even larger sums it was proposed to seize the lands owned by monasteries, some of which the monks farmed and most of which was leased to local gentry. Taking ownership meant the rents went to the king. Selling the land to the gentry at a bargain price brought in £1 million in one-time revenue and gave the gentry a stake in the administration. [26] The clerical payments from First Fruits and Tenths, which previously went to the pope, now went to the king. Altogether, between 1536 and Henry's death, his government collected £1.3 million; this huge influx of money caused Cromwell to change the Crown's financial system to manage the money. He created a new department of state and a new official to collect the proceeds of the dissolution and the First Fruits and Tenths. The Court of Augmentations and number of departments meant a growing number of officials, which made the management of revenue a major activity. [27] Cromwell's new system was highly efficient with far less corruption or secret payoffs or bribery than before. Its drawback was the multiplication of departments whose sole unifying agent was Cromwell; his fall caused confusion and uncertainty; the solution was even greater reliance on bureaucratic institutions and the new Privy Council. [28]

Role of Winchester

In dramatic contrast to his father, Henry VIII spent heavily, in terms of military operations in Britain and in France, and in building a great network of palaces. How to pay for it remained a serious issue. The growing number of departments meant many new salaried bureaucrats. There were further financial and administrative difficulties in 1540–58, aggravated by war, debasement, corruption and inefficiency, which were mainly caused by Somerset. After Cromwell's fall, William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester, the Lord Treasurer, produced further reforms to simplify the arrangements, reforms which united most of the crown's finance under the exchequer. The courts of general surveyors and augmentations were fused into a new Court of Augmentations, and this was later absorbed into the exchequer along with the First Fruits and Tenths. [29]

Impact of war

Flemish painting showing the encounter between Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor and Henry VIII. In the background is depicted the Battle of the Spurs against Louis XII of France. Flemish School, 16th century - The Meeting of Henry VIII and the Emperor Maximilian I - RCIN 405800 - Royal Collection.jpg
Flemish painting showing the encounter between Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor and Henry VIII. In the background is depicted the Battle of the Spurs against Louis XII of France.

At the end of his reign, Henry VII's peacetime income was about £113,000, of which customs on imports amounted to about £40,000. There was little debt, and he left his son a large treasury. Henry VIII spent heavily on luxuries, such as tapestries and palaces, but his peacetime budget was generally satisfactory. The heavy strain came from warfare, including building defences, building a Navy, Suppressing insurrections, warring with Scotland, and engaging in very expensive continental warfare. Henry's Continental wars won him little glory or diplomatic influence, and no territory. Nevertheless, warfare 1511 to 1514 with three large expeditions and two smaller ones cost £912,000. The Boulogne campaign of 1544 cost £1,342,000 and the wars against Scotland £954,000; the naval wars cost £149,000 and large sums were spent to build and maintain inland and coastal fortifications. The total cost of war and defence between 1539 and 1547 was well over £2,000,000, although the accounting procedures were too primitive to give an accurate total. Adding it all up, approximately 35% came from taxes, 32% from selling land and monastery holdings, and 30% from debasing the coinage. The cost of war in the short reign of Edward VI was another £1,387,000. [30]

After 1540, the Privy Coffers were responsible for 'secret affairs', in particular for the financing of war. The Royal Mint was used to generate revenue by debasing the coinage; the government's profit in 1547–51 was £1.2 million. However, under the direction of regent Northumberland, Edward's wars were brought to an end. The mint no longer generated extra revenue after debasement was stopped in 1551. [31]

Edward VI: 1547–1553

Although Henry was only in his mid-50s, his health deteriorated rapidly in 1546. At the time the conservative faction, led by Bishop Stephen Gardiner and Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk that was opposed to religious reformation seemed to be in power, and was poised to take control of the regency of the nine-year-old boy who was heir to the throne. However, when the king died, the pro-reformation factions suddenly seized control of the new king, and of the Regency Council, under the leadership of Edward Seymour. Bishop Gardiner was discredited, and the Duke of Norfolk was imprisoned for all of the new king's reign. [32]

The short reign of Edward VI marked the triumph of Protestantism in England. Somerset, the elder brother of the late Queen Jane Seymour (married to Henry VIII) and uncle to King Edward VI had a successful military career. When the boy king was crowned, Somerset became Lord Protector of the realm and in effect ruled England from 1547 to 1549. Seymour led expensive, inconclusive wars with Scotland. His religious policies angered Catholics. Purgatory was rejected so there was no more need for prayers to saints, relics, and statues, nor for masses for the dead. Some 2400 permanent endowments called chantries had been established that supported thousands of priests who celebrated masses for the dead, or operated schools or hospitals in order to earn grace for the soul in purgatory. The endowments were seized by Cromwell in 1547. [33] [34] Historians have contrasted the efficiency of Somerset's takeover of power in 1547 with the subsequent ineptitude of his rule. By autumn 1549, his costly wars had lost momentum, the crown faced financial ruin, and riots and rebellions had broken out around the country. He was overthrown by his former ally John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland. [35]

Until recent decades, Somerset's reputation with historians was high, in view of his many proclamations that appeared to back the common people against a rapacious landowning class. In the early 20th century this line was taken by the influential A. F. Pollard, to be echoed by Edward VI's leading biographer W. K. Jordan. A more critical approach was initiated by M. L. Bush and Dale Hoak in the mid-1970s. Since then, Somerset has often been portrayed as an arrogant ruler, devoid of the political and administrative skills necessary for governing the Tudor state. [36] [37]

Dudley by contrast moved quickly after taking over an almost bankrupt administration in 1549. [38] Working with his top aide William Cecil, Dudley ended the costly wars with France and Scotland and tackled finances in ways that led to some economic recovery. To prevent further uprisings he introduced countrywide policing, appointed Lords Lieutenants who were in close contact with London, and set up what amounted to a standing national army. Working closely with Thomas Cramner, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dudley pursued an aggressively Protestant religious policy. They promoted radical reformers to high Church positions, with the Catholic bishops under attack. The use of the Book of Common Prayer became law in 1549; prayers were to be in English not Latin. The Mass was no longer to be celebrated, and preaching became the centerpiece of church services.

Purgatory, Protestantism declared, was a Catholic superstition that falsified the Scriptures. Prayers for the dead were useless because no one was actually in Purgatory. It followed that prayers to saints, veneration of relics, and adoration of statues were all useless superstitions that had to end. For centuries devout Englishman had created endowments called chantries designed as good works that generated grace to help them get out of purgatory after they died. Many chantries were altars or chapels inside churches, or endowments that supported thousands of priests who said Masses for the dead. In addition there were many schools and hospitals established as good works. In 1547 a new law closed down 2,374 chantries and seized their assets. [39] Although the Act required the money to go to "charitable" ends and the "public good," most of it appears to have gone to friends of the Court. [40] Historian A.G. Dickens has concluded:

To Catholic opinion, the problem set by these legal confiscations ... [was] the disappearance of a large clerical society from their midst, the silencing of masses, the rupture of both visible and spiritual ties, which over so many centuries have linked rude provincial man with a great world of the Faith. ... The Edwardian dissolution exerted its profounder effects in the field of religion. In large part it proved destructive, for while it helped to debar a revival of Catholic devotion it clearly contain elements which injured the reputation of Protestantism. [41]

The new Protestant orthodoxy for the Church of England was expressed in the Forty-Two Articles of Faith in 1553. But when the king suddenly died, Dudley's last-minute efforts to make his daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey the new sovereign failed after only nine days of her reign. Queen Mary took over and had him beheaded and had Jane Grey beheaded after Thomas Wyatt's Protestant rebellion against the marriage of the queen and Philip II of Spain less than a year later. [42] [43]

Mary I: 1553-1558

Mary was the daughter of Henry VIII by Catherine of Aragon; she closely identified with her Catholic, Spanish heritage. She was next in line for the throne. However, in 1553 as Edward VI lay dying, he and the Duke of Northumberland plotted to make his first cousin once removed Lady Jane Grey as the new Queen. Northumberland, a duke, wanted to keep control of the government, and promote Protestantism. Edward signed a devise to alter the succession, but that was not legal, for only Parliament could amend its own acts. Edward's Privy Council kept his death secret for three days to install Lady Jane, but Northumberland had neglected to take control of Princess Mary. She fled and organised a band of supporters, who proclaimed her Queen across the country. The Privy Council abandoned Northumberland, and proclaimed Mary to be the sovereign after nine days of the pretended Jane Grey. Queen Mary imprisoned Lady Jane and executed Northumberland. [44] [45]

Mary is remembered for her vigorous efforts to restore Roman Catholicism after Edward's short-lived crusade to minimise Catholicism in England. Protestant historians have long denigrated her reign, emphasising that in just five years she burned several hundred Protestants at the stake in the Marian persecutions. However, a historiographical revisionism since the 1980s has to some degree improved her reputation among scholars. [46] [47] Christopher Haigh's bold reappraisal of the religious history of Mary's reign painted the revival of religious festivities and a general satisfaction, if not enthusiasm, at the return of the old Catholic practices. [48] Her re-establishment of Roman Catholicism was reversed by her younger half-sister and successor Elizabeth I.

Protestant writers at the time took a highly negative view, blasting her as "Bloody Mary". John Knox attacked her in his First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (1558), and she was prominently vilified in Actes and Monuments (1563), by John Foxe. Foxe's book taught Protestants for centuries that Mary was a bloodthirsty tyrant. In the mid-20th century, H. F. M. Prescott attempted to redress the tradition that Mary was intolerant and authoritarian by writing more objectively, and scholarship since then has tended to view the older, simpler, partisan assessments of Mary with greater scepticism. [49]

Haigh concluded that the "last years of Mary's reign were not a gruesome preparation for Protestant victory, but a continuing consolidation of Catholic strength." [50] Catholic historians, such as John Lingard, argued Mary's policies failed not because they were wrong but because she had too short a reign to establish them. In other countries, the Catholic Counter-Reformation was spearheaded by Jesuit missionaries; Mary's chief religious advisor, Cardinal Pole, refused to allow the Jesuits in England. [51] Spain was widely seen as the enemy, and her marriage to King Phillip II of Spain was deeply unpopular, even though he had practically no role in English government and they had no children. The military loss of Calais to France was a bitter humiliation to English pride. Failed harvests increased public discontent. [52] Although Mary's rule was ultimately ineffectual and unpopular, her innovations regarding fiscal reform, naval expansion, and colonial exploration were later lauded as Elizabethan accomplishments. [53]

Elizabeth I: 1558–1603

The Procession Picture, c. 1600, showing Elizabeth I borne along by her courtiers Procession Portrait of Elizabeth I.jpg
The Procession Picture, c. 1600, showing Elizabeth I borne along by her courtiers

Historians often depict Elizabeth's reign as the golden age in English history in terms of political, social and cultural development, and in comparison with Continental Europe. [54] [55] Calling her "Gloriana" and using the symbol of Britannia starting in 1572, marked the Elizabethan age as a renaissance that inspired national pride through classical ideals, international expansion, and naval triumph over the hated and feared Spanish. [56] Elizabeth's reign marks the decisive turning point in English religious history, as a predominantly Catholic nation at the beginning of her reign was predominantly Protestant by the end. Although Elizabeth executed 250 Catholic priests, she also executed some extreme Puritans, and on the whole she sought a moderately conservative position that mixed Royal control of the church (with no people role), combined with predominantly Catholic ritual, and a predominantly Calvinists theology. [57]

Scotland and Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary, Queen of Scots (lived 1542–87) was a devout Catholic and next in line for the throne of England after Elizabeth. Her status became a major domestic and international issue for England. [58] especially after the death of King James IV at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. The upshot was years of struggle for control of the throne, nominally held by the infant king James V (lived 1512–42, reigned 1513–42), until he came of age in 1528.

Mary of Guise (lived 1515–60) was a French woman close to the French throne. She ruled as the regent for her teenaged daughter Queen Mary, 1554–60. The regent and her daughter were both strong proponents of Catholicism and attempted to suppress the rapidly Growth of Protestantism in Scotland. Mary of Guise was a strong opponent of Protestantism, and worked to maintain a close alliance between Scotland and France, called the Auld Alliance. In 1559 the Regent became alarmed that widespread Scottish hostility against French rule was strengthening the partisan cause, so she banned unauthorised preaching. But the fiery preacher John Knox sent Scotland aflame with his preaching, leading the coalition of powerful Scottish nobles, calling themselves the Lords of the Congregation raised the rebellion to overthrow the Catholic Church and seize its lands. The Lords appealed to Elizabeth for English help, but she played a very cautious hand. The 1559 treaty with France called for peace and she was unwilling to violate it, especially since England had no allies at the time. Supporting rebels against the lawful ruler violated Elizabeth's deeply held claims to the legitimacy of all royalty. On the other hand, a French victory in Scotland would establish a Catholic state on the northern border supported by a powerful French enemy. Elizabeth first sent money, then sent artillery, then sent a fleet that destroyed the French fleet in Scotland. Finally she sent 8,000 troops north. The death of Mary of Guise allowed England, France and Scotland to come to terms in the Treaty of Edinburgh in 1560, which had a far-reaching impact. France permanently withdrew all its forces from Scotland. It ensured the success of the Reformation in Scotland; it began a century of peace with France; it ended any threat of a Scottish invasion; and it paved the way for a union of the two kingdoms in 1603 when the Scottish king James VI inherited the English throne as James I and launched the Stuart era. [59]

When the treaty was signed, Mary was in Paris as the wife of the French King Francis II. When he died in 1561, she returned to Scotland as Queen of Scotland. However, when Elizabeth refused to recognise her as the heir to the English throne, Mary rejected the Treaty of Edinburgh. She made an unfortunate marriage to Lord Darnley who mistreated her and murdered her Italian favourite David Rizzio. Darnley in turn was murdered by the Earl of Bothwell. He was acquitted of murder; she quickly married Bothwell. Most people at the time thought she was deeply involved in adultery or murder; historians have argued at length and are undecided. However rebellion broke out and the Protestant nobles defeated the Queen's forces in 1567. [60] She was forced to abdicate in favour of her infant son James VI; she fled to England, where Elizabeth confined her in house arrest for 19 years. Mary engaged in numerous complex plots to assassinate Elizabeth and become queen herself. Finally Elizabeth caught her plotting the Babington Plot and had her executed in 1587. [61] [62]

Troubled later years: 1585–1603

Elizabeth's final two decades saw mounting problems that were left for the Stuarts to solve after 1603. John Cramsie, in reviewing the recent scholarship in 2003, argues:

the period 1585–1603 is now recognised by scholars as distinctly more troubled than the first half of Elizabeth's long reign. Costly wars against Spain and the Irish, involvement in the Netherlands, socio-economic distress, and an authoritarian turn by the regime all cast a pall over Gloriana's final years, underpinning a weariness with the queen's rule and open criticism of her government and its failures. [63]

Elizabeth remained a strong leader, but almost all of her earlier advisers had died or retired. Robert Cecil (1563–1612) took over the role of leading advisor long held by his father Lord Burghley. Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (1567–1601) was her most prominent general, a role previously held by his stepfather Robert Dudley, who was the love of Elizabeth's life; and the adventurer/historian Sir Walter Raleigh (1552–1618) was a new face on the scene. The three new men formed a triangle of interlocking and opposing forces that was hard to break into. The first vacancy came in 1601, when Devereux was executed for attempting to take the Queen prisoner and seize power. [64] After Elizabeth died the new king kept on Cecil as his chief advisor, and beheaded Raleigh.

Numerous popular uprisings occurred; all suppressed by royal authorities. The largest were:

Local government

The main officials of the local government operated at the county level (also called "shire") were the sheriff and the Lord Lieutenant. [71] the power of the sheriff had declined since medieval days, but he was still very prestigious. He was appointed for a one-year term, with no renewals, by the King's Privy Council. He was paid many small fees, but they probably did not meet the sheriff's expenses in terms of hospitality and hiring his under-sheriffs and bailiffs. The sheriff held court every month to deal with civil and criminal cases. He supervised elections, ran the jail and meted out punishments. His subordinates provided staffing for the county's justices of the peace.

The Lord Lieutenant was a new office created by Henry VIII to represent the royal power in each county. He was a person with good enough connections at court to be selected by the king and served at the king's pleasure, often for decades. [72] He had limited powers of direct control, so successful Lord Lieutenants worked with his deputy lieutenants and dealt with the gentry through compromise, consensus, and the inclusion of opposing factions. He was in charge of mobilising the militia if necessary for defence, or to assist the king in military operations. In Yorkshire in 1588, the Lord Lieutenant was the Earl of Huntington, who urgently needed to prepare defences in the face of the threatened invasion from the Spanish Armada. The Queen's Privy Council urgently called upon him to mobilise the militia, and report on the availability of men and horses. Huntington's challenge was to overcome the reluctance of many militia men, the shortages of arms, training mishaps, and jealousy among the gentry as to who would command which unit. Despite Huntingdon's last-minute efforts, the mobilisation of 1588 revealed a reluctant society that only grudgingly answered the call to arms. The Armada never landed, and the militia were not actually used. [73] During the civil wars of the mid-17th century, the Lord Lieutenant played an even more important role in mobilising his county either for king or for Parliament. [74]

The day-to-day business of government was in the hands of several dozen justices of the peace (JP). They handled all the real routine police administrative functions, and were paid through a modest level of fees. Other local officials included constables, church-wardens, mayors, and city aldermen. The JP duties involved a great deal of paperwork – primarily in Latin – and attracted a surprisingly strong cast of candidates. For example, The 55 JPs in Devonshire holding office in 1592 included:

Sir Francis Drake, Sir Ferdinando Gorges, Gilberts, Carews, Seymours, Courtenays, and other names prominent among the men who laid the foundations of the maritime greatness of England and of the existence of America. Of the fifty-five, twenty-eight were at one time or another high-sheriffs of the county, twenty more were then, or became afterwards, knights, six sat in the House of Commons, and three in the House of Lords. [75]

Social history and daily life

The cultural achievements of the Elizabethan era have long attracted scholars, and since the 1960s they have conducted intensive research on the social history of England. [76] [77] [78] [79] [80]


The House of Tudor produced five monarchs who ruled during this reign. Occasionally listed is Lady Jane Grey, sometimes known as the 'Nine Days' Queen' for the shortness of her de facto reign. [81]

The Tudor myth

The Tudor myth is a particular tradition in English history, historiography and literature that presents the period of the 15th century, including the Wars of the Roses, as a dark age of anarchy and bloodshed, and sees the Tudor period of the 16th century as a golden age of peace, law, order, and prosperity. [82]

See also

Related Research Articles

Edward VI of England 16th-century Tudor king of England

Edward VI was the King of England and Ireland from 28 January 1547 until his death in 1553. He was crowned on 20 February at the age of nine. Edward was the son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, and England's first monarch to be raised as a Protestant. During his reign, the realm was governed by a regency council because he never reached maturity. The council was first led by his uncle Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset (1547–1549), and then by John Dudley, 1st Earl of Warwick (1550–1553), who from 1551 was Duke of Northumberland.

Henry VIII 16th-century King of England

Henry VIII was King of England from 1509 until his death in 1547. Henry is best known for his six marriages, and, in particular, his efforts to have his first marriage annulled. His disagreement with Pope Clement VII about such an annulment led Henry to initiate the English Reformation, separating the Church of England from papal authority. He appointed himself Supreme Head of the Church of England and dissolved convents and monasteries, for which he was excommunicated. Henry is also known as "the father of the Royal Navy," as he invested heavily in the navy, increasing its size from a few to more than 50 ships, and established the Navy Board.

Mary I of England Queen of England and Ireland from 1553-1558

Mary I, also known as Mary Tudor, and as "Bloody Mary" by her Protestant opponents, was Queen of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death in 1558. She is best known for her vigorous attempt to reverse the English Reformation, which had begun during the reign of her father, Henry VIII. Her attempt to restore to the church the property confiscated in the previous two reigns was largely thwarted by parliament, but during her five-year reign, Mary had over 280 religious dissenters burned at the stake in the Marian persecutions.

House of Tudor English royal house of Welsh origin

The House of Tudor was an English royal house of Welsh origin, descended from the Tudors of Penmynydd. Tudor monarchs ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including their ancestral Wales and the Lordship of Ireland from 1485 until 1603, with six monarchs in that period: Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Jane, Mary I and Elizabeth I. The Tudors succeeded the House of Plantagenet as rulers of the Kingdom of England, and were succeeded by the House of Stuart. The first Tudor monarch, Henry VII of England, descended through his mother from a legitimised branch of the English royal House of Lancaster, a cadet house of the Plantagenets. The Tudor family rose to power in the wake of the Wars of the Roses (1455–1487), which left the Tudor-aligned House of Lancaster extinct in the male line.

Elizabethan era Epoch in English history marked by the reign of Queen Elizabeth I

The Elizabethan era is the epoch in the Tudor period of the history of England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558–1603). Historians often depict it as the golden age in English history. The symbol of Britannia was first used in 1572, and often thereafter, to mark the Elizabethan age as a renaissance that inspired national pride through classical ideals, international expansion, and naval triumph over Spain.

Anne of Cleves 16th-century queen consort of England

Anne of Cleves was Queen of England from 6 January to 9 July 1540 as the fourth wife of King Henry VIII. Not much is known about Anne before 1527, when she became betrothed to Francis, Duke of Bar, son and heir of Antoine, Duke of Lorraine, although their marriage did not proceed. In March 1539, negotiations for Anne's marriage to Henry began, as Henry believed that he needed to form a political alliance with her brother, William, who was a leader of the Protestants of western Germany, to strengthen his position against potential attacks from Catholic France and the Holy Roman Empire.

Thomas Cromwell English statesman and chief minister to King Henry VIII of England

Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex, was an English lawyer and statesman who served as chief minister to King Henry VIII from 1534 to 1540, when he was beheaded on orders of the king.

Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset

Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset PC, also known as Edward Semel, was the eldest surviving brother of Queen Jane Seymour (d. 1537), the third wife of King Henry VIII. He was Lord Protector of England from 1547 to 1549 during the minority of his nephew King Edward VI (1547–1553). Despite his popularity with the common people, his policies often angered the gentry and he was overthrown.

Reginald Pole

Reginald Pole was an English cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and the last Roman Catholic archbishop of Canterbury, holding the office from 1556 to 1558, during the Counter-Reformation.

Richard Rich, 1st Baron Rich Lord Chancellor of England

Richard Rich, 1st Baron Rich, was Lord Chancellor during King Edward VI of England's reign, from 1547 until January 1552. He was the founder of Felsted School with its associated alms houses in Essex in 1564. He was a beneficiary of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and persecuted opponents of church and state. He personally tortured the English writer, poet and Protestant martyr Anne Askew.

The Acts of Supremacy are two acts passed by the Parliament of England in the 16th century that established the English monarchs as the head of the Church of England. The 1534 Act declared King Henry VIII and his successors as the Supreme Head of the Church, replacing the pope. The Act was repealed during the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary I. The 1558 Act declared Queen Elizabeth I and her successors the Supreme Governor of the Church, a title that the British monarch still holds.

Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton

Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton, KG was an English peer, secretary of state, Lord Chancellor and Lord High Admiral. A naturally skilled but unscrupulous and devious politician who changed with the times and personally tortured Anne Askew, Wriothesley served as a loyal instrument of King Henry VIII in the latter's break with the Catholic church. Richly rewarded with royal gains from the Dissolution of the Monasteries, he nevertheless prosecuted Calvinists and other dissident Protestants when political winds changed.

Kingdom of England Historic sovereign kingdom on the British Isles (927–1649; 1660–1707)

The Kingdom of England was a sovereign state on the island of Great Britain from 12 July 927, when it emerged from various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, until 1 May 1707, when it united with Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. The Kingdom of England was among the most powerful states in Europe during the medieval period.

Early modern Britain is the history of the island of Great Britain roughly corresponding to the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Major historical events in Early Modern British history include numerous wars, especially with France, along with the English Renaissance, the English Reformation and Scottish Reformation, the English Civil War, the Restoration of Charles II, the Glorious Revolution, the Treaty of Union, the Scottish Enlightenment and the formation and collapse of the First British Empire.

Tudor navy

The Tudor navy was the navy of the Kingdom of England under the ruling Tudor dynasty (1485–1603). The period involved important and critical changes that led to the establishment of a permanent navy and laid the foundations for the future Royal Navy.

English Reformation 16th-century separation of the Church of England from the Catholic Church

The English Reformation took place in 16th-century England when the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church. These events were, in part, associated with the wider European Protestant Reformation, a religious and political movement that affected the practice of Christianity in western and central Europe. Causes included the invention of the printing press, increased circulation of the Bible and the transmission of new knowledge and ideas among scholars, the upper and middle classes and readers in general. The phases of the English Reformation, which also covered Wales and Ireland, were largely driven by changes in government policy, to which public opinion gradually accommodated itself.

Reformation in Ireland

The Reformation in Ireland was a movement for the reform of religious life and institutions that was introduced into Ireland by the English administration at the behest of King Henry VIII of England. His desire for an annulment of his marriage was known as the King's Great Matter. Ultimately Pope Clement VII refused the petition; consequently, in order to give legal effect to his wishes, it became necessary for the King to assert his lordship over the Catholic Church in his realm. In passing the Acts of Supremacy in 1534, the English Parliament confirmed the King's supremacy over the Church in the Kingdom of England. This challenge to Papal supremacy resulted in a breach with the Catholic Church. By 1541, the Irish Parliament had agreed to the change in status of the country from that of a Lordship to that of Kingdom of Ireland.

The will of Henry VIII of England was a significant constitutional document, or set of contested documents created in the 1530s and 1540s, affecting English and Scottish politics for the rest of the 16th century. In conjunction with legislation passed by the English Parliament, it was supposed to have a regulative effect in deciding the succession to the three following monarchs of the House of Tudor, the three legitimate and illegitimate children of King Henry VIII of England. Its actual legal and constitutional status was much debated; and arguably the succession to Elizabeth I of England did not respect Henry's wishes.

Richard Bruce Wernham, was an English historian of Elizabethan England. After his death The Times called him "the leading historian of English foreign policy in the 16th century".

Edmund Steward otherwise Stewart or Stewarde was an English lawyer and clergyman who served as Chancellor and later Dean of Winchester Cathedral until his removal in 1559.


  1. John Guy (1988) Tudor England, Oxford University Press, p. 32
  2. David M. Palliser, The Age of Elizabeth: England under the later Tudors, 1547–1603 p. 300.
  3. Ian Dawson, The Tudor century (1993) p. 214
  4. Peter H. Marshall, Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation (Yale UP, 2017).
  5. G. R. Elton, The Tudor Constitution: Documents and Commentary (1960) pp 318–19
  6. Ronald H. Fritze, Historical Dictionary of Tudor England, 1485–1603 (1991) 419-20.
  7. John Cannon, The Oxford Companion to British history (1997) pp 794–95.
  8. Sydney Anglo, "Ill of the dead: The posthumous reputation of Henry VII", Renaissance Studies 1 (1987): 27–47. online
  9. Steven Gunn, Henry VII's New Men and the Making of Tudor England (2016)
  10. E. W. Ives, "Henry VIII (1491–1547)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (2009) accessed 8 Aug 2017
  11. Richard Rex, Henry VIII and the English reformation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006).
  12. J.J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII (1968) pp 500–1.
  13. A.F. Pollard, Henry VIII (1902) pp 50, 100–2.
  14. N.A.M. Rodger, The Safeguard of the Sea: A Naval History of Britain 660 – 1649 (1997) pp 184, 221 236–7
  15. David Loades, The Tudor Navy: An administrative, political and military history (1992) is the standard history.
  16. Elaine W. Fowler, English sea power in the early Tudor period, 1485–1558 (1965) is an older study.
  17. G.R. Elton, Reform and Reformation: England, 1509–1558 (1977) pp 309–10.
  18. Sara Nair James, "Cardinal Wolsey: The English Cardinal Italianate" in Christopher Cobb, ed. (2009). Renaissance Papers 2008. Camden House. p. 1. ISBN   9781571133977.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  19. John Guy, Tudor England (1988) p 87.
  20. S.T. Bindoff, Tudor England (1950), p 78
  21. J.D. Mackie, The Earlier Tudors 1485 – 1558 (1952), pp 286–334.
  22. G.R. Elton, The Tudor Revolution in Government (1953).
  23. He was a distant relative of Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658) who ruled a century later.
  24. Christoper Coleman and David Starkey, eds., Revolution Reassessed: Revision in the History of Tudor Government and Administration (1986)
  25. Mackie, The Earlier Tudors 1485 – 1558 (1952), pp 413–17.
  26. Mackie, The Earlier Tudors, pp 370–79.
  27. John A. Wagner and Susan Walters Schmid (2011). Encyclopedia of Tudor England. ABC-CLIO. p. 947. ISBN   9781598842999.
  28. D. E. Hoak (1976). The King's Council in the Reign of Edward VI . Cambridge UP. pp.  89. ISBN   9780521208666.
  29. John A. Wagner and Susan Walters Schmid (2011). Encyclopedia of Tudor England. ABC-CLIO. p. 847. ISBN   9781598842999.
  30. Penry Williams, The Tudor Regime (1979) pp 55–69.
  31. Robert Tittler; Norman Jones (2008). A Companion to Tudor Britain. John Wiley & Sons. p. 187. ISBN   9781405137409.
  32. W.K. Jordan, Edward VI: The Young King. The Protectorship of the Duke of Somerset (1968)
  33. G.R. Elton, The Tudor Constitution (1960) pp 372, 382–85.
  34. Dickens, The English Reformation, pp 197–229.
  35. Diarmaid MacCulloch, The Boy King: Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation (2002) p 104.
  36. G.R. Elton, Reform and Reformation (1977) pp. 333–50.
  37. David Loades, "The reign of Edward VI: An historiographical survey" Historian 67#1 (2000): 22+ online
  38. David Loades, "Dudley, John, duke of Northumberland (1504–1553)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2008) accessed 8 Aug 2017
  39. G.R. Elton, The Tudor Constitution (1960) pp 372, 382–85.
  40. A.G. Dickens, The English Reformation (1964) pp 205–17.
  41. A.G. Dickens, The English Reformation (1964) p 217
  42. Mackie, The Earlier Tudors, pp 508–22.
  43. Dickens, The English Reformation, 230-58.
  44. Paulina Kewes, "The 1553 succession crisis reconsidered." Historical Research (2017). doi:10.1111/1468-2281.12178
  45. Stanley T. Bindoff, "A Kingdom at Stake, 1553." History Today 3.9 (1953): 642–28.
  46. Thomas S. Freeman, "'Restoration and Reaction: Reinterpreting the Marian Church'." Journal of Ecclesiastical History (2017). online
  47. David Loades, "The Reign of Mary Tudor: Historiography and Research." Albion 21.4 (1989): 547–558. online
  48. Christopher Haigh, English Reformations: religion, politics and society under the Tudors (1992), 203–34.
  49. Ann Weikel, "Mary I (1516–1558)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004) doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/18245.
  50. Haigh, English Reformations: religion, politics and society under the Tudors (1992), 234.
  51. Thomas F Mayer "A Test of Wills: Cardinal Pole, Ignatius Loyola, and the Jesuits in England," in Thomas M. McCoog, ed. (1996). The Reckoned Expense: Edmund Campion and the Early English Jesuits. pp. 21–38. ISBN   9780851155906.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  52. David M. Loades, Mary Tudor: A Life (1989) pp. 340–343.
  53. Robert Tittler, The Reign of Mary I (2nd ed. 1991), p. 80.
  54. Roy Strong, The Cult of Elizabeth: Elizabethan Portraiture and Pageantry (1999).
  55. Paul Hilliam, Elizabeth I: Queen of England's Golden Age (2005).
  56. John Morrill, ed. The Oxford illustrated history of Tudor & Stuart Britain (1996) online pp 44, 325.
  57. J.B. Black, The Reign of Elizabeth: 1558–1603 (1959) pp 1–33, 166–205.
  58. John Guy, Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart (2014),
  59. Paul E.J. Hammer, Elizabeth's wars: war, government and society in Tudor England, 1544–1604 (2003).
  60. Guy, Queen of Scots , chapters 13–27
  61. Black, The Reign of Elizabeth pp 63–118,, 372–89.
  62. David Loades, Elizabeth I (2003) pp 175–178, 220–33.
  63. John Cramsie, "The Changing Reputations of Elizabeth I and James VI & I," Reviews and History: Covering books and digital resources across all fields of history (review no. 334 June 2003)
  64. Penry Williams, The Later Tudors: England, 1547–1603 (1998) pp 325–28, 370–73.
  65. M.L. Bush, "The Tudor polity and the pilgrimage of grace." Historical Research 80.207 (2007): 47–72. online
  66. Frances Rose-Troup, The western rebellion of 1549: an account of the insurrections in Devonshire and Cornwall against religious innovations in the reign of Edward VI, London: Smith, Elder, 1913 online.
  67. Anthony Fletcher and Diarmaid Macculloch, Tudor Rebellions (5th ed. 2004) pp. 69–83
  68. Fletcher (2004) pp. 90-95
  69. Fritze, Historical Dictionary of Tudor England pp 351–53.
  70. Krista Kesselring, The Northern Rebellion of 1569: Faith, Politics and Protest in Elizabethan England (Springer, 2007).
  71. Edward Potts Cheyney, The European Background of American History: 1300–1600 (1904) pp 261–70. online
  72. Cheyney, The European Background (1904) pp 270–73.
  73. Michael J. Braddick, "'Uppon This Instant Extraordinarie Occasion': Military Mobilization in Yorkshire before and after the Armada." Huntington Library Quarterly 61#3/4 (1998): 429–455.
  74. Victor L. Stater, Noble Government: the Stuart Lord Lieutenancy and the Transformation of English Politics (1994).
  75. Cheyney, The European Background p 277.
  76. Penry Williams, The Later Tudors: England, 1547–1603 (New Oxford History of England, 1998), chapters 6, 10, 11, 12.
  77. John Morrill, ed., The Oxford Illustrated History of Tudor and Stuart Britain (1995) chapters 5 to 10.
  78. D.M. Palliser, The Age of Elizabeth: England Under the Later Tudors (2nd ed. 1992)
  79. Felicity Heal and Clive Holmes, eds., The gentry in England and Wales, 1500–1700 (1994).
  80. There is elaborate detail in Shakespeare's England. An Account of the Life and Manners of his Age (2 vol. 1916). vol 1 online
  81. Ives 2009 , p. 2
  82. Tillyard, E. M. W. Shakespeare’s History Plays. Chatto & Windus (1944) ISBN   978-0701111571

Book sources

Further reading

Reference books

Political history

Religious, social, economic and cultural history


Primary sources

House of Tudor
Preceded by
House of York
Royal house of the Kingdom of England
Succeeded by
House of Stuart