The Tudor dynasty ruled England from 1485 to 1603. They rose to power at the end of the long era of Wars of the Roses and brought stability and peace to the country. The Tudor era, which began with Henry VII and ended with the reign of Elizabeth I, was marked by a number of distinct traits. Many major developments took place during this era and some of them were so impactful that they permanently changed the social, political and religious outlook of England.
The Battle of Bosworth Field was fought in 1485. At one side was Richard III, then King of England and heading the Yorkist faction while on the other side was Henry Tudor, or Henry VII, who championed the Lancastrian cause. Richard III’s rule was unpopular and he had lost some support among the Yorkists which led Henry VII to believe that he could be a more popular candidate for the throne. At the battle of Bosworth Field, Henry VII’s forces were able to defeat Richard III. This marked the first critically important event for the Tudor dynasty and marked the beginning of Tudor ascendancy.
Henry VII ascended the throne in 1485. He had the comprehensive support of the Lancastrian faction and he attempted to secure the support of the Yorkist faction by marrying Elizabeth of York in 1486. However, he couldn’t muster the full support of the Yorkist faction and it soon lead to the Battle of Stoke Field in 1487.
The Battle of Stoke Field was fought between Henry VII and a portion of the Yorkist faction. The Yorkist faction was headed by Lambert Simnel, a pretender who posed to be a legitimate claimant to throne. Henry VII decisively defeated the Yorkist faction at the battle and this victory firmly established him and his Tudor dynasty on the throne of England.
The policy of Henry VII relied more on diplomacy than warfare. He was successful in forging an alliance with Spain by betrothing his eldest son Arthur to Katherine of Aragon. The betrothal was coupled with the Treaty of Medina el Campo which established trade ties between England and Spain, and united the two against France.
Henry VII overlooked the establishment of friendly ties with Charles VIII of France. A treaty was signed between the two countries in which England recognised France’s control of Brittany while France stopped the support of Perkin Warbeck’s claim to the English throne.
Henry VII died in 1509 and the same year, his son Henry VIII ascended to the throne. Originally, Henry VII’s eldest son, Arthur, was poised to become the next King but he died in 1502. Henry VIII married his brother Arthur’s widow, Katherine of Aragon in 1509.
In 1511, a Holy League was forged to defend Papacy from France and other enemies. The League comprised of England, Venice and Spain. Henry VIII actively participated in the League, leading the English army to participate in many wars against France, such as the Battle of the Spurs in 1513.
Katherine, Henry VIII’s first wife, was the aunt of the Holy Roman Emperor. She and Henry VIII had no surviving heirs, so Henry VIII sought to divorce her and remarry. He began the divorce proceedings in 1527, seeking a Papal decree for the annulment of the marriage. But the Catholic Church didn’t conform to his wishes.
In 1533, the disagreement between England and Rome came to a head when the English parliament passed the Act in Restraint of Appeal. This act severed ties with Rome, and made the English King the head of the English Church. Henry VIII appointed Cranmer the Archbishop who happily annulled his marriage with Katherine. Henry married Anne Boleyn.
The end of ties with Rome marked the increase in the influence of Protestantism in the royal court of England. In 1536, Henry VIII abolished many monasteries and implemented other reforms which undermined Catholicism. A widespread revolt, called the Pilgrimage of Grace, was launched against him by the supporters of the Catholic cause. The revolt was based in Yorkshire and it was effectively quashed by Henry VIII by 1537.
Edward VI, the nine-year old son of Henry VIII succeeded him to the English throne. He was known for his Protestant zeal and numerous reforms aimed at firmly establishing the Protestant faith in England.
Edward VI died at a very young age from illness, not having married. He was succeeded by his half-sister Mary I, who was the daughter of Henry VIII’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon. Mary I was a staunch Catholic. Her reign marked an attempt to return to the Catholic faith.
Prince Philip was the son of Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. Mary I married him in 1554 in order to firmly establish a Catholic control over the English crown.
Mary I died in 1558, without having left an heir. She was succeeded by her half-sister Elizabeth I, who had been persecuted and imprisoned during Mary’s reign. Elizabeth I’s reign is deemed as the golden period of the Tudor dynasty.
The coronation ceremony of Elizabeth I occasioned disagreements with the Catholic clergy, previously appointed in the reign of Mary I. After the ceremony, Elizabeth I made the parliament pass a number of acts which firmly established the Church of England, Elizabeth being the Governor of the Church.
A Papal bull excommunicated Elizabeth I in 1570, saying that her subjects were no more behoved to obey her. But it failed to rouse any rebels.
Elizabeth I died in 1603 and with her ended the Tudor dynasty in England. She was succeeded by James VI of Scotland.