England was in the midst of the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century. The conflict was between Lancastrian and Yorkist factions who supported different dynastic lines for the throne of England. It culminated in the success of Henry Tudor, a Lancastrian with support on both sides.
Henry defeated Richard III of England in 1485 and effectively became the King of England. With him, the reign of the Tudor monarchs began which would continue until 1603. During the reign of the Tudor dynasty, England saw some of its most famous monarchs such as Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.
Henry VII’s brilliant success on and off the battlefield relied on excellent diplomacy and successful warfare. He brought together the support of the Lancastrian and Yorkist factions by marrying Elizabeth of York in 1486. This ended the civil war that had ravaged England for three decades. Henry VII secured family alliances with powerful contemporary European monarchs through the marriage of his children.
This established the Tudor dynasty on firm grounds and ensured that the dynasty would rule England for a considerable time to come. Henry also implemented a monetary policy which helped the crown recoup the treasury and bring stability to England. He died in 1509, leaving the throne to Henry VIII.
Henry VIII is the most famous of Tudor monarchs. He ascended to the English throne in 1509. A number of key events took place during Henry VIII’s reign which would forge a new Renaissance identity for England. The most notable of these was Henry VIII’s disagreement with the Papacy over his attempts to have his first marriage annulled. The disagreement led to a break between England and the Papacy, leading to the establishment of the Church of England.
This effectively marked a new Protestant identity for England and the declining influence of Catholicism. Henry married six times, hoping to get a male heir which he finally did. Known as the most fashionable contemporary monarch in England, Henry wielded considerable fame in Continental Europe. He died in 1547 and was succeeded by a minor Edward VI under a regency.
Edward VI is known for the conflict between the powerful nobles during his reign and his own zeal for the Protestant cause. While his uncle Edward Seymour effectively made himself the Lord Protector, Edward spent considerable effort in firmly establishing England’s Protestant identity.
He issued the Book of Common Prayer in 1549, a prayer book meant to serve as a standard text for Protestant churches. The book resulted in a rebellion from the Catholics in Cornwall and their subsequent massacre. Towards the later part of his brief reign, Edward was forcibly removed to the Windsor Castle by his uncle but was subsequently rescued when his uncle lost power to the powerful Earl of Warwick. Edward died in 1553.
Elizabeth I was the last of Tudor monarchs who reigned from 1558 to 1603. She was 25 when she became the Queen of England and despite pressures to marry, she never married. The schism between England and Catholic Europe became permanent during her reign and resulted in the Spanish Armada of 1588, a failed attempt by the Catholic monarchs of Spain to invade a Protestant England. Since Elizabeth had no heir, the English throne upon her death was passed to King James VI of Scotland.