The Tudor Legacy

Trouble brewing in Tudorland

Edward VI - lucy worsley

Edward VI

Edward, the son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour was born in 1537. He was only 10 years old when his father died in 1547. He was too young to rule, so his uncle, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, took over the running of the country.

The Duke of Somerset was a Protestant and he soon began to make changes to the Church of England. This included the introduction of an English Prayer Book and the decision to allow members of the clergy to get married. Attempts were made to destroy those aspects of religion that were associated with the Catholic Church, for example, the removal of stained-glass windows in churches and the destruction of religious wall-paintings.

Somerset made sure that Edward VI was educated as a Protestant, as he hoped that when Edward was old enough to rule he would continue the policy of supporting the Protestant religion.

Edward Seymour also showed concern for the poor and on 14 June 1549, he persuaded Edward to pardoned all those people who had torn down hedges enclosing common land. Many landless people thought that this meant that their king disapproved of enclosures. All over the country people began to destroy hedges that landowners had used to enclose common land.

This led to the Kett Rebellion in Norfolk. The mayor of Norwich refused to let Kett's army enter the city. However,Robert Kett and his men, armed with spears, swords and pitchforks, successfully stormed the city walls. The English government were shocked when they heard that Kett and his rebels controlled the second largest city in England.

Robert Kett formed a governing council made up of representatives from the villages that had joined the revolt. This council then sent details of their demands to Edward VI. Seymour responded by sending John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, and a large army to defeat Kett.

The Privy Council became concerned that Seymour's policies were leading to a popular uprising. In October, 1549, he was removed from power and imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Edward Seymour was released in 1550 and allowed to return to the Privy Council. Seymour soon got involved in a conspiracy and he was once again arrested. Seymour, was found guilty of treason and executed on 22nd January, 1552. John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland, was now the most important political figure in England.

Edward was suffering from tuberculosis and as his health deteriorated suddenly, and the Duke of Northumberland, tried to persuade the king to alter the succession in favour of his own daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey.

Lady Jane Grey was declared queen three days after Edward's death. However, she was forced to abdicate nine days later in favour of Edward's half-sister, Mary Tudor.

Horrible Histories:Lady Jane Grey is queen for nine days. The invention of the English mile

Lady Jane Grey

Jane Grey, the daughter of Henry Grey, the Marquess of Dorset, was born in 1537. During the final illness of Edward VI, Jane Grey was married to Guildford Dudley, fourth son of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, as part of the scheme to make sure of a Protestant succession.

Jane Grey was declared queen three days after Edward's death. However, she was forced to abdicate nine days later in favour of Edward's sister, Mary Tudor and was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

In 1554 Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Grey led a rebellion against Mary. As a result Lady Jane Grey and her husband, Guildford Dudley, were executed.

Rowland Lea later described the execution: "Lady Jane was calm, although. Elizabeth and Ellen wept... The executioner kneeled down and asked for forgiveness, which she gave most willingly... she said: "I pray you dispatch me quickly." She tied a handkerchief over her eyes; then feeling for the block, she said, "What shall I do? Where is it?" One of the by-standers guided her... She laid down her head upon the block, and stretched forth her body.

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Mary Tudor

Mary, the daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon was born in 1516. It was very important to Henry that his wife should give birth to a male child. Without a son to take over from him when he died, Henry feared that the Tudor family would lose control of England. Catherine gave birth to six children but five died within a few weeks of being born. Only one child, Mary, survived into adulthood.

By 1530 Katherine was too old to have any more children. Therefore, Henry decided he would have to have another wife. His choice was Anne Boleyn, the 20-year-old daughter of Viscount Rochford. Before he could marry Anne, Henry had to gain permission from the Pope.

Henry sent a message to the Pope arguing that his marriage to Katherine had been invalid as she had previously been married to his brother Arthur. When Katherine discovered Henry's plans she informed King Charles V of Spain. Unwilling to have his aunt lose her position, Charles warned the Pope that he would be very angry if he granted Henry a divorce. The Pope knew that once he made a decision, he would upset one of these two powerful monarchs. In an attempt to keep the peace, the Pope put off making a decision about Henry's marriage.

In January 1533 Henry VIII discovered that Anne Boleyn was pregnant. As it was important that the child should not be classed as illegitimate, arrangements were made for Henry and Anne to get married. King Charles V of Spain threatened to invade England if the marriage took place, but Henry ignored his threats and the marriage went ahead.

In September 1533, Anne gave birth to a daughter called Elizabeth. While Henry was furious about having another daughter, the supporters of Katherine of Aragon were delighted and claimed that it proved God was punishing Henry for his illegal marriage to Anne. Katherine became seriously ill in December, 1535. She died at Kimbolton Castle on 7th January, 1536. Her doctor claimed that she had been suffering from "slow poisoning". She was buried at Peterborough Abbey on 29th January 1536.

In January 1536 Anne Boleyn had a son. Unfortunately the child was born dead. Later that year Henry accused Anne of committing adultery with five different men. Anne and the men were all executed. Ten days later Henry married Jane Seymour. The following year, Jane died giving birth to Edward. Henry now at last had a male heir. After her brother became king Mary lived in retirement, refusing to accept the Protestant religion.

During the final illness of Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey was married to Guildford Dudley, fourth son of John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, as part of the scheme to make sure of a Protestant succession. Jane Grey was declared queen three days after Edward's death. However, she was forced to abdicate nine days later in favour of Mary. Elizabeth sided with Mary against the supporters of Lady Jane Grey. However, her Protestantism aroused suspicions in her Catholic sister and she was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Thomas Wyatt gave his support to the new queen until he heard she planned to marry Philip of Spain. In January, 1554, he accepted the invitation from Edward Courtenay, to join in a general insurrection throughout the country against the marriage. Based at Rochester Castle, Wyatt soon had fifteen hundred men under his command.

When Mary heard about Wyatt's actions, she issued a pardon to his followers if they returned to their homes within twenty-four hours. Some of his men took up the offer. However, when a large number of the army were sent to arrest Wyatt, they changed sides Wyatt now controlled a force of 4,000 men and he now felt strong enough to march on London.

On 1st February, 1554, Mary addressed a meeting in the Guildhall where she proclaimed Wyatt a traitor. The next morning, 20,000 men enrolled their names for the protection of the city. The bridges over the Thames within a distance of fifteen miles were broken down and on 3rd February, a reward of land of the annual value of one hundred pounds a year was offered to the person who captured Wyatt.

By the time Thomas Wyatt entered Southwark, large numbers of his army had deserted. However, he continued to march towards St. James's Palace, where Mary Tudor had taken refuge. Wyatt reached Ludgate at two o'clock in the morning of 8th February. The gate was shut against him, and he was unable to break it down. Wyatt now went into retreat but he was captured at Temple Bar.

Wyatt was taken to the Tower of London and on 15th March he was convicted of high treason and sentenced to death. At the scaffold on Tower Hill on 11th April he made a speech claiming that Princess Elizabeth had not been involved in the plot against her sister.

These Protestant attempts to overthrow Mary made her feel insecure. To protect her position, Mary decided to form an alliance with the Catholic monarchy in Spain. In 1554 Mary married Philip II, the eldest son of King Charles of Spain. The marriage was unpopular with the English people. They disliked the idea of having a foreign king. At that time the English particularly disliked the Spanish as they were seen as England's main rivals in Europe.

Soon after her marriage, Mary declared that the Pope was the only true head of the Church. This was followed by the execution of Thomas Cranmer, the archbishop of Canterbury and other Protestants who refused to accept the Pope as head of the Church. People were also punished if they were found reading bibles that had been printed in the English language.

In 1558 Mary began to get pains in her stomach and thought she was pregnant. This was important to Mary as she wanted to ensure that a Catholic monarchy would continue after her death. It was not to be. Mary had stomach cancer. When Mary died later that year. Henry VIII's other daughter, Elizabeth, a Protestant, became queen of England.

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Queen Elizabeth I

Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn was born in 1533. While Henry was furious about having another daughter, the supporters of his first wife, Catherine of Aragon were delighted and claimed that it proved God was punishing Henry for his illegal marriage to Anne.

In January 1536 Anne Boleyn had a son. Unfortunately the child was born dead. Later that year Henry accused Anne of committing adultery with five different men. Anne and the men were all executed. Ten days later Henry married Jane Seymour.

Unlike her sister Mary, Elizabeth was brought up in the Protestant faith. In 1549, during the reign of Edward VI, she rejected the advances of Thomas Seymour, Lord High Admiral of England.

On Edward's death she sided with her half-sister, Mary, against Lady Jane Grey. However, her Protestantism aroused suspicions in her Catholic sister and she was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

In 1558 Mary died and Elizabeth became queen of England. Pope Paul IV was unhappy that a Protestant monarch was once again in power. However, he suggested that if Elizabeth begged for his permission to be queen he would consider the matter. When she refused, the Pope excommunicated Elizabeth and ordered her subjects not to obey her.

Elizabeth, with the help of her chief minister, William Cecil, set about making England a Protestant nation. Catholic bishops appointed by Mary Tudor were replaced by Protestant bishops, and in 1559 Parliament passed the Act of Uniformity. Now everybody in England had to attend Protestant church services.

The Catholic kings of France and Spain were opposed to Elizabeth becoming queen of England. King Henry II of France claimed that the true heir to the throne was Mary Stuart, the queen of Scotland and the wife of his son, Francis.

After the death of her husband in 1560, Mary left France and went to Scotland to claim her throne. People in Scotland who were Protestants were unhappy with having a Catholic queen. However, with the support of France, Mary was able to hold on to power.

Elizabeth believed that Mary posed a threat to her throne. To counter this she suggested that her friend, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, should marry Mary. Attempts were made to arrange this but in 1565 Mary married Henry Darnley, the son of Lady Margaret Douglas, the granddaughter of Henry VII. The marriage therefore strengthened her descendants' claim to the English throne.

In 1566 Mary Stuart gave birth to a son named James. The marriage was not a happy one and when Darnley was mysteriously killed while recovering from smallpox at Glasgow in January 1567, when the house in which he was in was blown up by gunpowder.

Suspicion fell on Mary and her close friend, the Earl of Bothwell. When Mary married Bothwell two months later, the Protestant lords rebelled against their queen. After her army was defeated at Langside in 1567, Mary fled to England. Mary asked Elizabeth for protection from her enemies in Scotland. However, Elizabeth was highly suspicious of the woman who in the past had claimed she was the rightful queen of England. Elizabeth feared that the arrival of Mary might encourage the Catholics in England to rebel against her rule.

Elizabeth therefore decided to imprison Mary. During the next nineteen years while Mary was in prison, Elizabeth's officials discovered several Catholic plots that attempted to make Mary queen of England.

Soon after Elizabeth became queen of England, Protestants gained full control of Parliament. It now became very important to Parliament that Elizabeth should marry and produce a Protestant heir to the throne. Elizabeth had many favourites in her own court. At various times rumours circulated that Elizabeth would marry men such asRobert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, Sir Charles Hatton, and Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk.

In October 1562 Elizabeth caught smallpox. For a while, doctors thought that Elizabeth would die. This illness made Parliament realise how dangerous the situation was. Therefore, after she recovered, they asked her once again to consider marriage. Elizabeth replied that she would think about it but she refused to make a decision.

In 1566 members of Parliament tried to force Elizabeth into action by discussing the subject in the House of Lordsand the House of Commons. Elizabeth was furious with Parliament for doing this. She ordered thirty members from each House to attend a meeting at Whitehall Palace. Elizabeth read out a long speech where she pointed out that whether she got married or not was something that she would decide. She added that for Parliament to decide this question was like "the feet directing the head".

The members of Parliament at the meeting agreed not to mention the issue again. However, some members were unwilling to remain quiet on the subject. One politician, Peter Wentworth, claimed that members of Parliament had the right to discuss any subject they wanted. Elizabeth responded by ordering him to be sent to the Tower of London.

In 1579 Elizabeth began having talks about the possibility of marrying the Duke of Anjou from France. John Stubbswrote a pamphlet criticizing the proposed marriage. Stubbs objected to the fact that the Duke of Anjou was a Catholic. He also argued that, at forty-six, Elizabeth was too old to have children and so had no need to get married


Elizabeth held fewer Parliaments than her father. On average, she held a Parliament once every four years. Elizabeth made it clear that members of the House of Commons had complete freedom of speech. However, she believed that certain issues such as religion or foreign policy were best left to her and her Privy Council.

On thirty-six occasions Elizabeth vetoed laws passed by Parliament. For example, in 1585 Parliament passed a bill that banned hunting, cock-fighting and bear-baiting from taking place on Sunday. Elizabeth believed that people had the right to enjoy themselves on their one day of rest and refused to allow the bill to become law.

In 1586, the English government uncovered the Babington Plot. The plan involved the murder of Elizabeth and an invasion of England by Spanish troops. A letter was found that suggested Mary was involved in the plot. Mary was tried, found guilty and sentenced to death. For some time Elizabeth was unwilling to sign Mary's death warrant. Although reluctant to do so, Elizabeth's ministers eventually persuaded her to agree to Mary's execution.

After the death of his wife, Mary Tudor, King Philip II of Spain asked Queen Elizabeth to be his bride. Philip was upset when Elizabeth refused. He also became angry when Elizabeth did nothing to stop English sea captains from robbing his ships bringing gold back from his newly acquired territories in South America.

Elizabeth and Philip were also in conflict over religion. Elizabeth disagreed with the way Philip persecuted Protestants who lived under his control. Philip objected to the way Elizabeth had forced English Catholics to attend Protestant church services.

When Philip began persecuting Protestants living in the Netherlands, Elizabeth sent English soldiers to help protect them. In February 1587 Elizabeth agreed to the execution of Mary Stuart. Philip had hoped that Mary would eventually become the Catholic queen of England. Philip now decided to conquer England and bring an end to Elizabeth and her Protestant government.

The invasion took a lot of preparation and it was not until July 1588 that the 131 ships in the Spanish Armada left for England. The large Spanish galleons were filled with 17,000 well-armed soldiers and 180 Catholic priests. The plan was to sail to Dunkirk in France where the Armada would pick up another 16,000 Spanish soldiers.

On 6 August the Armada anchored at Calais Harbour. The English now filled eight old ships with materials that would burn fiercely. At midnight, the fire-ships were lighted and left to sail by themselves towards the Spanish ships in Calais Harbour. The plan worked and the Spanish ships fled to the open sea.

With their formation broken, the Spanish ships were easy targets for the English ships loaded with guns that could fire very large cannon balls. The Spanish captains tried to get their ships in close so that their soldiers could board the English ships. However, the English ships were quicker than the Spanish galleons and were able to keep their distance.

The English bombardment sank many Spanish galleons. Those that survived headed north. The English ships did not follow as they had run out of gunpowder. After the Armada rounded Scotland it headed south for home. However, a strong gale drove many of the ships onto the Irish rocks. Thousands of Spaniards drowned and even those that reached land were often killed by English soldiers and settlers. Of the 25,000 men that had set out in the Armada, less than 10,000 arrived home safely.

Philip II spent the next ten years supporting a series of plots to overthrow Elizabeth. All these schemes ended in failure and when Philip II died in 1598, Elizabeth was still queen of England.

When Elizabeth died in March, 1603, the Tudor dynasty came to an end and the throne was passed to James VIof Scotland.