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The House of Tudor

The House of Tudor was a line of English Kings and Queens from 1485 to 1603.

The first Tudor King was King Henry VII who took the throne at the end of the Wars of the Roses, defeating King Richard III. Upon King Henry VII’s death his son became King – the famous King Henry VIII!

King Henry VIII

Henry VIII was married six times! He was desperate for a male heir to the throne. Catherine of Aragon (his first wife who he married in 1509) gave birth to a baby girl, Mary (later Queen Mary I). Over time Henry wanted his marriage annulled. He wrote to the Head of the Church, Pope Clement VII seeking an annulment. When the Pope refused Henry broke with Rome and formed his own church, the Church of England, who allowed his marriage to be annulled. This is still the main church in England today!

Now a single man, Henry married Anne Boleyn in 1533. Anne gave Henry a second daughter, Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth I). After Anne Boleyn had suffered several miscarriages, Henry sentenced Anne to death. The exact reason for this is disputed – it could have been on charges of treason, adultery or even witchcraft! Anne Boleyn was executed on 19 May 1536. Henry was now free to marry his mistress, Jane Seymour, who had been Anne Boleyn’s Lady in Waiting! Henry married Jane in 1536.

Jane Seymour finally gave Henry the son he wanted – Edward (later King Edward VI). However, in tragic circumstances, Jane Seymour died whilst giving birth in 1537. Henry was single once more.

Henry’s fourth marriage in 1540 was a political union. Henry had angered much of Europe when he split the church from Rome. A marriage was seen as a way to build political bridges. Anne of Cleves, whose brother was the leader of the Protestants of western Germany, was chosen. However this marriage lasted only six months as Henry had fallen for another – Catherine Howard.

Less than a month after divorcing Anne of Cleves, Henry married Catherine Howard. However, Henry’s fifth marriage was to prove no more successful than his first four – Catherine Howard was accused and subsequently charged with adultery and sentenced to be executed in 1542. They say you can still hear the screams of Catherine Howard in the corridors of Hampton Court Palace!

Henry married his sixth wife, Catherine Parr, in 1543. By this time Henry was an ill man. However Catherine Parr was to play a significant role in the Tudor dynasty, for she helped reconcile Henry with his daughters Mary and Elizabeth. In 1543 Henry signed the Third Succession Act, naming Mary and Elizabeth the second and third in line to the throne after Edward.

King Edward VI

Upon King Henry VIII’s death in 1547, the young Prince Edward became King Edward VI at the age of ten! King Edward VI was an ill King and died in 1553, passing the throne to his half-sister Mary.

Queen Mary I

Mary, daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, became Queen Mary I in 1553. Mary ruled until her death in 1558. Mary was a devout Catholic and tried to overturn her father’s split from Rome. Although, in the end, unsuccessful, Mary burnt over 280 Protestant religious dissenters at the stake during her reign. This is one of the reasons for her nickname – Bloody Mary.

Queen Elizabeth I

Upon Mary’s death her half-sister Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth I. Elizabeth ruled for 44 years. Elizabeth presided over a (relatively) peaceful period in English history. With the defeat of the Spanish Invasion (Spanish Armada) in 1588 being a notable military victory. Elizabeth never married and never had any children. Therefore, on her death, the throne passed to the nearest relative – James Stuart, who was King James VI of Scotland. And so the Tudor dynasty ended and the Stuart’s reign began.