On the 24th March 1603 Queen Elizabeth I died at the age of 69 thus bringing to an end the Tudor dynasty (sort of). The dynasty had run from 22 August 1485 when Henry Tudor of the house of Lancaster defeated King Richard III of the house of York during the Wars of the Roses. The house of Tudor gave us King Henry VII, King Henry VIII, King Edward VI, Queen Jane, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. Each had their own beliefs and campaigns and caused turmoil in the land, but who was the greatest Tudor?
Well it could be argued it was Henry VII as he was the start of the family being the monarchs of the land. Henry reigned from 22 August 1485 – 21 April 1509. He was the nephew of King Henry VI. He fought alongside his father Edmund Tudor, his uncle Jasper Tudor and his grandfather Owen Tudor in the wars of the roses. He united the houses of Lancaster and York when he married Elizabeth of York the daughter of King Edward IV. He united England and Scotland again through the marriage of his daughter Margaret to King James IV of Scotland. He boosted the country’s economy through his policies and gained much revenue from taxes. Many called him the greatest miser in the land as he didn’t always spend the revenue on the land. He created alliances with Spain and thus their supporters and he was a devoted family man who was devastated by the death of his wife.
Was it Henry VIII who reigned from 21 April 1509 – 28 January 1547? Well he probably is the most well-known of the Tudors, mainly by his happy use of the executioner. He took England away from the influences of the Catholic faith and the influence of Rome when he declared himself head of the Church of England. He forged alliances with France through the marriage of his sister Mary to King Louis XII, although he still fought with them on occasions and maintained the alliance his father established with Spain through his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. He was a great supported of the tournament in his younger years and was consider a great jouster. He was also a keen real tennis player. He did away with some of the strong taxes his father implemented although in later years his fondness for war, particularly with France, left the country nearly bankrupt. He also greatly supported the England’s food industry singlehanded through his love of eating. Although he was considered an evil tyrant he had a fondness for merriment and loved dressing up and surprising people. All in all Henry was probably a confident and insecure man all at the same time.
King Edward VI is probably one of the less well known Tudors. Edward reigned from 28 January 1547 – 6 July 1553. He reign was mainly carried out by his protector Edward Seymour who was his mother’s brother. Edward was just 9 when he came to the throne. He was the first monarch of England to be completely protestant. He is probably best known for troubles his death caused when he named his cousins eldest daughter as his successor. King Henry VIII named Edward as his heir and then the descendants of his sister Mary and her husband Charles Brandon. Edward didn’t want his catholic sister Mary to inherit the throne and since both she and his other sister Elizabeth had been declared illegitimate then Jane Grey was his heir.
Jane Grey was queen for 9 days in July 1553. She was the great granddaughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York through their daughter Mary and her second husband Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Jane’s parents were Frances Brandon and Henry Grey who were the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk. Jane married Guilford Dudley in May 1553. When Edward VI died she was proclaimed Queen. Unfortunately Mary Tudor, Edward’s sister and much of the country didn’t like this so uprisings ensued. Mary matched on London and took the throne with the help of the Privy Council. Jane and her husband were sent to the tower along with Jane’s father in law the Duke of Northumberland. All were executed the same year. Jane was just 16 or 17.
Mary I reigned from 6 July 1553 (the date her brother Edward VI died) until the 17 November 1558. He reign is probably best remembered for her persecution of those of the protestant faith. She turned England back to Rome and set about burning at the stake many protestant bishops and supporters including her father’s great friend Bishop Thomas Cramner. She was given the nick name Bloody Mary as a result of the high number of deaths, mostly under the Heresy act which made Protestantism illegal. As a result nearly 300 people were burnt to death and many hundreds fled the country. Mary survived the Wyatt rebellion which was a plot to take the throne away from her and replace her with her protestant half-sister Elizabeth. Mary had Elizabeth imprisoned in the Tower of London, but she had to release her. Mary had an ill-fated marriage to her Spanish cousin Phillip and suffered several phantom pregnancies. When she died she reluctantly left the throne to her protestant half-sister Elizabeth.
Elizabeth I or Good Queen Bess reigned from 17 November 1558 until 24 March 1603. She brought England back to Protestantism although she didn’t prosecute Catholics as she had a policy of religious tolerance. She fought off the Spanish Armada in 1588 and made her famous speech at Tilbury docks to the troops where she stated: “I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a King of England too”. She also supported the new Protestant King of France against the rest of Catholic Europe. She famously refused to marry as she didn’t want her husband to take the throne over her. This lead to problems with the succession after she died. She was convinced that those who had a claim to the throne were trying to take it away from her. She forbade her cousins from marrying and kept them close so she could control them. It even lead to her having her Catholic cousin Mary Queen of Scots being executed, although Elizabeth claimed she did mean for her to be killed. In the end she had to choose a successor virtually on her death bed and chose her cousin Mary Queen of Scots son James VI of Scotland. She was also rumoured to be one of the first people in England to have a guinea pig as a pet.
So who was the greatest? Well for me it’s Henry VIII every time. Yes he had issues and liked to solve his problems in a permanent way but boy did he know how to have fun! But then Elizabeth had a guinea pig and I love guinea pigs!
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!