History 11

The English Renaissance

1485-1625

 

The Renaissance actually began in Italy in the 1300’s.  It was a flowering of literary, artistic, and intellectual developments inspired by the arts and scholarly achievements of the Greeks and Romans.

 

Key figures of the Italian Renaissance included:

Dante who wrote The Divine Comedy

Francesco Petrarch who develops and popularizes the Italian sonnet

Leonardo DaVinci who was the ideal “Renaissance Man.”  He was broadly educated in science and the humanities.

Michelangelo who painted the Sistine Chapel and sculpted the famous David.

 

The Renaissance Reaches England – 1400’s

 

Key Characteristics:

1.     Religion shifts from the focus on the afterlife to focus on life in the here and now.  This is a switch from the liturgical to the secular.  The philosophy of Humanism is introduced as a result of the discoveries of Copernicus—Shift from Geocentric philosophy to Heliocentric philosophy.  Man is no longer the center of the universe.  The Church totally opposes this notion but the shift in thought results in questions as to man’s importance in the universe. 

 

2.     Universities introduce a new curriculum which included the Humanities (history, geography, poetry, and modern languages).

 

3.     The invention of the printing press by Johann Gutenberg allows for more people to have access to books, especially the Bible, but reading becomes a popular pastime among the nobility as well as the middle classes.

 

4.     Writers begin to use the vernacular in their works rather than Latin or Greek.  The transition from Middle English to Modern English also occurs during this time.  Shakespeare wrote in Modern English!

 

5.     It was the Age of Exploration. The development of the compass aided men like John Cabot and Christopher Columbus in their journies to new worlds.  In 1497 John Cabot reached Newfoundland  which created the basis for future claims to North America.

 

         

The Protestant Reformation

 

It is during this time that people began to question the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.  Many abuses of the clergy occurred at this time such as selling of Papal indulgences.  Erasmus, a Dutch monk promoted new interpretations of the Bible.  He wished to focus on morality in religion.  In 1546, Martin Luther nailed ninety-five theses (or complaints) to the door of a German church and began the Protestant movement.  The movement eventually sweeps through England and causes many wars between nations whose rulers were of one faith or another.  This was the basis for many political concerns in the monarchy of England.

 

England and the Tudor Kings

 

1.     In 1485, Henry Tudor kills Richard III on the battlefield and claimed the throne for himself.  He became Henry VII and in nothing more than a political move married Elizabeth of York.  The Wars of the Roses were a battle between the House of Lancaster and the House of York, and by marrying Elizabeth, he brought peace to the realm once and for all.  In addition, he rebuilt the nation’s treasury and in an effort to gain Welsh alliances named his first son Arthur.  There is no question that Henry VII was trying to intimate that his line was somehow connected with the legendary King Arthur of the 500’s.  His second some was named Henry and becomes the infamous Henry VIII.  More about him later.

 

2      In an attempt to unite England and Spain, Henry VII arranges for Arthur to marry Catherine of Aragon, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella.  This marriage was arranged from the time Catherine was two years old.  When Catherine is sixteen and Arthur is fourteen, she is brought over from Spain as royal preparations are underway for her marriage.  The trip is miserable for her.  All historical accounts say that she was seasick and fearful for she spoke little English.  Additionally, she has never met her future husband and knows nothing of “English ways.”  Nevertheless, she marries Arthur and Henry VII receives a huge dowry from Ferdinand and Isabella.  A few months later, the sickly Arthur dies, leaving Catherine to wonder about her position.  Henry VII has spent a majority of the dowry, and wants to retain the rest.  There is speculation as to whether the marriage was ever consummated in the first place, since Arthur had been so sickly and in later years, Catherine swears that it was not.

 

3.     After several years of haggling and negotiating, Henry VII finally agrees to the marriage of his son Henry to Catherine.  Historians note that these years were quite miserable for Catherine.  One day she was betrothed to Henry, the next day the king would take it away and declare his son would marry someone else.  Finally, they are married.  In 1509, Henry VII dies and Henry VIII takes over the realm with his bride.  The people love both rulers.  Catherine is seen as a devout Catholic and a good queen—loyal to her subjects and to her King. 

 

        The prime duty of any queen was to bear her husband’s children, preferably sons, to insure the continuation of the dynasty.  Catherine did her best and was far from barren.  Twice she miscarried, once she was delivered of a stillborn girl; two sons died in early infancy, the one a few hours the other a few weeks after delivery; only one child survived—Princess Mary, who was born in 1516.  For a time, Mary was shipped off to Spain to be raised by relatives, but returns in her childhood years.

 

4.     After eighteen years of marriage, and no son, Henry begins to tire of Catherine of Aragon and looks toward her Lady in Waiting, Anne Boleyn.  Catherine, now forty-two years old, is well past the child-bearing years, and the king must have a son!  Henry’s son by Elizabeth Blount had been publicly acknowledged and given the title of the Duke of Richmond, but he was sickly and wasn’t expected to live long enough to reign.  Henry’s advances toward Anne were shrewdly rebuffed.  She was determined not to go the way of her sister Mary (with whom Henry had fathered an illegitimate child) and therefore told Henry he could not “have” her until they were legally married.  This meant Henry had to get a divorce from Catherine!

 

5.     “The King’s Great Matter” came to a climax when he sent to the Pope for an annulment from Catherine.  The Pope would not hear of this and Henry, once called “The Defender of the Faith” was outraged.  He declared that his marriage to Catherine had been cursed.  Renaissance thinking was that when a man and woman were married, they became one flesh.  Therefore, by marrying his brother’s wife, Henry believed he was committing incest—therefore his marriage was cursed (hence no sons!).  Meanwhile, Anne kept stringing Henry along and pressed him to get a divorce or he wouldn’t get her!  Henry was in love, and decided that no matter what the Pope thought, he was getting rid of Catherine!

 

6.     In 1534, Henry enacted the Act of Supremacy which declared that he was the Supreme Head of the Church of England.  This act effectively broke off all ties with Rome.  His aides, advisors, and bishops were made to swear an oath of loyalty to Henry VIII declaring him their new spiritual leader. This caused great consternation for some and many of them went to the block because they refused to sign.  Henry had his way and divorced Catherine.  He married Anne, already pregnant.

 

7.     Henry’s subjects were not in love with Anne as Henry was.  In fact, they hated her and called her “the king’s whore.”  In 1533 she delivered Princess Elizabeth.  Henry made no pretense about his disappointment in the fact that Anne delivered a girl.  He barely paid any attention to the infant, but believed if they could have a healthy girl, that sons were still possible.  In 1536, a few weeks after Catherine of Aragon passed away, Anne delivered a stillborn son.  To Henry it seemed his second marriage was no better than his first.  Perhaps there was a curse upon this marriage as well.  After all, Anne’s sister Mary has been his mistress and marriage with a sister of one’s mistress was possibly as sinful in the eyes of God as marriage with one’s brother’s widow.  Anne was standing in his way of getting a son.

 

8.     Four months after her stillborn delivery, Anne was sent to her death after being convicted of adultery with four men (one of them accused was her own brother, George Boleyn).  There is no doubt that the charges were false and the evidence given was gained through the use of torture.  At first the four condemned men were sentenced to be drawn and quartered, but the king showed mercy at the last and they only had to endure decapitation.  Their heads were placed on spikes on London Bridge.  Anne also faced decapitation but rather than going to the block a French swordsman was sent for.  She gave her executioner twenty pounds to do a good and clean job.  He did. 

 

9.     Ten days later, Henry VIII married Jane Seymour who was a Lady in Waiting to Anne.  Henry had spied Seymour a few years earlier and was enamored with her quiet and submissive manner.  Where Anne could be somewhat demanding and shrewish, Jane was seen as plain and simple.  She wasn’t dumb, however.  She played the same game Anne did in that she made the king wait until there was a ring on her finger.   Jane was never actually crowned queen, perhaps because Henry wished to make certain there would be a son from this marriage.  He was especially sensitive to this issue since his illegitimate son, the Duke of Richmond had recently died. 

 

10.   In October , 1537 Jane Seymour delivered the long-awaited son—Prince Edward.    Henry was delighted and church bells rang throughout the country to celebrate the prince’s birth.  There were three days of celebrations.  Henry could relax.  Unfortunately, not for long.  Jane never recovered from the delivery and died ten days later from a fever. Her body was laid to rest at Windsor Castle.  She is the only one of his wives to share his grave.

 

11.   Henry was devastated by the loss of his wife.  It is clear that he actually was in love with her.  His concern turned for awhile to the raising of his son.  He made sure that rooms were sterilized and that hygiene was of utmost importance.  This was unusual for this time period considering that most people bathed but once a year.  Additionally, he kept his son away from the public and any kind of germs.  After two years, Henry’s advisors reminded him that he really needed a “spare” heir just in case something should happen to Prince Edward.

 

12.   Henry’s next marriage was clearly not a love match.  Henry, however, had strong views on the subject of female beauty and he insisted very firmly that his next wife be personally pleasing to him.  His advisors suggested he marry Anne of Cleves since he needed to make an alliance with Germany.  Henry, not wanting to marry anyone without first “seeing” them sent his artist Hans Holbein to see Anne and paint her portrait.  Holbein, apparently an idealist, painted her a little more favorably than she actually appeared.  Henry liked what he saw in the portrait, but when he met her in person was repulsed by her appearance.  He was quoted as saying, “I am ashamed that men have so praised her. . .and I like her not!”  Nevertheless, he had signed a marriage contract and did not want to offend his German allies.  The marriage went ahead but most assuredly was never consummated.  The king was reported as saying that there were foul odors emanating from her body and that he just could not do what was necessary to produce a son.  The new queen, very naïve and unable to speak English, didn’t know what to think and actually wasn’t sure there was anything wrong.  Eventually, Henry sought ways to seek a divorce/annulment from Anne of Cleves.  He did so in 1540, much to Anne’s happiness.  She had learned to love England, and did not wish to return to her homeland.  She really wasn’t upset about not being the queen and felt a sense of freedom.  Henry granted her lands and 4,000 pounds a year—a healthy sum of money.  He also made her his official “sister” and they remained friends for the rest of their lives.

 

13.   Henry, always one to have a girl in the background, had already set his sights on the very young Catherine Howard.  When they married, she was only fifteen years old.  Henry was in his fifties.  Obese and practically lame from an oozing sore on his leg that never seemed to heal, Henry was hardly a great catch.  The only thing he had going for him was he was the king.  Sixteen days after the nullification of his marriage to Anne of Cleves, Henry married Catherine Howard.  There are several historical accounts that suggest that her father had pushed her upon Henry and she was nothing more than a pawn in a greater political game.  Nevertheless, Henry was pleased with his new wife and found a renewed energy and vigor.  His leg healed for a time, and he was seen out and about, hunting and riding as he had done in his youth.  The couple was seen being quite affectionate toward one another. 

 

But the dream was not to last.  In 1541 there were increasing signs of growing tension.  Rumors began to circulate about Catherine’s life before her marriage to Henry.  Though having love affairs before marriage was not unlawful, it did point to her moral character and didn’t help her case when she was later accused of an affair with Thomas Culpepper while being married to Henry.  When news of the affair reached Henry, he was in total disbelief.  He truly loved Catherine and saw in her all that represented his youth.  Now he was a cuckhold—an old man being fooled by a young wife and Henry was humiliated.  At one point he vowed he would cut off her head with his own sword.  In February of 1542 she and her Lady in Waiting were beheaded at the Tower of London.  Before her execution, she spent the night practicing laying her head on the block so that she would have a “good show of her death.”  On the scaffold she made a full apology to the king for her behavior.  She was seventeen years old.

 

14.   In 1543, Henry married for the last time.  This time he chose Catherine Parr, a thirty-one year old who had been twice widowed.  She became for Henry a nurse as well as a wife, for by this time Henry’s health was failing rapidly.  Of all of his wives she was said to be the most educated and intellectual.  She knew how to humor him in his foul moods and more importantly was responsible for reuniting Henry with his two daughters.  Mary, Elizabeth and Edward all lived at court for a brief time.  Even Anne of Cleves joined the royal family for a time. 

 

Interestingly enough, Catherine Parr was not at first interested in marrying Henry.  She was actually intended to marry Thomas Seymour, the brother of the king’s third wife.  What a small world!  It was only out of loyalty to her king that she consented to marry him.

 

Henry died in 1547 and Catherine was now free to marry Thomas Seymour.  She became pregnant almost immediately and bore him a child in August of 1548.  Unfortunately, like her sister-in-law before her, she died as a result of the birth eight days later.

 

To remember the order of the wives and their eventual outcome, you can memorize this little rhyme:

 

Divorced, Beheaded, Died:  Divorced, Beheaded, Survived

 

 

 

 

THE REIGN OF EDWARD VI

 

Upon Henry’s death, his nine year old son Edward took the throne.  Edward had been a sickly child and the realm was therefore ruled by his adult advisors, though there is some evidence that Edward VI made several important decisions during his short-lived rule.  The Duke of Northumberland and the Duke of Somerset were his chief advisors and under their tutelage, they helped to put forth The Book of Common Prayer.  English began to replace Latin in the church services and Protestants began to gain political power.  Edward VI dies of consumption at the age of fifteen but before he dies, he names Lady Jane Grey as his successor.

 

THE NINE DAYS QUEEN

 

This is perhaps one of the saddest chapters of the British monarchy.  Lady Jane Grey was nothing but a victim of politics.  She was forced into a marriage to Guilford Dudley, the youngest son of the Duke of Northumberland.  Though unhappy about this union, she was beated into submission.  She was the grand-niece to Henry VIII through her maternal line.  Jane became the heiress-presumptive in 1553.  This means that Edward named her as his successor to the throne, overlooking Mary, Elizabeth, and Mary, Queen of Scots—all who had much more rights to the throne.  It is said that the Duke of Northumberland persuaded Edward VI to make the appointment.  Remember, since Henry VIII has divorced/annulled his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and had annulled/beheaded Anne Boleyn, both daughters were considered by many to be “illegitimate.” 

 

On July 10, 1553, Jane was forced to announce publicly that Edward was dead and she was now Queen of England.  Mary had supporters and many more flocked to support her.  On July 14, the Duke of Northumberland gathered forces and departed from London.  As Northumberland marched against her, Mary was being proclaimed Queen as she progressed towards London.  Elizabeth accompanied Mary to London because her own claim to the throne was in jeopardy.  Jane was told to go to the Tower of London to prepare for her coronation.  The nobility, however, did not accept her and were tired of Northumberland’s power—the people wanted Mary.  On the 20th of July, Northumberland realized he was overpowered and named Mary the Queen.  Mary arrived on august 3rd and immediately imprisoned her enemies. 

 

Jane’s execution was necessary because as long as she was alive she would be a threat to Mary.  She could be used as a pawn by those wishing to see Protestantism regain power.  Jane admitted she was wrong in accepting the crown.  Northumberland was found guilty of treason and executed.  Lady Jane and her husband were tried and convicted of high treason.  Their sentence was to be burnt alive or beheaded “as the queen shall please.”  Both were beheaded on February 12th.  Lady Jane’s father was beheaded on February 23rd.  Her mother kept her head due to her friendship with her cousin Mary. 

 

THE REIGN OF MARY I- Bloody Mary

 

Mary I is distinguished as the first “real” female to sit on the throne.  Almost nobody recognizes Lady Jane as a Queen due to the fact that she only ruled for nine days.  Mary I had been raised as a Catholic and never approved of her father’s dealings with the Roman Catholic Church.  Therefore, as soon as she had the opportunity, she undid everything that Henry VIII has done.  She restored authority to the Pope and as a general warning to heretics, she had some 200-300 Protestants burned at the stake.  London Bridge was falling down…” due to all the bodies that were placed there after their executions.  “My fair Lady” refers to Mary I.  This action resulted in her gaining the nickname "Bloody Mary."  Mary I was a sick woman in more ways than one.  She had developed a tumor in her uterus and after her marriage to Phillip II of Spain was convinced she was pregnant.  Unfortunately, it was just a tumor.  She died five years after taking the throne.

 

THE REIGN OF ELIZABETH I- The Virgin Queen

 

Elizabeth ascends the throne and becomes the last of the Tudor monarchs.  When she dies, she is unmarried and childless, thus earning her the nickname of “The Virgin Queen.”  She must have learned from an early age that marriage had its pitfalls—after all she was only three when her mother went to the block and lost her life.  She was much older when Catherine Howard met her demise.  If the block didn’t deter her, the death of Jane Seymour resulting from childbirth must have also been quite frightening.

 

This aversion to marriage caused quite a bit of trouble for her chief advisors who were desperate for her to produce an heir.  Elizabeth would certainly entertain suitors and the idea of marriage, but she never consented to it, saying instead that she was married to England.  This did not keep her from accepting gifts from her suitors.

 

Elizabeth is considered one of the most capable monarchs to ever sit on the throne.   As a child she received a Renaissance education and was considered quite learned for a girl.  She could read and translate Latin.  She could embroider, sing, play the flute, dance, etc.  She had a great passion for all of the arts and became a patron of the theater.  All evidence indicates that she loved Shakespeare’s plays—especially the comedies and romances.  She had her own box at the theater and quite frequently attended.

 

One of her most important contributions was putting an end, once and for all, to the religious turmoil of the land.  She instituted a policy of religious tolerance.  She reestablished the monarch’s supremacy in the Church of England and restored the Book of Common Prayer.

 

Early into her reign, she started having some interference from her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots (a Stuart).  Mary was technically next in line for the throne and since Elizabeth’s parentage was dubious—many STILL didn’t accept her legitimacy—Mary found herself with many supporters.  Scotland was a Catholic country and Mary was Catholic.  The Scottish believed a Catholic should sit on the throne, not this young, liberal Protestant.

 

Mary soon became the center of many plots against Elizabeth.  Death threats and assassination attempts were frequent and troubling.  Mary had been writing to Elizabeth for some time in hopes of reconciling their differences and finally, Elizabeth invited her to England to discuss the situation.  As soon as Mary stepped on English soil, she was placed under house arrest.  Elizabeth and Mary never met face to face, and before long, Mary was sent to the block.

 

There are several legends about Mary’s execution.  She was a large woman, described to be over six feet in height.  One legend says that when she went to the block, the executioner had some trouble getting the axe through her neck.  Some reports say that it took six or seven times to get the blade through and that for a time Mary was still conscious.  There is also a report that Mary’s little dog was present at the execution and that after her mistress was killed, the little dog climbed up her skirts and huddled next to the body.

 

The fallout from the execution was major.  England had been battling Spain for some time and since Spain was a Catholic country, Mary’s death was viewed as an affront to Catholics all over Europe.  Soon, Mary, Queen of Scots became a martyr.  Spain declared war on England but England eventually defeated the Spanish Armada.  This defeat lead to a new sense of nationalism and the English believed that they were invincible.  This feeling furthered the development of the arts and literature in England.

 

 

In 1603, after forty-five years on the throne, Elizabeth I died. Before she died, however, she named Scotland’s king, James VI as her successor.  Ironically, James is Mary, Queen of Scots’ son.  Elizabeth’s plan was to avoid further civil strife by naming a Protestant to the throne.  Though his mother was a staunch Catholic, James had been raised as a tolerant Protestant.  So, James VI of Scotland becomes James I of England.  He now controls two countries.

 

THE REIGN OF JAMES I (1603-1625) 

 

This era is known as the Jacobean period.  Jacobus is the Latin word for James.

 

James I was also a strong supporter of the arts, especially theater.  Jamestown, VA is named for him.

 

Early on in James’s rule he and Parliament entered into a power struggle over finances.  James liked to throw intimate get togethers with his close circle of friends which cost money.  He also wanted to collect more taxes from the people to support his personal wars.  He was nothing more than a spendthrift.  Parliament was only called to session when he needed money—otherwise he would order them to quit meddling in state affairs.

 

James I was the first monarch to persecute the Puritans and his sons (later monarchs) followed in his footsteps.  This, of course, caused the Puritans to migrate to American and establish the Plymouth colony in 1621.

 

While Elizabeth was a very popular Queen, James was seen as a very dark king.  Unlike the bejeweled and dazzling portraits of Elizabeth, James is always pictured in black.  This is the period when dark and bloody tragedies became popular because that’s what James like to watch.  Shakespeare wrote King Lear, Othello, Hamlet, and Macbeth during this period.  Indeed, Macbeth was written to flatter King James.  Known as “The Scottish Play,” Shakespeare took historical facts about James’s ancestors and dramatized them to flatter the king.  More about that later!

 

 

 

The English Renaissance

1485-1625

 

The Renaissance actually begins in Italy in the 1300’s.  It was a flowering of literary, artistic, and intellectual developments inspired by the arts and scholarly achievements of the Greeks and Romans.

 

Key figures of the Italian Renaissance included:

Dante who wrote The Divine Comedy

Francesco Petrarch who develops and popularizes the Italian sonnet

Leonardo DaVinci who was the ideal “Renaissance Man.”  He was broadly educated in science and the humanities.

Michaelangelo who painted the Sistine Chapel and sculpted the famous David.

 

The Renaissance Reaches England – 1400’s

 

Key Characteristics:

1.     Religion shifts from the focus on the afterlife to focus on life in the here and now.  This is a switch from the liturgical to the secular.  The philosophy of Humanism is introduced as a result of the discoveries of Copernicus—Shift from Geocentric philosophy to Heliocentric philosophy.  Man is no longer the center of the universe.  The Church totally opposes this notion but he shift in thought results in questions as to man’s importance in the universe. 

 

2.     Universities introduce a new curriculum which included the Humanities (history, geography, poetry, and modern languages).

 

3.     The invention of the printing press by Johann Gutenberg allows for more people to have access to books, especially the Bible, but reading becomes a popular pastime among the nobility as well as the middle classes.

 

4.     Writers begin to use the vernacular in their works rather than Latin or Greek.  The transition from Middle English to Modern English also occurs during this time.  Shakespeare wrote in Modern English!

 

5.     It was the Age of Exploration.  The development of the compass aided men like John Cabot and Christopher Columbus in their journeys to new worlds.  In 1497 John Cabot reached Newfoundland  which created the basis for future claims to North America.

 

         

The Protestant Reformation

 

It is during this time that people began to question the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.  Many abuses of the clergy occurred at this time such as selling of Papal indulgences.  Erasmus, a Dutch monk promoted new interpretations of the Bible.  He wished to focus on morality in religion.  In 1546, Martin Luther nailed ninety-five theses (or complaints) to the door of a German church and began the Protestant movement.  The movement eventually sweeps through England and causes many wars between nations whose rulers were of one faith or another.  This was the basis for many political concerns in the monarchy of England.

 

England and the Tudor Kings

 

1.     In 1485, Henry Tudor kills Richard III on the battlefield and claimed the throne for himself.  He became Henry VII and in nothing more than a political move married Elizabeth of York.  The Wars of the Roses were a battle between the House of Lancaster and the House of York, and by marrying Elizabeth, he brought peace to the realm once and for all.  In addition, he rebuilt the nation’s treasury and in an effort to gain Welsh alliances named his first son Arthur.  There is no question that Henry VII was trying to intimate that his line was somehow connected with the legendary King Arthur of the 500’s.  His second some was named Henry and becomes the infamous Henry VIII.  More about him later.

 

2      In an attempt to unite England and Spain, Henry VII arranges for Arthur to marry Catherine of Aragon, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella.  This marriage was arranged from the time Catherine was two years old.  When Catherine is sixteen and Arthur is fourteen, she is brought over from Spain as royal preparations are underway for her marriage.  The trip is miserable for her.  All historical accounts say that she was seasick and fearful for she spoke little English.  Additionally, she has never met her future husband and knows nothing of “English ways.”  Nevertheless, she marries Arthur and Henry VII receives a huge dowry from Ferdinand and Isabella.  A few months later, the sickly Arthur dies, leaving Catherine to wonder about her position.  Henry VII has spent a majority of the dowry, and wants to retain the rest.  There is speculation as to whether the marriage was ever consummated in the first place, since Arthur had been so sickly and in later years, Catherine swears that it was not.

 

3.     After several years of haggling and negotiating, Henry VII finally agrees to the marriage of his son Henry to Catherine.  Historians note that these years were quite miserable for Catherine.  One day she was betrothed to Henry, the next day the king would take it away and declare his son would marry someone else.  Finally, they are married.  In 1509, Henry VII dies and Henry VIII takes over the realm with his bride.  The people love both rulers.  Catherine is seen as a devout Catholic and a good queen—loyal to her subjects and to her King. 

 

        The prime duty of any queen was to bear her husband’s children, preferably sons, to insure the continuation of the dynasty.  Catherine did her best and was far from barren.  Twice she miscarried, once she was delivered of a stillborn girl; two sons died in early infancy, the one a few hours the other a few weeks after delivery; only one child survived—Princess Mary, who was born in 1516.  For a time, Mary was shipped off to Spain to be raised by relatives, but returns in her childhood years.

 

4.     After eighteen years of marriage, and no son, Henry begins to tire of Catherine of Aragon and looks toward her Lady in Waiting, Anne Boleyn.  Catherine, now forty-two years old, is well past the child-bearing years, and the king must have a son!  Henry’s son by Elizabeth Blount had been publicly acknowledged and given the title of the Duke of Richmond, but he was sickly and wasn’t expected to live long enough to reign.  Henry’s advances toward Anne were shrewdly rebuffed.  She was determined not to go the way of her sister Mary (with whom Henry had fathered an illegitimate child) and therefore told Henry he could not “have” her until they were legally married.  This meant Henry had to get a divorce from Catherine!

 

5.     “The King’s Great Matter” came to a climax when he sent to the Pope for an annulment from Catherine.  The Pope would not hear of this and Henry, once called “The Defender of the Faith” was outraged.  He declared that his marriage to Catherine had been cursed.  Renaissance thinking was that when a man and woman were married, they became one flesh.  Therefore, by marrying his brother’s wife, Henry believed he was committing incest—therefore his marriage was cursed (hence no sons!).  Meanwhile, Anne kept stringing Henry along and pressed him to get a divorce or he wouldn’t get her!  Henry was in love, and decided that no matter what the Pope thought, he was getting rid of Catherine!

 

6.     In 1534, Henry enacted the Act of Supremacy which declared that he was the Supreme Head of the Church of England.  This act effectively broke off all ties with Rome.  His aides, advisors, and bishops were made to swear an oath of loyalty to Henry VIII declaring him their new spiritual leader. This caused great consternation for some and many of them went to the block because they refused to sign.  Henry had his way and divorced Catherine.  He married Anne, already pregnant.

 

7.     Henry’s subjects were not in love with Anne as Henry was.  In fact, they hated her and called her “the king’s whore.”  In 1533 she delivered Princess Elizabeth.  Henry made no pretense about his disappointment in the fact that Anne delivered a girl.  He barely paid any attention to the infant, but believed if they could have a healthy girl, that sons were still possible.  In 1536, a few weeks after Catherine of Aragon passed away, Anne delivered a stillborn son.  To Henry it seemed his second marriage was no better than his first.  Perhaps there was a curse upon this marriage as well.  After all, Anne’s sister Mary has been his mistress and marriage with a sister of one’s mistress was possibly as sinful in the eyes of God as marriage with one’s brother’s widow.  Anne was standing in his way of getting a son.

 

8.     Four months after her stillborn delivery, Anne was sent to her death after being convicted of adultery with four men (one of them accused was her own brother, George Boleyn).  There is no doubt that the charges were false and the evidence given was gained through the use of torture.  At first the four condemned men were sentenced to be drawn and quartered, but the king showed mercy at the last and they only had to endure decapitation.  Their heads were placed on spikes on London Bridge.  Anne also faced decapitation but rather than going to the block a French swordsman was sent for.  She gave her executioner twenty pounds to do a good and clean job.  He did. 

 

9.     Ten days later, Henry VIII married Jane Seymour who was a Lady in Waiting to Anne.  Henry had spied Seymour a few years earlier and was enamored with her quiet and submissive manner.  Where Anne could be somewhat demanding and shrewish, Jane was seen as plain and simple.  She wasn’t dumb, however.  She played the same game Anne did in that she made the king wait until there was a ring on her finger.   Jane was never actually crowned queen, perhaps because Henry wished to make certain there would be a son from this marriage.  He was especially sensitive to this issue since his illegitimate son, the Duke of Richmond had recently died. 

 

10.   In October , 1537 Jane Seymour delivered the long-awaited son—Prince Edward.    Henry was delighted and church bells rang throughout the country to celebrate the prince’s birth.  There were three days of celebrations.  Henry could relax.  Unfortunately, not for long.  Jane never recovered from the delivery and died ten days later from a fever. Her body was laid to rest at Windsor Castle.  She is the only one of his wives to share his grave.

 

11.   Henry was devastated by the loss of his wife.  It is clear that he actually was in love with her.  His concern turned for awhile to the raising of his son.  He made sure that rooms were sterilized and that hygiene was of utmost importance.  This was unusual for this time period considering that most people bathed but once a year.  Additionally, he kept his son away from the public and any kind of germs.  After two years, Henry’s advisors reminded him that he really needed a “spare” heir just in case something should happen to Prince Edward.

 

12.   Henry’s next marriage was clearly not a love match.  Henry, however, had strong views on the subject of female beauty and he insisted very firmly that his next wife be personally pleasing to him.  His advisors suggested he marry Anne of Cleves since he needed to make an alliance with Germany.  Henry, not wanting to marry anyone without first “seeing” them sent his artist Hans Holbein to see Anne and paint her portrait.  Holbein, apparently an idealist, painted her a little more favorably than she actually appeared.  Henry liked what he saw in the portrait, but when he met her in person was repulsed by her appearance.  He was quoted as saying, “I am ashamed that men have so praised her. . .and I like her not!”  Nevertheless, he had signed a marriage contract and did not want to offend his German allies.  The marriage went ahead but most assuredly was never consummated.  The king was reported as saying that there were foul odors emanating from her body and that he just could not do what was necessary to produce a son.  The new queen, very naïve and unable to speak English, didn’t know what to think and actually wasn’t sure there was anything wrong.  Eventually, Henry sought ways to seek a divorce/annulment from Anne of Cleves.  He did so in 1540, much to Anne’s happiness.  She had learned to love England, and did not wish to return to her homeland.  She really wasn’t upset about not being the queen and felt a sense of freedom.  Henry granted her lands and 4,000 pounds a year—a healthy sum of money.  He also made her his official “sister” and they remained friends for the rest of their lives.

 

13.   Henry, always one to have a girl in the background, had already set his sights on the very young Catherine Howard.  When they married, she was only fifteen years old.  Henry was in his fifties.  Obese and practically lame from an oozing sore on his leg that never seemed to heal, Henry was hardly a great catch.  The only thing he had going for him was he was the king.  Sixteen days after the nullification of his marriage to Anne of Cleves, Henry married Catherine Howard.  There are several historical accounts that suggest that her father had pushed her upon Henry and she was nothing more than a pawn in a greater political game.  Nevertheless, Henry was pleased with his new wife and found a renewed energy and vigor.  His leg healed for a time, and he was seen out and about, hunting and riding as he had done in his youth.  The couple was seen being quite affectionate toward one another. 

 

But the dream was not to last.  In 1541 there were increasing signs of growing tension.  Rumors began to circulate about Catherine’s life before her marriage to Henry.  Though having love affairs before marriage was not unlawful, it did point to her moral character and didn’t help her case when she was later accused of an affair with Thomas Culpepper while being married to Henry.  When news of the affair reached Henry, he was in total disbelief.  He truly loved Catherine and saw in her all that represented his youth.  Now he was a cuckhold—an old man being fooled by a young wife and Henry was humiliated.  At one point he vowed he would cut off her head with his own sword.  In February of 1542 she and her Lady in Waiting were beheaded at the Tower of London.  Before her execution, she spent the night practicing laying her head on the block so that she would have a “good show of her death.”  On the scaffold she made a full apology to the king for her behavior.  She was seventeen years old.

 

14.   In 1543, Henry married for the last time.  This time he chose Catherine Parr, a thirty-one year old who had been twice widowed.  She became for Henry a nurse as well as a wife, for by this time Henry’s health was failing rapidly.  Of all of his wives she was said to be the most educated and intellectual.  She knew how to humor him in his foul moods and more importantly was responsible for reuniting Henry with his two daughters.  Mary, Elizabeth and Edward all lived at court for a brief time.  Even Anne of Cleves joined the royal family for a time. 

 

Interestingly enough, Catherine Parr was not at first interested in marrying Henry.  She was actually intended to marry Thomas Seymour, the brother of the king’s third wife.  What a small world!  It was only out of loyalty to her king that she consented to marry him.

 

Henry died in 1547 and Catherine was now free to marry Thomas Seymour.  She became pregnant almost immediately and bore him a child in August of 1548.  Unfortunately, like her sister-in-law before her, she died as a result of the birth eight days later.

 

To remember the order of the wives and their eventual outcome, you can memorize this little rhyme:

 

Divorced, Beheaded, Died:  Divorced, Beheaded, Survived

 

 

 

 

THE REIGN OF EDWARD VI

 

Upon Henry’s death, his nine year old son Edward took the throne.  Edward had been a sickly child and the realm was therefore ruled by his adult advisors, though there is some evidence that Edward VI made several important decisions during his short-lived rule.  The Duke of Northumberland and the Duke of Somerset were his chief advisors and under their tutelage, they helped to put forth The Book of Common Prayer.  English began to replace Latin in the church services and Protestants began to gain political power.  Edward VI dies of consumption at the age of fifteen but before he dies, he names Lady Jane Grey as his successor.

 

THE NINE DAYS QUEEN

 

This is perhaps one of the saddest chapters of the British monarchy.  Lady Jane Grey was nothing but a victim of politics.  She was forced into a marriage to Guilford Dudley, the youngest son of the Duke of Northumberland.  Though unhappy about this union, she was beated into submission.  She was the grand-niece to Henry VIII through her maternal line.  Jane became the heiress-presumptive in 1553.  This means that Edward named her as his successor to the throne, overlooking Mary, Elizabeth, and Mary, Queen of Scots—all who had much more rights to the throne.  It is said that the Duke of Northumberland persuaded Edward VI to make the appointment.  Remember, since Henry VIII has divorced/annulled his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and had annulled/beheaded Anne Boleyn, both daughters were considered by many to be “illegitimate.” 

 

On July 10, 1553, Jane was forced to announce publicly that Edward was dead and she was now Queen of England.  Mary had supporters and many more flocked to support her.  On July 14, the Duke of Northumberland gathered forces and departed from London.  As Northumberland marched against her, Mary was being proclaimed Queen as she progressed towards London.  Elizabeth accompanied Mary to London because her own claim to the throne was in jeopardy.  Jane was told to go to the Tower of London to prepare for her coronation.  The nobility, however, did not accept her and were tired of Northumberland’s power—the people wanted Mary.  On the 20th of July, Northumberland realized he was overpowered and named Mary the Queen.  Mary arrived on august 3rd and immediately imprisoned her enemies. 

 

Jane’s execution was necessary because as long as she was alive she would be a threat to Mary.  She could be used as a pawn by those wishing to see Protestantism regain power.  Jane admitted she was wrong in accepting the crown.  Northumberland was found guilty of treason and executed.  Lady Jane and her husband were tried and convicted of high treason.  Their sentence was to be burnt alive or beheaded “as the queen shall please.”  Both were beheaded on February 12th.  Lady Jane’s father was beheaded on February 23rd.  Her mother kept her head due to her friendship with her cousin Mary. 

 

THE REIGN OF MARY I- Bloody Mary

 

Mary I is distinguished as the first “real” female to sit on the throne.  Almost nobody recognizes Lady Jane as a Queen due to the fact that she only ruled for nine days.  Mary I had been raised as a Catholic and never approved of her father’s dealings with the Roman Catholic Church.  Therefore, as soon as she had the opportunity, she undid everything that Henry VIII has done.  She restored authority to the Pope and as a general warning to heretics, she had some 200-300 Protestants burned at the stake.  London Bridge was falling down…” due to all the bodies that were placed there after their executions.  “My fair Lady” refers to Mary I.  This action resulted in her gaining the nickname "Bloody Mary."  Mary I was a sick woman in more ways than one.  She had developed a tumor in her uterus and after her marriage to Phillip II of Spain was convinced she was pregnant.  Unfortunately, it was just a tumor.  She died five years after taking the throne.

 

THE REIGN OF ELIZABETH I- The Virgin Queen

 

Elizabeth ascends the throne and becomes the last of the Tudor monarchs.  When she dies, she is unmarried and childless, thus earning her the nickname of “The Virgin Queen.”  She must have learned from an early age that marriage had its pitfalls—after all she was only three when her mother went to the block and lost her life.  She was much older when Catherine Howard met her demise.  If the block didn’t deter her, the death of Jane Seymour resulting from childbirth must have also been quite frightening.

 

This aversion to marriage caused quite a bit of trouble for her chief advisors who were desperate for her to produce an heir.  Elizabeth would certainly entertain suitors and the idea of marriage, but she never consented to it, saying instead that she was married to England.  This did not keep her from accepting gifts from her suitors.

 

Elizabeth is considered one of the most capable monarchs to ever sit on the throne.   As a child she received a Renaissance education and was considered quite learned for a girl.  She could read and translate Latin.  She could embroider, sing, play the flute, dance, etc.  She had a great passion for all of the arts and became a patron of the theater.  All evidence indicates that she loved Shakespeare’s plays—especially the comedies and romances.  She had her own box at the theater and quite frequently attended.

 

One of her most important contributions was putting an end, once and for all, to the religious turmoil of the land.  She instituted a policy of religious tolerance.  She reestablished the monarch’s supremacy in the Church of England and restored the Book of Common Prayer.

 

Early into her reign, she started having some interference from her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots (a Stuart).  Mary was technically next in line for the throne and since Elizabeth’s parentage was dubious—many STILL didn’t accept her legitimacy—Mary found herself with many supporters.  Scotland was a Catholic country and Mary was Catholic.  The Scottish believed a Catholic should sit on the throne, not this young, liberal Protestant.

 

Mary soon became the center of many plots against Elizabeth.  Death threats and assassination attempts were frequent and troubling.  Mary had been writing to Elizabeth for some time in hopes of reconciling their differences and finally, Elizabeth invited her to England to discuss the situation.  As soon as Mary stepped on English soil, she was placed under house arrest.  Elizabeth and Mary never met face to face, and before long, Mary was sent to the block.

 

There are several legends about Mary’s execution.  She was a large woman, described to be over six feet in height.  One legend says that when she went to the block, the executioner had some trouble getting the axe through her neck.  Some reports say that it took six or seven times to get the blade through and that for a time Mary was still conscious.  There is also a report that Mary’s little dog was present at the execution and that after her mistress was killed, the little dog climbed up her skirts and huddled next to the body.

 

The fallout from the execution was major.  England had been battling Spain for some time and since Spain was a Catholic country, Mary’s death was viewed as an affront to Catholics all over Europe.  Soon, Mary, Queen of Scots became a martyr.  Spain declared war on England but England eventually defeated the Spanish Armada.  This defeat lead to a new sense of nationalism and the English believed that they were invincible.  This feeling furthered the development of the arts and literature in England.

 

 

In 1603, after forty-five years on the throne, Elizabeth I died. Before she died, however, she named Scotland’s king, James VI as her successor.  Ironically, James is Mary, Queen of Scots’ son.  Elizabeth’s plan was to avoid further civil strife by naming a Protestant to the throne.  Though his mother was a staunch Catholic, James had been raised as a tolerant Protestant.  So, James VI of Scotland becomes James I of England.  He now controls two countries.

 

THE REIGN OF JAMES I (1603-1625) 

 

This era is known as the Jacobean period.  Jacobus is the Latin word for James.

 

James I was also a strong supporter of the arts, especially theater.  Jamestown, VA is named for him.

 

Early on in James’s rule he and Parliament entered into a power struggle over finances.  James liked to throw intimate get togethers with his close circle of friends which cost money.  He also wanted to collect more taxes from the people to support his personal wars.  He was nothing more than a spendthrift.  Parliament was only called to session when he needed money—otherwise he would order them to quit meddling in state affairs.

 

James I was the first monarch to persecute the Puritans and his sons (later monarchs) followed in his footsteps.  This, of course, caused the Puritans to migrate to American and establish the Plymouth colony in 1621.

 

While Elizabeth was a very popular Queen, James was seen as a very dark king.  Unlike the bejeweled and dazzling portraits of Elizabeth, James is always pictured in black.  This is the period when dark and bloody tragedies became popular because that’s what James like to watch.  Shakespeare wrote King Lear, Othello, Hamlet, and Macbeth during this period.  Indeed, Macbeth was written to flatter King James.  Known as “The Scottish Play,” Shakespeare took historical facts about James’s ancestors and dramatized them to flatter the king.  More about that later!