The Tudors Essay Sample

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‘Now I want

Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,

And my ending is despair,

Unless I be relieved by prayer,

Which pierces so that it assaults

Mercy itself and frees all faults.[1]’

Main ideas

1. The facts of a monarch haunt his conscience but the people`s one as well.

2. Violence –necessary method used in the XVI century.

3. The education of the “common spirit” requires many sacrifices.

4. The king reigns because he is loved not for his power or assets.

5. There is a fine line between love and hate, between loyalty and treason.

6. The religion brought many caresses but it led even more wars.

7. The result of one bloody century in Tudor’s dynasty was spiritual stability and a cultural blossom.

Key words

• Dynasty

• Martyr

• Blood

• Heir

• Love

• Treason

• Instability


This project tries to be selective but rather objective, because history could not possibly be described subjective unless you were there when it happened. It’s an overview over more than one century of the early history of England ,the XVI century, namely the reign of The Tudors and it has captured the highlights and defining moments of this dynasty, not necessarily in a historic and diachronic mode but more in an analyzer way of the histories and the stories of them. Comparing other domains, which are certainly in a continuous development and it may be difficult to keep up, history always gives the pleasure of finding something new by paying a second look, even if it is actually old! Therefore, this project was made as a consequence of the admiration for a long gone era.

I. Introduction

‘When, in August 1485,the twenty-eight year old Henry Tudor stood as
victor on the field of Bosworth it was by no means the dawn of a new age.’[2]For England in those times it was marked another twist of fate in the long struggle of two rival dynastic to gain the throne. By the time Henry VIII reign, the accession of the Tudors was accepted as the beginning of a new era, for two reasons: the first was the success of Tudor’s rule-son had succeeded father without bloodletting- and the second one was the promotion by the family itself of the idea. The Dynasty of the Tudors also known as the Tudor Rose was a result of The Wars of the Roses, which created the legend of The Union of the Roses, the red of Lancaster and the white of York. As representatives there was: Henry VII, who was the founder of the dynasty and his son Henry VIII, Eduard VI, Mary I and her sister Elizabeth, Henry VIII descendants. There is a wisdom of the head, and a wisdom of the heart.[3] The monarchs who reign in that period seemed to be leaded by a high appreciated wisdom which was rarely influenced by their feelings, although they took some drastic measures, which caused many bloody episodes, the historians seem to overlooked them and gave them much credit for what England represents today.

II. New rule strategy

André Maurois says that “importanţa evenimentelor scapă aproape ȋntotdeauna celor care sunt martori lor.” [4] The coronation of king Henry Tudor VII by his step father, Lord Stanley meant the end of a society, because as an effect of the War of the Roses, the great seniors had been decimated and the constitution of France and Spain as more larger kingdoms than England in that time, the end of XV century, had restricted the venturing of England on the continent, fact which caused issues for the intern organization establishment. The Tudors introduced three new classes as support against the perils of to the nobles, namely: gentry, yeomanry, and merchants. The word gentleman which started to be used during Elizabeth’s reign didn’t have the same meaning as the French gentilhomme; the gentry included all the gentlemen who lived in the countryside with the obligation that they had to have at least 20£ income, which in XVI century gave them the title of Knight and Peace Judges and allowed them to keep some lands under their property.

Yeomanry was a lower class than gentry and superior to the ordinary workers, with an income of minimum 40 shillings, which allowed them to participate to the meetings and local elections, and because they were used for their strength as well, they represented an indispensable and predominant element of political, social and economic reasons. The merchants weren’t then as important as they were to become, some of them were half pirate half ship-owners, who used to sell textiles up to Russia, making competition to the southern traders. They had represented an important reason for strengthening the fleet, Henry VII encouraged the sailing, he even built some big ships like: Mary-Fortune ,Sweepstake; in England the merchant’s ships and the war ships had been often mistaken; also Henry VIII was one of the first who placed the cannons on board.

Relying on this three strong classes, Henry VII had calmed the great barons, and when was necessary he preferred the amendment instead sentencing, not many death sentences happened during his reign and not without reason he was called avaricious, though he had a pragmatic overview of the economy and a poor kingdom was considered weak. Concerning local institutions in Tudor’s time, the church had an essential role, it was the responsibility of every parish to take care of those in need, for that the rich ones had built special houses called Alms houses, there they gathered all the poor and had given them thing to do, because it was a crime to give alms to vagrants and if they were from another village and discovered they were badly punished, even killed if repeated.

There were no local institutions responsible with the protection and order in the county, year by year one villager, usually from the yeomanry, was charged with all responsibilities, he was called constable. Another local function was the peace judger, usually a gentleman assigned by the king and which was the most respectable function a man could have in his province, over them there was the high sherriff ; like that it was settled a continuity regarding the intern organization in a village: every parish lived under the supervision of the judge, to whom the constable brought the delinquents. The village was like a closed circle, no one was allowed to go out or to come in without permission, there were special permits signed either by the judge or the school representatives, but most people were busy with field work so they had no such wishes.

The reign of king Henry VII (1485-1509) had served the education and to the meditations of the reformers; as a peaceful throne, thanks to this quarter of a century, Tudor dynasty managed to get deeply ingrained in the England history.

III. The king who needed a schism to dissolve a marriage

With the political regime of the Middle Ages under the Tudor’s reign, the spirituality of the people changes to. A king should have been gracious, gallant, severe and pious but in the days of Renaissance a great prince should be libertine, cultivated, magnificent and often cruel, King Henry VIII, son of Henry VII, had all than but one fault also-he disliked the business of the government so there were other people in charge with this matter; like Wolsey for example at the beginning of his reign, responsible with internal and external politics of England, well at some point he exceeded his powers but the king trusted him till the end. Henry was 18 year old when he was crowned; shortly he married Catherine of Aragon, his brother’s widow and the daughter of King Ferdinand V of Spain. Although some said he loved her, it was considered a political marriage because an alliance with Spain would have been an honor and a relief, fact that didn’t matter so much because a few years later the King would have a divorce.

His divorce meant a papal bull which he didn’t receive actually, so all the pressure was on Wolsey who needed to do his best because Anne Boleyn entered the scene. The King could easily get Anne charmed but the stress of the political instability in the country imposed to the royal couple a male heir, and Catherine, after many attempts, had only a daughter, Mary (in 1516). Getting a divorce should have been easy given the Pope indulgence concerning the monarchs, but this time would have meant a violation of the previous bull which validated the marriage from the start so it wasn’t so easy this time. There was a trial which was trying to dissolve the marriage but it took too long so the blame was on Wolsey, who was removed from court and charged with treason, eventually he killed himself; he was replaced with Thomas More, one of king’s childhood friend and next to Thomas Cranmer, one of the two men the King trusted; the last one however, as a Secretary, had found the solution to the King’s problem inside the country actually, namely, he gathered a few reformed theologians which established the King’s marriage void as a fragment from Leviticus which forbade the marriage between a brother and his sister in law.

Though Henry felt the hostility of the people regarding his divorce and the news of marrying Anne Boleyn, she was already pregnant and in 1553 they secretly married, therefore the Pope excommunicated him. That split wouldn’t have been so rough if the King had also had others counselors than More and Cranmer, the first had such an high conscience that he would never accept less than a wise reform while the second had no grit so he would have negotiated and postponed it over and over. The one who took over the situations was Cromwell. There was a period when people hated the Church of Rome and also the violence of Luther’s theories and the reform started as a wish to fix the errors in their own religion and which was going to end by adopting Protestant theories.

For seven years(1529-1536), the “reform parliament” has voted all kinds of laws which had totally abolished the papal authority and which made the King “the only and supreme leader of the church in England” ,the Act was called “ The Supremacy Act” and it was referring to the spiritual and civil jurisdiction, it gave him the right to reform and suppress all the errors and heresy; another Act, at that time useful to the King, “The Succession Act” which annulled the previous marriage and the legitimacy of his children in favor of Anne, it also forcing the people to swear in favor of the king. It must be noted that even it might seem different now, the English people hardly bore the foreign jurisdiction, especially when Rome was an ally either for France or Spain. André Maurois also claimed that ‘Anglia sec XVI nu era antireligioasă; era anticlericală.’[5] People’s wishes didn’t mean the destruction of the churches but the confiscation of monasteries assets and the abolishment of the ecclesiastic courts, also many of them wished a prayer book in English, an English Bible, so ‘reforma engleză nu a fost un capriciu a unui suveran,ci forma religioasă a unui nationalism insular şi lingvistic’.[6]

They say that the purpose excuse the way,wise, because although the reform had started in a humanistic way, was installed leaving behind a massacre. Innocent people were charged with treason, hanged, beheaded, burned, tortured, as a consequence of their rebellion, against the representatives of the state who were destroying all their spiritual and cultural values, which they had been respecting all their lives, so called the Pilgrimage of Grace, in 1536. While the first marriage had needed a schism to consume, for divorcing Anne it was needed only an ax, she has been accused of treason after a rumor of infidelity and as a result of her inability to have boys, so, her only girl, Elizabeth but also Mary, the other daughter of the King, had been considered illegitimate and the marriage annulled. Henry married for the third time with Jane Seymour, she gave him a son, Eduard VI, but she died after she gave birth.

A political marriage followed, suggested by Cromwell, namely Anna of Cleve, a Protestantism supporter, who should have been an alliance with Germany against France and Spain, but it didn’t last even a year, Henry and also Anne didn’t expect to a marriage like that, therefore, Cromwell lost his head for that suggest. The marriage with Katherine Howard took place after a short time the king had divorced Anne. Unfortunately she had shared the same fate as Anne Boleyn. The last weeding, the sixth one, with Catherine Parr, the only marriage which had survived the King. The Queen gave him a daughter, in 1548, but he had died before he saw her. In 1547 Henry died, he actually died at the same date at his father had died, on 28 of January. ‘His corpse was put into a huge lead coffin and taken through the streets of London on the way to St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.

The procession reached Syon House at twilight and there it rested overnight in the chapel. A horrific event then took place; according to a contemporary account: «The leaden coffin begin cleft by the shaking of the carriage, the pavement of the church was wetted with Henry’s blood. In the morning came plumbers to solder the coffin, under whose feet was seen a dog creeping and licking up the King’s blood»`[7], just as it was predicted four years earlier by Friar Peto, a church man. Though Henry brought an important contribution to the fleet, he calmed Ireland, annexed the Wales and many other important things maybe, but they were overshadowed by all the tyrannies which weren’t necessary. Also because of the conscience induced by the English people, the French, who were to pass through similar revolts, managed to improve their moral habits and the internal structure of France didn’t suppose a brake with the Church of Rome. So, like his father, Henry VIII left an important mark in the England history, though in other manner.

IV. Protestantism vs. Catholicism

As brothers, Henry’s three children were very different one from another; Eduard VI, the son of Jane Seymour was very preoccupied with religious issues, intending to carry on his father’s teachings; Mary who was already 31 years old when her father died and more proud of her Spanish origins than actually her own, she was still a true Catholic and Elizabeth, who was 14 years old and by then she had accumulated a vast culture, as a Protestant she was getting along quite well with her brother, making some kind of alliance with him against Mary. As the only legitimate children and also male one, Eduard got the throne, having as advisor his uncle, Eduard Seymour. During his reign, the most disadvantaged were the villagers and the soldiers who because of the newest conceptions remained out of work, unknowing other occupations. The persecution of the Catholics proceeded.

The short reign of King Eduard brought only craving among people; before he passed away he was given to sign a will in which it was mentioned the successor to the throne, namely Jane Grey. Because the salvation of England was more important than the half legitimacy of Mary, his half-sister, she wasn’t considered then as more proper to reign, but she wasn’t going to stay and look as her right is taken by someone who wasn’t even pleased with her new position; encouraged by the people’s love and support, Mary was crowned on first day of October 1553. The people were very enthusiastic about their new Queen, but she wasn’t going to be as gentle as they were expecting her. Until Mary was crowned a new generation had reached maturity under the guidance of Protestantism, therefore the restoration of the Catholicism was quite rough and the marriage with the Prince of Spain had removed the people from her side even more.

It was required her to marry an English man but she was really in love with Philip, who was also a fanatical Catholic and who couldn’t have reigned without a rebound with Papal State. The Queen dismissed the Parliament, making herself legitimate again; because she was suspecting her sister of conspiring with Thomas Wyatt in his rebellion she sent Elizabeth in the Tower for three months; for Elizabeth that time she had spent there imprisoned had been the worst period in her entire life and she was going to remember it for a long time. Mary got nerve sickness after she had carried a fake pregnancy, and being disappointed by her husband she took some drastic measures against the Protestants; because of that over 300 Protestant martyrs were stake burned, all the terror which followed she started to be known as ‘The Bloody Mary’.

All those torments were gathered and immortalized in ‘Book of Martyrs’ by Foxe, and which was to be found next to the Bible in every English house. The unleashed persecution of the Queen had given the English people a heroic and sentimental tradition. Mary was deserted by everyone; even the Pope had taken attitude against her and Spain, and by those from her court who had started to show fate to Elizabeth; after another fake pregnancy she died, on 17 November 1558, at a short time after Cardinal Pole who had always supported her reign.

V. Gloriana’s time

Elizabeth’s crowning, at the beginning of 1559, brought much joy to her people, after they had been afraid of the Spanish tyranny for so long, it was a relief to cheer for a free queen. Through her father, Elizabeth descended from the traditional kings and through her mother from the country’s gentlemen. With her the cycle is closed, in the same pacific way but more glorious, at the same time the monarch started to lose authority, the Queen reigns not because she is rich or because of her influence but because she is loved and popular in the country. From the numerous qualities that made her a pleasant figure both in the internal policy and in the external one was her spontaneous and intuitive attitude, her wisdom made her triumphant in many circumstances, she loved to make her people happy and hated wars, maybe also because she didn’t afford them with her small treasury, and if there were to be some bloodshed she was preferring to stay out and to leave the responsibility to someone else.

Though the House of Commons had pressed her to marry and to give England a successor she hadn’t assigned; she had many admirers like: Philip II, the Prince of Sweden, the Archduke of Austria and countless English men, among them: Leicester, Essex, Raleigh, courtiers, poets, with whom she had often flirted but nothing else, sometimes she sent them in the Tower instead. She liked to receive compliments, ‘Gloriana’ she was called, and for good reasons. Some peoples believed that she had compromised herself with many men, like her mother Anne but the best informed sustained that she was really pure, therefore she had got repute as ‘The Virgin Queen’. At Court Elizabeth preferred to be counseled by intelligent people not by those with birth rank, one of the most important men was William Cecil who had all her confidence; regarding the religion she was rather skeptical, some said she was heathen but in fact she wasn’t, she always aspired to a middle way because the country had paid with to much blood for a changing religion, so she respected both Protestants and Catholics who were also loyal to her.

She reintroduced the Bible and the prayer books in English and ‘The Supremacy Act’ had been voted again so that the break with Rome became definitive. In 1563 thirty-nine articles were adopted which would have been the Anglicanism basis, meaning a temperate Protestantism but still in 1570 began to be killed or excommunicated Catholic priests and laity, not for heresy but for high treason, since the Pope Pius V had sustained that he would gladly pardoned the one who would kill the Queen-the responsible for the loss of faith of thousands of souls. Therefore, though Elizabeth lean toward clemency the number of her victims had reached the Mary’s; many priests, gentlemen, common people and even women were executed, and those who didn’t die were persecuted; a famous case was the Shakespeare family, John Shakespeare, the father, who was persecuted because he didn’t use to go regularly to church, as the Queen required. During Elizabeth a piracy in the true sense was developed, because the new continents were divided between Spain and Portugal, most goods were transported by sea, therefore some English sailors the owners of ships with cannons were called merchants even if usually they had robbed the ships of the Spanish colonies. ‘Limita dintre comerţ şi piraterie era vag stabilită.’[8]

A famous pirate, Francis Drake, attracted the fury of Spain on England, which was a bit passive on that matter, even glad for the robberies which had taken place on the Spanish territories, because the treasury of England had her gain. A maritime war started because of Drake’s ambitions, happily it ended with the defeat of Spain which suffered many losses. At the same time a great loss rushed upon the Queen in the fall of 1588, though she would have been happy for defeating the Spanish Armada, the news of Leicester’s death, Robin, as she used to call him, died of stomach disease far from her. He had been the one constant love she had allowed herself to feel; she was in such grief that she shut herself into her chamber for days, until some councilors had the door broken open and entered to see her.

VI. The end and new beginnings

Scotland managed to remain independent from British kings and in charge was Stuart dynasty, Catholics and allied with France, with Mary Stuart as queen. She was the granddaughter of Henry VII and after Elizabeth death was to have the throne of England so Elizabeth had felt necessary to start a friendship. Though many suspicions of treason had floated over Mary in time, which also deposed her for her son James VI, Elizabeth delayed a decision until House of Commons took the initiative and after judging her they demanded the execution, in 1587. Elizabeth lived 70 years and up to the last moments she was lively and active, always coquette; ‘Her last years were troubled by her fascination for a glamorous young aristocrat, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. Handsome and endowed with an abundance of charm, he enchanted the ageing queen.

Yet, shrewdly, she realized that he was politically inept, and resisted his attempts to secure a place in the government of the Kingdom.’[9] One day in March 1603 she felt worse and after she had empowered James VI she died. During Elizabeth the fleet was increased considerably, were founded some export tobacco companies which have brought much profit to the country, were introduced new trends in fashion because the Queen always wanted to be fashionable, therefore, the people began to have different conceptions, higher aspirations; she had focused on theater and education. In those times ‘ Serbarile câmpenesti erau pline de farmec; supravietuiau vechi tradiţii păgâne, ca de pilda dansul de arminden (Maypole), in jurul unui stâlp ȋmpodobit cu flori si ramuri verzi, care evocau sosirea primăverii şi a Paştelui primitiv. Sătenii montau comedii cu multă iscusinţă, cum ne-a arătat atât de bine Shakespeare in « Visul unei nopţi de vară», şi străinii remarcau că englezii erau pe atunci poporul cel mai muzicant din lume.’[10]

VII. Conclusions

Though for more than a century England suffered many terrors both spiritual and existential, the Tudor’s cycle ended in the same manner as it had started. King Henry VII being a wise and prudent leader and Elizabeth one of the longest running and wise queen England ever had. During Tudors England had been marked with blood, the many civil rebellions affected considerably the power of influence the monarch had, though in most times they ended so as the king wanted and with many men losses-as the revolt of the pilgrims back in 1536,during Henry VIII, a period which had no result much more it brought many executions and martyrs. Anglia was juggling between Catholicism and Protestantism, until Elizabeth stabilized the balance in favor of a moderate Protestantism. The Tudors influenced the development of economy by supporting the fleet and so the trading, they raised the cultural standards by encouraging the arts and education.

The reign of ‘the new rose’ was a governance in force, though they had never been supported by the governmental organizations they always counted on public opinion, on yeomen, on tenants and merchants, so they had on their side not only the people from court but the whole folk-sometimes imposed, as it was when Henry VII, sometimes gladly as when Elizabeth reigned. Though England hadn’t a vast territory and could have been easily monopolized, it took advantage of the altercations between Spain and France and managed to maintain its independence. It always had been told that the English people were sort of confident and contemptuous to other state, both their conceptions and their spirit had created indignation among their neighbors.” Ȋnconjuraţi de mare, s-ar zice că s-au molipsit de ȋntreaga ei nestatornicie.”[11] Shakespeare, a man of all times but especially the man of that specific time captured in some plays the reign of the Tudors.


1. Fraser, Antonia -The lives of Kings & Queens of England; published by Paperback, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (1975). 2. Hilliam, David-Monarchs, Murders& Mistresses, A Book of Royal days; Sutton Publishing (2000). 3.
Honan, Park-Shakespeare A life, Oxford University press (1999). 4. Maurois, André-Istoria Angliei; Orizonturi (1987); updated edition by Michel Mohrt and Camil Muresan. 5. Strong, Roy-The Story of Britain, Hutchinson (1996).

• Neculai, Emilia-Dictionar: Român-Englez,Englez-Român, Steaua Nordului(2008). • Dictionar online.
[1] Shakespeare A Life, 1999, pg. 353.
(Shakespeare, ’The Tempest’, Prospero)
[2] The Story of Britain, pg 155.
[3] Charles Dickens
[4] Istoria Angliei, 1987, pg 269,
(the importance of the events is almost always omitted by those who witness them.)* [5] Istoria Angliei,1987,pg 287.
(England in XVI century wasn’t antireligious but anticlerical.)* [6] Istoria Angliei,1987,pg 298
(The English reform wasn’t a caprice of a sovereign but the religious form of a linguistic and insular nationalism.)* [7] Monarchs, Murders&Mistresses, 2000, pg. 29.
[8] Istoria Angliei,1987,pg. 329.
(The limit between trading and piracy was vaguely determined.)* [9] The Story of Britain, 1996, pg 211.
[10] Istoria Angliei, 1987, pg. 352.
(Rustic celebrations were full of charm; there were surviving old pagan traditions, like Maypole for example, which suppose a dance around a pole decorated with flowers and green branches, which evoked the spring arrival and the primitive Easter. The villagers were mounting comedy with great skill, as Shakespeare showed us so well in his play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, and the foreigners remarked also that the English people were the most talented in the world in those times.) * [11] Istoria Angliei, 1987, pg 254, quoted there from Maximilien Béthune, duke of Sully. (Surrounded by sea it could be said that they have got all its inconstancy.)* [12] Shakespeare, The Tempest-ending Prospero.

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