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At the request of a reader I will be doing a series of brief histories of some of the most prominent and sometimes infamous royal families. These families were full of intrigue (to put it nicely), so hence the title of the series, History’s Dysfunctional Families.
I’m starting the series with one of my favourites, the House of Tudor.
The Tudors started as a family of Welsh courtiers and noblemen. They began to rise to prominence when a man named Owen Tudor began a relationship (and possible marriage, although evidence is circumstantial) with the widow of Henry V, Catherine of Valois. They would have several children, (which Catherine’s son, Henry VI, said he need not legitimise, hence rumors of the marriage) 2 of which made a definite impact of history, Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond and Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke. It is Edmund’s line that would become the royal line.
In 1455, a 24 year old Edmund would be married to the 12 year old Lady Margaret Beaufort, daughter of the Duke of Somerset. Lady Margaret was a second cousin to Henry VI through their fathers. Margaret was a great-great-granddaughter to Edward III through his son John of Gaunt’s longtime mistress and eventual wife. When John married his mistress, Kathryn Swynford, their children born before the marriage were legitimised legally, under the condition that they were not eligible for accession to the crown.
In 1456, at the beginning of the Wars of the Roses, a 13 year old Margaret found herself pregnant and a widow, when in November of that year, Edmund (of the House of Lancaster) was captured by the forces of the House of York, who were fighting Henry VI for the crown. Edmund died in prison, and in January 1457, Margaret gave birth to a baby boy, who she named Henry. The labor was long and quite difficult and at one point both her and the baby were near death. The experience probably left her infertile. Henry would spent the first part of his life living with his uncle in Wales, before being sent to France in fear for his life. Henry was becoming a leading candidate for King after the House of Lancaster was deposed by the House of York.
In 1483, Henry publicly promised that when he seized the crown, he would marry Elizabeth of York, daughter of the late Edward IV. Henry raised an army from France and capitalized on the unpopularity of Richard III, and invaded in 1485. The situation came to a head at the Battle of Bosworth Field when Richard and Henry’s armies met. The Yorkist army of Richard was defeated and Richard was killed in battle that day. Henry was able to claim the crown through right of conquest, because of his line’s barring by birth.
Henry was crowned in October of 1485, and did not summon Parliament until after. He issued a proclamation that anyone who swore fealty to him at the time, would not be guilty of treason, as Parliament had passed a bill making him King from the day before the Battle of Bosworth Field. He also married Elizabeth in early 1486. They had four children who went on to survive childhood. A son Arthur, who was being groomed to be King, but died suddenly at age 15, a daughter Margaret, who became Queen of Scotland, another son Henry, who went on to become Henry VIII, and Mary, who later became Queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk.
Henry died in 1509 and left England peaceful and financially sound. His son Henry became Henry VIII and is most famous for his many marriages and starting the Church of England.
The younger Henry would be married a total of 6 times. His seeking an annullment from his first marriage cause the official split with Rome, and spear headed the Reformation in England. Two of his marriages would be annulled, two would end in the wives execution, one would die post-partum, and one would survive him. He had 3 children by his wives to survive, Mary, by his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, Elizabeth by wife #2, Anne Boleyn, and Edward, by wife #3, Jayne Seymour. He would reign until 1547, for a total of 39 years. He would be succeeded by his son, Edward VI, when he was a mere 9 years old.
Edward had been educated in the Reformed faith and was hailed as the new Josiah of the Protestant religion. Sadly he would not see his cause fulfilled as he didn’t live to see his 15th birthday. But before his death, he and his counselors did not want to see their Protestand reforms undone by Edward’s legal successor, his staunchly Catholic sister, Mary. They drew up a document disinheriting both of his sisters, Mary and Elizabeth and passing the throne to his cousin, Lady Jane Grey. On July 10th 1553, Jane was held in the royal apartments of the Tower and declared Queen in London. By July 19th, Mary had amassed an army and was descending on London. Jane renounced the crown and Mary was declared Queen. Jane never left the Tower and was executed in Febuary 1554.
Mary I was the first undisputed Queen Regnant of England. She fully intended to return England to the Catholic fold. She was unsuccessful. She married within the year of her coronation in hopes of providing an heir, but was unable to concieve by her Spanish husband, the future Phillip II. Mary had several Protestant reformers, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, burned at the stake as heretics. This earned her the nickname “Bloody Mary.” However this was not a contemporary nickname. Mary had also been at odds with her sister, Elizabeth, who had been accused of multiple plots against Mary, although no hard evidence was ever given. In late 1558 Mary accepted Elizabeth as her successor and Mary would die in November 1558.
Elizabeth I would be the last Tudor monarch and arguably the most famous. She would famously refuse to marry any man and would continually state she was married to England. She lived up to her cult status as “The Virgin Queen” and would be a figurehead the England’s trials and war with Spain. The Catholic Powers of Europe, and even Elizabeth’s own cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, would attempt and plot to overthrow her through the Spanish Armada, and the Ridolfi and Babington Plots, but thanks to her tireless ministers, spy network, and a little help from Mother Nature with the Armada, she would remain Queen and a popular one, until her death in 1603, at age 69.
This is but a brief synopsis of the Royal House of Tudor of England. Please let me know if you have questions or would like more information.
Have an awesome day!!