Introduction to the Tudor Period
The Tudors’ reigns span from the death of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, and the accession of Henry VII to the throne as a result, through the reigns of Henry VIII, and his three children in succession, Edward VI, Mary, and finally Elizabeth I.
Each child was born to a different one of Henry’s hapless wives, Jane Seymour, Katharine of Aragon, and Anne Boleyn respectively.
Katharine of Aragon was a member of the powerful royal house of Spain, which also owned the Netherlands at that time, and was linked with the Holy Roman Empire. Henry’s attempted annulment and finally divorce from Katharine of Aragon earned him and England lifelong enmity from Spain, culminating eventually in the Spanish Armada of 1588.
Anne Boleyn was Henry VIII’s second queen, the first to be beheaded. She was powerful and ambitious, but a series of miscarriages, and Henry’s eye turning to Jane Seymour left her out of favor and disposable.
Jane Seymour died as a result of giving birth to his only legitimate son.
Henry’s other three wives were Anne of Cleves (divorced), Katherine Howard (cousin of Anne Boleyn, also beheaded), and Katherine Parr, who survived him.
Elizabeth I died childless, so that the English throne passed, ironically, to the only child of her greatest rival, Mary, Queen of Scots, herself part of the Tudor lineage through Henry VIII’s sister Margaret.
Mary’s son James I acceded to the throne in 1603, thus heralding the ill-fated Stuart line of kings, which didn’t not last much longer into the 17th and the 18th century than the Tudors had from the 15th to the 16th.
The Tudors lived in tumultuous times. Henry VIII had to deal with his many wives and the ‘great question’ of his divorce so he could remarry and try to beget legitmate sons to secure the line of succession, but his father had been constantly beset by usurpers wanting to take the throne from the Tudor line.
After Henry’s death, the question of who would succeed him was by no means certain. And long before Henry even looked as though he would die, there were plots afoot to wrest power from him, on the pretext of religion, or due to simply blind ambition.
This is a most exciting and unpredictable period of time, the best of times, the worst of times, the most thrilling time to fall in love…