Henry V11 (1485-1509)
Henry Tudor was born in 1457 in Wales. He was exiled from England and grew up in France. He married Elizabeth of York, reuniting the two houses and ending the War of the Roses. He had eight children, and was succeeded by his second son, Henry, on his death in 1509. His reign opened the 118 year span of the Tudor kings. Henry had a tenuous claim to the throne, coming from a bastard line going back to the Dukes of Lancaster, and won the throne by the death in battle of Richard III.
Henry was an effective statesman who had to contend with threats in Scotland, France and Ireland. He reigned during a time of an emerging Renaissance in western Europe and quickening commercial activity. Spain was the dominant world power, turning back the Moors. He had a keen interest in diplomacy and in centralizing the power of the state, wracked by a generation of war.
Henry Vlll (1509-47)
Henry was born in Greenwich in 1491 and became king in 1509. He was married six times, divorcing, executing or losing in childbirth various wives. His progeny tended to be very short lived or stillborn, although daughter Elizabeth lived and reigned long. His immediate successor, Edward VI, came from his third marriage to Jane Seymour. Henry died in 1547 at Whitehall Palace in London. He was key in the building of British naval power.
France had emerged as a modern nation state, with growing ascendency on the continent. In Germany Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenburg church door, launching the Reformation. After initial close relations with the church (he was named ‘defender of the faith'), Henry broke with the church, declaring himself head of the Church of England. This set off a period of religious strife in England, not fully resolved until the end of the 17th century.
Edward V1 (1547-53)
Edward, son of Henry and Jane Seymour, was born in 1537 at Hampton Court, upriver on the Thames from London. He became king at the age of 10 and died, without marriage or issue, in 1553, in Greenwich.
England was caught up in the issues of religion and royal succession. Edward VI was a young and unhealthy king. He was Protestant in commitment, unlike his very Catholic sister Mary. His reign was heavily influenced by the behavior and motivations of royal advisers. As Europe also became religiously fractionalized, Europeans also took a keen interest in English affairs, looking for religious alliance.
After Edward's death and the nine day reign of Lady Jane Grey, Mary, daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon came to the throne. She was born in 1516 in Greenwich and became queen, an English first, in 1553, there being no legitimate male successor and opening the door to a series of future English queens. She married Philip of Spain but had no children. She died after a five year reign in 1558.
Mary (nicknamed ‘Bloody') restored Catholicism (increasingly seen as a foreign construct by the English) and repealed the Reformation legislation. She was resisted and faced armed confrontation by Protestant nobles and commoners. Her alliance with Spain was seen as counter to English interests. She did not succumb to Catholic advisers who suggested she murder her half sister Elizabeth, who succeeded her.
Elizabeth I (1558-1603)
Elizabeth was daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and born in 1533 at Greenwich. She became queen in 1558 and reigned until her death in 1603. She never married, died childless and was the last of the Tudors.
Protestantism was reestablished,
but constantly threatened, with much of the intrigue centered around Catholic
Mary of Scotland (former wife of Francis II of France) and Catholic agents
coming over from the continent. Elizabeth faced a French-Scottish alliance,
and ultimately an invasion threat from Spain, ended with the defeat of
the Spanish Armada in 1588. This age also witnessed the height of the English
Renaissance and the move to England as a stronger player on the European