The Real Tudors
Showtime's historical romp The Tudors is a dramatic interpretation of the life of Henry VIII and his family. Some of it has a basis in fact, but a great deal of artistic license has been employed. Jonathan Rhys Myers, for instance, might not be a serious historian's first choice for the role of Henry VIII, but that's only a cosmetic objection. There were other, more glaring historical inaccuracies; Henry's two sisters being rolled into one über-Princess had me changing channels very early in the series.
It's a wonder that the producers felt the need to change anything; the Tudors were hardly a boring bunch. Here are the unadorned, but nonetheless interesting, facts about the Tudors.
Facts About Henry VII
- Henry's father, Edmund Tudor, died three months before Henry's birth.
- Henry's mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, was only 13 years old when her son was born.
- He was the last King of England to win his crown on the battlefield.
- Henry's victory at Bosworth ended the War of the Roses.
- He adopted the Tudor Rose as his emblem, combing the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster.
Who Were the Tudors?
The Tudor dynasty consisted of five monarchs (plus one interloper). They reigned from 1485 to 1603, hence that period of English history is known as the Tudor period. Generally, it was an age in which England prospered both socially and economically. The Tudors also provided England with some of her most memorable monarchs.
The Tudor family were originally from Wales. The Tudors of Penmynydd in Anglesey were descended from one of Llywelyn the Great's lords, Ednyfed Fychan. It was Owen Tudor (Owain ap Maredudd ap Tewdwr) who started the Tudors' rise to greatness. Owen, a soldier and courtier at Henry V's court, secretly married Henry's widow, Katherine de Valois. The couple had several children, including sons Edmund and Jasper. Edmund, Earl of Richmond, married Lady Margaret Beaufort. Their son, born posthumously in 1457, was Henry Tudor, later King Henry VII. Jasper Tudor helped secure his nephew's crown.
Facts About Two Tudor Princesses
Henry VII and his wife, Elizabeth of York, had four daughters. The Princesses Elizabeth and Katherine died in infancy, but Margaret and Mary survived to adulthood. Both became queens and both had descendants who played an important part in England's history. It's a shame that the producers of The Tudors felt the need to merge them into one character.
Margaret, Queen of Scots
Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots
Margaret Tudor (1489 - 1541) left England in 1503 after marrying James IV of Scotland by proxy at her father's palace in Richmond. The young Queen of Scots and her husband apparently had a happy marriage. Margaret's happiness was not long-lived. Although she bore the King six children, only one survived infancy. Further tragedy struck when her husband was killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1513 when he invaded England. Queen Margaret was appointed Regent for her young son and managed to broker a peace with her brother.
The following year, however, Margaret blundered. She married a handsome, but unpopular, Scottish nobleman, the Earl of Angus. This lost her the Regency. She and Angus had a daughter, Lady Margaret Douglas, whose own son would later marry his cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots (hence two of Margaret's grandchildren married each other). Margaret soon found that Angus was unfaithful and eventually divorced him.
Margaret married for a third time a year after her divorce. Ironically, her brother, Henry VIII, had been opposed to the move; when the English ambassadors to the Scottish court told her she should reconcile with Angus, she told them to "go home and not meddle in Scottish matters".
Margaret's granddaughter (via her first husband James IV) Mary, Queen of Scots took as her second husband Margaret's grandson (via her second husband, the Earl of Angus) Henry, Lord Darnley. The couple had a son, James VI of Scotland, who succeeded Elizabeth I, taking the title of James I of England.
Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon
Mary Tudor and Anne Boleyn
A young Anne Boleyn was sent to the French court as a lady-in-waiting to the new French Queen. Mary didn't like Anne and opposed her brother's divorce from Catherine of Aragon, with whom she had a friendship. Mary died soon after her brother's marriage to Anne.
Mary Tudor, Queen of France
The second Tudor princess was Princess Mary (1496-1533). Mary became a queen in 1514, marrying the French King Louis XII of France (not the King of Portugal, as shown in the TV The Tudors).
The young Queen of France was not enamoured of her ageing husband; indeed she had already formed an attachment elsewhere. She was in love with the dashing Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Her tenure as Queen of France was (for her at least) mercifully short, the King lasting barely three months. A year later, she was secretly married to Brandon, which outraged Henry and his advisers. However, Henry was fond of the couple and let them off with a heavy fine.
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The couple had four children, one of whom was Lady Frances Brandon. Lady Frances married Henry Grey and had three daughters. One of the daughters was Lady Jane Grey, who was manoeuvred into taking the Crown of England following the death of her cousin Edward VI.
Mary was her brother's favourite sister and he famously named his great ship Mary Rose for her. Their great affection for each other came under strain when Henry fell under the spell of Anne Boleyn (see right); Mary retreated to the country and spent little time at court. She died in 1533 but did not lie in peace; her body had to be moved from its resting place at Bury St Edmonds' Abbey when her brother dissolved the monasteries.
- Henry VII (reigned 1485-1509)
- Henry VIII (reigned 1509 - 1547)
- Edward VI (reigned 1547 - 1553)
- Lady Jane Grey was declared Queen after Edward's death, but quickly overthrown by Mary 1
- Mary 1 (reigned 1553 - 1558)
- Elizabeth 1 (reigned 1558 - 1603)
Facts About the Illegitimate Tudor Son
Henry VIII was famously desperate for a son. Only one of his legitimate sons survived infancy; Edward VI. Henry did have another son, Henry FitzRoy (1519 - 1536). Henry was the product of Henry's long-standing affair with Elizabeth "Bessie" Blount, a teenage maid-of-honour to . Once the boy was born, Henry discontinued the affair and Bessie was married to one of his courtiers.
Henry FitzRoy was the only truly illegitimate child of Henry's to be acknowledged (he did have both his daughters declared illegitimate when he got rid of their mothers, but he had been married to them). Not only did Henry allow the boy to be called "FitzRoy" ("son of the King"), but when he was six he gave him the titles of Duke of Richmond and Somerset and Earl of Nottingham and, rather curiously, made him Lord High Admiral of England. Although the young Duke was raised in Yorkshire, his father ensured that he was treated as a prince and was apparently very fond of him.
Young Henry was married at the age of 14 to Mary Howard, a daughter of the Duke of Norfolk. There had been a suggestion that he could marry his half-sister Mary to secure Henry's succession and avoid the annulment of Henry's marriage to Mary's mother Catherine of Aragon. The Pope actually drafted a dispensation to allow this.
King Henry made his son Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland and it is likely that he intended to declare him King of Ireland. However, he died in 1536 of either consumption or the mysterious "sweating sickness". Henry's only legitimate son, Edward, was born the following year.
The Musical Tudors
- Henry VIII was a gifted musician and composer. He didn't compose, as popularly supposed, Greensleeves, but he did write "Pastime with Good Company" and several other ballads (see video)
- Mary I could play the virginals by the age of four.
- Young Prince Edward had a troupe of minstrels and could play the lute and the virginals.
- Elizabeth I did not play herself, but kept musicians at Court since she loved pageants and dancing.
Henry VIII's Greatest Hits
The Tudors and Executions
Between them, the Tudor monarchs executed thousands of people. Mary I ("Bloody Mary") was particularly thorough in ridding herself of those who disagreed with her views. However, the rest of her family weren't shy about authorising executions, even of their own relatives.
- Perkin Warbeck claimed to be the son of Edward IV and tried to overthrow Henry VII. He made two attempts but was imprisoned and hanged in 1499.
- Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, was a niece of Edward IV. Her family fell out with Henry VIII and Margaret, at the age of 67 was ordered to the block. She didn't go quietly and ran around the scaffold until the executioner hacked her down. Her ghost is said to haunt the Tower of London.
- Henry VIII famously executed two of his wives, and Katherine Howard, who haunts Hampton Court.
- Young Edward VI ordered the execution of his uncles Edward and Thomas Seymour.
- Mary, I toyed with executing her sister, Elizabeth, choosing to imprison her instead. She did, however, order the deaths of approximately 300 people.
- Mary also ordered the execution of her cousin Lady Jane Grey.
- Elizabeth, I ordered the beheading of her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, after repeated plots to take the throne.
The Link Between Queen Elizabeth II and the Tudors
It's tempting to think that the present Queen cannot be descended from the Tudors because none of Henry VIII's children had an issue. However, Henry's sisters did, and it is through one of them that the Queen is related to the Tudors. She can trace her ancestry back to James I, the grandson of Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. So, the Elizabeth II does have Tudor blood, albeit 16 generations back!
Judi Brown (author) from UK on November 12, 2015:
Thank you Brian, I appreciate your feedback.
Brian Langston from Languedoc Roussillon on November 09, 2015:
Great hub Judi. Packed with information, well laid out and beautifully told! Well done.....
Judi Brown (author) from UK on December 30, 2013:
Hi grand old lady - it would have been a toss up between being a poor starving peasant with a life expectancy of 40ish or a noble with no say over your personal life and the dangers of political intrigue. I love history, but sometimes I think the good old days are best viewed from the present :-) Glad you enjoyed the hub.
Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on December 29, 2013:
What a family! It seems like it is better not to be royal with all those imprisonments and beheadiings. And although castles were, in their time the lap of luxury, I would still prefer my three bedroom bungalow -- if for the bathroom alone! Humor aside, this is a very interesting and informative hub. Thank you very much.
Judi Brown (author) from UK on November 26, 2013:
Hi Jean - I'm currently chasing a Crimean war rifleman through the archives after falling for his photo, but I'll look out for the Anne Boleyn book - thanks very much for the suggestion!
Jean Bakula from New Jersey on November 22, 2013:
You reminded me of an interesting book you might like (if you have time to read--though most writers do read a lot)! Threads The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn is really good. Her assignment in the afterlife is to forgive Henry for chopping off her head. Does she? You'll have to see. I like history, and historical fiction sometimes leads us to a time or place we wouldn't have known was so interesting.
Judi Brown (author) from UK on February 14, 2013:
Hi Beltane73 - glad you enjoyed it, hope you enjoy a few more of my hubs! Thanks so much for commenting, it's appreciated.
Holly Kline from South Jersey on February 14, 2013:
Nice overview! I'll be reading more of your hubs.
Judi Brown (author) from UK on January 24, 2013:
Hi Billy timmy - thanks so much for the kind comment, glad you enjoyed it.
Billy timmy on January 24, 2013:
Hi this is awesome
Judi Brown (author) from UK on January 05, 2013:
Hi Lybrah - happy to have piqued your interest in some of the less well-known Tudors! Thanks for your comments, very much appreciated.
Lybrah on January 05, 2013:
I really enjoyed learning about some of the lesser known Tudors. Good work!
Judi Brown (author) from UK on September 28, 2012:
Hi Jessica - I said "Henry VII and his wife, Elizabeth of York, had four daughters. The Princesses Elizabeth and Katherine died in infancy, but Margaret and Mary survived to adulthood". This is perfectly correct. It was these two princesses who were combined into one - ie Henry VIII's sisters.
Are you confusing the two Henrys - Henry VII and Henry VIII?
Jessica on September 28, 2012:
at first you say henry had two sisters who were rolled into one character on the show. but then you make the mistake of saying that Henry VII and his wife Elizabeth of York had four daughters, and name his two sisters as his daughters...you need to edit this piece a lot.
Judi Brown (author) from UK on September 27, 2012:
Hi Deborah - I read that a few weeks ago too! I found it really difficult to finish as, despite having such an awful life, Margaret Beaufort was portrayed as such a pious, self-absorbed monster. I was glad to finish it! Maybe I should have got my husband to watch The Tudors, he too is generally derisive of all my "old stuff".
Thanks very much for commenting, I appreciate it.
Deborah Neyens from Iowa on September 27, 2012:
I, too, have been fascinated with the Tudor history. I recently finished Philippa Gregory's novel, The Red Queen, the fictionalized account of Margaret Beaufort and the birth of the Tudor dynasty. And despite its gross historical inaccuracies (combining Henry's two sisters into one annoyed me, too), I actually loved the television show The Tudors. Even my husband got into it and he normally scoffs at my love for all things Tudor.
Judi Brown (author) from UK on September 24, 2012:
Hi Angie - exactly! If it ain't broke, why fix it? Still, I don't suppose the producers care, it's made a shed-load of money for them.
Thanks very much for your comments, always appreciated.
Angie Jardine from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... on September 24, 2012:
I didn’t watch the TV Tudors … I knew it would be inaccurate as soon as I saw how handsome they had made Henry.
As a nitpicking Virgo the liberties taken would have driven me mad :/ and as you say … there really was no need. They were all barking mad anyway so the real story was even more entertaining.
Great hub … as we have come to expect from you, Judi.
Judi Brown (author) from UK on September 24, 2012:
Oh David, you don't like the Tudors - I assume you mean the dynasty, not the TV show? I love them (not the show), dreadful bunch though they were. Never keen on the Stuarts though...
Thanks for your comments, always great to hear from you!
David Hunt from Cedar Rapids, Iowa on September 24, 2012:
This is a great overview of the Tudors! I didn't know they originated in Wales. Personally, I dislike the Tudors and that affects my view of the period of their reigns, and the historian inside me is a little ashamed at this prejudice.
Judi Brown (author) from UK on September 23, 2012:
Hi joanveronica - I had to switch off, lovely as it was to look at - just couldn't believe the liberties they took with the real story. Don't understand why they needed to change a thing, their lives were so interesting anyway.
Great to hear from you again, thanks so much for reading and commenting.
Joan Veronica Robertson from Concepcion, Chile on September 23, 2012:
Another great read! I don't watch the TV version, but enjoyed this Hub, the Tudors are always fascinating!
Voted up and interesting! Have a good Day!
Judi Brown (author) from UK on September 23, 2012:
Hi Glimmer Twin Fan - can't beat the Tudors, in my opinion! Glad we share a fascination.
As always, great to hear from you, thanks so much for commenting.
Claudia Mitchell on September 23, 2012:
Love this hub. The Tudor history has always fascinated me.
Judi Brown (author) from UK on September 22, 2012:
Hi Denise - thanks very much for reading and for sharing.
Hi Georgie - the Tudors caught my attention when I was very young and have held it ever since!
Hi tillsontitan - you're right, they were one of the original soap opera families! Utterly dreadful, but totally fascinating.
Hi Mhatter99 - thanks, glad you enjoyed reading this one.
Thanks to all of you for your kind comments, always appreciated :-)
Martin Kloess from San Francisco on September 21, 2012:
Good job on this. Thank you. very informative.
Mary Craig from New York on September 21, 2012:
Wow! You sure did your research on this one...so many facts about the Tudors, generations of them. Reading this was like watching a soap opera what with the weddings, illegitimate children, and divorces...the only difference being Soap Operas are not quite as blood thirsty ... though they do kill off characters who return years later. God save the Queen!
Voted up, awesome, and interesting.
Georgie Lowery from North Florida on September 21, 2012:
I have no idea why, but Tudor history has always fascinated me. Thanks for these facts, this Hub was a great read!
Denise Mai from Idaho on September 21, 2012:
A wonderfully thorough article on a fascinating royal family. Sharing and tweeting.