The Tudors: A Brief History

Updated on March 24, 2020
The Family of Henry VIII: An Allegory of the Tudor Succession
The Family of Henry VIII: An Allegory of the Tudor Succession | Source

The reign of the Tudors has always been one of immense fascination when it comes to English history, taking into account the fact that it is a complete piece of history - one that already has a beginning and an end, to be studied, restudied, analyzed, reanalyzed, evaluate, and re-evaluated endlessly within the intimacy of its territory.

The Tudors' reign culminated the 30-year long War of the Roses and was marked with a period of change: politically, socially, and religiously. It was also an era that delivered some of the most extraordinary and charismatic kings and queens - sophisticated and spirited in their personalities, aggressive in their beliefs, along with a host of other intriguing chief characters of the times. The splendor, grandeur, pageantry, and drama of the members of the Tudors' royal household all typify the prosperity and glory of an ancient monarchy.

The Tudor Rose Crest
The Tudor Rose Crest | Source

A New Dynasty

The Tudors' story began with the triumph of Henry Tudor, a member of the House of Lancaster, over the rival House of York, who had the English crown placed upon his head, thus becoming King Henry VII. He then wittingly solicited a union with Elizabeth, daughter of the House of York, with the ulterior motive to alleviate the discontent of the rival house, therefore, firmly cementing his newly acquired position. Due to this matrimonial alliance, the Tudor dynasty was symbolized by the "Tudor Rose", a fusion of the previous two warring factions' symbols: House of Lancaster's Red Rose and House of York's White Rose.

The union of Henry VII and Elizabeth produced eight issues, four of whom died young. Their two surviving daughters, Margaret and Mary, both married European princes of Scotland and France respectively and eventually became queen consorts, while Mary later married Charles Brandon 1st Duke of Suffolk following the death of her husband,King Louis XII of France, a second union from which descended the Lady Jane Grey, the future queen of England.

Katherine of Aragon
Katherine of Aragon | Source

A Spanish Princess

One of Henry VII's main objectives was forging foreign alliances which he succeeded in contriving a betrothal between his eldest son, Arthur, to Katherine of Aragon, youngest daughter of Spain's monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. However, four months into the marriage, Arthur died at the tender age of fifteen, thus passing on the throne to his younger brother, Henry. After it was certain that Katherine wasn't carrying Arthur's child, Henry VII immediately acquired a Papal Dispensation allowing Prince Henry to marry her; however, Katherine continued to live in England as Arthur's widow until the death of Henry VII in 1509, after which she and Henry married, two months following his accession to the throne as King Henry VIII of England.

King Henry VIII
King Henry VIII | Source

Henry VIII and his Wives

No Tudor history would be completed without the documentation of Henry VIII and his six wives.

Henry VIII's marriage to Katherine of Aragon lasted twenty-five years but produced only one surviving child, the Princess Mary. He subsequently speculated that Katherine, five years his senior, was perhaps already pass the child-bearing age. He had also then been thralled by Anne Boleyn's, Catherine's maid of honor, wit and fiery beauty, which prompted him to seek an annulment of his marriage from the Pope without further hesitation. But when the Pope turned down his request, Henry was infuriated and consequently severed all ties with the Pope and Rome, and established the Anglican Church of England with himself, King of England, as its head. The annulment of his marriage with Katherine soon followed, declared by his newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Crammer. He was then free to proceed with his intention to marry Anne Boleyn, which he did in 1533, and they had a daughter between them, Elizabeth, who was born later that year. Miscarriages followed, and with still no male heir, he had Anne arrested for high treason and sent to the Tower of London where she was found guilty and beheaded.

Henry's third marriage to Jane Seymour, Anne Boleyn's former maid of honor, produced a male heir, Edward, which delighted Henry tremendously, but his joy was ephemeral as Jane died only a few days after the delivery.

He married again, his fourth wife being Anne of Cleves, the daughter of a German duke, but he was repulsive towards her as he found her as hideous as a horse, and therefore, petition for yet another divorce.

He next married Katherine Howard, a young and spirited girl thirty years his junior, who soon grew bored of the king and became the lover of one of Henry's courtiers, Thomas Culpeper. Her affair with Thomas transpired, and as a result, she was accused of treason and executed in the similar manner as Anne Boleyn.

Henry's sixth and final marriage was to Catherine Parr, who outlived him.

The Succession

The crown of England was then handed to Henry's nine-year-old son, Edward, who reigned for six years under the superintendence of his mother's older brother, the Duke of Somerset, till the day he died after succumbing to an illness. Edward's cousin, the Lady Jane Grey, was appointed as his successor in his will but was disputed by Mary's claim. Lady Jane Grey's reign as queen only lasted nine days as she was then arrested and kept prisoner in the Tower of London, while Mary was proclaimed the new Queen of England. Later, Jane was convicted of high treason and executed a few months thereafter.

Queen Mary I's reign was a period of chaos and turbulence. With determination to restore Roman Catholicism as the official religion of England, she attempted to eradicate all traces of Protestantism with the burning of religious dissenters whom she deemed were a threat to the country, earning her the sobriquet "Bloody Mary". Her tenure concluded five years later with her death, which led to the ascension of her half-sister, Elizabeth, to the throne.

Elizabeth ruled for a lengthy forty-five years and was acknowledged by many as a capable and efficient queen. She was the last Tudor monarch as she never married and had no heir. Upon her death, the crown was handed to James, son of Mary, Queen of Scots, who was the granddaughter of Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII. His reign signalled the beginning of the Stuart dynasty of England, and he became King James VI of Scotland and King James I of England, and the first monarch of Great Britain.

First published on July 23, 2011

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    • Carmen H profile imageAUTHOR

      Carmen Beth 

      8 years ago

      LetitiaFT - thanks for stopping by and leaving such kind comments! US Presidents and French dynasties both come with interesting bundles as well, but I guess I'm in a better position to write about the Tudors.

    • LetitiaFT profile image


      8 years ago from Paris via California

      Wonderful! Concise and thorough at the same time. As an American living in Paris, I'm better at US Presidents and French dynasties, but has just summed up in a few words a whole fascinating period of history. Thanks.

    • Carmen H profile imageAUTHOR

      Carmen Beth 

      8 years ago

      tammyswallow - The Tudors are indeed famous! Thanks for your compliment. I appreciate your read and comment.

    • tammyswallow profile image


      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Great historial hub on one of the most interesting periods in history. This is very well writen and I liked the family tree. Well done!

    • Carmen H profile imageAUTHOR

      Carmen Beth 

      8 years ago

      You're welcome, James. Thank you too for your comment and time.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      8 years ago from Chicago

      I enjoyed reading your great Hub. You are a fine writer and you told this tale well. Thank you for the good read.

    • Carmen H profile imageAUTHOR

      Carmen Beth 

      8 years ago

      You're welcome, klidstone1970.

    • klidstone1970 profile image

      இڿڰۣ-- кιмвєяℓєу 

      8 years ago from Niagara Region, Canada

      Love Tudor history. Thank you.

    • Carmen H profile imageAUTHOR

      Carmen Beth 

      8 years ago

      I appreciate your comment, Lisa. I too agree with you that the Tudors offer so much more thrills and drama than on-screen creations.

    • lisadpreston profile image


      8 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

      I love the history of the Tudors. This was a really good hub and the family tree photos were an extra bonus. I look forward to reading more. The Tudors are better than any modern day soap opera.

    • Carmen H profile imageAUTHOR

      Carmen Beth 

      8 years ago

      Ha have got a great sense of humor, SanneL!

    • SanneL profile image


      8 years ago from Sweden

      Wow! Fascinating hub!

      Ouch, Who'd want to trade places with any of Henry VIII wives!:)

    • Carmen H profile imageAUTHOR

      Carmen Beth 

      8 years ago

      The Tudors truly are one of the most iconic figures in Britain's monarchy history. I am passionate about their story, and intend to write more hubs on the Tudors in the near future. Thanks so much for stopping by, Dolores.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      8 years ago from East Coast, United States

      It's so easy to forget the line of Henry VIII's wives and your hub offers the information up for a quick review. What a fascinating story the Tudor family offers us all these years later.

    • Carmen H profile imageAUTHOR

      Carmen Beth 

      8 years ago

      Thanks Simone. That was my intention - making it terse.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      What a fabulous, succinct explanation! This is a fantastic Hub. Voted up and interesting!

    • Carmen H profile imageAUTHOR

      Carmen Beth 

      8 years ago

      I remember seeing you while I was commenting on the hub Seven Italian Bread Designs. Thanks so much for your support and for stopping by.

    • hungrymouse profile image


      8 years ago from North America

      A very interesting period and the vote is neck and neck.


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