April 1 Munch and Learn Recap, Part 1 by Linley Schmidt

Royalty and Religion, 1500-1750 

Part 1, the Tudors   

The Dixon’s special guest for Munch and Learn on April 1 was Dr. Joseph Ward, Professor and Chair of the History Department at the University of Mississippi. His area of focus is society and culture in early modern London, as well as trade guilds in the development of metropolitan identity. His talk, however, focused on the English monarchy and how it and religion shaped England from 1500 – 1750. Dr. Ward’s knowledge and the amount of information he conveyed  makes it impossible to summarize his talk without having him write this blog for me, so I’ll hit the main points as well as I can.

The Tudors and Stuarts reigned between 1500 and 1750. The Tudor rulers were Henry VII (1485-1509), Henry VIII (1509-1547), Edward VI (1147-1553), Mary I (1553-1558) and Elizabeth I (1558-1603). The Stuarts were James VI of Scotland (1567-1625) who was also King James I of England (1603-1625), Charles I (1625-1649), who was executed, Charles II (1660-1685), James II (1685-1688), who was deposed, William III (1689-1702) and Mary II (1689-1694), Joint Sovereigns, and Anne (1702-1714).    

Much of what happened within these families, and to England, was decided as a result of the attempt to guarantee an heir to the throne or create alliances to keep or increase wealth or power. After defeating Richard III in 1485, Henry VII took the throne and married Elizabeth of York in order to pull the Lancasters and Yorks together and gain both groups’ support. They had been fighting for the throne of England in the War of the Roses (1455 -1487). Henry VII was the first Tudor.   

His son, Henry VIII, is well known because of his quest for a male heir.  His first wife, Catherine of Aragon, had been Henry’s late brother’s wife, and was the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. She was betrothed to Arthur while the two were toddlers. Arthur died in 1502 and in 1509 Henry VIII married her. They had a girl named Mary, but no male heir.  Therefore, Henry decided that God was punishing him with no male heir, because Catherine had been married to his brother. So, he decided he needed to dissolve his marriage to Catherine. To do this he had to petition the Pope. The Pope would not grant an annulment, so Henry’s solution was to make the Pope powerless in England. Therefore, Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, could in 1533 grant the annulment.   

Henry went on to marry Anne Boleyn, who was already pregnant with his child, in 1533. They were married and she was crowned Queen of England. Preparations were made for the birth of the new prince who turned out to be Princess Elizabeth. After several births of babies that did not live Henry VIII had become interested in another woman named Jane Seymour. Ultimately Anne was tried and convicted of treason and adultery and executed in 1536.   Henry and Jane were married in 1536. In 1537 she gave birth to Edward and then died two weeks later.   

England’s separation from Rome left the country politically isolated and vulnerable so Henry looked to marriage to create advantageous alliances. The Duke of Cleves was seen as a potential ally and he had two sisters, Amelia and Anne. Henry decided to marry Anne but began formulating plans to get out of the marriage very soon after it happened in 1540. She testified the marriage had not been consummated and an annulment was granted. 

Henry VIII married Catherine Howard in 1540. She was the cousin of Anne Boleyn. Catherine was executed in 1542 after being accused of adultery. Katherine Parr married Henry in 1543 and was widowed in 1547. She was a very educated, independent woman who was the daughter of a lady in waiting to Catherine of Aragon. Catherine Howard had been named after Henry VIII’s first wife.   

Edward VI became king at the age of nine when his father died. He and his half-sister Elizabeth were devout Protestants while their half-sister Mary, was a devout Catholic. Edward introduced the Book of Common Prayer in 1549, and removed Catholic practices such as stained glass and statues in churches. He also allowed clergy members to marry. Edward VI died in 1553 of Tuberculosis.  In a political move, the Duke of Northumberland quickly married his son to Lady Jane Grey, a great-niece of Henry VIII and claimant to the throne.   

Jane Grey ascended to the throne; however, the country rallied behind Mary, Catherine of Aragon’s daughter so Jane Grey’s reign lasted nine days. She and her husband were executed in 1554.   

Mary restored ties with Rome in England and reintroduced Roman Catholic bishops. She also reintroduced heresy laws to force the religious conversion of the country. Over the course of three years around 300 Protestant heretics were burned at the stake. Mary’s goal was to have children to keep Protestant Elizabeth off the throne. She married Phillip, King of Spain in 1556, but no heir was produced. The only result of the marriage was England being dragged into war with France. Mary died in 1558, opening the door for Elizabeth to take the throne.   

Elizabeth ruled for forty-five years, and never married. She once again, separated England from Rome by bringing back the Church of England and creating a compromise between Catholics and Protestants called the 39 Articles. However, Elizabeth passed harsh laws against Catholics after plots against her were revealed.    

Elizabeth I opened England to the world through voyages of exploration and the establishment of the East India Company in 1600. During Elizabeth’s reign there was danger of England being invaded by Spain and France. There were also plots within Britain to take over the throne.   

Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned for 19 years. She was a successor to the throne and was involved in possible assassination plots against Elizabeth. She eventually was tried and executed in 1587.   

Phillip II of Spain believed to have a claim to the English throne through his marriage to Mary. He also wanted to re-establish Roman Catholicism in England. The English Navy, helped by bad weather, and small, quick ships defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588.   

Another point of contention in Elizabeth’s reign was the Puritans. Some Puritan preachers gained fame by doing what was called “prophesying”. Elizabeth saw the Puritans as a threat and in 1577 they were ordered to stop their “prophesying”. Even though top Puritan leaders were arrested and executed small Puritan churches, independent from the Church of England, formed, but by her death in 1603 the Puritans had little power. 

Posted by Chantal Drake at 3:39 PM
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