The Tudors For Dummies
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The British Isles have witnessed many great regal dynasties through the ages, but none more turbulent, exciting and controversial than the Tudors. This Cheat Sheet gives you the essential up-front information about this period in world history.

Timeline of top Tudor events

A lot can happen in 118 years. Here is a list of events that were important both at the time of the Tudors and for what they meant for the future:

  • 1485: Henry Tudor invades and defeats Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth and is crowned king Henry VII.

  • 1486: Henry and Elizabeth marry; Prince Arthur is born.

  • 1487: Lambert Simnel invades from Ireland, and is defeated at Stoke; the Wars of the Roses end.

  • 1492: Treaty of Etaples with France.

  • 1493: Perkin Warbeck, pretender to the Crown, emerges in Ireland.

  • 1496: Scots invade England in support of Warbeck.

  • 1497: Cornish rebellion; Warbeck captured.

  • 1501: Arthur and Catherine of Aragon marry.

  • 1502: Arthur dies.

  • 1503: Elizabeth of York dies; Prince Henry and Catherine are betrothed; James IV and Margaret — Henry VII’s daughter — marry.

  • 1509: Henry VII dies and Henry VIII ascends; Empson and Dudley are arrested; Henry and Catherine marry.

  • 1511: Henry joins the Holy League against France.

  • 1513: Battle of Flodden; James IV dies; English victory at Tournai; Thomas Wolsey rises in Henry’s service.

  • 1514: Peace with France; Louis XII marries Mary — Henry’s sister.

  • 1516: Wolsey becomes a cardinal; Bessie Blount becomes Henry’s mistress; Princess Mary is born.

  • 1518: Wolsey sets up the Treaty of London and gets temporary universal peace.

  • 1519: Charles V becomes holy Roman emperor. Illegitimate Henry Fitzroy is born.

  • 1520: Henry meets Francis I of France at the Field of Cloth of Gold; Henry meets Emperor Charles V; Mary Boleyn becomes the king’s mistress.

  • 1521: Henry orders the execution of the duke of Buckingham and writes a book on his Catholic beliefs.

  • 1522: War with France; Henry ends his relationship with Mary Boleyn.

  • 1527: Henry starts divorce proceedings against Catherine.

  • 1529: Wolsey fails to find a solution to Henry’s divorce and Henry fires him.

  • 1532: Henry sleeps with Anne Boleyn, who becomes pregnant.

  • 1533: Henry marries Anne; Archbishop Cranmer declares Henry’s first marriage null; Act in Restraint of Appeal severs ties to Rome; Elizabeth is born.

  • 1534: Parliament passes the First Succession Act and the Treasons Act.

  • 1536: Catherine dies; Dissolution of the Monasteries; Act of Supremacy; Pilgrimage of Grace; ‘Silken Thomas’ revolts in Ireland; the English Bible is approved; Henry marries Jane Seymour.

  • 1537: Prince Edward is born; Jane dies.

  • 1539: Act of Six Articles.

  • 1540: Henry marries and divorces Anne of Cleves; Thomas Cromwell falls; Henry marries Catherine Howard.

  • 1542: Treaty with the emperor; war with Scotland.

  • 1543: Treaty of Greenwich betroths Prince Edward to Mary Queen of Scots; Henry marries Catherine Parr.

  • 1544: War with France; attack on Scotland; fall of Boulogne.

  • 1545: England defeats a potential French invasion; Mary Rose sinks.

  • 1546: The Howards fall; Henry makes his will.

  • 1547: Henry VIII dies; Edward VI — aged 9 — becomes king; duke of Somerset forms the protectorate; war with Scotland; Act of Six Articles is repealed.

  • 1549: Act of Uniformity; first Book of Common Prayer issued; rebellions in Devon and Norfolk; Somerset falls; war with France.

  • 1550: Peace with France; earl of Warwick becomes lord president of the Council.

  • 1552: Second prayer book issued.

  • 1553: Edward VI dies; Jane Grey reigns briefly; Mary succeeds and returns to the old ways in religion.

  • 1554: Sir Thomas Wyatt rebels; Mary marries Philip II of Spain; England and Rome are reunited.

  • 1555: Mary starts burning Protestants; Mary’s pregnancy is false.

  • 1557: War with France.

  • 1558: England loses Calais; Mary and Cardinal Reginald Pole die; Elizabeth becomes queen with William Cecil as secretary of state.

  • 1559: Protestant religious settlement by the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity; Protestants revolt in Scotland.

  • 1560: English intervene in Scotland, resulting in the Treaty of Edinburgh; Elizabeth flirts with Lord Robert Dudley, whose wife, Amy Robsart, dies in suspicious circumstances.

  • 1562–1563: England’s intervention in France fails; Treaty of Troyes.

  • * 1567: Mary Queen of Scots is imprisoned and her husband, Lord Darnley, murdered.

  • 1568: Mary Queen of Scots arrives in England as a fugitive; John Hawkins fights at San Juan d’Ulloa; England seizes Alba’s pay ships.

  • 1570: Papal bull excommunicates Elizabeth.

  • 1571: Act against papal bulls.

  • 1572: Treaty of Blois with France; massacre of St Bartholomew’s day.

  • 1584: Assassination of William of Orange, leader of the Dutch revolt.

  • 1585: Treaty of Nonsuch with the United Provinces; war with Spain; Drake in the Caribbean.

  • 1586: Babington Plot seals the fate of Mary Queen of Scots.

  • 1587: Drake raids Cadiz.

  • 1588: Spanish Armada is defeated; Robert Dudley dies.

  • 1591: English campaigns in support of Henry IV of France in Normandy and Brittany.

  • 1593: Henry IV becomes a Catholic.

  • 1595: Tyrone’s revolt in Ireland; Drake and Hawkins fail in the Caribbean.

  • 1596: Capture of Cadiz; second Spanish Armada fails due to weather.

  • 1598: William Cecil, Lord Burghley, dies; Peace of Vervins between France and Spain.

  • 1599: The earl of Essex is sent to Ireland and fails in his mission.

  • 1601: The earl of Essex revolts.

  • 1603: Elizabeth dies; Robert Cecil secures the peaceful accession of James VI of Scotland.

Important voyages and journeys of the Tudor period

Trade and exploration weren’t high on the royal agenda until the reign of Edward VI. After that, the Crown and the merchant community keenly backed voyages. Here are some of the most important voyages of the era:

  • 1553: Hugh Willoughby and Richard Chancellor seek a North East passage

  • 1562–1563: John Hawkins’ first slaving voyage

  • 1564: John Hawkins’ second voyage.

  • 1568: Hawkins’ third voyage — San Juan d’Ulloa

  • 1576: Martin Frobisher reaches Meta Incognita — Baffin Land

  • 1577–1580: Francis Drake sails round the world. Columbus, you were right — it’s round!

Key executions of the Tudor period

The Tudors carried out more political executions than you’ll find listed here, but these deaths represent significant markers in the development of the respective monarch’s sense of identity. The message? Don’t mess with the Tudors!

  • 1499: Earl of Warwick and Perkin Warbeck

  • 1510: Edmund Dudley and Sir Richard Empson

  • 1521: Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham

  • 1535: John Fisher and Sir Thomas More

  • 1536: Anne Boleyn

  • 1538: Cardinal Pole’s family

  • 1540: Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex

  • 1542: Catherine Howard

  • 1552: Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset

  • 1553: John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland

  • 1554: Jane Grey

  • 1556: Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury

  • 1581: Edmund Campion, Jesuit missionary

  • 1587: Mary Queen of Scots

  • 1601: Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex

Notable Tudor laws

The key stages in the development of Tudor government are marked by the passage of acts of Parliament. Indeed, the Tudors never claimed the right to make laws by any other means. Here are some of the more significant laws made by the Tudor monarchs:

  • 1489: Justices of the Peace

  • 1504: Statute of Liveries

  • 1510: Sumptuary Laws

  • 1533: Act of Appeals

  • 1534: Act of Supremacy

  • 1536: Franchises

  • 1536: Act for the Dissolution of the Monasteries

  • 1539: Act of Six Articles

  • 1547: Treasons Act

  • 1547: Dissolution of the Chantries

  • 1549: First Act of Uniformity

  • 1552: Second Act of Uniformity

  • 1553: First Act of Repeal

  • 1554: Heresy

  • 1554: Second Act of Repeal

  • 1559: Act of Supremacy

  • 1559: Act of Uniformity

  • 1563: Statute of Artificers

  • 1581: Against Reconciliation With Rome

  • 1585: For the Queen’s Surety

  • 1601: Poor Law

Rebellions and conspiracies against the Tudors

Rebellions and conspiracies against the Tudors were all unsuccessful, because many of the relevant grievances were of local concern only and the dynasty was pretty good at getting hold of most of the rebels. Following are the most noteworthy uprising and plots:

  • 1487: Invasion by Lambert Simnel, who claimed to be the earl of Warwick

  • 1494–1497: Conspiracies in favour of Perkin Warbeck, who claimed to be Richard of York

  • 1497: Rebellion in Cornwall

  • 1536: The Pilgrimage of Grace

  • 1549: Rebellions in Devon, Cornwall, Oxfordshire and East Anglia

  • 1554: Sir Thomas Wyatt’s conspiracy and rebellion

  • 1556: The Dudley conspiracy

  • 1569: Rebellion of the Northern Earls

  • 1571: Ridolfi Plot

  • 1586: Babington Plot

  • 1601: Rebellion of the earl of Essex

Tudor monarchs and their spouses

Apart from Henry VII, the Tudors weren’t very lucky in their marriages. Despite marrying six times, Henry VIII was survived by only one son and two daughters. Of these offspring, only Mary married — and disastrously at that — and none of them left any children. Result? End of the line:

  • Henry VII, born 1457; reigned 1485–1509

    • Married Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV

  • Henry VIII, born 1491; reigned 1509–1547

    • Married Catherine of Aragon; Queen 1509–1533

    • Married Anne Boleyn; Queen 1533–1536

    • Married Jane Seymour; Queen 1536–1537

    • Married Anne of Cleves; Queen 1539–1540

    • Married Catherine Howard; Queen 1540–1541

    • Married Catherine Parr, Lady Latimer; Queen 1543–1547

  • Edward VI, born 1537; reigned 1547–1553

  • Jane Grey, born 1537; reigned 10–19 July 1553

  • Mary I, born 1516; reigned 1553–1558

    • Married Philip II of Spain; 1554–1558

  • Elizabeth I, born 1533; reigned 1558–1603

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