|United Kingdom: History and Political System
|Saturday, 2 March 2024, 4:20 AM
The Tudor era (1485 - 1603)
The Tudor era saw unprecedented upheaval in England. Between them the five Tudor kings and queens introduced huge changes that are still present in the society.
Henry VII wants to keep his kingdom secure and creates several foreign alliances to try to avoid wars. He arranges the marriage of his 13-year-old daughter Margaret to James IV to secure peace between England and Scotland. Although the peace doesn't last, the couple's great-grandson, James I of England and VI of Scotland, will unite the crowns of Scotland and England 100 years later.
Henry VIII - A man of extremes
Henry VIII is one of the English most renowned monarchs. He was a larger than life king who established one of the most glittering courts in Europe. However, he was also a spoiled prince used to getting his own way and ruthless when his desires were thwarted.
Henry turned the country upside down in pursuit of Anne Boleyn, changing the nation's official religion, annulling his first marriage and executing once-favoured advisers to secure his marriage to her. However, when Anne failed to produce a son to carry on Henry's legacy, even she wasn't safe. When Henry came to the throne, England was a Catholic nation subject to the Pope in Rome. Henry considered himself a loyal subject of Rome and was given the title ‘Defender of the Faith’ by Pope Leo X after he authored a book attacking the Protestant reformer Martin Luther. However, the Pope’s repeated refusal to annul Henry’s marriage to his first wife Catherine of Aragon put their relationship under severe strain. The king became convinced his power as a prince came directly from God and was not subject to the Pope. Henry breaks from the authority of the Pope and is declared head of the English Church by Parliament. To cancel out the power of the Catholic church in England, he dissolves over 800 monasteries and transfers their wealth and lands transferred to the crown. Years of discord between Protestants and Catholics follow.
Henry VIII is also known as the 'father of the Royal Navy.' When he became king there were five royal warships. By his death he had built up a navy of around 50 ships. Henry also built the first naval dock in Britain at Portsmouth and in 1546 he established the Navy Board.
Henry VIII orders the creation of the first national postal service for royal mail. Called 'The King’s Posts', it was devised by Sir Brian Tuke and commanded all towns to have a fresh horse available for anyone carrying mail from the Tudor Court. This royal mail system was opened to the general public in 1635 by King Charles I - the start of the postal system that is still used today.
Elizabeth I’s long reign
In 1558 Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn, becomes queen. During her reign she established a reasonable degree of internal stability. By the mid-1580s, England could no longer avoid war with Spain. England's defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 associated Elizabeth with one of the greatest military victories in English history.
Elizabeth's reign is known as the Elizabethan era. The period is famous for the flourishing of English drama, led by playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, and for the seafaring prowess of English adventurers such as Francis Drake. Some historians depict Elizabeth as a short-tempered, sometimes indecisive ruler, who enjoyed more than her share of luck.
Queen Elizabeth I faced numerous plots against her and thus pays Sir Francis Walsingham to set up a European network of spies across Europe. He establishes England's first counter-intelligence network and a London school that teaches cipher breaking and forgery. Elizabeth's Catholic cousin Mary, Queen of Scots is in exile in England and poses a threat to Elizabeth. Mary is put under house arrest. Walsingham is convinced she is plotting against the queen and implicates her in a plan to depose Elizabeth. Mary is executed a year later.
Elizabeth I dies aged 69. The Virgin Queen never married or had children.
James VI of Scotland was her closest royal relative as they were both direct descendants of Henry VII. He is named King James I on the day of Elizabeth's death. One of Britain's greatest and most influential dynasties finally reaches its conclusion.
First English colony in America
England wants to compete with Spain and Portugal, whose American colonies generate great wealth. Sir Walter Raleigh sets up a colony of about 100 men on the east coast of North America, which he names Virginia after Elizabeth I, ‘the Virgin Queen’. Although Raleigh's settlement fails after a year it marks the start of an effort by England to colonise North America. The first successful permanent settlement is founded in 1607.