Gateway to the Classics: The World's Story: England by Eva March Tappan
The World's Story: England by  Eva March Tappan

The Tudor Kings

Historical Note

THE most momentous result of the Wars of the Roses was the destruction of the old nobility and the great increase in the power of the Crown, which grew so wealthy on the plunder of confiscated estates that Parliament could safely be ignored. This condition of affairs enabled the Tudor monarchs to turn the English sovereignty into a despotism that endured for a century.

Henry VII (1485-1509), the first of the Tudors, strengthened his claim to the throne by marrying Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV; and thus united the two Houses of York and Lancaster. He passed many useful laws, promoted commerce and industry, and lessened the power of the nobles. He was succeeded by Henry VIII (1509-1547), and never did prince ascend the throne under more favorable circumstances. He was eighteen years of age, handsome, accomplished, and beloved by his people. He developed, however, into a merciless tyrant; but Parliament and people submitted to the powerful Tudor will with hardly a protest. The most important event of his reign was the separation of England from the Church of Rome, a separation occasioned by the refusal of the Pope, Clement VII, to annul his marriage with Catherine of Aragon, aunt of the Emperor Charles V of Spain. By the Act of Supremacy, passed by Parliament in 1534, the king was made the "Protector and only Supreme Head" of the Church of England. Soon after the monasteries were suppressed and their wide domains scattered among the king's favorites, creating a new aristocracy.

One notable characteristic of the eighth Henry was his variability. Of his three great ministers, Wolsey, More, and Thomas Cromwell, the first died in disgrace, the last two were executed. Henry was six times married: to Catherine of Aragon (divorced), Anne Boleyn (beheaded), Jane Seymour (died), Anne of Cleves (divorced), Catherine Howard (beheaded), and Catherine Parr, who outlived him.

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