Monarchy and government, 1509-88


Henry VIII - Overview

  • Name: Henry VIII
  • Dates: 1491-1547
  • Likelihood of inheriting the throne at birth: Unlikely: Henry was the 'spare' son, as his brother Arthur was set to inherit the throne
  • Changing likelihood of inheriting the throne: Arthur died in 1502 after marrying Catherine of Aragon, causing Henry to inherit the throne
  • Age at coronation: 17
  • Age at death: 56
  • Dynastic background: His father, Henry VII, was also a 'spare' and seized the throne in the Battle of Bosworth against Richard III
  • Political abilities: He was firmly in control of the gov. and was keen to kept up to date in all matters. He held decisive influence on important issues, such as war and religion
  • Personal attributes: When he was young, Henry was handsome and athletic, interested in theology, music, dance, hunting and chivalric ideas. However, he became increasingly egotistical, demanding and morbid.
  • Religion: Was raised a Catholic, but turned away from Catholicism in order to achieve his divorce. He created the CofE with the monarch as the head -> Protestantism. However, he undid most of his reformation with the Act of Six Articles -> Catholicism 
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Edward VI - Overview

  • Name: Edward VI
  • Dates: 1537-1553
  • Likelihood of inheriting the throne at birth: Heir to the throne from birth as he was the first-born male and legitimate
  • Changing likelihood of inheriting the throne: He was always set to inherit the throne
  • Age at coronation: 9
  • Age at death: 16
  • Dynastic background: His father was a 'spare' who inherited the throne due to the death of his older brother
  • Political abilities: Due to his age, Edward was appointed a regent to govern for him. At the age of 15 he began to directly participate in gov.
  • Personal attributes: He was described as intelligent, hardworking. He was interested in religious matters and was a keen sportsman who enjoyed hunting
  • Religion: Edward was raised a Protestant by Catherine Parr, Cranmer and his tutor Richard Coxe. Edward like long complicated sermons and wrote notes in Greek as he listened
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Lady Jane Grey - Overview

  • Name: Lady Jane Grey
  • Dates: 1536-1554
  • Likelihood of inheriting the throne at birth: LJG was not part of the direct succession, so inheriting the throne was very unlikely.
  • Changing likelihood of inheriting the throne: Edward VI changed the line of succession so that she would inherit the throne to avoid Mary from becoming Queen.
  • Age at coronation: 17
  • Age at death: 17
  • Dynastic background: First cousin once removed of Edward VI. LJG's mother was the youngest daughter of the Queen of France, and was also the granddaughter of Henry VII
  • Political abilities: She never entered court
  • Personal attributes: Educated in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Italian. LJG was also Protestant.
  • Religion: LJG was raised a Protestant. She refused to recant her beliefs, even before her execution
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Mary I - Overview

  • Name: Mary I
  • Dates: 1516-1558
  • Likelihood of inheriting the throne at birth: In her earliest years she was heir apparent
  • Changing likelihood of inheriting the throne: After Henry VIII's divorce to her mother, Mary was declared illegitimate and was removed from the line of succession. However, she was reinstated into the succession in 1544
  • Age at coronation: 37
  • Age at death: 42
  • Dynastic background: Her father was a 'spare' who inherited the throne due to the death of his older brother
  • Political abilities: She was not well prepared for the role and countered this by gathering advisors who were experianced in gov. matters
  • Personal attributes: She was described as generous and amiable, but stubborn
  • Religion: Mary was raised a staunch Catholic due her mother being Catherine of Aragon. She attempted to reverse the Protestant reformation, which ultimately had no long-term impact.
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Elizabeth I - Overview

  • Name: Elizabeth. I
  • Dates: 1533-1603
  • Likelihood of inheriting the throne at birth: Unlikely, as she was second born, and female
  • Changing likelihood of inheriting the throne: After Henry VIII beheaded her mother, Elizabeth was declared illigitimate and was removed from the line of succession. However, she was reinstated into the succession in 1544
  • Age at coronation: 25
  • Age at death: 69
  • Dynastic background: Her father was a 'spare' who inherited the throne due to the death of his older brother
  • Political abilities: Tended to hestitate when important decisons needed to be made
  • Personal attributes: She was described as intelligent and hardworking; however she was also vain, jealous and had a bad temper. She spoke French, Italian, Spanish and read Latin.
  • Religion: Elizabeth was Anglo-Catholic, which meant that she theoretically Protestant but had Catholic tendacies. She didn't let her personal faith influence her doctrine and laws.
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Henry VIII and the succession (Pt. 1)

Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon:

  • As he was the son of a usurper, he needed to strengthen the dynasty by marrying and producing an heir1509 - Henry married Catherine of Aragon after receiving a Papal dispensation
    • Due to diseases he needed more than one son – an ‘heir’ and a few ‘spares’ in case anything happened to the firstborn son
    • Failure to produce a son could end Tudor dynasty and lead to speculation as to who would be king after Henry VIII -> lead to political instability, rival claimants and possibly civil war
  • 1510-1518 - She suffered a series of miscarriages and infant deaths
  • Jan 1511 - Catherine gave birth to a living son called Henry, but he died three weeks later
  • 1516 - Mary I was born and was Catherine’s only surviving childAlthough Mary was brought up and educated as future Queen of England, the lack of surviving and legitimate male heir eventually led to Henry annulling his marriage with Catherine and declaring Mary illigitimate
    • At this time, women were not thought fit to rule, this was potentially disastrous.
  • By annulling his marriage to Catherine, Henry had argued that it had never been legal in the first place – as Catherine had been married to his elder brother Arthur – and so Mary was illegitimate and could not inherit the throne
  • 1532 - Henry begins the break from Rome 
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Henry VIII and the succession (Pt. 2)

Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn:

  • Jan 1533 - Henry married Anne Boleyn, who was already pregnant with his child.
  • Sep 1533 -  It was hoped that she would have a son; however she gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth. This fuelled uncertainty over the succession once again
  • 1534 - The First Act of Succession declared Elizabeth heir, and Mary illegitimate.
    • Mary was sent to wait upon her half-sister's household, which was a massive blow to a girl brought up as a royal princess
  • 1533/36 - Anne then had many miscarriages; including giving birth to a deformed male foetus in January 1536
    • Anne had also been very outspoken in court, trying to advance religious reform and making interventions in politics when Henry heavily disapproved of. Her political enemies plotted against her, presenting Jane Seymour as a more suitable and submissive candidate for Queen to Henry
  • May 1536 - Henry first annulled their marriage, and then executed Anne for treason and adultery
  • 1536 - Henry passed a second Act of Succession, declaring both Elizabeth and Mary illegitimate.
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Henry VIII and the succession (Pt. 3)

Henry and Jane Seymour:

  • 1536 - Henry married Jane Seymour just 10 days after the execution of Anne Boleyn
  • October 1537 - Henry only legitimate son, Edward, was born and Jane died shortly after.
  • Whilst Henry now finally had a male heir, and had secured the dynasty, he had no more children after Edward even though he had three more marriages
  • 1544 - The Third Act of Succession was issued, which restored both Mary and Elizabeth as heirs – though he never reversed their illegitimacy –as he didn’t have a second ‘spare’ son to fall back on if Edward died.
  • 1547 - The Treason Act is issued. Henry did this to prevent any change to the line of succession by making it treason to change the Act of Succession.
  • January 1547 - Henry VIII dies
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Role of faction in Tudor Court

Faction – an informal grouping whose members have shared aims e.g. introducing religious reform. The factions members seek to gain power and access to the monarch both formally (through positions in the gov.) and informally (through the Chamber)

  •  Because monarchs in the Tudor era had personal control over the gov, a way to gain power and influence was to get access to the monarch; and so factions began to form
  • During the 1530s and 1540s factions often formed due to religious issues
    • Conservative faction – wanted to return to traditional, Catholic worship and was led by the Duke of Norfolk, his son the Earl of Surrey and the bishop of Winchester (Stephen Gardiner)
    • Reformer faction – wanted to make English church more Protestant and was led by Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, and the Archbishop of Canterbury (Thomas Crammer)
  • The competing factions attempted to influence Henry VIII by placing supporters in positions that could influence him e.g. Privy Chamber or Council
  • Henry was able to control the factions by playing them off each other, however in his final years, the factions began to destabilise politics
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Henry VIII’s will, 1547

  • As the 1540s progressed, it became increasingly likely that Henry VIII was to be succeeded by his young son, who would not be old enough to rule by himself and would need a regency council until he was of age
  • 1546 - Henry’s poor health prevented him from controlling the rival factions, both in his Chamber and Council. This led to political instability, which was a potential threat to the Tudor dynasty
  • The reformer faction at the time had the most power, and the leader, the Earl of Hertford, ensured that man loyal to him were placed in key positions such as the Privy Chamber and Council
    • This meant they had direct access to the king, and controlled the access to the Dry Stamp, which allowed people to out Henry VIII’s signature on documents
  • 1546 - Henry was persuaded to change his will to make plans for a regency council of 16 men who would rule on behalf of Edward. Henry wanted to avoid naming one man as head, wanting them to rule by committee
  • Jan 1547 - A series of political manoeuvres took place that allowed Hertford to increase his power over Edward:
    • The will was changed to give the regency ‘full power and authority’ to make any decision they deemed necessary. The regency council named by Henry voted to make Hertford Edward’s protector
    • The ‘unfulfilled gifts’ clause allowed the council to make gifts after Henry’s death which he had ‘granted… or promised’
    • Hertford’s supporters were then rewarded under the ‘unfulfilled gifts’ clause. In total Crown lands worth £27,053 were granted to Hertford and his supporters
  • These changes to Henry’s will show how easily the political situation could be manipulated when there was a minor on throne
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Edward VI and the question of succession, 1533

  • 1533 - Until he fell ill in 1553 with a ‘feverish cold’ that rapidly developed into TB, Edward was actually quite a healthy child 
  • The king, aged 16 had not yet married or produced heirs , and there weren’t any male relatives he could pass the crown onto – all his surviving relatives were woman
  • Under the terms of the Act of Succession 1544, the throne was meant to pass first to Mary and then to Elizabeth.
  • However, by 1533 England was fully Protestant, and Edward knew that if the throne were to pass to Mary, a staunch Catolic, the reformation would be reversed
    • Mary had also been deemed illigitimate by Henry VIII, and this had never been formally reversed even though he had been added to the line of succession.
    • This explains why Edward skipped over both Mary and Elizabeth, even though Elizabeth had Protestant leanings, as Monarchs had to be unquestionably legitimate
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Edward's 'Device for the succession'

  • This was a document written and altered by Edward himself, and it shows how his illness progressed
  • Initially, Edward planned to marry and have a son of his own, however he made plans in case he died childless
  • In this ‘device’ he left the throne to LJG male heirs. However, it became apparent that Edward would die before LJG would have a son; so Edward changed the device so that LJG herself would inherit the throne

Northumberland and the disputed succession:

  • Whilst the ‘device’ was Edward’s own work, there is debate over the amount of influence Northumberland had over him
    • He controlled access to Edward in the Privy Chamber
    • Northumberland’s power rested on his relation with Edward – should Mary or Elizabeth come to the throne he would lose everything
    • Northumberland was also responsible for the final stages of the Protestant reformation, which the Catholic Mary would likely reverse, leaving him vulnerable to political attacks

6th July 1553 - Edward dies
10th July 1553 - LJG is proclaimed Queen in London

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Jane Grey vs Mary

Only 9 days after LJG was proclaimed Queen, she fell from power

  • Mary acted decisively after hearing the news of Edward’s death. She asserted her right to the throne in a letter to the Privy Council in London and sent copies to various town and important individuals
    • This effectively drew supporters to Mary’s side – support came the laity as well as from the gentry
  • 13th July 1553 – The countryside had risen in Mary’s support and tons like Norwich had proclaimed her as Queen
  • Northumberland left London to deal with the threat and in his absence LJG’s gov collapsed
  • 19th July 1553– Northumberland surrendered after Mary’s proclamation as Queen
  • 3rd August 1553 – Mary entered London
  • 13 November 1553 - LJG and her husband Lord Guildford Dudley, Northumberland’s son, were both charged and tried with high treason, together with the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer. 
  • 12th February 1554 - LJG is executed by beheading
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Consequences of disputed successions

The main causes of disputed successions in the Tudor period were anxiety over the future of the dynasty, religious concerns and political imperative. 

The consequences of a disputed succession are also important, as the issue of the royal succession was important in determining policy in other areas of government. 

These consequences include:

  • Creating factions at crucial moments
  • Making individuals illegitimate, who would later go on to be monarchs, which had important psychological and legal consequences
  • Introducing instability in gov towards the end of a monarch’s reign
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Attitudes toward female rule

16th Century attitudes towards female rulers:

  • Believed to be inferior to men -> according to the Bible; and that they could not be trusted
    • John Knox ‘the rule of women was monstrous’
  • The only time a woman, Queen Matilda, had inherited the throne, it led to 18 years of civil war
  • The King and Queen had defined roles – the King ruled the country, dispensed justice and lead troops into battle; whilst the Queen interceded with peace and mercy, and provided the King with a son and heir
    • It was expected when Mary and Elizabeth came to the throne that they would take a husband who would then take on Kingly functions
    • It was thought that a woman could not perform these functions
  • Women had ruled England before this point, but they tended to rule on behalf of their husband or son -> ruled as a consort
  • This led to several issues: Would a woman rule as well as a man? What difficulties could a foreign marriage cause to a Queen’s rule? How should a reigning Queen’s husband be treated? What about the responsibilities that were seen as only for men?
  • However, women were not as entirely repressed and subordinated as had been assumed in the past e.g. they could inherit landed estates and manage households
  • There were legal and theoretical concepts that justified female rule
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Mary Tudor - Marriage

Mary Tudor:

  • Approach to marriage - Driven by a combination of religious and dynastic considerations
  • English option - Edward Contenay
    • Ad: He was an English nobleman
    • Dis: Potential for rivalry/jealousy at court
  • Foreign option - Phillip II of Spain
    • Ad: Avoid internal tensions, they were equal in rank and were also cousins
    • Dis: He was Spanish and therefore would have Spanish ruler making decisions about England
  • Husband - Phillip II of Spain
  • Reaction of Council and Parlt. to issue of marriage - There was concern, as if Mary married a foreigner, she may move abroad or there would be a foreigner on the throne
  • Did the handling of the marriage result in rebellion/unrest - 
    • Phillip would have the title of King, but would not rule
    • If Mary were to die, Phillip would not rule
    • Children from the marriage could inherit the throne
    • Phillip could not appoint foreigners in gov. positions
    • These decisions helped to calm gov. and people
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Elizabeth Tudor - Marriage

Elizabeth Tudor:

  • Approach to marriage - Wary due to problems it presented female rulers
  • English option - Robert Dudley
    • Ad: He was an English nobleman
    • Dis: Potential for tensions at court
  • Foreign option - Phillip II of Spain, Archduke Charles of HRE, Henry Duke of Anjou
    • Ad: Avoid internal tensions
    • Dis: All were foreign and could therefore take over the court
  • Husband - She did not take a husband
  • Reaction of Council and Parlt. to issue of marriage - Repeatedly asked her to marry. However, Elizabeth claimed that she was married to the country and cultivated the image of the ‘virgin Queen’ in response
  • Did the handling of the marriage result in rebellion/unrest - 
    • Employed clever rhetoric in order to present herself as a leader of me, although she couldn’t fight for herself
    • This tactic rallied support from the laity
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