Henry VIII was the second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York and was born on 28 June, 1491 at Greenwich. After his elder brother died, Henry became next in line to be King. He became King in 1509. Henry was athletic, handsome and intelligent. He married six times during his lifetime and much of the intrigue and excitement that surrounds The Tudors comes from his constant yearning for a male heir – a need that forced him to take so many wives.
Catherine of Aragon
At first, Catherine was married to Henry VIII’s brother, Arthur. However, six months after Arthur died she got engaged to Henry. A special dispensation was needed from the Pope (as England at this time was still very much a Catholic country) for Henry to marry Catherine. Eventually, they were married when he became King in 1509. She had many children, but only one survived, Mary, who would later become Queen. Because Catherine only produced a female heir (and Henry so desperately wanted a son) he divorced her to marry Anne Boleyn. To do this he had to break from the Catholic Church as the Pope would not agree to the divorce. Henry made himself Head of the Church in England and approved his own divorce.
Henry married Anne in 1533, and later that year she gave birth to a girl, Elizabeth who eventually became the Queen of England. However, again possibly because Anne did not give Henry a male heir and also because of personal differences, Henry decided that he wanted to get rid of Anne. He accused her of adultery with a number of men (including her own brother) and Anne was beheaded at the Tower of London. Eleven days later Henry married his third wife, Jane Seymour.
Jane gave birth to a son in 1537, Edward. Henry was delighted as it seemed that at long last he had the male heir he so desperately wanted. However, 12 days after giving birth Jane died. Some historians believe that Henry truly loved Jane and he waited two years before marrying again.
Anne of Cleves
For various political and financial reasons, Henry wanted to make a ‘good’ marriage this time and decided to look all over Europe for a bride. He sent painters to paint any eligible brides so he could see what they looked like. A picture was shown to him of Anne of Cleves and he agreed to marry her. But when she arrived in England, Henry took an instant dislike to her and found her ugly. Henry could not break his promise to marry Anne, so after six months they were divorced. Anne sensibly agreed to the divorce and she and Henry became friends.
After Anne of Cleves, Henry married Katherine Howard, who was barely a teenager when she married Henry. However she was previously, secretly engaged to one man and possibly a second one too. When the King found out he had Katherine beheaded in 1542.
Henry’s last wife was Kathryn Parr. By the time he married Kathryn, Henry was very fat and ill and Kathryn became his nurse more than his wife. She was a kind woman and was the first wife to bring all three of his children to live together under one roof. When Henry died in 1547, Kathryn married Thomas Seymour (her fourth husband). Sadly she died in childbirth a year later in 1548.
Edward VI became King at the age of nine. During Edward’s reign, the Church of England became even more Protestant – Edward himself was very much a Protestant. Edward was ill for most of his life and died in 1553. Edward did not want his sister Mary to take the throne after his death as she was a staunch Catholic. So, he made Lady Jane Grey his heir.
Lady Jane Grey
On the death of Edward, Jane assumed the throne and her claim was recognised by the Council of England. However, the country did not agree and supported Mary I, Catherine of Aragon’s daughter. Jane reigned for only nine days and was executed in 1554.
Mary I was the first Queen Regnant (that is, a Queen reigning in her own right rather than a Queen through marriage to a King). Mary restored papal supremacy in England, abandoned the title of Supreme Head of the Church, reintroduced Roman Catholic bishops and began the slow reintroduction of monastic orders. Mary also had around 300 Protestants burnt at the stake and this earned her the nickname ‘Bloody Mary’. Mary wanted to marry and have children, leaving a Catholic heir to consolidate her religious reforms, and removing her half-sister Elizabeth I from direct succession. But, Mary’s decision to marry Philip, King of Spain from 1556, in 1554 was very unpopular. The marriage was childless and Mary died, leaving the crown to her half-sister Elizabeth I.
Elizabeth I was the last Tudor monarch. She was born at Greenwich on 7 September 1533, the daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth succeeded to the throne on her half-sister’s death in November 1558. She was very well-educated (fluent in six languages), and had inherited intelligence, determination and shrewdness from both parents. She reigned over England for 45 years and never married. She died at Richmond Palace on 24 March 1603, having become a legend.
Did you know?
- In tudor times, girls could marry at age 12, boys at age 14! They still had to live with their parents until they were 16 though.
- In tudor times, 9 out of 10 people died before they were 40.
- Henry VIII had over 78,000 people executed while he was King.
- Tudor people knew that sugar rots your teeth, and since sugar was so expensive, women used to deliberately black their teeth out to look rotten, because it showed they could afford to buy sugar
- A popular ‘cure’ for illness was blood letting. People believed that illness was caused by too much blood in the body. So they would cut a slit and let some of the blood out.
Tudors Literacy Lesson Plans (Open Access)
Tudors Numeracy Lesson Plans
Tudors Science Lesson Plans