|Little Moreton Hall|
The Tudor period began with the reign of Henry VII in 1457 and ended with the death of Elizabeth I in1603. Henry VIII and Elizabeth I are probably the most famous king and queen to reign during the Tudor period, but there was also Edward I, Mary I (the original Bloody Mary!) and Lady Jane Grey, who reigned for only nine days before losing her head (the Tudors were a bloody lot generally!).
Henry VIII, famous for his six wives (thanks for spotting that mistake Elga!), had a huge effect on the history and cultural movement in England. He bought artists and sculptors the England, including Hans Holbein the Younger and Pietro Torrigiano (admittedly, he was on the run from Italy for breaking Michelangelo’s nose).
|Portrait of Jean de Dinteville and George de Selve 'the Ambassadors' by Hans Holbein the Younger|
Henry VIII’s biggest change to English history came from his desire for an annulment of his marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, who he married when he ascended the throne in 1509. His wondering eye had caught the young Anne Boleyn, and Catherine had ‘failed’ to produce a surviving male heir to the Tudor throne (Mary was the only child to survive). The church at that time was controlled entirely by Rome, all church taxes went to Rome and the Pope had absolute power on all religious doctrine in England. If Henry wanted to divorce his wife he must ask permission from the Pope. The Pope was not keen, particularly as Catherine had been Henry’s Brother’s (Arthur) wife before Henry had married her (Arthur had died), and special permission had been sought form the Pope to allow them to marry to begin with. Henry used this as his reason for the divorce, that it had never been valid from the start, and pushed for a divorce.
Rome refused. The end result of this was the Henry broke with Rome, banned Catholicism in England and set up a whole new church for the nation, The Church of England. Henry divorced Catherine, and married Anne Boleyn, who lost her head for treason not long after, and Henry moved on to wife number three (who died… and so on!)
The break from Rome, known as the Reformation, led to the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Church houses (abbeys, priories, monasteries etc) were closed down, their revenues transferred to the king, and the land given to the crown and the aristocracy. Some of the money gained was used by Henry to build new coastal defences (including Deal, Sandown and Walmer Castles, all in the Town were I used to live!). The roofs were removed from the abbeys and monasteries to prevent monks returning, and the stone from these buildings was sold off, or in some cases just taken, to use in buildings elsewhere.
The Renaissance art and architecture of Italy was largely ignored in England too (although the Renaissance began over a century earlier in Italy), as we became more culturally isolated from central and southern Europe, even more so after the Reformation when anything Italian was looked upon with suspision. The English looked towards Protestant Northern Europe instead and the Dutch particularly would have a strong influence on future architecture and art in England.
|Rievaulx Abbey ruins|
The dissolution left many ruined abbeys across the country, such as Rievaulx, Fountains and Whitby, which would in later centuries inspire writers, poets and artists (Dracula anyone?). Some large houses built on land once belonging to the church also kept the old names; Lacock Abbey is a house, as is Nostell Priory (though built later, in the eighteenth century).
|Mary I (Bloody Mary!!)|
Henry VIII died in 1547 and was succeeded by his son Edward VI. Mary took the throne in 1553. She tried to convert the country back to Catholicism, married Philip II of Spain (it was NOT a happy marriage and they lived apart) and had hundreds of Protestants burnt at the stake, hence her nick-name Bloody Mary. She died childless in 1558, and her half sister Elizabeth took over the throne.
The Elizabethan period saw England’s wealth grow. Great houses free from any need for defences were built often with huge windows and rich decoration. Britain’s sea power increased, it sent out explorers to make new discoveries, it gained a small amount of new territories, and won the Armada against Spain. The stage also grew in importance, with some of England’s most famous playwrights coming from the Elizabethan age; Ben Johnson, Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare, and new theatres were built in London, including the Globe, which has been reconstructed on the side of the Thames ( though not in the exact spot of the original).
|The Globe London|
Next chapter; Tudor and Elizabethan architecture