The Fascinating History Of The House of Tudor

We take a look at the rise and fall of the House of Tudor, one of Brittain’s most famous ruling families.

The Tudor period refers to a long historic period that lasted from 1485 to 1603, during which the House of Tudor ruled England. The story of the house of Tudor’s rise to power starts all the way back in 1461 with Owen Tudor.

The House of Tudor – Rise to Power

Said to be overly ambitious, this young handsome man was the son of an outlaw who was said to be hiding out in the hills of Wales. It was during this time that Owen Tudor managed to get employed as a servant in the household of the infant Henry VI. During this time period, the Barrons ruled the country on the young King’s behalf, but his household was run by his mother, Queen Catherine of Valois.

It was only a matter of time before the widowed Queen fell deeply in love with the young servant Owen Tudor. Now, although there is no record of the couple ever getting married, they did have five children together.

This love affair was not looked upon favourably by the court or those in power and so when Queen Catherine of Valois died in 1437, Owen Tudor was sentenced to prison.

But, when Henry VI came of age and took power over his Kingdom, he released his step-father and granted Earldom’s to his step-brothers Edmond and Jasper Tudor. Edmond Tudor became the 1st Earl of Richmond and Jasper Tudor the Earl of Pembroke.

But the ambitious Owen Tudor would cement the House of Tudor rise to power even further by arranging a marriage between his son Edmond and someone from Henry VI’s family. Shortly after the marriage, Edmond Tudor died, but he left behind his 13-year-old bride Lady Margaret Beaufort pregnant.

Shortly afterwards, Lady Margaret Beaufort gave birth at Pembroke Castle to a son. He was named after the King, Henry Tudor.

Now, what we must keep in mind is that many believed that Henry VI was the legitimate Monarch. Henry of Lancaster had deposed his cousin Richard II in 1399 in order to become Henry IV. This move ensured constant unrest throughout the land as many believed that the House of Lancaster was not the rightful ruling family but it should be the House of York. This ultimately led to the wars of the roses where the House of York battled for their inheritance and birthright.

Owen Tudor was, of course, a firm supporter of the House of Lancaster and fought heroically on the battlefield to ensure their success. Unfortunately, he died for this cause in 1461, beheaded by Yorkists in Hereford Marketplace.

The Rise of The House of Tudor

Soon after, Edward of York seized the throne and became Edward IV. This ensured that Owen Tudor‘s grandson Henry Tudor and Henry VI had to live on the run for years to come as a refugee.

But as the old saying goes, love conquers all and about three years later, Edward IV fell desperately in love. A young and beautiful widow named Elizabeth Woodville would persuade the King to marry her and so he did. The court and Europe were outraged as she was “a penniless commoner”. But what really got to the nobility of England was when Edward IV started to issue titles and wealth to the Woodville family.

This “unacceptable behaviour” was so looked down on that Edward IV was eventually driven out of England in 1470. This allowed for Henry VI to be reinstated as King. Only a few months later Edward IV came back to regain his crown. This once again led to an endless number of battles for many years to come.

Throughout this time, every member of the male line of the House of Lancaster was made extinct, including Henry VI, leaving the 15-year-old Henry Tudor the last surviving member.

Edward IV later died and his young son became king. But, before he was even crowned it was uncovered that this line of succession now being considered as illegitimate (Edward IV was contractually engaged making his marriage illegal), Richard III became King – the most evil King of England as he would become known.

Then, on 1 August 1485, Henry Tudor landed at Milford Haven with an army of 2 000 refugees and French soldiers. Three weeks later, his force had grown by just 3 000 men when they arrived at Bosworth for battle. Richard III was so adamant that he was the rightful heir to the throne that just before the battle he once again held a coronation ceremony to underline his legitimacy as King. But, it is said that the English crown was found under a bush following the death of Richard III, who would become the last English monarch to die on the battlefield.

After retrieving the crown from the bush, it was placed on Henry Tudor’s head after the battle. But, to help with public relations, Henry VII inscribed his date of accession to one day before the battle. This would ensure the illusion that he did not kill a king but that Richard III was fighting against the rightful King making him a traitor. This cemented Henry VII as the 1st Tudor monarch on the throne.

The Tudor Children

Henry VII calculatedly married Elizabeth of York, and their union is what helped to firmly establish the Tudors on the British throne.  The marriage between Henry VII and Elizabeth of York produced 4 daughters; 2 died as infants but 2 survived to reach adulthood.

Both princesses, Margaret and Mary, became queens and their descendants played a crucial role in England’s long and successful history.

The House Of Tudor Succession

King Henry VII ruled from the day he took over the throne until he died in 1509. After his death, he was succeeded by his son, Henry VIII of England who ruled until he passed away in 1547. Although the head of the House of Tudor is today regarded as one of Britain’s most popular figures in history, he is perhaps most remembered for marrying 6 wives. The wives of King Henry VIII, his influence on history, the abolition of Catholicism, and even the founding of the Church of England has made him one of history’s most influential rulers.

Jane Seymour had finally given Henry VIII the son he so desperately wanted and needed. Following his death, Edward VI took over at the very young age of 9. Edward VI was a sickly young man and most of the ‘work of government’ was left to the council. Due to bad health, the young King died at the age of 15.

Through a bizarre move, Lady Jane Grey, Edward VI‘s first cousin once removed was proposed as Queen. Many believe that this was mostly due to her protestant faith. She later became known as the Nine Days Queen. While still awaiting her coronation, support grew for Mary I of England as the rightful heir. After only nine days as the first Queen of England, she was placed under arrest by her father. She was imprisoned and Mary had her executed.

Mary I became known as bloody Mary following her decision to have 277 people burnt alive due to their religious beliefs and opinions. The ‘invalid Queen’ was unable to have children and became England’s most hated Monarch of all time. It was said that the news of her death sparked the greatest celebration that London had ever seen.

Succeeding Mary I was her half-sister Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen. Although many rumours have been sparked to explain why she remained unmarried the most sensible explanation is that she couldn’t marry as that would create a King that would either be a foreigner or she would have to marry an opportunist courtier creating factions. It could also be due to the terrible way in which her father had treated his wives, including killing her mother. She is believed to have said, at age 14, that she would never marry.

The Tudor Period

The Tudor Period refers to the period in which the House of Tudor was in power between 1485 and 1603. During that period, the Tudor dynasty saw a total of 5 monarchs.

These 5 monarchs, although often characterized by controversy, managed to rule England well allowing it to become one of the strongest and most influential monarchies in the world, politically, socially, and economically.

The Story Behind The Tudor rose

Although King Henry VII ended up marrying Elizabeth of York, the royal Houses of Lancaster and York had actually been in an ongoing battle for years known as the Wars of the Roses. But after King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York got married, their marriage brought an end to the wars.

The Tudor Rose was created to symbolize this unity by merging the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster which formed what is known today as the Union Rose or the Tudor Rose. Today, the symbol of the House of Tudor, the Tudor Rose, is still used as the English floral emblem.

10 Facts About The House of Tudor You Probably Didn’t Know

Now that we’ve brought you up to speed on the rich and storied history of the infamous House of Tudor, let’s see just how much about the Tudors you really do or don’t know.

As is the case with many things in life nowadays, history has become somewhat clouded over the centuries, and there have been a number of myths and misconceptions surrounding the House of Tudor that simply are not true.

To help clear things up and help you learn more about Henry VIII and the rest of the Tudor House, here are 10 facts about the Tudors you probably didn’t know.

England Thrived Financially During Tudor Reign

Many people like to paint the House of Tudor as tyrannical beasts who looked down their noses on the general public, ruled with an iron fist, and made every decision based solely on greed and self-fulfillment.

The simple fact of the matter, though, is that during the Tudor reign, England thrived financially and became wealthier and more successful than ever.

As a result of this, the country was able to invest in better housing for the populace, as well as education.

Thanks to the finances generated during Tudor times, many schools and colleges were constructed up and down the country, helping to educate the next generation.

‘Bloody Mary’ Was Not Necessarily An Accurate Representation Of Mary I

During her reign, Mary I would become known as ‘Bloody Mary’ as she had 277 people burnt at the stake as a result of their religious beliefs and behavior.

Historians, however, believe that her reputation was the result of Elizabethan propaganda.

Instead, the general belief is that the nickname should instead have been given to Henry VIII.

During Henry VIII’s reign, according to English Chronicler Raphael Holinshed, who passed away in 1580, during Henry’s 38-year reign, the number of people executed was believed to be around 72,000.

Back then, thousands of peasants were executed for crimes which, nowadays, would barely warrant a police caution.

The Tudors Were Unusually Tall

This next piece of info on the members of the House of Tudor might not necessarily be deemed important, but if nothing else, it will give you something to talk about the next time you’re at the pub or with your friends of the family.

Henry VII was 5ft 9 inches tall, yet his son, Henry VIII was 6ft 2 inches. Historians believe he inherited this genetic trait from his grandfather, King Edward IV, who was a strapping 6ft 4 inches.

Catherine Parr was also a very tall lady for her time, standing at around 5ft 10 inches in height.

In fact, from the hundred of so skeletons of crewman discovered in the wreck of the Mary Rose, the average height was 5ft 7 – 5ft 8 which was still taller than the average male during that time.

Tudors Used To Preserve Meat With Salt

Just as we do today, the Tudors were big lovers of meat.

However, unlike us today, the Tudors did not have fridges or freezers to store their meat. So how did they stop it going bad? They preserved it with salt.

Salt preservation is a technique still used to preserve meat to this very day, yet back in Tudor times, virtually everybody who could afford meat would do it.

Mary I, Henry VIII, And Edward VI Were Not Actually British Monarchs

Though commonly referred to as British monarchs, Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary I were never actually officially Britons until Elizabeth I’s reign.

Upon the recommendation of Dr John Dee, Elizabeth I recognised the 3 aforementioned monarchs as Britons to help establish an Empire overseas, upon the legends of British monarchs over foreign realms.

Before being referred to as, and recognised as Britons, the monarchs were in fact English.

Students In Schools Learnt From ‘Hornbooks’

Despite the country being financially stable and investing money in education in the form of schools and colleges, back in Tudor times, there were very few books available to students.

These were very unusual contraptions which basically consisted of pages that displayed religious text, along with the alphabet, which were attached to wooden boards.

The name ‘hornbook’ came about because they finished off by being covered with a transparent sheet of cow horn.

Children Needed To Behave In Tudor Times

Back in Tudor times, if you misbehaved in school, or around the home, you didn’t get detention or grounded, instead, you would get 50 strokes of the cane on various parts of your anatomy.

Wealthy parents of students would actually hire what was known as a ‘whipping boy’.

Bizarrely, if the rich child stepped out of line and was naughty, the whipping boy would receive the punishment on behalf of the wealthy child.

The idea behind this punishment for the whipping boy was that, as the wealthy child was normally a monarch, the status of his or her tutor was below them.

Instead, the tutor would punish the whipping boy, with the idea that seeing the whipping boy punished would motivate the wealthy child not to step out of line again.

Black Teeth Were Fashionable In Tudor Times

Now, black and rotten teeth are the exact opposite of fashionable, but in Tudor times, they were very much in fashion.

Back then, sugar was seen as a status symbol because it was expensive, and so only the rich could afford it.

The wealthy would consume so much sugar that it would rot their teeth and cause them to turn black. Remember, there weren’t any toothbrushes, toothpaste, regular trips to the dentists back then, so oral hygiene was virtually non-existent.

Because of the status symbol of sugar, however, having black teeth became fashionable because it showed others that you could afford an abundance of sugar, and signified your wealth.

Tudors Did Not Have A Long Life Expectancy

During the reign of the House of Tudor, as a result of a lack of medicine, healthcare, education, and knowledge, the average life expectancy of a person living in Tudor times was far shorter than people nowadays.

The average person living in Tudor times was lucky to make it to 40, as the average life expectancy was just 35 – 40 years of age.

Martin Jones

Royal Editor

With over 30 years in the field, Martin Jones is considered as one of the world's leading Royal Commentators. He and his team report on the latest news, announcements and events from various Royal Families all across the world.

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