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The Tudors

The Tudor dynasty ruled England and Wales from 1485 to 1603 and had two of the most celebrated monarchs ever to reign : Henry VIII and his daughter, Elizabeth I.

The first Tudor king, Henry VII, took the throne after the Battle of Bosworth Field, which ended the Wars of the Roses. He was followed by his son, Henry VIII, who became famous for marrying six times – and beheading two of his wives.

When Pope Clement VII refused to grant Henry VIII a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, Henry set up the Church of England.

The conflict between Henry VIII and the Roman Catholic Church eventually led to the seizure of Church properties by the state.

In an act that became known as the Dissolution of the Monasteries, over 800 monasteries were closed down, demolished for building materials, sold off or reclaimed and the church’s income, which previously went to the Pope, went instead to the King.

Altogether, between 1536 and his death in 1547, Henry VIII received £1.3 million.

Henry VIII’s son, Edward VI ruled after him, followed by Henry’s daughters Mary I and Elizabeth I.

During the 16th Century England emerged from the medieval world. It was a time of major change and daring naval exploits began the great English seafaring tradition, with famous explorers such as Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh.

Most Tudor towns were overcrowded, roads were muddy tracks and travelling was difficult. There were no sewers or drains and rubbish was left to rot in the streets. Such overcrowding and filth brought with it danger from fire and disease.

In 1499 a plague epidemic killed thousands of people in London but only a quarter of a century later, the population of Britain was 2.3 million, with 6% of people living in the towns and 3% in London.

But during the 118 years of Tudor rule England became richer than ever before and towns grew, beautiful houses were built and schools and colleges established. As England was home to many great painters, musicians and writers – such as William Shakespeare, whose first play was performed in 1591.

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