1339 - 1453 England's Hundred Years' War with France ended in defeat and cut the rope between the two countries. The English were driven out of France. Yet the war had given England a strong national consciousness, more democratic than feudal. (Joan of Arc 1422-1451)
1455 - 1485 The Wars of the Roses was a fight between the families of York and Lancaster, allied to the royal house, contending for power and wealth and ultimately for the Crown. Nobles were involved on both sides and soldiers coming back from France were hired. The neutral mass was not the victim. The nobility was impoverished and the Crown enriched. Thus the war was a blessing in disguise to the nation.
1485 A Welsh gentleman named Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, defeats Richard III and is crowned as Henry VII.
1485 - 1603 The Tudor Period
General Remarks
: After Richard III (cruel and ambitious - cf. Shakespeare!) England wanted peace and order. An era of private initiative began and the individual was given more room than he had had in the medieval world. A strong and educated middle class arose. The growth of London with a national Parliament became as important as the cloth manufacture. The English language was adopted by the educated classes. The ideas of the Renaissance set religion in the light of a scholarly examination of the Bible and made known ancient ideals of Greece and Rome. Ocean routes and trading centres in all parts of the world were discovered. The Common Law was preferred to the Roman Law. The King became head of the Church instead of the Pope.
Schools for the middle class were founded and the new printing-press (Caxton 1476) helped to spread literature.
1485 - 1509 Henry VII: He acted as England's policeman and moved silently about. The introduction of gunpowder had ruined feudalism. The mounted knights gave way to footmen and Henry VII made use of the artillery. The one train of artillery in the kingdom lay at the disposal of the King. His main aim seemed to be the accumulation of a treasure which would make him less dependent.
1509 - 1547 Henry VIII: He could bend a bow with the best forester in his realm, and when complimented on his archery by the French Ambassador could reply "it was good for a Frenchman". Poetry and music flourished in his court and Henry VIII was a typical Englishman in many respects. On the other hand he hated monks and image worship. It is said that he had a better store of learned men than any university. Thirty years of power then turned him into an egoist and a tyrant. Henry VIII built a strong fleet of fighting ships which were armed with cannons. Henry's fleet prevented a French invasion in 1545. The change from medieval to modern society in the sphere of religion consisted mainly in a reduction of the power of the priesthood. The German Reformation under Luther prepared Henry's breach with the Pope which had its immediate cause in the question whether Henry had ever been properly married to Catherine of Aragon (mother of Mary Tudor), since his brother Arthur had been her first husband.
Henry now wanted to marry Anne Boleyn (mother of Elizabeth).
1529 - 1536 The instrument which brought about the Royal Reformation was Parliament. The legislation that completed the breach with Rome destroyed the monasteries, established the supremacy of the State over the Church, and made the King the Supreme Head of the Church.
1547 - 1553 Edward VI (son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour) found the state heavily in debt together with the many positive traits. He died when he was sixteen.
1553 - 1558 Mary Tudor had no national pride on behalf of the country she ruled. Her mother's (Catherine of Aragon) Spanish origin drew her interests towards Southern Europe. She married Philip of Spain and insisted on reviving the Papal power in England. She even burnt 300 Protestants. It is, therefore, not surprising that she was hated by her people. Never before it seems had England been at a lower ebb.
1558 - 1603 Elizabeth I was to rule an extremely poor country. Her subjects gave her their lives more readily than their money. Fierce religious struggles haunted the country. But throughout Elizabeth's reign it was the rivalry between the two great Catholic powers Spain and France that saved England from conquest, till she was too strong to be conquered. Neither rival could allow England to be subdued by the other. The rebellion of the Netherlands against Spain and the religious wars in France were further safeguards. Elizabeth managed to stand well with Spain by holding out hope that she would marry either him or a man of his choice (Philip of Spain). She never married and it is said that she had a heart of stone, but it beat for England. Her education was remarkable. She knew Greek and Latin and spoke Italian though she never left the island. In 1558 England was a Roman Catholic country subject to Spain and Scotland was a Roman Catholic country subject to France. In 1560 each was a Protestant country cleared of foreign soldiers. The double rebellion succeeded because Spain and France remained rivals and England and Scotland became friends for the first time since the 13th century.




Mary, Queen of Scots, who had been married to the French Dauphin, returned to Scotland in 1561 and became a dangerous and unfortunate opponent. When she was executed in 1587, Elizabeth was blamed by many although the execution was the wish of her people. English sea power expanded enormously under Elizabeth's reign. Sea captains like Hawkins and Drake made fortunes in the name of their beloved Queen and found markets in all parts of the world. They crossed the oceans, rounded the capes, and even traversed the Mediterranean in spite of the war with Spain. When Mary Stuart was executed Spain was sure to attack.

The Armada was destroyed owing to a change in the wind and by English broadsides.

1570One cause of Elizabethan security was the fact that Scotland was a friendly state as well as Wales (Henry VII was Welsh). Ireland, however, remained the danger point.

In 1570 the Queen was excommunicated, but Elizabeth kept on steering a clever course between Protestantism and Catholicism. Although Shakespeare may have been the greatest glory of his time, he was not its greatest influence. For every Englishman who had seen Shakespeare acted at the Globe there were hundreds who had read the Bible, the book of books. Music, the Classics, and the Bible were the main elements of culture of Shakespeare's time.

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