The Tudor dynasty or House of Tudor was a prominent European royal house of Welsh origin that ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including the Lordship and Kingdom of Ireland, from 1485 until 1603. Its first monarch was Henry Tudor, a descendant through his mother of a legitimized branch of the English royal House of Lancaster. The Tudor family rose to power in the wake of the Wars of the Roses, which left the House of Lancaster, to which the Tudors were aligned, extirpated.
Henry Tudor was able to establish himself as a candidate not only of the traditional Lancastrian supporters, but of discontented supporters of the rival House of York, and rose to capture the throne in battle, becoming Henry VII. His victory was reinforced by his marriage to Elizabeth of York, symbolically uniting the former warring factions under a new dynasty. The Tudors extended their power beyond modern England, achieving the full union of England and the Principality of Wales in 1542, (Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542); and successfully asserting English authority over the Kingdom of Ireland. They also maintained the traditional (i.e. nominal) claims to the Kingdom of France, but none of them tried to make substance of it, though Henry VIII fought wars with France to try and reclaim that title. After him, his daughter Mary I lost the claim on France forever with the Fall of Calais.
In total, five Tudor monarchs ruled their domains for just over a century (Lady Jane Grey, the granddaughter of Henry VIII's younger sister Mary, was declared Queen for a period of nine days in 1553, but is usually regarded as a usurper rather than a monarch). Henry VIII of England was the only male-line male heir of Henry VII to live to the age of majority; and issues around the Royal succession (including marriage, divorce, and the succession rights of women) became major political themes during the Tudor era.
The Tudor line failed in 1603 with the death of Elizabeth I of England, who died without issue. Through secret negotiations with her cousin James, King of Scotland, (whose great-grandmother was Henry VIII's elder sister, Margaret) Elizabeth arranged the succession of the House of Stuart to the English throne, uniting the Kingdoms of England and Scotland in a personal union.
The Tudors descended on Henry VII's mother's side from John Beaufort, one of the illegitimate children of the 14th century English Prince John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster (the third surviving son of Edward III of England) by Gaunt's long-term mistress Katherine Swynford. The descendants of an illegitimate child of English Royalty would normally have no claim on the throne, but the situation was complicated when Gaunt and Swynford eventually married in 1396, when John Beaufort was 25. The church retroactively declared the Beauforts legitimate by way of a papal bull the same year, confirmed by an Act of Parliament in 1397. A subsequent proclamation by John of Gaunt's legitimate son, King Henry IV, also recognized the Beauforts' legitimacy, but declared them ineligible ever to inherit the throne. Nevertherless, the Beauforts remained closely allied with Gaunt's legitimate descendants from his first marriage, the Royal House of Lancaster.
John Beaufort's granddaughter Lady Margaret Beaufort, a considerable heiress, was married to Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond. Tudor was the son of Welsh courtier Owain Tewdr (anglicised to "Owen Tudor") and Katherine of Valois, widowed Queen Consort of the Lancastrian King Henry V. Edmund Tudor and his siblings were either illegitimate, or the product of a secret marriage, and owed their fortunes to the good will of their legitimate half-brother King Henry VI. When the House of Lancaster fell from power, the Tudors followed.
Edmund's son Henry Tudor, born in Pembroke, grew up in south Wales and in exile in Brittany, while his mother Lady Margaret remained in England and remarried, quietly advancing the cause of her son in a Kingdom now ruled by the rival House of York. With most of the House of Lancaster now dead, Henry proclaimed himself the Lancastrian heir. Capitalising on the unpopularity of King Richard III, his mother was able to forge an alliance with discontented Yorkists in support of her son, who landed in England and defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, proclaiming himself King Henry VII. By marrying Richard III's niece, Elizabeth of York, Henry VII successfully bolstered his own disputed claim to the throne, whilst moving to end the Wars of the Roses by presenting England with a new dynasty, of both Lancastrian and Yorkist descent. The new dynasty was symbolized by the "Tudor Rose", a fusion of the White Rose symbol of the House of York, and the Red Rose of the House of Lancaster.
Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth had several children, four of which survived infancy: Arthur, Prince of Wales, Henry, Duke of Richmond, Margaret, who married James IV of Scotland, and Mary, who married Louis XII of France. Henry VII married his eldest son Arthur to Catherine of Aragon, cementing an alliance with the Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, and the two spent their honeymoon at Ludlow Castle, the traditional seat of the Prince of Wales. However, four months after the marriage, Arthur died, leaving his younger brother Henry as heir apparent. Henry VII acquired a Papal dispensation allowing Prince Henry to marry Arthur's widow; however, Henry VII delayed the marriage, so it did not occur during his lifetime.
The new King Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon on 11 June 1509; they were crowned at Westminster Abbey on 24 June the same year. However, Catherine did not bear Henry the sons he was desperate for; Catherine's first child, a daughter, was stillborn, and her second child, a son named Henry, Duke of Cornwall, died 52 days after the birth. A further set of stillborn children were conceived, until a daughter Mary was born in 1516. When it became clear to Henry that the Tudor dynasty was at risk, he consulted his chief minister Cardinal Thomas Wolsey about the possibility of divorcing Catherine. Wolsey visited Rome, where he hoped to get the Pope's consent for a divorce. However, the church was reluctant to rescind the earlier papal dispensation and felt heavy pressure from Catherine's nephew, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, in support of his aunt. Catherine contested the divorce, and a protracted legal battle followed. Wolsey fell from favour as a result of his failure to procure a divorce, and Henry appointed Thomas Cromwell in his place.
In order to allow Henry to divorce his wife, the English parliament enacted laws breaking ties with Rome, and declaring the king Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, was then able to declare Henry's marriage to Catherine annulled. This allowed Henry to marry one of his courtiers Anne Boleyn, the daughter of a minor diplomat Sir Thomas Boleyn. Anne became pregnant in 1533, but the child, born in September that year, was a girl, named Elizabeth in honour of Henry's mother. Anne may have had later pregnancies which ended in miscarriage or stillbirth. Thomas Cromwell stepped in again, claiming that Anne had taken lovers during her marriage to Henry, and she was tried for high treason, witchcraft and incest; these charges were most likely fabricated, but she was found guilty, and executed in 1536.
Henry married again, for a third time, to Jane Seymour, the daughter of a Wiltshire knight. Jane became pregnant, and in 1537 produced a son, who became King Edward VI following Henry's death in 1547. Jane died of puerperal fever only a few days after the birth, and Henry was devastated. Cromwell continued to gain the king's favour when he designed and pushed through the Laws in Wales Acts, uniting England and Wales.
Henry married for a fourth time, to the daughter of a Protestant German duke, Anne of Cleves, thus forming an alliance with the Protestant German states. Henry was reluctant to marry again, especially to a Protestant, but he was persuaded when the court painter Hans Holbein the Younger showed him a flattering portrait of her. She arrived in England in December 1539, and Henry rode to Rochester to meet her on 1 January 1540. Although the historian Gilbert Burnet claimed that Henry called her a Flanders Mare, there is no evidence that he said this; court ambassadors negotiating the marriage praised her beauty. Whatever the circumstances were, the marriage failed, and Anne agreed to a peaceful annulment, assumed the title My Lady, the King's Sister, and received a massive divorce settlement, which included Richmond Palace, Hever Castle, and numerous other estates across the country. Henry chose to blame Cromwell for the failed marriage, and ordered him beheaded on 28 July 1540.
The fifth marriage was to the Catholic Catherine Howard, a cousin of Thomas Howard, the third Duke of Norfolk, who was promoted by Norfolk in the hope that she would persuade Henry to restore Roman Catholicism in England. Henry called her his “rose without a thorn”, but the marriage ended in failure. Catherine, forced into a marriage to an unattractive, obese man over 30 years her senior, had never wanted to marry Henry, and conducted an affair with the King's favourite, Thomas Culpeper, while Henry and she were married. She was accused of treason and was executed on 13 February 1542, destroying the Roman Catholic hopes of a reconciliation with the Roman church.
By the time Henry conducted another Protestant marriage with his final wife Catherine Parr in 1543, the old Roman Catholic advisers, including the powerful third Duke of Norfolk had lost all their power and influence. Henry himself was still a committed Catholic, and he was nearly persuaded to arrest Catherine for preaching Lutheran doctrines to Henry while she attended his ill health. However, she managed to reconcile with the King after vowing that she had only argued about religion with him to take his mind off the suffering caused by his ulcerous leg. Her peacemaking also helped reconcile Henry with his daughters Mary and Elizabeth and fostered a good relationship between her and the crown prince.
Meanwhile, Edward was brought up a strict and devout Protestant by numerous tutors, including Bishop Richard Cox, John Belmain, and Sir John Cheke. The lady in charge of his upbringing was Blanche Herbert Lady Troy, whose ancestors had residual Lollard connections . Her elegy includes the lines: ...To King Edward she was a true - (And) wise lady of dignity, - In charge of his fosterage (she was pre-eminent)....