The Tudor Legacy

The Tudor Legacy
The Church of England
 The monarch was the head of the church.
 Protestantism was clearly linked with the national identity.
 From 1538, parish registers of births, marriages and deaths were the
beginnings of modern bureaucracy.
Westminster Abbey, built from the 13th to the 16th centuries, is one of the few
buildings of central London left standing after the Great Fire of 1666. It
symbolizes the sense of tradition and stability of the Church of England. Above is
a reconstruction of how it would have looked in 1584.
And here it is today, still the resting place of kings, queens and other national
figures. While its construction mainly precedes the Tudors, Westminster Abbey
gained its special status as a “Royal Peculiar” – a church under the direct control
of the monarch – in 1560.
There was still a significant number of Catholics, puritans and other
Nonconformists who did not accept the Church of England. Religious dissent
would continue to be an important feature of English society during the
seventeenth century. The greatest suspicion was reserved for Catholics, who
were seen as potential traitors.
By the beginning of the seventeenth century, there was a well-established
system of parliamentary government. The monarch still had considerable power,
but the king or queen had to take other factors into account. This parliamentary
system would turn out to be very important during the Stuart period.
Being of Welsh descent, the Tudors had
combined the English lion and the Welsh
dragon on the Royal Coat of Arms.
James I, as a Scot, replaced the dragon with
the unicorn, which was a symbol of Scotland.
Note the legend, “Dieu et mon droit” (“God and my right”). This is French, and dates from
Norman times. Its exact meaning is debated, but James took it to be a reference to his divine
right to be king. That is, he believed that he was king because God had chosen him, as God (so
James believed) had chosen all kings on this earth.
Because of this belief, James did not think it necessary to pay very much attention to his
parliament. He often quarrelled with Parliament, and several times closed it down altogether.
The problems grew worse under his son, Charles I, eventually leading England into civil war.
England abroad
England developed its first permanent navy under the Tudors. The defeat of the Spanish
Armada was just one of its early successes. Among other exploits, the English sailor Sir
Francis Drake was the first man to captain a ship in a voyage round the world and live to tell
the tale.
The seafaring ability of the English was crucial to its success in building the British Empire.
The lightweight ships of the English proved superior to the Spanish ships.
English seafarers opened up the country to international trade. In 1600, Elizabeth I created
the East India Company, which was to become central to the development of the British
Empire in the eighteenth century. England even claimed its first colonies at this time, though
it did not establish successful colonies until a few years after the death of Elizabeth I.
During the Elizabethan period England also established diplomatic and trading links as far
afield as the Ottoman Empire, West Africa, especially Morocco, and Russia. At one point, the
Russian Tsar, Ivan IV (“the Terrible) actually proposed to Elizabeth. From being a small
country on the edge of Europe, England had emerged onto the world stage.
England and her neighbours
The Tudors were a Welsh family, and Wales was now firmly united with England.
100 years after the marriage of Margaret, Henry VIII’s sister, to King James of Scotland, her
great grandson, James VI of Scotland, became James I of England, cementing a relationship
between the two countries that had become stronger in the later part of the sixteenth century,
as they both embraced Protestantism.
Attempts to bring Ireland under English control had begun in earnest under Henry VIII. There
were many blood conflicts, and the system of Plantations – the establishment of English and
Scottish settlements in Ireland – set the scene for a divided society.
England and Europe
Spain had been at war with England since 1585. Although the defeat of the Spanish Armada in
1588 was a major victory, the following year an English counterattack ended in failure, and
hostilities continued for a further fifteen years.
Spain allied itself with Ireland, and England formed an alliance against Spain with France and
Holland. Overall, the war did not achieve any great results for either side.
On his accession in 1603, James I moved quickly to end the war. In 1604 a treaty was
concluded, with Spain giving up its demand that Catholics should be tolerated in England and
England agreeing to put an end to its attacks on Spanish merchant ships. In the longer term, it
became clear that the piratical attacks of English on the Spanish merchant ships had
weakened them permanently. Spain came more and more to depend on English and Dutch
Art and architecture
The Tudor style of domestic architecture was very distinctive, consisting of exposed
structural beams and white-painted walls.
Church architecture, too, was developed to a very high standard.
This is Bath Abbey, built in the early sixteenth century.
The interior of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.
There is also some high-quality artwork, such as this
detail of a panel wall painting in Chichester Cathedral.
This scene shows Henry VIII giving royal protection to
the cathedral.
Such paintings embodied complex
symbolism. For example, the jewelled
serpent on Elizabth’s left arm symbolizes
wisdom, and the ruby symbolizes the
queen’s heart, showing that her passion is
controlled by her wisdom.
Painting often fulfilled a function
similar to that of photography today.
This is a portrait of Elizabeth I painted
in around 1600 by the English artist
Isaac Oliver, known as the Rainbow
There are also a few pictures that give fascinating insights into society at that time, such as
this depiction of a football match:
Music and literature
English Renaissance music reached
a high level. Leading composers of
the day included William Byrd,
Thomas Tallis, Thomas Morley, and
John Dowland.
The virginal – a kind of harpsichord and
a forerunner to the piano – was popular
in Tudor and Stuart times.
This is a recording of a piece of
music by William Byrd, played on
the virginal:
There were many kinds of wind
instruments, stringed
instruments and percussion
These are modern reproductions
of string instruments from the
Tudor period.
Church music also developed during this period and mostly took the form of choral music.
This is Civitas Sancti Tui, by William Byrd:
The Elizabethan age was the age of Shakespeare, the greatest of all English writers, but that is
not all. The travel books of people like Samuel Purchas, Richard Hakluyt and Walter Raleigh
showed an interest in the wider world, the history books of John Stow, Raphael Holinshed and
others showed a sense of England’s past and pride in its present status. Poetry flourished
under the pens of Thomas Wyatt (who admired Anne Boleyn), Edmund Spenser, Philip Sidney
and many more, and other famous writers included John Lyly, Thomas Nashe, Thomas Lodge,
Robert Greene, Thomas Kyd and Christopher Marlowe.
What a lot of dead white men! Were there no women? Well, yes, there were some. Henry VIII’s
last wife, Catherine Parr, was an accomplished writer, as was Elizabeth I. At the age of 39
Mary Herbert (née Sidney) was mentioned alongside her brother Philip Sidney, Edmund
Spenser and William Shakespeare as one of the great writers of her time. However, most
women – and nearly all lower-class people – got little or no education during this period.
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 as it appeared in the first edition of 1609.
Sonnet 18 in modern spelling:
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
thee, thou, thy = you (subject), you (object), your
sometime = sometimes
ow’st = have
fair = beauty
brag = boast
thou art = you are
untrimmed = naturally
wand’rest = wander
grow’st = grow