The Tudor monarchs were a family of kings and queens who ruled England from 1485 to 1603. The Tudor dynasty began when Henry Tudor defeated King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 and became King Henry VII.
Henry VII was a cautious and frugal king who worked hard to restore stability to England after years of civil war. He married Elizabeth of York, the daughter of King Edward IV, to unite the warring factions of the Yorkists and Lancastrians. Henry VII also established the Tudor dynasty's claim to the throne by marrying his son, Arthur, to Catherine of Aragon, the daughter of the powerful Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella.
However, Arthur died shortly after his marriage, and Henry VII's second son, Henry, became king in 1509. King Henry VIII is perhaps the most famous Tudor monarch, known for his six marriages and his break with the Roman Catholic Church. Henry VIII wanted to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, but the Pope refused to grant him an annulment. In response, Henry VIII declared himself the head of the Church of England and dissolved the monasteries, seizing their wealth and property.
Henry VIII's reign was also marked by his military campaigns in France and Scotland, as well as his patronage of the arts and sciences. He was succeeded by his son, Edward VI, who was only nine years old when he became king. Edward VI was a devout Protestant who continued his father's religious reforms, but he died young, at the age of 15.
Edward VI was succeeded by his half-sister, Mary I, who was determined to restore Catholicism to England. Mary I earned the nickname "Bloody Mary" for her persecution of Protestants, including the burning of nearly 300 people at the stake. Mary I's reign was short-lived, however, as she died childless in 1558.
Mary I was succeeded by her half-sister, Elizabeth I, who is often considered one of England's greatest monarchs. Elizabeth I was a skilled politician and diplomat who navigated the religious and political tensions of her time. She established the Church of England as a compromise between Catholic and Protestant beliefs and defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588.
Elizabeth I's reign was also marked by a flourishing of the arts and literature, with playwrights like William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe producing some of their greatest works. Elizabeth I died childless in 1603, ending the Tudor dynasty and paving the way for the Stuart dynasty to take the throne.