Henry’s mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, was one of the great-granddaughters of John of Gaunt, the third son of Edward III. This gave Henry Tudor a claim to the English throne, but quite a poor one. Others alive in the 1480s could demonstrate a stronger claim, but Henry made all of this somewhat irrelevant when he defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field.
Finally, in 1258 a bungled deal with the Papacy threatened Henry with excommunication. This, together with defeats in Wales and local crises, brought about the main crisis of his reign. The Provisions of Oxford (1258) created a 15-member privy council, selected by the barons, to advise the king and oversee the entire administration. Parliament was to be held three times a year and the households of the king and queen were also to be reformed.
In the summer of 1549, peasants in the West Country revolted in protest against the Prayer Book. Kett's Rebellion in Norfolk was focused on economic and social injustices. At the same time, the French declared war on England. The Norfolk rebellion was suppressed by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick. In the atmosphere of uncertainty, Dudley exploited his success by bringing about the downfall of Somerset, who was arrested and later executed. Although Dudley, later duke of Northumberland, never took the title of protector, this is the role he now assumed. Protestant reform was stepped up - the new Prayer Book of 1552 was avowedly Protestant.
Henry's allegations of incest effectively bastardised Mary. After Anne Boleyn bore Henry another daughter, Elizabeth, Mary was forbidden access to her parents and stripped of her title of princess. Mary never saw her mother again. With Anne Boleyn's fall, there was a chance of reconciliation between father and daughter, but Mary refused to recognise her father as head of the church. She eventually agreed to submit to her father and Mary returned to court and was given a household suitable to her position. She was named as heir to the throne after her younger brother Edward, born in 1537.
Elizabeth chose an able set of administrators to aid her during her rule, including William Cecil, Lord Burghley as her Secretary of State and Sir Francis Walsingham, in charge of intelligence. Elizabeth's reign also saw England significantly expand its trade overseas and in 1580 Sir Francis Drake became the first Englishman to successfully circumnavigate the earth. The arts flourished in England during this period as Shakespeare, Spenser and Marlowe created poetry and drama while composers such as Byrd and Tallis worked in Elizabeth’s court.
The queen was also keen to be seen by her subjects. She went on 25 regional visits known as ‘progresses’ during her reign, often riding on horseback rather than traveling in a carriage.
Christopher Columbus was born in 1451. It was a time of new ideas and discoveries in Europe. We call this time the Renaissance - a word that means 'rebirth'. People were making maps of new lands. They were building ships to explore places they had never visited before.
As well as belonging to its pool of actors and playwrights, Shakespeare was one of the managing partners of the Lord Chamberlain's Company (renamed the King's Company when James succeeded to the throne), whose actors included the famous Richard Burbage. The company acquired interests in two theatres in the Southwark area of London near the banks of the Thames - the Globe and the Blackfriars.
In 1593 and 1594, Shakespeare’s first poems, 'Venus and Adonis' and 'The Rape of Lucrece', were published and he dedicated them to his patron, Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton. It is thought Shakespeare also wrote most of his sonnets at this time.