The dynasty began with hope and ended with a long defeat. But the major error the the dynasty was the failure to arrange successful marriages. From Henry VIII's failed six marriages to Edward VI's and Elizabeth I's lack of marriages, the Tudors failed in the marriage game miserably. Their only success was in the marriages of those who never themselves became rulers. The failure of the Tudors to establish successful marriages doomed the dynasty within the first generation. Thus, despite Henry VII's triumphant victory over Richard III at Bosworth Field, which heralded the end of England's medieval experience, England did not enter the new area with a secure dynasty.
The Lancastrian Inheritance
Henry Tudor, 2nd earl of Richmond (later King Henry VII) was the son of Edmund Tudor and Margaret Beaufort. Neither of these people had a claim to the English throne. The Tudors were an upstart Welsh family that only achieved fame through the affair and marriage of Owen Tudor to Catherine of Valois, the French widow of King Henry V. This placed their son, Edmund, in the curious position of having no claim to the English throne but being the legitimate half-brother of King Henry VI. His Lancastrian loyalty when the War of the Roses broke out was through this.
|Henry VII Tudor, king of England|
Thus Henry VII officially had no claim to the throne against Richard III, who he deposed, especially considering that Richard III descended from the senior-most line of Edward III. Sure there were people with a better claim than Richard (Edward, earl of Warwick, was his nephew through an elder brother. Edward had a sister, Margaret, as well.), but Richard was the eldest among them if nothing else.
|Elizabeth of York, queen consort of England|
Henry VII negotiated his succession by marrying the Yorkist heiress Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of King Edward IV. Officially, this was his only legitimate claim to the throne, but he downplayed her status throughout his reign. The marriage was loveless at best. It was arranged between Henry, Margaret, and Elizabeth Woodville, the girl's mother. It was fruitful, though. Henry and Elizabeth produced four surviving children, two sons and two daughters. His eldest, Arthur, died at the age of fifteen only six months after marrying Catherine of Aragon, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. After Arthur died, Catherine insisted that the marriage was never consummated, a statement that justified her marriage to Henry, Arthur's brother, eight years later.
|Catherine of Aragon, queen consort of England and Ireland|
Henry VII attempted to marry his younger daughter, Mary, off to many different individuals but died before she was even betrothed. In 1514, the fifth year of Henry VIII's reign, Mary was wedded to Louis XII of France as part of a peace settlement. He was thirty years her senior and died three months after the wedding. Mary returned to England and resumed her courtship by Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk. They married in secret in March 1515 and publicly, after paying a hefty fine, in May. Their marriage was more fruitful. The couple had two surviving daughters, Frances and Eleanor. Frances was married to Henry Grey, later duke of Suffolk. This family, too, will reenter the story later.
Henry VIII and his Many Wives
In England, Henry VII passed leaving the throne to Henry VIII. The new Henry was young and rash. He married his brother's widow reluctantly and was haunted by fears that Catherine of Aragon had consummated her marriage to Arthur. Still, the couple produced one daughter, Mary, in 1516. Meanwhile, Henry began a long life of adultery and intrigue. Mary became little more than a political tool throughout his life, much to her and Catherine's dismay.
|Henry VIII, king of England and Ireland|
Henry's affair with Mary Boleyn soon after received much more attention. Mary, too, was the daughter of a knight, though a more prestigious one. Henry and Mary's affair lasted for nearly a decade and may have produced up to two children, Catherine and Henry Carey, though both were never acknowledge and both accepted as children by William Carey, Mary's husband at the time. In any case, the most important aspect of Henry and Mary's affair was his introduction to Anne, Mary's sister, which singlehandedly destroyed the Tudor dynasty.
|Anne Boleyn, queen consort of England and Ireland|
|Jane Seymour, queen consort of England and Ireland|
|Anne of Cleves, queen consort of England and Ireland|
|Catherine Howard, queen consort of England and Ireland|
|Catherine Parr, queen consort of England and Ireland|
|Edward VI, king of England and Ireland|
The Failure of the Tudor Dynasty
The last four monarchs of the Tudor dynasty all failed in their bid to continue the dynasty. Three were the surviving children of Henry VIII while the fourth was one of Henry VII's great-granddaughters. England fell to the regency of Edward VI which was headed first by his uncle, Edward Seymour, duke of Somerset, but later by John Dudley, duke of Northumberland. During this time, the descendants of Mary Tudor, Henry VIII's younger sister, sought a dynastic union. Mary's daughter, Frances, was too old to rule and already married, but her youngest daughter, Jane Grey, was just slightly older than Edward VI. The plan fell apart, however, when Edward Seymour was removed from the council and replaced with John Dudley. To make things worse, Edward VI was dying. John, seeing an opportunity, married his son, Guildford Dudley, to Jane, thereby placing his own son as, if nothing else, the head of a future English dynasty. Edward approved a writ disinheriting his sisters from the throne and soon after died in 1553. The stage was set for one of the shortest-lived royal coups in history.
|Jane, queen of England and Ireland|
|Mary I, queen of England and Ireland|
|Elizabeth I, queen of England and Ireland|
Legally, the line of Suffolk had the best claim to the throne after Elizabeth, but Elizabeth refused to validate that claim and even imprisoned the heiress when she wed another claimant from a parallel line without permission. The Catholic world supported Mary I, queen of Scots, the only child of James V, the son of Margaret Tudor. Mary solidified her claim by marrying Henry Stewart, the son of Margaret, the daughter of Margaret Tudor through her second marriage to Archibald Douglas. Thus Mary and Henry shared the first and second senior-most claim to the English throne. Scottish politics proved to be Mary's undoing when a Protestant consortium forced her to abdicate after she arranged the death of Henry Stewart. Her infant son, James VI, became king. Mary continued to pursue her claim to the English throne through intrigue while imprisoned in England. This frustrated Elizabeth I to the point that she had Mary executed. James VI, thereby, became the prime heir, a Protestant with a senior and double claim, and no ghosts in his past. Though the law of Henry VIII's denied his elder sister's line from inheriting the English throne, politics at the time of Elizabeth I's death in 1603 said otherwise. James's succession would bring about a new era in English politics, uniting England once and for all with its northern rival Scotland.
|James VI & I, king of Scotland, England and Ireland|
A long but interesting story of intrigue and plotting by the best known, but least dynastically important, English royal family. The Tudors act as a bridge between a two-hundred year span of dynasties that failed to leave a strong dynastic impact on English history. The Tudors passed their claims through an eldest daughter of the first monarch of the dynasty just as the Stuarts passed the claim through a younger daughter of the first monarch of the dynasty. It was not until the House of Hanover that things became straightforward again in English dynastic politics.