The Tudor Dynasty: Family Tree & Timeline

Instructor: Mollie Madden
Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived. Such were the fates of Henry VIII's six wives. His marriages and children shaped the course of the Tudor dynasty.

Henry VII

Henry VII founded the Tudor dynasty in 1485 after his victory over Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, thus ending the Wars of the Roses. At this time, England was Catholic, relatively weak compared to the great powers of Europe (especially Spain), and had no overseas territories. By the death of Elizabeth I, which marked the end of the Tudor dynasty, England had defeated Spain's armada, broken from the Roman Catholic Church, and had begun its overseas empire.

Henry VII
Henry VII

Henry VII won England for the Tudors at Bosworth Field in 1485. He married Elizabeth of York, thus symbolically uniting the warring Houses of Lancaster and York and strengthening his own claim to the throne. He was a very able king who used his abilities to strengthen the monarchy. His two biggest accomplishments as king were bringing peace after the Wars of the Roses, which allowed for commerce to improve, and restored the monarchy's power and authority. He also took steps to increase royal revenue so that the king would not be as dependent upon Parliament for funds.

He and Elizabeth had four children: Arthur, Henry, Margaret, and Mary. All but Arthur would have a future monarch among their descendants.

Tudor Family Tree
Tudor Family Tree

Henry VIII
Henry VIII by Hans Holbein the Younger
Henry VIII

Henry VIII was the spare, which meant when his older brother died in 1502 Henry was not entirely prepared to rule when he became king in 1509 at the age of 17. He married his brother's widow, Catherine of Aragon.

Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII
Catherine of Aragon

Henry fell in love with Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII
Anne Boleyn

Henry threatened the Pope that failure to grant the divorce would result in the end of Rome's authority in England. Over the next few years, Henry determined he should have authority over the church and its resources in England. Through persuasion, bullying, and cajoling he succeeded. In January 1533 he and Anne were secretly married to ensure the legitimacy of the child she carried, although his divorce from Catherine was not official until May 1533. In June, Anne was crowned queen and gave birth to a girl: Elizabeth. In 1534 the Act of Supremacy made Henry VIII supreme head of the church in England.

Anne failed to give Henry a son. She was arrested on charges of treason, adultery, and incest, tried, and executed in 1536.

Henry then married Jane Seymour in 1536.

Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein the Younger, the third wife of Henry VIII
Jane Seymour
Edward VI

Anne of Cleves

Anne of Cleves by Hans Holbein the Younger, the fourth wife of Henry VIII
Anne of Cleves

Henry next married Catherine Howard, a cousin of Anne Boleyn's, almost immediately after his annulment from Anne of Cleves was granted.

Catherine Howard by Hans Holbein the Younger, the fifth wife of Henry VIII
Catherine Howard

Henry married his last wife, Catherine Parr, in 1543.

Catherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII
Catherine Parr
Third Succession Act

Edward VI and Lady Jane Grey
Edward VI
Edward VI
Lady Jane Grey
Lady Jane Grey

After Henry's death in 1547, Edward VI assumed the throne when he was 9 years old. During his reign there was significant social unrest and economic problems. He was raised Protestant, and it is during his reign that England became Protestant. The Mass and other Catholic doctrines, e.g., clerical celibacy, were abandoned and services were conducted in English. Edward, however, became terminally ill in 1553. This prompted his Council to come up with the Devise of Succession, a document that sought to prevent the return of Catholicism under Mary, who according to the line of succession established by Henry VIII, and precedent, was Edward VI's heir. The Devise of Succession skipped over Mary and Elizabeth and named the staunchly Protestant Lady Jane Grey as the next monarch.

Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days Queen, reluctantly took the throne under intense pressure from her family in July 1553. Nine days later, she was deposed and sent to the Tower of London. While at first Mary chose not to execute Jane, Mary changed her mind when a Protestant rebellion threatened the queen's marriage to Philip of Spain.

Queen Mary by Master John

Mary became queen in 1553. She sought to restore England's connection to Rome and did persecute Protestants. However, she did not return England to Roman Catholicism but rather sought a return to the state of the church at the death of Henry VIII. Her marriage to Catholic Philip of Spain in 1554 was very unpopular, and her reign also saw economic problems and an outbreak of plague, all of which made her an unpopular monarch. She died without an heir in 1558.

Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I

Mary's death brought Elizabeth to the throne. There were many important achievements during her reign. She established the English Protestant Church, which later became the Church of England, and she did not engage in systematic persecution on religious grounds. She mostly avoided involvement in continental conflicts. When war with Spain became inevitable, her naval forces defeated the Armada in 1588.

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