Tag Archives: Henry VIII

The Tudors & Henry VIII

The Tudor Dynasty


Henry VIII

Tudor Rose.svg
Tudor Rose

The Tudor dynasty or House of Tudor was a royal house of Welsh and English origin,[1] descended in the male line from the Tudors of Penmynydd. Tudor monarchs ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including their ancestral Wales and the Lordship of Ireland (later the Kingdom of Ireland) from 1485 until 1603. The first monarch, Henry VII, descended through his mother from a legitimised branch of the English royal House of Lancaster. The Tudor family rose to power in the wake of the Wars of the Roses, which left the House of Lancaster, to which the Tudors were aligned, extinct.


Inside The Court Of Henry VIII – Documentary 2015


Tudor Rose.svg
Tudor Rose
Country England
Parent house Tudors of Penmynydd
Founded 22 August 1485
Founder Henry VII
Final ruler Elizabeth I
Current head Extinct
Dissolution 24 March 1603
Ethnicity Welsh, English

Henry Tudor was able to establish himself as a candidate not only for traditional Lancastrian supporters, but also for the discontented supporters of their rival House of York, and he rose to capture the throne in battle, becoming Henry VII. His victory was reinforced by his marriage to Elizabeth of York, symbolically uniting the former warring factions under a new dynasty. The Tudors extended their power beyond modern England, achieving the full union of England and the Principality of Wales in 1542 (Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542), and successfully asserting English authority over the Kingdom of Ireland. They also maintained the nominal English claim to the Kingdom of France; although none of them made substance of it, Henry VIII fought wars with France trying to reclaim that title. After him, his daughter Mary I lost control of all territory in France permanently with the fall of Calais in 1558.


The Wars of The Roses: A Bloody Crown


In total, five Tudor monarchs ruled their domains for just over a century. Henry VIII of England was the only male-line male heir of Henry VII to live to the age of maturity. Issues around the royal succession (including marriage and the succession rights of women) became major political themes during the Tudor era. The House of Stuart came to power in 1603 when the Tudor line failed, as Elizabeth I died without issue

Ascent to the throne

The Tudors are descended on Henry VII’s mother’s side from John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, one of the illegitimate children of the 14th century English Prince John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster (the third surviving son of Edward III of England) by Gaunt’s long-term mistress Katherine Swynford. The descendants of an illegitimate child of English Royalty would normally have no claim on the throne, but the situation was complicated when Gaunt and Swynford eventually married in 1399, when John Beaufort was 25. The church retroactively declared the Beauforts legitimate by way of a papal bull the same year, confirmed by an Act of Parliament in 1397. A subsequent proclamation by John of Gaunt’s legitimate son, Henry IV of England, also recognised the Beauforts’ legitimacy, but declared them ineligible ever to inherit the throne. Nevertheless, the Beauforts remained closely allied with Gaunt’s legitimate descendants from his first marriage, the House of Lancaster.

On 1 November 1455, John Beaufort’s granddaughter, Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby, married Henry VI of England‘s half-brother Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond. It was his father, Owen Tudor (Welsh: Owain ap Maredudd ap Tewdur ap Goronwy ap Tewdur ap Goronwy ap Ednyfed Fychan), who abandoned the Welsh patronymic naming practice and adopted a fixed surname. When he did, he did not choose, as was generally the custom, his father’s name, Maredudd, but chose his grandfather’s instead. Tewdur or Tudor is derived from the words tud “territory” and rhi “king”.[2]

Owen Tudor was one of the body guards for Queen Dowager Catherine of Valois, whose husband, Henry V of England, had died in 1422. Evidence suggests that the two were secretly married in 1429. The two sons born of the marriage, Edmund and Jasper, were among the most loyal supporters of the House of Lancaster in its struggle against the House of York.

Henry VI ennobled his half brothers. Edmund became earl of Richmond and was married to Margaret Beaufort, the great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, the progenitor of the house of Lancaster. Jasper became earl of Pembroke and by 1460 had collected so many offices in Wales that he had become the virtual viceroy of the country. Edmund died in November 1456. On 28 January 1457, his widow, who had just attained her fourteenth birthday, gave birth to a son, Henry VII of England, at her brother-in-law’s castle of Pembroke.


Henry VII of England


Henry Tudor spent his childhood at Raglan Castle, the home of William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, a leading Yorkist. Following the murder of Henry VI and his son, Edward, in 1471, Henry became the person upon whom the Lancastrian cause rested. Concerned for his young nephew’s life, Jasper Tudor took Henry to Brittany for safety. Lady Margaret remained in England and remarried, living quietly while advancing the Lancastrian, and her son’s cause. Capitalizing on the growing unpopularity of King Richard III of England, she was able to forge an alliance with discontented Yorkists in support of her son. Two years after Richard III was crowned, Henry and Jasper sailed from the mouth of the Seine to the Milford Haven Waterway and defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field.[2] Upon this victory, Henry Tudor proclaimed himself King Henry VII.

Family tree of the principal members of the house of Tudor.

Henry VII

King Henry VII, the founder of the royal house of Tudor

Now King, Henry’s first concern was to secure his hold on the throne. On 18 January 1486 at Westminster, he honoured a pledge made three years earlier and married Elizabeth of York.[3] They were third cousins, as both were great-great-grandchildren of John of Gaunt. The marriage unified the warring houses of Lancaster and York and gave his children a strong claim to the throne. The unification of the two houses through this marriage is symbolized by the heraldic emblem of the Tudor rose, a combination of the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster.

Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth had several children, four of whom survived infancy: Arthur, Prince of Wales; Henry, Duke of Richmond; Margaret, who married James IV of Scotland; and Mary, who married Louis XII of France. One of the objectives of Henry VII’s foreign policy was dynastic security, which is portrayed through the alliance forged with the marriage of his daughter Margaret to James IV of Scotland and through the marriage of his eldest son. Henry VII married his son Arthur to Catherine of Aragon, cementing an alliance with the Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, and the two spent their honeymoon at Ludlow Castle, the traditional seat of the Prince of Wales.[4] However, four months after the marriage, Arthur died, leaving his younger brother Henry as heir apparent. Henry VII acquired a papal dispensation allowing Prince Henry to marry Arthur’s widow; however, Henry VII delayed the marriage. Henry VII limited his involvement in European politics. He went to war only twice, once in 1489 during the Breton crisis and the invasion of Brittany, and in 1496–1497 in revenge for Scottish support of Perkin Warbeck and for their invasion of Northern England. Henry VII made peace with France in 1492 and the war against Scotland was abandoned because of the Western Rebellion of 1497. Henry VII came to peace with James IV in 1502, paving the way for the marriage of his daughter Margaret.[4]

One of the main concerns of Henry VII during his reign was the re-accumulation of the funds in the royal treasury. England had never been one of the wealthier European countries, and after the War of the Roses this was even more true. Through his strict monetary strategy, he was able to leave a considerable amount of money in the Treasury for his son and successor, Henry VIII. Although it is debated whether Henry VII was a great king, he certainly was a successful one if only because he restored the nation’s finances, strengthened the judicial system and successfully denied all other claimants to the throne, thus further securing it for his heir.[5]

Henry VIII

Catherine of Aragon: marriage was annulled – by the Church of England – for not producing a male heir to the Tudor dynasty

The new King Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon on 11 June 1509; they were crowned at Westminster Abbey on 24 June the same year. Catherine was Henry’s older brother’s wife, making the path for their marriage a rocky one from the start. A papal dispensation had to be granted for Henry to be able to marry Catherine, and the negotiations took some time. Despite the fact that Henry’s father died before he was married to Catherine, he was determined to marry her anyway and make sure that everyone knew he intended on being his own master. When Henry first came to the throne, he had very little interest in actually ruling; rather, he preferred to indulge in luxuries and to partake in sports. He let others control the kingdom for the first two years of his reign, and then when he became more interested in military strategy, he took more interest in ruling his own throne.[6] In his younger years, Henry was described as a man of gentle friendliness, gentle in debate, and who acted as more of a companion than a king. He was generous in his gifts and affection and was said to be easy to get along with. However, the Henry that many people picture when they hear his name is the Henry of his later years, when he became obese, volatile, and was known for his great cruelty.[7] Unfortunately, Catherine did not bear Henry the sons he was desperate for; Catherine’s first child, a daughter, was stillborn, and her second child, a son named Henry, Duke of Cornwall, died 52 days after the birth. A further set of stillborn children were conceived, until a daughter Mary was born in 1516. When it became clear to Henry that the Tudor dynasty was at risk, he consulted his chief minister Cardinal Thomas Wolsey about the possibility of annulling his marriage to Catherine. Along with Henry’s concern that he would not have an heir, it was also obvious to his court that he was becoming tired of his aging wife, who was six years older than he. Wolsey visited Rome, where he hoped to get the Pope’s consent for an annulment. However, the church was reluctant to rescind the earlier papal dispensation and felt heavy pressure from Catherine’s nephew, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, in support of his aunt. Catherine contested the proceedings, and a protracted legal battle followed. Wolsey fell from favour as a result of his failure to procure the annulment, and Henry appointed Thomas Cromwell in his place.

Despite his failure to produce the results that Henry wanted, Wolsey actively pursued the annulment—divorce was synonymous with annulment at that time—however, he never planned that Henry would marry Anne Boleyn, with whom the king had become enamoured while she was lady-in-waiting in Queen Catherine’s household. It is unclear how far Wolsey was actually responsible for the Reformation, but it is very clear that Henry’s desire to marry Anne Boleyn precipitated the schism with the Church. Henry’s concern about having an heir to secure his family line and increase his security while alive would have prompted him to ask for a divorce sooner or later, whether Anne had precipitated it or not. Only Wolsey’s sudden death at Leicester[8] on his journey to the Tower of London saved him from the public humiliation and inevitable execution he would have suffered upon his arrival at the Tower.[9]

Break with Rome

Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex, Henry VIII’s chief minister responsible for the Dissolution of the Monasteries

In order to allow Henry to divorce his wife, the English parliament enacted laws breaking ties with Rome, and declaring the king Supreme Head of the Church of England (from Elizabeth I the monarch is known as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England), thus severing the ecclesiastical structure of England from the Catholic Church and the Pope. The newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, was then able to declare Henry’s marriage to Catherine annulled. Catherine was removed from Court, and she spent the last three years of her life in various English houses under “protectorship,” similar to house arrest.[10]

This allowed Henry to marry one of his courtiers Anne Boleyn, the daughter of a minor diplomat Sir Thomas Boleyn. Anne had become pregnant by the end of 1532 and gave birth on 7 September 1533 to Elizabeth named in honour of Henry’s mother.[11] Anne may have had later pregnancies which ended in miscarriage or stillbirth. In May 1536, Anne was arrested, along with six courtiers. Thomas Cromwell stepped in again, claiming that Anne had taken lovers during her marriage to Henry, and she was tried for high treason, witchcraft and incest; these charges were most likely fabricated, but she was found guilty, and executed in May 1536.


The Last Days of Anne Boleyn


Henry VIII of England: Henry’s quarrels with the Pope led to the creation of the Church of England

Protestant alliance

Henry married again, for the third time, to Jane Seymour, the daughter of a Wiltshire knight, and with whom he had become enamoured while she was still a lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne. Jane became pregnant, and in 1537 produced a son, who became King Edward VI following Henry’s death in 1547. Jane died of puerperal fever only a few days after the birth, leaving Henry devastated. Cromwell continued to gain the king’s favour when he designed and pushed through the Laws in Wales Acts, uniting England and Wales.

Anne of Cleves,by Hans Holbein the Younger

In 1540 Henry married for the fourth time to the daughter of a Protestant German duke, Anne of Cleves, thus forming an alliance with the Protestant German states. Henry was reluctant to marry again, especially to a Protestant, but he was persuaded when the court painter Hans Holbein the Younger showed him a flattering portrait of her. She arrived in England in December 1539, and Henry rode to Rochester to meet her on 1 January 1540. Although the historian Gilbert Burnet claimed that Henry called her a Flanders Mare, there is no evidence that he said this; in truth, court ambassadors negotiating the marriage praised her beauty. Whatever the circumstances were, the marriage failed, and Anne agreed to a peaceful annulment, assumed the title My Lady, the King’s Sister, and received a massive divorce settlement, which included Richmond Palace, Hever Castle, and numerous other estates across the country. Although the marriage made sense in terms of foreign policy, Henry was still enraged and offended by the match. Henry chose to blame Cromwell for the failed marriage, and ordered him beheaded on 28 July 1540.[12] Henry kept his word and took care of Anne in his last years alive; however, after his death Anne suffered from extreme financial hardship because Edward VI’s councillors refused to give her any funds and confiscated the homes she had been given. She pleaded to her brother to let her return home, but he only sent a few agents who tried to assist in helping her situation and refused to let her return home. Anne died on 16 July 1557 in Chelsea Manor.[13]

Thomas Cranmer

Thomas Cranmer, Henry’s first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, responsible for the Book of Common Prayer during Edward VI’s reign

The fifth marriage was to the Catholic Catherine Howard, the niece of Thomas Howard, the third Duke of Norfolk, who was promoted by Norfolk in the hope that she would persuade Henry to restore the Catholic religion in England. Henry called her his “rose without a thorn”, but the marriage ended in failure. Henry’s fancy with Catherine started before the end of his marriage with Anne when she was still a member of Anne’s court. Catherine was young and vivacious, but Henry’s age made him less inclined to use Catherine in the bedroom; rather, he preferred to admire her, which Catherine soon grew tired of. Catherine, forced into a marriage to an unattractive, obese man over 30 years her senior, had never wanted to marry Henry, and conducted an affair with the King’s favourite, Thomas Culpeper, while Henry and she were married. During her questioning, Catherine first denied everything but eventually she was broken down and told of her infidelity and her pre-nuptial relations with other men. Henry, first enraged, threatened to torture her to death but later became overcome with grief and self-pity. She was accused of treason and was executed on 13 February 1542, destroying the English Catholic holdouts’ hopes of a national reconciliation with the Catholic Church. Her execution also marked the end of the Howard family’s power within the court.[14]

Catherine Parr

By the time Henry conducted another Protestant marriage with his final wife Catherine Parr in 1543, the old Roman Catholic advisers, including the powerful third Duke of Norfolk had lost all their power and influence. The duke himself was still a committed Catholic, and he was nearly persuaded to arrest Catherine for preaching Lutheran doctrines to Henry while she attended his ill health. However, she managed to reconcile with the King after vowing that she had only argued about religion with him to take his mind off the suffering caused by his ulcerous leg. Her peacemaking also helped reconcile Henry with his daughters Mary and Elizabeth and fostered a good relationship between her and the crown prince.

Meanwhile, Edward was brought up a strict and devout Protestant by numerous tutors, including Bishop Richard Cox, John Belmain, and Sir John Cheke. The lady in charge of his upbringing was Blanche Herbert Lady Troy, whose ancestors had residual Lollard connections.[15] Her elegy includes the lines: …To King Edward she was a true – (And) wise lady of dignity, – In charge of his fosterage (she was pre-eminent)….[16]

Edward VI:

Edward VI of England

Protestant zeal



Henry died on 28 January 1547. His will had reinstated his daughters by his annulled marriages to Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn to the line of succession, but did not legitimise them. (Because his marriages had been annulled, they legally never occurred, so his children by those marriages were illegitimate.) In the event that all 3 of his children died without heir, the will stipulated that the descendant of his younger sister Mary would take precedence over the descendants of his elder sister, Margaret, Queen of Scotland. Edward, his nine-year-old son by Jane Seymour, succeeded as Edward VI of England. Unfortunately, the young King’s kingdom was usually in turmoil between nobles who were trying to strengthen their own position in the kingdom by using the Regency in their favour.[17]

The title page of Archbishop Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer, 1549

Duke of Somerset’s England

Although Henry had specified a group of men to act as regents during Edward’s minority, Edward Seymour, Edward’s uncle, quickly seized complete control, and created himself Duke of Somerset on 15 February 1547. His domination of the Privy Council, the king’s most senior body of advisers, was unchallenged. Somerset aimed to unite England and Scotland by marrying Edward to the young Scottish queen Mary, and aimed to forcibly impose the English Reformation on the Church of Scotland. Somerset led a large and well equipped army to Scotland, where he and the Scottish regent James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran, commanded their armies at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh on 10 September 1547. Somerset’s army eventually defeated the Scots, but the young Queen Mary was smuggled to France, where she was betrothed to the Dauphin, the future Francis II of France. Despite Somerset’s disappointment that no Scottish marriage would take place, his victory at Pinkie Cleugh made his position appear unassailable.

Meanwhile, Edward VI, despite the fact that he was only a child of nine, had his mind set on religious reform. In 1549, Edward ordered the publication of the Book of Common Prayer, containing the forms of worship for daily and Sunday church services. The controversial new book was not welcomed by either reformers or Catholic conservatives; and it was especially condemned in Devon and Cornwall, where traditional Catholic loyalty was at its strongest. In Cornwall at the time, many of the people could only speak the Cornish language, so the uniform English Bibles and church services were not understood by many. This caused the Prayer Book Rebellion, in which groups of Cornish non-conformists gathered round the mayor. The rebellion worried Somerset, now Lord Protector, and he sent an army to impose military solution to the rebellion. One in ten of the indigenous Cornish population was slaughtered.[dubious ] The rebellion did not persuade Edward to tread carefully, and only hardened his attitude towards Catholic non-conformists. This extended to Edward’s elder sister, the daughter of Catherine of Aragon, Mary Tudor, who was a pious and devout Catholic. Although called before the Privy Council several times to renounce her faith and stop hearing the Catholic Mass, she refused. He had a good relationship with his sister Elizabeth, who was a Protestant, albeit a moderate one, but this was strained when Elizabeth was accused of having an affair with the Duke of Somerset’s brother, Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley, the husband of Henry’s last wife Catherine Parr. Elizabeth was interviewed by one of Edward’s advisers, and she was eventually found not to be guilty, despite forced confessions from her servants Catherine Ashley and Thomas Parry. Thomas Seymour was arrested and beheaded on 20 March 1549.

A small boy with a big mind: Edward VI, desperate for a Protestant succession, changed his father’s will to allow Lady Jane Grey to become queen

Problematic succession

Lord Protector Somerset was also losing favour. After forcibly removing Edward VI to Windsor Castle, with the intention of keeping him hostage, Somerset was removed from power by members of the council, led by his chief rival, John Dudley, the first Earl of Warwick, who created himself Duke of Northumberland shortly after his rise. Northumberland effectively became Lord Protector, but he did not use this title, learning from the mistakes his predecessor made. Northumberland was furiously ambitious, and aimed to secure Protestant uniformity while making himself rich with land and money in the process. He ordered churches to be stripped of all traditional Catholic symbolism, resulting in the simplicity often seen in Church of England churches today. A revision of the Book of Common Prayer was published in 1552. When Edward VI became ill in 1553, his advisers looked to the possible imminent accession of the Catholic Lady Mary, and feared that she would overturn all the reforms made during Edward’s reign. Perhaps surprisingly, it was the dying Edward himself who feared a return to Catholicism, and wrote a new will repudiating the 1544 will of Henry VIII. This gave the succession to his cousin Lady Jane Grey, the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister Mary Tudor, who, after the death of Louis XII of France in 1515 had married Henry VIII’s favourite Charles Brandon, the first Duke of Suffolk. Lady Jane’s mother was Lady Frances Brandon, the daughter of Suffolk and Princess Mary. Northumberland married Jane to his youngest son Guildford Dudley, allowing himself to get the most out of a necessary Protestant succession. Most of Edward’s council signed the Devise for the Succession, and when Edward VI died on 6 July 1553 from his battle with tuberculosis, Lady Jane was proclaimed queen. However, the popular support for the proper Tudor dynasty–even a Catholic member–overruled Northumberland’s plans, and Jane, who had never wanted to accept the crown, was deposed after just nine days. Mary’s supporters joined her in a triumphal procession to London, accompanied by her younger sister Elizabeth.

Mary I: A troubled queen’s reign

Mary I of England, who tried to return England to the Roman Catholic Church

However, Mary soon announced that she was intending to marry the Spanish prince Philip, son of her mother’s nephew Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. The prospect of a marriage alliance with Spain proved unpopular with the English people, who were worried that Spain would use England as a satellite, involving England in wars without the popular support of the people. Popular discontent grew; a Protestant courtier, Thomas Wyatt the younger led a rebellion against Mary, with the aim of deposing and replacing her with her half-sister Elizabeth. The plot was discovered, and Wyatt’s supporters were hunted down and killed. Wyatt himself was tortured, in the hope that he would give evidence that Elizabeth was involved so that Mary could have her executed for treason. Wyatt never implicated Elizabeth, and he was beheaded. Elizabeth spent her time between different prisons, including the Tower of London.

Mary married Philip at Winchester Cathedral, on 25 July 1554. Philip found her unattractive, and only spent a minimal amount of time with her. Despite Mary believing she was pregnant numerous times during her five-year reign, she never reproduced. Devastated that she rarely saw her husband, and anxious that she was not bearing an heir to Catholic England, Mary became bitter. In her determination to restore England to the Catholic faith and to secure her throne from Protestant threats, she had many Protestants burnt at the stake between 1555 and 1558. Mary’s main goal was to restore the Catholic faith to England; however, the Marian Persecutions were unpopular with the Protestant majority of England, though naturally supported by the Catholic minority. Because of her actions against the Protestants, Mary is to this day referred to as “Bloody Mary”. English author Charles Dickens stated that “as bloody Queen Mary this woman has become famous, and as Bloody Queen Mary she will ever be remembered with horror and detestation”[18]

Protestants Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley being burned at the stake during Mary’s reign

Mary’s dream of a resurrected Catholic Tudor dynasty was finished, and her popularity further declined when she lost the last English area on French soil, Calais, to Francis, Duke of Guise, on 7 January 1558. Mary’s reign, however, introduced a new coining system that would be used until the 18th century, and her marriage to Philip II created new trade routes for England. Mary’s government took a number of steps towards reversing the inflation, budgetary deficits, poverty, and trade crisis of her kingdom. She explored the commercial potential of Russian, African, and Baltic markets, revised the customs system, worked to counter the currency debasements of her predecessors, amalgamated several revenue courts, and strengthened the governing authority of the middling and larger towns.[19] Mary also welcomed the first Russian ambassador to England, creating relations between England and Russia for the first time. Had she lived a little longer, then the Catholic religion that she worked so hard to restore into the realm may have taken deeper roots than it did; however, Mary died on 17 November 1558 at the relatively young age of 42.[20]

The age of intrigues and plots: Elizabeth I


Queen Elizabeth I “The Virgin Queen”


Elizabeth I at her coronation on 15 January 1559

Elizabeth I, who was staying at Hatfield House at the time of her accession, rode to London to the cheers of both the ruling class and the common people.

When Elizabeth came to the throne, there was much apprehension among members of the council appointed by Mary, due to the fact that many of them (as noted by the Spanish ambassador) had participated in several plots against Elizabeth, such as her imprisonment in the Tower, trying to force her to marry a foreign prince and thereby sending her out of the realm, and even pushing for her death.[21] In response to their fear, she chose as her chief minister Sir William Cecil, a Protestant, and former secretary to Lord Protector the Duke of Somerset and then to the Duke of Northumberland. Under Mary, he had been spared, and often visited Elizabeth, ostensibly to review her accounts and expenditure. He was the cousin and friend of Blanche Parry, the closest person to Elizabeth for 56 years.[22] Elizabeth also appointed her personal favourite, the son of the Duke of Northumberland Lord Robert Dudley, her Master of the Horse, giving him constant personal access to the queen.

The early years

Elizabeth had a long, turbulent path to the throne. She had a number of problems during her childhood, one of the main ones being after the execution of her mother, Anne Boleyn. When Anne was beheaded, Henry declared Elizabeth an illegitimate child and she would, therefore, not be able to inherit the throne. After the death of her father, she was raised by his widow, Catherine Parr and her husband Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley. A scandal arose with her and the Lord Admiral to which she stood trial. During the examinations, she answered truthfully and boldly and all charges were dropped. She was an excellent student, well-schooled in Latin, French, Italian, and somewhat in Greek, and was a talented writer.[23][24] She was supposedly a very skilled musician as well, in both singing and playing the lute. After the rebellion of Thomas Wyatt the younger, Elizabeth was imprisoned in the Tower of London. No proof could be found that Elizabeth was involved and she was released and retired to the countryside until the death of her sister, Mary I of England.[25]

Imposing the Church of England

Elizabeth was a moderate Protestant; she was the daughter of Anne Boleyn, who played a key role in the English Reformation in the 1520s. She had been brought up by Blanche Herbert Lady Troy. At her coronation in January 1559, many of the bishops – Catholic, appointed by Mary, who had expelled many of the Protestant clergymen when she became queen in 1553 – refused to perform the service in English. Eventually, the relatively minor Bishop of Carlisle, Owen Oglethorpe, performed the ceremony; but when Oglethorpe attempted to perform traditional Catholic parts of the Coronation, Elizabeth got up and left. Following the Coronation, two important Acts were passed through parliament: the Act of Uniformity and the Act of Supremacy, establishing the Protestant Church of England and creating Elizabeth Supreme Governor of the Church of England (Supreme Head, the title used by her father and brother, was seen as inappropriate for a woman ruler). These acts, known collectively as the Elizabethan Religious Settlement, made it compulsory to attend church services every Sunday; and imposed an oath on clergymen and statesmen to recognise the Church of England, the independence of the Church of England from the Catholic Church, and the authority of Elizabeth as Supreme Governor. Elizabeth made it clear that if they refused the oath the first time, they would have a second opportunity, after which, if the oath was not sworn, the offenders would be deprived of their offices and estates.

Mary, Queen of Scots, who conspired with English nobles to take the English throne for herself

Pressure to marry

Even though Elizabeth was only twenty-five when she came to the throne, she was absolutely sure of her God-given place to be the queen and of her responsibilities as the ‘handmaiden of the Lord’. She never let anyone challenge her authority as queen, even though many people, who felt she was weak and should be married, tried to do so.[21] The popularity of Elizabeth was extremely high, but her Privy Council, her Parliament and her subjects thought that the unmarried queen should take a husband; it was generally accepted that, once a queen regnant was married, the husband would relieve the woman of the burdens of head of state. Also, without an heir, the Tudor dynasty would end; the risk of civil war between rival claimants was a possibility if Elizabeth died childless. Numerous suitors from nearly all European nations sent ambassadors to English court to put forward their suit. Risk of death came dangerously close in 1564 when Elizabeth caught smallpox; when she was most at risk, she named Robert Dudley as Lord Protector in the event of her death. After her recovery, she appointed Dudley to the Privy Council and created him Earl of Leicester, in the hope that he would marry Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary rejected him, and instead married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, a descendant of Henry VII, giving Mary a stronger claim to the English throne. Although many Catholics were loyal to Elizabeth, many also believed that, because Elizabeth was declared illegitimate after her parents’ marriage was annulled, Mary was the strongest legitimate claimant. Despite this, Elizabeth would not name Mary her heir; as she had experienced during the reign of her predecessor Mary I, the opposition could flock around the heir if they were disheartened with Elizabeth’s rule.

Pope St. Pius V, who issued the Papal bull excommunicating Elizabeth and relieving her subjects of their allegiance to her

Numerous threats to the Tudor dynasty occurred during Elizabeth’s reign. In 1569, a group of Earls led by Charles Neville, the sixth Earl of Westmorland, and Thomas Percy, the seventh Earl of Northumberland attempted to depose Elizabeth and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots. In 1571, the Protestant-turned-Catholic Thomas Howard, the fourth Duke of Norfolk, had plans to marry Mary, Queen of Scots, and then replace Elizabeth with Mary. The plot, masterminded by Roberto di Ridolfi, was discovered and Norfolk was beheaded. The next major uprising was in 1601, when Robert Devereux, the second Earl of Essex, attempted to raise the city of London against Elizabeth’s government. The city of London proved unwilling to rebel; Essex and most of his co-rebels were executed. Threats also came from abroad. In 1570, Pope Pius V issued a Papal bull, Regnans in Excelsis, excommunicating Elizabeth, and releasing her subjects from their allegiance to her. Elizabeth came under pressure from Parliament to execute Mary, Queen of Scots, to prevent any further attempts to replace her; though faced with several official requests, she vacillated over the decision to execute an anointed queen. Finally, she was persuaded of Mary’s (treasonous) complicity in the plotting against her, and she signed the death warrant in 1586. Mary was executed at Fotheringay Castle on 8 February 1587, to the outrage of Catholic Europe.

There are many reasons debated as to why Elizabeth never married. It was rumoured that she was in love with Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, and that on one of her summer progresses she had birthed his illegitimate child. This rumour was just one of many that swirled around the two’s long-standing friendship. However, more important to focus on were the disasters that many women, such as Lady Jane Grey, suffered due to being married into the royal family. Her sister Mary’s marriage to Philip brought great contempt to the country, for many of her subjects despised Spain and Philip and feared that he would try to take complete control. Recalling her father’s disdain for Anne of Cleves, Elizabeth also refused to enter into a foreign match with a man that she had never seen before, so that also eliminated a large number of suitors.[26]

The Spanish Armada: Catholic Spain’s attempt to depose Elizabeth and take control of England

Last hopes of a Tudor heir

Despite the uncertainty of Elizabeth’s – and therefore the Tudor dynasty’s – hold on England, she never married. The closest she came to marriage was between 1579 and 1581, when she was courted by Francis, Duke of Anjou, the son of Henry II of France and Catherine de’ Medici. Despite Elizabeth’s government constantly begging her to marry in the early years of her reign, it was now persuading Elizabeth not to marry the French prince for his mother, Catherine de’ Medici, was suspected of ordering the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre of tens of thousands of French Protestant Huguenots in 1572. Elizabeth bowed to public feeling against the marriage, learning from the mistake her sister made when she married Philip II of Spain, and sent the Duke of Anjou away. Elizabeth knew that the continuation of the Tudor dynasty was now impossible; she was forty-eight in 1581, and too old to bear children.

By far the most dangerous threat to the Tudor dynasty during Elizabeth’s reign was the Spanish Armada of 1588. Launched by Elizabeth’s old suitor Philip II of Spain, this was commanded by Alonso de Guzmán El Bueno, the seventh Duke of Medina Sidonia. The Spanish invasion fleet outnumbered the English fleet’s 22 galleons and 108 armed merchant ships; however, the Spanish lost as a result of bad weather on the English Channel and poor planning and logistics, and in the face of the skills of Sir Francis Drake and Charles Howard, the second Baron Howard of Effingham (later first Earl of Nottingham).

While Elizabeth declined physically with age, her running of the country continued to benefit her people. In response to famine across England due to bad harvests in the 1590s, Elizabeth introduced the poor law, allowing peasants who were too ill to work a certain amount of money from the state. All the money Elizabeth had borrowed from Parliament in 12 of the 13 parliamentary sessions was paid back; by the time of her death, Elizabeth not only had no debts, but was in credit. Elizabeth died childless at Richmond Palace on 24 March 1603. She never named a successor. However, her chief minister Sir Robert Cecil had corresponded with the Protestant King James VI of Scotland, son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and James’s succession to the English throne was unopposed. The Tudor dynasty survived only in the female line, and the House of Stuart occupied the English throne for most of the following century.

Before and after comparisons

Public interference regarding the Roses dynasties was always a threat until the 17th century Stuart/Bourbon re-alignment occasioned by a series of events such as the execution of Lady Jane Grey, despite her brother in law, Leicester’s reputation in Holland, the Rising of the North (in which the old Percy-Neville feud and even anti-Scottish sentiment was discarded on account of religion; Northern England shared the same Avignonese bias as the Scottish court, on par with Valois France and Castile, which became the backbone of the Counter-Reformation, with Protestants being solidly anti-Avignonese) and death of Elizabeth I of England without children.

The Tudors made no substantial changes in their foreign policy from either Lancaster or York, whether the alliance was with Aragon or Cleves, the chief foreign enemies continuing as the Auld Alliance, but the Tudors resurrected old ecclesiastic arguments once pursued by Henry II of England and his son John of England. Yorkists were tied so much to the old order that Catholic rebellions (such as the Pilgrimage of Grace) and aspirations (exemplified by William Allen) were seen as continuing in their reactionary footsteps, when in opposition to the Tudors’ reformation policies, although the Tudors were not uniformly Protestant according to Continental definition—instead were true to their Lancastrian Beaufort allegiance, in the appointment of Reginald Pole.

The essential difference between the Tudors and their predecessors, is the nationalization and integration of John Wycliffe‘s ideas to the Church of England, holding onto the alignment of Richard II of England and Anne of Bohemia, in which Anne’s Hussite brethren were in alliance to her husband’s Wycliffite countrymen against the Avignon Papacy. The Tudors otherwise rejected or suppressed other religious notions, whether for the Pope’s award of Fidei Defensor or to prevent them from being in the hands of the common laity, who might be swayed by cells of foreign Protestants, with whom they had conversation as Marian exiles, pursuing a strategy of containment which the Lancastrians had done (after being vilified by Wat Tyler), even though the phenomenon of “Lollard knights” (like John Oldcastle) had become almost a national sensation all on its own.

In essence, the Tudors followed a composite of Lancastrian (the court party) and Yorkist (the church party) policies. Henry VIII tried to extend his father’s balancing act between the dynasties for opportunistic interventionism in the Italian Wars, which had unfortunate consequences for his own marriages and the Papal States; the King furthermore tried to use similar tactics for the “via media” concept of Anglicanism. A further parallelism was effected by turning Ireland into a kingdom and sharing the same episcopal establishment as England, whilst enlarging England by the annexation of Wales. The progress to Northern/Roses government would thenceforth pass across the border into Scotland, in 1603, due not only to the civil warring, but also because the Tudors’ own dynasty was fragile and insecure, trying to reconcile the mortal enemies who had weakened England to the point of having to bow to new pressures, rather than dictate diplomacy on English terms.

Tudor monarchs of England and Ireland

The six Tudor monarchs were:

Portrait Name Birth Accession date Marriages Death Claim
Henry VII Henry VII 28 January 1457
Pembroke Castle
22 August 1485
(crowned at Westminster Abbey on 30 October 1485)
Elizabeth of York 21 April 1509
Richmond Palace
aged 52
Descent from Edward III of England through his mother Lady Margaret Beaufort.
Henry VIII Henry VIII
(first King of Ireland)[1]
28 June 1491
Greenwich Palace
21 April 1509
(crowned at Westminster Abbey on 24 June 1509)
(1) Catherine of Aragon
(2) Anne Boleyn
(3) Jane Seymour
(4) Anne of Cleves
(5) Catherine Howard
(6) Catherine Parr
28 January 1547
Palace of Whitehall
aged 55
Son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York
Edward VI Edward VI1 12 October 1537
Hampton Court Palace
28 January 1547
(crowned at Westminster Abbey on 20 February 1547)
6 July 1553
Greenwich Palace
aged 15
Son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour
Lady Jane Grey Jane1
Bradgate Park
10 July 1553
(never crowned)
Lord Guildford Dudley 12 February 1554
executed at the Tower of London
aged 16–17
Great granddaughter of Henry VII; granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister, Mary Brandon (née Tudor), Duchess of Suffolk; first-cousin once removed of Edward VI
Mary I Mary I1 18 February 1516
Palace of Placentia
19 July 1553
(crowned at Westminster Abbey on 1 October 1553)
Philip II of Spain 17 November 1558
St James’s Palace
aged 42
Daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon; known as “Bloody Mary” for burning Protestants during her reign.
Elizabeth I Elizabeth I1 7 September 1533
Greenwich Palace
17 November 1558
(crowned at Westminster Abbey on 15 January 1559)
24 March 1603
Richmond Palace
aged 69
Daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn; known as “The Virgin Queen” or “Gloriana” during her reign.

1. ^ To the Tudor period belongs the elevation of the English-ruled state in Ireland from a Lordship to a Kingdom (1541) under Henry VIII.


Before the succession[edit]

Arms of Owen Tudor.svg
Arms of Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond.svg
Arms of Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford.svg
Earlier arms of the Tudors as Welsh noble house. Coat of arms of Edmund Tudor, first Earl of Richmond. As he was the son of a princess of France and a minor Welsh Squire, the grant of these arms to him by his half-brother Henry VI recognizes his status as part of the Lancastrian Royal Family. Coat of Arms of Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford, and Earl of Pembroke, brother of Edmund Tudor

Patrilineal descent[edit]

Patrilineal descent, the descent from a male ancestor in which all intervening ancestors are also male, is the principle behind membership in royal houses, as it can be traced back through the paternal line. Note that as siblings, Edward, Mary and Elizabeth, share a generation number.

Royal House of Tudor[edit]
  1. Ednyfed Fychan, d. 1246
  2. Goronwy ab Ednyfed, Lord of Tres-gastell, d. 1268
  3. Tudur Hen, Lord of Penmynydd, d. 1311
  4. Goronwy ap Tudur Hen, d. 1331
  5. Tudur ap Goronwy, Lord of Penmynydd, d. 1367
  6. Maredudd ap Tudur, d. 1406
  7. Owen Tudor, 1400–1461
  8. Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond, 1430–1456
  9. Henry VII of England, 1457–1509
  10. Henry VIII of England, 1491–1547
11a. Edward VI of England, 1537–1553
11b. Mary I of England, 1516–1558
11c. Elizabeth I of England, 1533–1603

Coat of arms as sovereigns

Coat of Arms of Henry VII of England (1485-1509).svg
Coat of Arms of England (1509-1554).svg
Coat of Arms of England (1554-1558).svg
Coat of Arms of England (1558-1603).svg
Coat of Arms of Henry VII of England (1485-1509) & Henry VIII of England (1509-1547) in the first part of his reign Coat of Arms of Henry VIII (1509-1547) in the later part of his reign & Edward VI (1547–1553) Coat of Arms of Mary I (1554-1558) impaled with those of her husband, Philip II of Spain Coat of Arms Elizabeth I (1558-1603) with her personal motto: “Semper eadem” or “always the same”

As Prince of Wales, Arthur, Henry, and Edward all bore these arms,

Coat of Arms of the Tudor Princes of Wales (1489-1574).svg
Coat of Arms of the Tudor Princes of Wales (1489-1574.

Tudor Badges

The Welsh Dragon supporter honored the Tudor’s Welsh origins. The most popular symbol of the house of Tudor was the Tudor rose (see top of page). When Henry Tudor took the crown of England from Richard III in battle, he brought about the end of the Wars of the Roses between the House of Lancaster (whose badge was a red rose) and the House of York (whose badge was a white rose). He married Elizabeth of York to bring all factions together. On his marriage, Henry adopted the Tudor Rose badge conjoining the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster. It symbolized the Tudor’s right to rule as well the uniting of the kingdom after the Wars of the Roses. It was used by every British Monarch since Henry VII as a Royal Badge.

Royal Roses Badge of England.svg
Tudor Rose Royal Badge of England.svg
Tudor Rose (Heraldry).svg
Tudor Dragon Badge.svg
Beaufort Portcullis Badge of the Tudors.svg Crowned Fleur de lys (Tudor Crown).svg Crowned Harp (Tudor Crown).svg
Royal Roses Badge of England showing the red rose of Lancaster, the white rose of York, and the combined Tudor rose. Tudor Rose Royal Badge of England combining the Red Rose of Lancaster and White Rose of York. Tudor Rose Uncrowned Tudor dragon badge symbolizing the Tudor’s Welsh heritage and the Welsh union with England. Tudor Portcullis Badge taken from their Beaufort ancestors Crowned Fleur de lys (Tudor Crown) showing the claim to crown of France. Crowned Harp of Ireland(Tudor Crown)showing the Tudors as Kings of Ireland. The harp was later quartered into the royal arms.

Tudor Monograms

The Tudors also used monograms to denote themselves:

Royal Monogram of King Henry VIII of England.svg
Royal Monogram of Queen Elizabeth I of England.svg
Royal Monogram of King Henry VIII of England. Royal Monogram of Queen Elizabeth I of England.

Lineage and the Tudor name

Patrimonial Lineage

As noted above Tewdur or Tudor is derived from the words tud “territory” and rhi “king”. Owen Tudor took it as a surname on being knighted. It is doubtful whether the Tudor kings used the name on the throne. Kings and princes were not seen as needing a name, and a ” ‘Tudor’ name for the royal family was hardly known in the sixteenth century. The royal surname was never used in official publications, and hardly in ‘histories’ of various sorts before 1584. … Monarchs were not anxious to publicize their descent in the paternal line from a Welsh adventurer, stressing instead continuity with the historic English and French royal families. Their subjects did not think of them as ‘Tudors’, or of themselves as ‘Tudor people’”.[27] Princes and Princess would have been known as “of England”. The medieval practice of colloquially calling princes after their place birth (e.g. Henry of Bolingbroke for Henry IV or Henry of Monmouth for Henry V) was not followed. Henry VII was likely known as “Henry of Richmond” before his taking of the throne.

Ednyfed Fychan
d. 1246
Goronwy ab Ednyfed
d. 1268
Tudur Hen
(also known as Tudur ap Goronwy)
d. 1311
Tomos ap Llewelyn
Goronwy ap Tudur Hen
d. 1331
Elen ferch Tomos
(mother of Owain Glyndŵr)
Marged ferch Tomos Tudur ap Goronwy
d. 1367
Goronwy ap Tudur Edynfed ap Tudur Maredudd ap Tudur
Rhys ap Tudur
d. 1409
Gwilym ap Tudur
d. 1413
Owen Tudor
(Owain Tudur)
Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond
d. 1456
Jasper Tudor
Henry VII of England
d. 1509

Royal Lineage (Simplified)[edit]

The Tudors claim to the throne was the strongest one at the end of the Wars of the Roses, as it combined the Lancastrian claim in their descent from the Beauforts and the Royal Yorkist claim by the marriage of Henry VII to the heiress of Edward IV.

Crown of England Old.png
Edward III
Edward, the Black Prince Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York
Crown of England Old.png
Richard II
Philippa, 5th Countess of Ulster Crown of England Old.png
Henry IV
John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset
Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March, 6th Earl of Ulster Crown of England Old.png
Henry V
Catherine of France Owen Tudor Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge
Anne de Mortimer Crown of England Old.png
Henry VIRed Rose Badge of Lancaster.svg
1422–1461, 1470–1471
Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of RichmondRed Rose Badge of Lancaster.svg Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and DerbyRed Rose Badge of Lancaster.svg Richard, 3rd Duke of YorkWhite Rose Badge of York.svg
Edward of Westminster, Prince of WalesRed Rose Badge of Lancaster.svg Crown of England Old.png
Edward IV of EnglandWhite Rose Badge of York.svg
George, 1st Duke of ClarenceWhite Rose Badge of York.svg Crown of England Old.png
Richard III of EnglandWhite Rose Badge of York.svg
Isabella I of Castile Ferdinand II of Aragon Tudor Crown (Heraldry).svg
Henry VII of EnglandRed Rose Badge of Lancaster.svg
Elizabeth of YorkWhite Rose Badge of York.svg Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury Edward of Middleham, Prince of WalesWhite Rose Badge of York.svg
Joanna of Castile Maria of Aragon Catherine of Aragon Tudor Crown (Heraldry).svg
Henry VIII of EnglandTudor Rose.svg
Arthur, Prince of Wales Tudor Rose.svg Margaret TudorTudor Rose.svg Mary TudorTudor Rose.svg Reginald Pole
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor Isabella of Portugal James V of Scotland Lady Frances Brandon
Philip II of Spain Tudor Crown (Heraldry).svg
Mary I of EnglandTudor Rose.svg
Tudor Crown (Heraldry).svg
Elizabeth I of EnglandTudor Rose.svg
Tudor Crown (Heraldry).svg
Edward VI of EnglandTudor Rose.svg
Mary, Queen of Scots Lady Jane Grey
Tudor Crown (Heraldry).svg
James VI of Scotland and I of England Dimidiated Rose and Thistle Badge.svg



Protestants of Ulster and Protestantism in Ireland

Protestants of Ulster

Protestants of Ulster


Wolfe Tone and the Protestants of 1798 (Documentary)


The Protestants of Ulster are an ethnic or ethnonational group in the province of Ulster, Ireland.[1] They make up almost half the population of Ulster. Some Ulster Protestants are descendants of the Protestant settlers involved in the early 17th century Ulster Plantation, which introduced the first significant numbers of Protestants into the west and centre of the province. These settlers were mostly Lowland Scottish and Northern English people and predominantly from Galloway, the Scottish Borders and Northumberland.[2] Begun privately in 1606, the Plantation became government-sponsored in 1609. Colonising Ulster with loyal British settlers, the vast majority of whom were Protestant, was seen by London as a way to prevent further rebellion in the province, as it had been the region most resistant to English control during the preceding century. There was a total settler population of about 19,000 by 1622,[3] and possibly as many as 80,000 in the 1630s.

Ulster Protestants descend from a variety of lineages, including Scottish people (some of whose descendants consider themselves Ulster Scots people), English people, Irish people, and Huguenots.[4][5] Another influx of an estimated 20,000 Scottish Protestants was a result of the seven ill years in the 1690s.[6] While Presbyterians of Scottish descent and origin had already become the majority of Ulster Protestants by the 1660s (when Protestants still only made up a third of the population), they became an absolute majority in the province by the 1720s.[7]

Divisions between Ulster’s Protestants and Irish Catholics have played a major role in the history of Ulster from the 17th century to the present day, especially during the Plantation, the Cromwellian conquest, the Williamite War, the revolutionary period, and the Troubles. Most Ulster Protestants are Presbyterian or Anglican. Scottish colonists were mostly Presbyterian[8] and the English mostly members of the Church of England. Repression of Presbyterians by Anglicans (who followed the Church of Irelandstate religion) intensified after the Glorious Revolution (especially after the 1703 Test Act) and was one reason for heavy emigration to North America by Ulster Presbyterians during the 18th century (see Scotch-Irish American).[9]

Between 1717 and 1775, an estimated 200,000 migrated to what became the United States of America.[10] Some Presbyterians also returned to Scotland during this period. This repression largely ended after the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and the relaxation of the Penal Laws.[11] As Belfast industrialised in the 19th century, it attracted yet more Protestant immigrants from Scotland.[12] After the 1920-22 partition of Ireland, the new government of Northern Ireland launched a campaign to entice Protestants from the rest of Ireland to relocate to the new polity with inducements of state jobs and housing, and “large numbers” accepted.[13] Because of these migrations, Ulster has a lower proportion of Catholics than the other provinces of Ireland.

Most Ulster Protestants speak Ulster English, and some speak one of the Ulster Scots dialects.[14][15][16] The vast majority live in Northern Ireland and tend to support its Union with the rest of the United Kingdom,[17] and are known as unionists. Unionism is a term that has been divided by some into two camps; “Ulster British” who are attached to the United Kingdom and primarily adhere to British values; and “Ulster loyalism“, whose attachment is primarily ethnic, prioritising Ulster Protestantism above British identity.[18][19][20] The Loyal Orders, which include the Orange Order, Royal Black Institution and Apprentice Boys of Derry, are fraternal organisations which originated in Ulster and still have most of their membership there.

About 2% of Ulster Protestants reside in the rest of Ulster in the Republic of Ireland (formed after the breakup of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland).[21] Some still retain a sense of Britishness, and a small number have difficulty identifying with the independent Irish state.[22][23][24]

Percentage of Protestants in each electoral division in Ulster, based on census figures from 2001 (UK) and 2006 (ROI).
0-10% dark green, 10-30% mid-green,
30-50% light green, 50-70% light orange,
70-90% mid-orange, 90-100% dark orange.

Changes in distribution of Irish Protestants, 1861–2011
Protestantism in Ireland
Protestantism is a minority Christian denominational family on the island of Ireland. In the 2011 census of the Republic of Ireland, 5% of the population described themselves as Church of Ireland (Anglican) or Presbyterian (93,056 and 14,348 people respectively).[1] In the 2011 census of Northern Ireland, 48% described themselves as Protestant, which was a decline of approximately 5% from the 2001 census.[2][3] Some forms of Protestant Christianity may have existed since the early 16th century. The Church of Ireland was established by King Henry VIII of England.
Inside The Court Of Henry VIII Documentary 2015


The Protestant Reformation in Ireland

During the English Reformation in the 1530s, the Irish parliament was successful in gaining the support of many bishops from across Ireland for royal supremacy, leading to the passing the Act of Supremacy in 1536 which declared Henry VIII as head of the Church of Ireland.[4] In 1539, Henry VIII had the monasteries of Ireland dissolved, of which only Christ Church in Dublin survived after changing from monasticism to a secular constitution based on that of St. Patrick‘s.[5] The introduction of the Reformation to Ireland is regarded as the end of the medieval period in Ireland.[5]

King Edward VI (1537-1553)

It would not be until the reign of Henry VIII’s son, Edward VI, that attempts were made to introduce Protestant liturgy and bishops to Ireland.[4] These attempts were met with hostility from within the church, even by those who had previously conformed.[4] In 1551 during Edward VI’s reign, a printing press established in Dublin, printed a common book of prayer in English.[6]

A return of Catholic supremacy ensued during the reign of Henry VIIIs daughter, Mary in the 1550s, however in 1560, her half-sister and successor Elizabeth I would enact a religious settlement consisting of an Act of Supremacy and Act of Uniformity in an attempt impose Protestantism.[4] Elizabeth also had herself made supreme governor of the Church of Ireland.[4] During Elizabeth’s reign, the bulk of Protestants in Ireland were confined to the ranks of new settlers and government officials, who formed a small minority.[7] Amongst the native Irish and Old English Recusancy pre-dominated and was tolerated by Elizabeth for fear of alienating the Old English further.[7]

It was during Elizabeth’s reign that more attempts were made to boost the Reformation: Trinity College, Dublin was established in 1592 to help produce new ministers to preach the reformed faith;[7] in 1571 a Gaelic printing typeface was created to print documents in the Irish language for the purposes of evangelisation;[6] the first translation of the New Testament into Irish occurred in 1603.[7] Despite this the Reformation would ground to a halt in Ireland and ultimately fail, not helped by a dedicated and vigorous campaign by a plentiful number of Continentally-trained priests, which ensured that Irish heart-and-minds remained with the Catholic faith.[7]

The Reformation in Ireland made little progress due to two main factors: the Old English in Ireland felt increasingly alienated by political developments in regards to English rule in Ireland during Henry’s reign and became less likely to obey edicts that were issued;[8] secondly the native Irish saw the Reformation as just another attempt by the English at conquest and forced Anglicisation.[8]

The dissolution of the monasteries saw many parishes granted to lay people whose main concern was not their parishioners souls, this along with the wars that raged in Ireland throughout the 16th and 17th centuries left many parish churches—now the property of the established church—especially rural ones, in a ruinous state.[9]

17th century


During the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, some Protestants who adhered to forms of Puritanism escaped persecution in England and Scotland by settling in Ireland.[10] Here they were openly welcomed by the state-sponsored Church of Ireland for their strong anti-Catholicism and dedication to preaching, which it highly sought.[10]

Early 17th century

During the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, several plantations occurred seeing the arrival of British settlers, the majority of which were Protestant.

In 1604, the Scottish Catholic Randal MacDonnell, set about settling his lands in the the Route and Glynnes in County Antrim with Protestants from the Scottish Lowlands.[11] This was followed by the considerably determined private plantation of counties counties Antrim and Down by James Hamilton and Sir Hugh Montgomery, which saw English and Scottish Protestants settling in their estates.[12] In 1606, the notorious Border Reiver clan of the Grahams of Eskdale, Leven and Sark, where invited to settle in County Roscommon.[13]

By 1607 a steady supply of Scottish Protestants where migrating to eastern Ulster, settling in the estates of Hamilton, MacDonnell, and Montgomery.[12] Whilst many Presbyterian Lowlanders fled Kintyre in Scotland for MacDonnell’s lands, Hebridean Catholics migrated as well, ensuring that the Glens of Antrim would remain Catholic as the rest of the county became predominantly Protestant.[11]

That same year, the Flight of the Earls occurred,[14][15] which saw vast tracts of land in Ulster spanning the counties of Armagh, Cavan, Coleraine, Donegal, Fermanagh, and Tyrone, escheated to James I.[16] This was followed by the Plantation of Ulster, which saw Protestant[citation needed] British settlers colonise these counties.[16] In 1610, The Honourable The Irish Society was established to undertake and finance the plantation of the new county of Londonderry (made up of County Coleraine and parts of Antrim, Donegal, and Tyrone) with British Protestant subjects.[17][18] Whilst a substantial number of English and Scottish people did come over and settle during the Plantation of Ulster, they tended to disperse to other parts of the province resulting in those tasked with settling the land having to retain native Irish who remained predominantly Catholic.[18]

James I campaign to pacify the borders resulted in great numbers of Border Reiver families arriving in Ulster.[13] The Border Reiver families were not known for their religiousness and the Reformation had made little impact on them.[13] Once they had settled in Ulster they realised the advantages of becoming Protestants and conformed to the established church.[13]

Between 1615-1620, a policy of “discovery and regrant” was used in various parts of Ireland, however few settlers were attracted to these plantations, resulting basically in new landowners.[19] This policy was used in the counties of Leitrim, Longford, northern Wexford, as well as parts of King’s County and Queen’s County.[19][20]

By the 1630s, Protestant settlers from Great Britain were migrating to Ireland by their own initiative, and helped initiate a colonial spread from the ports they arrived and into the hinterlands of Ulster.[16]

Thomas Wentworth

The Church of Ireland by the 1630s was a broad church that accepted various different Protestant practices and beliefs. As the Presbyterian church was not yet established in Ireland, Presbyterians were more than happy to join the Church of Ireland.[21] Across the island, the predominant doctrine within the Church of Ireland was puritanism, which like Presbyterianism, favoured simple and plain forms of worship and clothing.[20] During the reign of Charles I however, Lord Deputy of Ireland Thomas Wentworth and Archbishop William Laud sought to bring the Irish church into line with that in England by stamping out puritanism,[10] and the anti-episcopal views of the Scottish ministers operating in Ulster.[18] They also sought to replace the preferred form of worship amongst Protestants in Ireland with the more elaborate and orthodox Anglican style favoured by Charles I.[18][20] In an attempt to achieve this, Wentworth and Laud introduced the English Thirty-Nine Articles along with stricter disciplinary canons in 1634.[10] This was followed by puritan ministers who held Presbyterian sympathies being dismissed from the church.[10]

In 1635, Wentworth proposed a plantation of Connacht, which would have seen all Catholic land confiscated and settled with only English Protestants, with the hope of converting the Gaelic and Old-English Catholics to the state religion.[20] This plantation would not see the light of day as Wentworth alienated Protestant and Catholic alike in Ireland,[18][20] and Charles I got into ever more trouble with parliament.[20]

Between 1640 and 1641, Protestants and Catholics alike in the Irish parliament united in opposition to Wentworth, and pushed for the Graces—first arranged in 1628—to be confirmed as well as filing lists of complaints about his behaviour and practices.[18] This union of cause survived until the common denominator, Wentworth, was executed by the English parliamentarians in May 1641.[18]

Rebellion and civil war

By the 1630s, more than a quarter of land in Ireland was owned by Protestants,[18] by the outbreak of the Irish Rebellion of 1641, they held roughly three-fifths.[22]

Cromwellian land settlement

The Act for the Settlement of Ireland 1652 saw Catholics found guilty of disloyalty having their estates confiscated and granted to loyal Protestants.[23] Whilst Protestants also guilty of disloyalty were to lose some of their estates, they ended up been given fines, the majority of which were never paid.[23] The result of this land settlement saw a mass changing of land ownership as Catholic ownership almost disappeared completely east of the River Shannon[23][22] It also greatly increased the number of Protestants in Ireland,[22] and saw them come to dominate both the countryside and urban centers and have near absolute control over politics and trade.[22]

Restoration Ireland

By the 1660s, Catholics owned hardly more than one-fifth of land.[22] Protestant immigration to Ireland had started in earnest in the aftermath of the restoration of the monarchy in Ireland in 1660, helped by acts such as that “to Encourage Protestant Strangers to Settle in Ireland”, passed in 1662.[24] French Protestants, known as Huguenots, escaping persecution in France formed their own small community in Dublin where they became famous for developing poplin and handsome stone buildings called “Dutch Billy’s”.[24][25] Around the same time, Jews—regarded as “foreign Protestants”—settled in Dublin having originally sought refuge in Tenerife.[24] The Plantation of Ulster also finally swung into full motion as a constant stream of English and Scottish families made their way to the north of Ireland.[24]

The death of Charles I in 1649 saw puritanism reach its peak as the Church of Ireland became restricted allowing other Protestant denominations to freely expand.[10] Puritans also went about establishing non-conforming Protestant churches such as Baptist, Quaker, Congregational, as well as Presbyterian.[10] As puritanism refused to conform to the doctrines of the established church it became known as “nonconformity”,[10] with those not adhering to the Church of Ireland being classified as Dissenters.[26]

Williamite era

The revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 saw great numbers of Huguenots flee from France, with as many as 10,000 migrating to Ireland during the 1690s, including veterans from the Huguenot regiments in the army of William III.[25] In total twenty-one Huguenot communities were established the most notable of which was established at Portarlington, Queen’s County.[25] Some Huguenot congregations conformed to the Church of Ireland, though others maintained their own instilling some hostility from the established church.[25]

18th century

German Palatines

In 1709 German Palatines fled persecution to England from the Rhineland in the Holy Roman Empire.[27] Eight hundred and twenty-one families consisting of 3,073 people were resettled in Ireland that year.[27][28] Of 538 families initially taken on by as tenants, 352 are reported to have left their holdings, with many returning back to England.[29] By late 1711 only around 1,200 of the Palatines remained in Ireland.[28] The number of families dwindled to 162 by 1720.[27]

Areas where the Palatines settled included counties Cork, Dublin, Limerick, and Wexford.[27] Despite the exodus of Palatines in the years after their initial arrival in Ireland, a second relocation carried out in 1712 saw the establishment of two successful settlements, one being around Rathkeale, County Limerick, the other around Gorey, County Wexford.[29] Limerick Palatines, despite some conversions to Catholicism, largely remained religiously and culturally endogenous.[27]

The Palatines responded well to the teachings of Methodism, with John Wesley visiting them several times.[27] By the 1820s they became victims of sectarian grief at the hands of Catholic agrarian societies, which further encouraged Palatine emigration from Ireland, resulting in them ceasing to be a separate grouping.[27] Despite this, their distinctive way of life survived long into the 19th century.[29]

The Penal Laws and converts to Protestantism

From 1697 to 1728, various Penal Laws were enacted by the Irish parliament primarily targeting Catholics of the aristocracy, landed and learned classes.[26][30] Some of these laws however also targeted Protestant Dissenters.[26] Under one of these laws, Dissenters could only be married in the Church of Ireland otherwise it was not legal, making their children illegitimate in the eyes of the law.[26] Another law passed in 1704 sought to prevent anyone who did not have communion in the Church of Ireland from holding public office, however as Catholics had already been excluded from public office this primarily targeted Dissenters.[26] Despite being the target of various penal laws, Dissenters remained vocal advocates of those that targeted Catholics so kept their complaints to a courteous tone.[26] Indeed, penal laws similar to those passed by the Irish Parliament, were imposed against Protestants in France and Silesia, but in these cases it was by a majority against a minority, which was not the situation in Ireland.[26]

The Penal Laws did encourage 5,500 Catholics, almost exclusively from the aristocracy and landed gentry to convert to Protestantism.[26][30] In 1703, 14% of land in Ireland was owned by Catholics, however following the conforming of the majority of these landowners by 1780, Catholics only owned 5% despite making up three-quarters of the population of Ireland.[26][30]

Some of these converts were high profile, such as Alexander MacDonnell, 5th Earl of Antrim, whose conversion meant that in the province of Ulster there were no Catholic estates of any note.[26] Others were less so, however made the most of the opportunities that opened up for them, one example being William Conolly.[26] William Conolly was a Gaelic Catholic from Ballyshannon, County Donegal, however in the years following his conversion to Protestantism, he would became the Speaker of the Irish House of Commons as well as Ireland’s richest man despite being the son of an innkeeper.[26]

The Penal Laws ensured that for the next century, Ireland was to be dominated by an Anglican elite composed of members of the Church of Ireland.[26] This elite would become to be known as the Protestant Ascendancy.[26] Ironically, despite attempts by some,[30] the Ascendancy had no real desire to convert the mass of the Catholic population to Protestantism, fearing that it would dilute their own exclusive and highly privileged position,[26] and many of the penal laws were poorly enforced.[30]

Despite the Penal Laws and the domination of an Anglican minority over a country with an overwhelming Catholic majority, open religious violence seems to have been quite rare during most of the 18th century.[31] Not until the Armagh disturbances in the 1780s did sectarian divisions come back to the fore.[31]

19th Century

The Dublin area saw many churches like Saint Stephen’s, built in the Georgian style during the 18th century. When Ireland was incorporated in 1801 into the new United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the Church of Ireland was also united with the Church of England to form the United Church of England and Ireland. At the same time, one archbishop and three bishops from Ireland (selected by rotation) were given seats in the House of Lords at Westminster, joining the two archbishops and twenty-four bishops from the Church of England.

In 1833, the British Government proposed the Irish Church Measure to reduce the 22 archbishops and bishops who oversaw the Anglican minority in Ireland to a total of 12 by amalgamating sees and using the revenues saved for the use of parishes. This sparked the Oxford Movement[citation needed], which was to have wide repercussions for the Anglican Communion.

As the official established church, the Church of Ireland was funded partially by tithes imposed on all Irish landowners and tenant farmers, irrespective of the fact that it counted only a minority of the populace among its adherents; these tithes were a source of much resentment which occasionally boiled over, as in the Tithe War of 1831/36. Eventually, the tithes were ended, replaced with a lower levy called the tithe rent charge.

The Irish Church Act 1869 (which took effect in 1871) finally ended the role of the Church of Ireland as state church. This terminated both state support and parliament’s role in its governance, but also took into government ownership much church property. Compensation was provided to clergy, but many parishes faced great difficulty in local financing after the loss of rent-generating lands and buildings. The Church of Ireland made provision in 1870 for its own government, led by a General Synod, and with financial management by a Representative Church Body. With disestablishment, the last remnants of tithes were abolished and the Church’s representation in the House of Lords also ceased.

20th century decline to 21st century

Concentration of Protestants in Ireland per county.

In 1991, the population of the Republic of Ireland was approximately 3% Protestant. The figure in the same geographical area was over 10% in 1891, indicating a fall of 70% in the relative Protestant population over the past century.

The Protestant depopulation in the Republic of Ireland during this time was dramatic. In 1861 only the west coast and Kilkenny were less than 6% Protestant. Dublin and two of the border counties were over 20% Protestant. In 1991, however, all but four counties were less than 6% Protestant; the rest were less than 1%. There were no counties in the Republic of Ireland which had experienced a rise in the relative Protestant population over the period 1861 to 1991. Often, the counties which managed to retain the highest proportion of Protestants were the ones which started off with a large proportion. In Northern Ireland, only counties Londonderry, Tyrone and Armagh have experienced a significant loss of the relative Protestant population; in these cases, the change was not as dramatic as in the Republic.

The previous pattern of decline started to change during the 1990’s by the time of 2006 census of the Republic of Ireland, a little over 5% of the state was Protestant. The 2011 census of the Republic of Ireland found that the Protestant population in every county had grown. In 2012 the Irish Independent reported that “Irish Anglicanism is undergoing a quite remarkable period of growth” due to immigration and Irish Catholics converting.[32]


Prior to the Plantation of Ulster in the opening decades of the 17th century, the Parliament of Ireland consisted of Catholic Old-English and Gaelic Irish MPs.[33] Whilst these MPs had few ideological objections to making Henry VIII head of the Irish church as well as to the establishment of Anglicanism in Ireland under Elizabeth I in 1660, resistance to government policies started to grow.[33] To help tip the balance of power in the parliament in favour of Protestants, Lord-Deputy Chichester established sixteen new corporate towns in Ulster in the 1610s.[16] These towns where little more than villages or planned towns.[33] This resulted in Ulster alone returning 38 MPs to the Irish parliament with the three other provinces altogether contributing 36, giving the government a majority of 32.[33] This majority was reduced upon appeal by the Old-English to six, however under Lord-Deputy Wentworth in 1640, a further sixteen Old-English seats where removed.[33] During 1640 and 1641, the interests of the Old-English and New English combined to seek Wentworth’s removal.[18]

With the drastic decrease in Catholic landowners after the Cromwellian land settlement in the 1640s, by the time of the Restoration parliament in 1661, only one Catholic MP was returned to the Irish parliament, however his election was overturned.[33]

The Protestant interest in Ireland would be no less compliant to English authority than the Old-English had been.[33] The convention of 1660, called after the restoration of the monarchy, saw 137 parliamentary members elected, all of whom were Protestant.[34] It called Charles II to summon a parliament consisting of Protestant peers and commons, as well for the re-establishment of the Church of Ireland.[35] Despite backing the restoration, as well as the system of episcopacy, it also asserted the Irish parliaments legislative superiority over itself and its intent to set and collect its own taxes.[34]

Cultural and literature impact

The Church of Ireland undertook the first publication of the Bible in Irish. The first Irish translation of the New Testament was begun by Nicholas Walsh, Bishop of Ossory, who worked on it until his death in 1585. The work was continued by John Kearny, his assistant, and Dr. Nehemiah Donellan, Archbishop of Tuam; it was finally completed by William O’Domhnuill. Their work was printed in 1602. The work of translating the Old Testament was undertaken by William Bedel (1571–1642), Bishop of Kilmore, who completed his translation within the reign of Charles I, although it was not published until 1680 in a revised version by Narcissus Marsh (1638–1713), Archbishop of Dublin. Bedell had also undertaken a translation of the Book of Common Prayer in 1606. An Irish translation of the revised prayer book of 1662 was effected by John Richardson (1664–1747) and published in 1712.