Sixteenth Century Ireland: Kingdom or Colony?

In the sixteenth century, England underwent a period of expansion and transition. Both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I undertook the mission of trying to govern and merge Ireland into England in the most effective and financially profitable way. However, unlike Wales, which was successfully incorporated as essentially an extension of England in the mid-1530s, Ireland remained in constant flux. The fact that Ireland received the title of “kingdom” in 1541 would only go on to make things more confusing. However, while under Henry VIII, England’s policy towards Ireland was more consistent with the rule of a kingdom, while Queen Elizabeth I’s policy towards Ireland was more consistent with that of a colony. This has led to debate among historians about whether Ireland was a kingdom or was treated more like a colony, and which method of rule, Henry VIII’s or Queen Elizabeth’s, was more effective in terms of expediting England’s expansion in the British Isles. Continue reading


A Tudor and His Navy

The Mary Rose as depicted in the Anthony Roll, c. 1545.
The Mary Rose as depicted in the Anthony Roll, c. 1545.

As a unified state completely surrounded by water, England needed a strong navy in order to protect against attacks and invasions. Henry VII established the Royal Navy. His son, Henry VIII, continued to strengthen the navy, adding more ships and equipping them with advanced artillery. A strengthened royal navy was borne out of the diplomatic situation brought on by Henry VIII’s separation from Rome. Because of the diplomatic conflicts, and the need to strengthen the navy and its ships, Henry VIII’s reign revolutionized the Royal Navy with style and power. Continue reading

The Downfall of Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn by Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1533-1536.
Anne Boleyn by Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1533-1536.

Anne Boleyn is remembered as Henry VIII’s second wife after his infamous annulment from his first, Katherine of Aragon. In addition, she is known for her shocking and grisly execution. Some believe that the main factor for this was her failure to produce a male heir. Yet evidence suggests that Henry was not intent on eliminating her even after her miscarriage in 1536. A few years prior to this, Henry famously rejected papal authority and split from the Catholic Church in Rome. This was a result of the pope’s refusal to annul Henry’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon. By 1527, Katherine was too old to bear a child, and Henry had become enamored with Anne, who was one of Katherine’s ladies-in-waiting. Historians describe Anne as being confident, sophisticated, and charming.[1] Henry was clearly attracted to her, as he sent her numerous love letters throughout 1527 and 1528, despite his dislike of writing. However, Henry did not immediately see Anne as a prospective wife and instead wanted her as his mistress.[2] Yet Anne aspired to become queen, and rejected Henry’s advances until he proposed marriage. Thus, as Peter Marshall writes, “her determination not to become a royal mistress and to hold out for the prize of being queen was an important element in pushing forward the divorce campaign”.[3] Anne remained emboldened during time as queen consort. She had a crucial role in the Henrician Reformation, and was to prove a powerful patron of English reformers.[4] Her involvement in one particular reform, the dissolution of monasteries, would contribute to her downfall. Anne Boleyn was executed because she participated too much in state matters. In Tudor society, this was not the role of a queen consort. Anne wanted to be more than a wife to Henry; she wanted to be his advisor. For Henry and his chancellors, this was too much. Continue reading

More than Financial Gains? The Religious Reasons behind the Dissolution of Monasteries

Like most English monarchs, King Henry VIII held a great interest in his finances: more money meant more power. In comparison to his father who made £133,000 annually, Henry VIII received a rather low annual income of £80-90,000.[1] With a need for more money, Henry VIII’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, sought out a viable plan: to shut down all of the monasteries of England and Wales. With the establishment of the Court of Augmentations in 1536, all monastic properties including the money earned were transferred to it.[2] In total, the amount collected was reported to have been more than £130,000 a year.[3] The dissolution of the monasteries made Henry, as well as select members of the Privy Chamber, richer than ever, and Henry’s newfound wealth in theory gained for him more financial security for a war with France. Judging from the immense monetary gain, one would assume that the principal reason for the dissolution of the monasteries was financial, but some historians believe otherwise. Henry VIII may not have been the most devout leader, but a deeper look at the conditions of the monasteries could have provided enough religious reasons for their dissolution. Continue reading

Tudor Revival: The Popularization of a 16th-Century Architectural Style in 20th-Century America

Example of Tudor Revival house in the Greenhaven neighborhood of Rye, New York.
Example of Tudor Revival house in the Greenhaven neighborhood of Rye, New York.

Tudor architecture is an ambiguous term and its definition has changed many times since the style emerged in England around 1530. Originally, this term referred to the architectural style of any house or manor constructed in the age of the Tudor dynasty, but after multiple revivals in England and America, it is now associated with wealth, power and stability, evoking a particular image of a large estate with white and black contrast on the facade and stone chimneys. Why was an architectural “style” used to construct commoners’ houses in sixteenth-century England revived and popularized in twentieth-century America as a representation of wealth and gentile living? Continue reading

Food in Tudor England

Unsurprisingly, food played an extremely important role in the every-day life of Tudor England. Food not only provided nutrition and sustenance, but in the Tudor period, it also helped define social hierarchy. By examining the table and food in homes during this era, historians could easily ascertain as to what economic and social sphere the family belonged to. The food available, the amount served during a meal, and the way it was presented were all regulated by the Tudor government in what were known as Sumptuary Laws. While the food and drink of the Tudor Era have made an impact on the current cuisine of England, the most lasting influence of the diets of the Tudor population has been the rigid social hierarchy it helped enforce. Through the food a Tudor English family ate, one could reasonably assume how much land they owned, what region they lived in, and their socioeconomic status at the time. Continue reading

The Sociohistorical Context of the Early Royal Society

Today, the Royal Society is known as a successful scientific organization that has produced some of the most noteworthy findings in the world, boasting members such as Robert Hooke, Sir Isaac Newton, and Ernest Rutherford. Yet it originally began as a group of just twelve men in 1660’s London, and back then its potential was not so obvious or well received. It emerged during the Restoration era during a period of political and social turmoil, which significantly influenced how the society went about forming and presenting itself, as well as on how the public received it. In an attempt to gain more support and clarify their goals, the society commissioned an apologia – basically a propaganda piece – to be written by one of its fellows, Thomas Sprat. It is likely that Sprat was only made a fellow for the sake of writing this work, as he was known to be a skillful writer, and made no further contributions to the society. So, how did the sociohistorical context of Restoration England shape the Royal Society in its early years? Continue reading