Elizabeth’s Age of Exploration

Between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, kingdoms throughout Europe sponsored voyages to find new lands and faster trade routes. Spain and Portugal dominated exploration during during much of this period. In England, there was no significant progress in exploration during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary. It was only with the efforts of Elizabeth I that England became a new major player of exploration. While Elizabeth sponsored voyages, it was in fact Henry VIII’s naval reforms that launched the beginning of Elizabethan exploration. Continue reading

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The Consequences of Ottoman Aspirations in Europe for Henry VIII’s England

The early sixteenth century saw the advance of the Ottoman Empire into Europe. Though the Ottomans remained far away from England to be considered a real threat, the English were still influenced by Ottoman actions. Ottoman technological superiority led to better military tactics, which facilitated raids and invasions in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Sea. The Ottomans’ influence in the Mediterranean Sea also grew with their defeat of Venetians at the Second Battle of Leopanto in 1500.[1] By the time Charles I of Spain became Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire as Charles V in 1519, Ottoman pirates were raiding the French southern coast and disrupting trade routes.[2] It was with the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent that the Ottoman Empire reached its zenith and began various campaigns that would unequivocally threaten Christian Europe. The growing conflicts against the Ottoman Empire in Central Europe inadvertently aided Henry VIII in his efforts to reform the English church detailing and help to explain why the rest of Europe made little to no real effort to stop Henry. Continue reading

15/35, Needed More Restriction

A king is, in theory, the figurehead for the kingdom he rules over. In him, outsiders can see the values the country he resides in and upholds. During times of conflict, he is a man who does not dwell in the safety of his castle, rather he fights with his knights on the front lines. In peace, he is a man of the people, always open to their suggestions and willing to negotiate, never resorting to using force or fear in order to control them. The king is righteous, justice incarnate, and a God-fearing warrior. He does not command respect; rather, he earns it.[1] These values were championed by Thomas More in his definition of a good king, though they would lead to his demise as Henry VIII reshaped those very definitions to suit his own goals. Continue reading

Dissecting a Divorce: King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon

A pivotal period in the history of the early modern world was King Henry VIII’s schism with the Roman Catholic Church and the English Reformation it sparked. These events led to England’s formation as a Protestant nation, isolated from the influence of Rome. It is believed that King Henry VIII’s request to Pope Clement VII to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was largely based on his desire to marry a suitable woman of child-bearing age capable of producing a male heir. Although the union of Henry and Catherine had produced a daughter, Mary, the king required a son in order to ensure succession of the Tudor dynasty. King Henry feared a foreign monarch or prince’s marriage to his daughter would result in a foreign power effectively controlling his realm. Catherine’s child-bearing days were nearing an end and many experts declared that she would not survive an additional birth. Continue reading

England’s Empire

The word “empire” commonly holds the connotation of territorial expansion. In early modern Europe, England’s case for empire was unique because Henry VIII established England as an empire, and then further expanded his territory. Henry VIII used Parliamentary statute, the Act in Restraint of Appeals and the Act of Supremacy to make England an empire and to make himself, for all intents and purposes, emperor. Though the way in which England developed into an empire was quite unique, with a strong, centralized government and close relationship between king and Parliament, the English empire grew to be influential in Europe. Henry’s empire demonstrated how the term “empire” evoked both a consistent governmental stronghold as well as territorial sovereignty. It was only after this empire was first established did Henry then expand his imperium with the incorporation of Ireland and Wales. Continue reading

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