With origins in Wales, the Tudors were descended in the male line from the Tudors of Penmynydd, with Henry VII himself being descended through his mother, Margaret Beaufort, from a 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.
Henry VII (also known as Henry Tudor as he was the founding monarch) defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field – the last king of England to win his throne on the battlefield. His victory was reinforced by his marriage to Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, symbolically uniting the former warring factions under a new dynasty and joining the houses of York and Lancaster.
Henry Tudor’s son and successor, Henry VIII, is possibly the most written about king of England after Richard III. His many wives, and political and religious upheaval of the country make him one of the most influential monarchs in English history. His break with Rome founded the Church of England and shook the country to its core.
On Henry’s death, his much longed-for son and heir, Edward VI, only lived into his teens, causing a problematic succession in the House of Tudor. Many believed Lady Jane Grey, the granddaughter of Henry’s sister Mary Tudor, to be the rightful heir, but Henry’s eldest daughter Mary had this claim declared illegitimate and had Jane beheaded at the age of 16 or 17, after she had been on the throne for only nine days. Mary’s subsequent crowing meant she became the first queen regnant of England, and once again aligned the monarchy with the Catholic faith. Mary’s failure to produce an heir meant that her sister Elizabeth ascended to the throne on her death, switching the alliance of the Crown to the Protestant faith once again.
This fascinating period of history never ceases to enthral us with its twists and turns, and it remains one of the most written about periods of English history.