Monday, 11 July 2011

Just Finished...

...reading The Tudors for Dummies. (See that, Rob, I really do have just about every ...for Dummies and The Complete Idiot's Guide... books!)

This was not the longest reigning family to grab the throne in England, but they certainly accomplished a great deal in the 118 years that they had it. Things were easier in many ways back then. There was a Parliament, but they were nearly powerless, so the bulk of things really went with the crown. And when people pissed off the Tudors, they went to the Tower of London (I'm sure most people think this is just that really cool building in London everyone visits, but back then this was the hoosegow and no one wanted to be there. If they really pissed off the crown, they ended up a head shorter. Sounds like a delightful family!

Things were not too much different with Henry VII, who took the crown in 1458. Yes, he was a Tudor and grabbed the crown after killing King Richard III in battle, but he wasn't that direct for the line of succession. None-the-less, at age 27, he became Da Man!

Now, Henry VII wasn't at all a bad ruler, but the feudal system and the ruling structure stayed pretty much as it was. That is easy - keeping thing status quo almost ensured your place on the throne unless there was some serious issue that you ignored - that surely was worse. But as an innovator, well, that wasn't Henry VII strong area.

And then in 1509, Henry VIII ascended the throne. At the same time as he took the crown, he married Catherine of Aragon and both were coronated - sounds like the height of romance, eh? But then the "great problem" began - time to beget a son, as the British throne was - in that time - through primogenture (eldest son rules). Catherine produced all female children and Henry, not knowing what we now know, began carrying on with the infamous Anne Boleyn and wanted to get his first marriage annulled.

It really must be good to be the king; Henry broke with Romw to chase out Catholicism and formed the Church of England, which at the time was a semi-Protestant religion. They did not want to become completely reformed - turning into followers of Martin Luther was out and they really didn't like the Anabaptists - but at the same time, they found the Catholic church to be a little too controlling. And they didn't care for prayer time to be in Latin.

Of course one can take a good thing a wee too far. Henry went through wives the way we go through underwear. (Of course, back then baths were few and far between, but we are not comparing his marital madness to that time period's use of underthings.) He ran through Cathrine, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherin Howard and Catherine Parr. We all know Anne Boleyn, I imagine. The rest were just footnotes in Henry VIII's history. One did prduce a son, but King Edward VI only reigned as a boy so Parliament - through one man - really did the ruling and Edward, not the hardiest Tudor, died at age 15 from tuberculosis (he'd gotten measles first in 1552, which he never fully recovered from and this likely led to TB). Back then, measles and TB were death sentences, along with the common plagues of the time: the Black Plague (Bubonic plague), influenza and something called the Sweating Sickness, which is a variation of the flu). Hard to believe these things decimated whole populations, but that was the time.

Henry VIII died in 1547, Edward VI took the throne (sort of) and when he died in 1553, Jane Grey was Queen - for a whopping nine days. That has to be shortest reign in their history. (The other short-timer was King Albert in 1936, who reigned from April until mid-December and then he abdicated the the throne to be with the tice-divorced Wallis Simpson. There were others, but those two were most notable.)

Then Mary took the throne. The people weren't all that thrilled by it - there was a time in the 1200s when another woman had the throne and she apparently botched the job. Mary I was Catholic, so suddenly the country was Catholic again. This must have been very confusing to the citizenry. Mary had the throne until 1558, when she died and Elizabeth I took the crown. Mary and Edward hadn't produced any heirs, and it seems the Elizabeth followed in that grand tradition of not producing any seed. The Tudor line died out with her in 1603.

This book covered the whole reign from soup to nuts including the (many) reformations of the Church of England, which eventually became Calvinist Protestants; the entire family and their marriages, affairs, reigns and Parliament's role; the various factions that plotted against the different monarchs and the relationships with France, Spain, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and other countries. It was an interesting read.

Now I'm rereading British History for Dummies to re-familiarise myself with the whole history. I'd really like to see Scotland's History for Dummies, too, but if there is one I haven't found it. I'm more tied into Irish history, but I couldn't get into the ...for Dummies version - the author wasn't really very good.

Gotta love those ...for Dummies and Complete Idiot's Guide books!

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