Visual History of the World

(CONTENTS)
 

 


HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION & CULTURE

From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Photography
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
Prehistory
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists

 




The Early Modern Period

16th - 18th century


 


The smooth transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age is conventionally fixed on such events as the Reformation and the discovery of the "New World," which brought about the emergence of a new image of man and his world. Humanism, which spread out of Italy, also made an essential contribution to this with its promotion of a critical awareness of Christianity and the Church. The Reformation eventually broke the all-embracing power of the Church. After the Thirty Years' War, the concept of a universal empire was also nullified. The era of the nation-state began, bringing with it the desire to build up political and economic power far beyond Europe. The Americas, Africa, and Asia provided regions of expansion for the Europeans.
 



Proportions of the Human Figure by Leonardo da Vinci (drawing, ca. 1490)
is a prime example of the new approach of Renaissance
artists and scientists to the anatomy of the human body.

 

 


The Rise of England
 


1485-CA.1800
 

 

The history of modern England began with the reign of the Tudors in 1485. They turned England once more into a player in European politics. The Stuarts, who reigned from 1603, united England and Scotland into an empire that has been named Great Britain since 1707, but did not succeed in establishing absolutism after the French model. Parliament was able to impose a constitutional monarchy during the civil war between 1642 and 1649 and finally in the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688-89. Furthermore, in the Act of Settlement parliament ensured that any future monarch of England would be Protestant. In 1714, the elector of Hanover inherited the British throne. In the 18th century, Great Britain finally became a world power through its 1 sea trade and colonial policies.

 

see also:

RENAISSANCE ART

BAROQUE AND ROCOCO ART

THE 17-18th CENTURY LITERATURE

RENAISSANCE PHILOSOPHY

CLASSICAL MUSIC-The Middle Ages and the Renaissance, The Baroque Era
 

 


Tudor monarchs of England

1. Henry VII Descent from Edward III of England. January 28, 1457 - April 21, 1509 (crowned October 30, 1485)
2. Henry VIII Son of Henry VII June 28, 1491 - January 28, 1547 (crowned June 24, 1509)
3. Edward VI Son of Henry VIII by Jane Seymour October 12, 1537 - July 6, 1553 (crowned February 20, 1547)
4. Jane Great granddaughter of Henry VII Duchess of Suffolk 1537 - February 12, 1554 executed  (never crowned)
5. Mary I Daughter of Henry VIII by Catherine of Aragon February 18, 1516 - November 18, 1558 (crowned October 1, 1553)
6. Elizabeth I Daughter of Henry VIII by Anne Boleyn September 7, 1533 - March 24, 1603 (crowned January 15, 1559)
 

 


England under Henry VII and Henry VIII
 

The first two Tudor rulers ruthlessly expanded the power of the monarchy. England was severed from the ecclesiastical sovereignty of the pope, and opposition in the country was suppressed.

 

In 1485, 2 Henry Tudor, the Lancastrian heir, defeated Richard III from the rival House of York at Bosworth Field and seized the throne as Henry VII.

He ended the War of the Roses by marrying Elizabeth of York, Richard III's niece. With strict economizing and high taxes, he brought the state finances into order. He also centralized jurisdiction in the royal supreme court.

The ascent to the throne of his son 3 Henry VIII in 1509 was greeted at first with enthusiasm.
 


2 Henry VII


3 Henry VIII,
painting by
Hans Holbein the younger








see collection:




Hans Holbein

the younger
 


House of Tudor

English dynasty
Main
an English royal dynasty of Welsh origin, which gave five sovereigns to England: Henry VII (reigned 1485–1509); his son, Henry VIII (1509–47); followed by Henry VIII’s three children, Edward VI (1547–53), Mary I (1553–58), and Elizabeth I (1558–1603).

The origins of the Tudors can be traced to the 13th century, but the family’s dynastic fortunes were established by Owen Tudor (c. 1400–61), a Welsh adventurer who took service with Kings Henry V and Henry VI and fought on the Lancastrian side in the Wars of the Roses; he was beheaded after the Yorkist victory at Mortimer’s Cross (1461). Owen had married Henry V’s Lancastrian widow, Catherine of Valois; and their eldest son, Edmund (c. 1430–56), was created Earl of Richmond by Henry VI and married Margaret Beaufort, the Lady Margaret, who, as great-granddaughter of Edward III’s son John of Gaunt, held a distant claim to the throne, as a Lancastrian. Their only child, Henry Tudor, was born after Edmund’s death. In 1485 Henry led an invasion against the Yorkist king Richard III and defeated him at Bosworth Field. As Henry VII, he claimed the throne by just title of inheritance and by the judgment of God given in battle, and he cemented his claim by marrying Elizabeth, the daughter of Edward IV and heiress of the House of York. The Tudor rose symbolized the union by representing the red rose of the Lancastrians superimposed upon the white rose of the Yorkists.

The Tudor dynasty was marked by Henry VIII’s break with the papacy in Rome (1534) and the beginning of the English Reformation, which, after turns and trials, culminated in the establishment of the Anglican church under Elizabeth I. The period witnessed the high point of the English Renaissance. During Elizabeth’s reign, too, through a generation of wars, Spain and the Irish rebels were beaten, the independence of France and of the Dutch was secure, and the unity of England was assured.

By act of Parliament (1544) and his own will and testament, Henry VIII left the crown to his three children in turn—Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I—and provided that, in the event that they died without issue, the crown would pass to the descendants of his younger sister, Mary, before those of his elder sister, Margaret, widow of James IV of Scotland. During her reign, Elizabeth refused to choose between Edward Seymour, Lord Beauchamp (descendant of Mary) and King James VI of Scotland (descendant of Margaret)—the former being the heir under Henry VIII’s will and act of succession and the latter being the heir by strict hereditary succession. On her deathbed, however, she selected the king of Scotland—who became James I of Great Britain, first of the English House of Stuart.

Encyclopaedia Britannica
 

Initially, his politics were determined by Cardinal 5 Thomas Wolsey, who developed royal centralism and abroad followed a seesaw policy between the Habsburgs and France.

In 1528, Henry decided to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon, the aunt of Charles V, partly because of the lack of a male heir but also because of his love for Anne Boleyn, a lady of the court. Under pressure from the Habsburgs, the pope wouldn't allow the divorce, and the process took years.

During this period, Henry's reign degenerated into tyranny. Cardinal Wolsey was dismissed in 1529 and charged with high treason. Thomas More, Wolsey's successor as lord chancellor, was executed. With the aid of the new, unscrupulous lord chancellor Thomas Cromwell, the king severed the English church from the papacy in 1534, creating an Anglican state church with the king as its head.

Catholic 6 church properties were confiscated or given to nobility, and monasteries were disbanded.



5 Sampson Strong's portrait of Cardinal Wolsey at Christ Church (1526).
   Hampton Court Palace near London, residence of Cardinal Wolsey, later confiscated by Henry VIII during the church reforms
6 Byland Abbey in Yorkshire, former Cistercian abbey, abolished by Henry VIII


After his first divorce, Henry VIII married five more times; two of his 4 wives were executed.

No English king had ever possessed so much personal power, which Henry used to dispose of opposing nobility and adversaries of his church policies.




4 Henry VIII and his wives:

Anne of Cleves,
Kathryn Howard,
Anna Boleyn,
Catherine of Aragon,
Catherine Parr,
Jane Seymour,

lithograph, 19th century near 

 

 

 

Henry VII


Henry VII king of England

king of England
also called (1457–85) Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond
born Jan. 28, 1457, Pembroke Castle, Pembrokeshire, Wales
died April 21, 1509, Richmond, Surrey, Eng.

Main
king of England (1485–1509), who succeeded in ending the Wars of the Roses between the houses of Lancaster and York and founded the Tudor dynasty.

Early life
Henry, son of Edmund Tudor, earl of Richmond, and Margaret Beaufort, was born nearly three months after his father’s death. His father was the son of Owen Tudor, a Welsh squire, and Catherine of France, the widow of King Henry V. His mother was the great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, whose children by Catherine Swynford were born before he married her. Henry IV had confirmed Richard II’s legitimation (1397) of the children of this union but had specifically excluded the Beauforts from any claim to the throne (1407). Henry Tudor’s claim to the throne was, therefore, weak and of no importance until the deaths in 1471 of Henry VI’s only son, Edward, of his own two remaining kinsmen of the Beaufort line, and of Henry VI himself, which suddenly made Henry Tudor the sole surviving male with any ancestral claim to the House of Lancaster.

As his mother was only 14 when he was born and soon married again, Henry was brought up by his uncle Jasper Tudor, earl of Pembroke. When the Lancastrian cause crashed to disaster at the Battle of Tewkesbury (May 1471), Jasper took the boy out of the country and sought refuge in the duchy of Brittany. The House of York then appeared so firmly established that Henry seemed likely to remain in exile for the rest of his life. The usurpation of Richard III (1483), however, split the Yorkist party and gave Henry his opportunity. His first chance came in 1483 when his aid was sought to rally Lancastrians in support of the rebellion of Henry Stafford, duke of Buckingham, but that revolt was defeated before Henry could land in England. To unite the opponents of Richard III, Henry had promised to marry Elizabeth of York, eldest daughter of Edward IV; and the coalition of Yorkists and Lancastrians continued, helped by French support, since Richard III talked of invading France. In 1485 Henry landed at Milford Haven in Wales and advanced toward London. Thanks largely to the desertion of his stepfather, Lord Stanley, to him, he defeated and slew Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth on Aug. 22, 1485. Claiming the throne by just title of inheritance and by the judgment of God in battle, he was crowned on October 30 and secured parliamentary recognition of his title early in November. Having established his claim to be king in his own right, he married Elizabeth of York on Jan. 18, 1486.


Yorkist plots
Henry’s throne, however, was far from secure. Many influential Yorkists had been dispossessed and disappointed by the change of regime, and there had been so many reversals of fortune within living memory that the decision of Bosworth did not appear necessarily final. Yorkist malcontents had strength in the north of England and in Ireland and had a powerful ally in Richard III’s sister Margaret, dowager duchess of Burgundy. All the powers of Europe doubted Henry’s ability to survive, and most were willing to shelter claimants against him. Hence, the King was plagued with conspiracies until nearly the end of his reign.

The first rising, that of Lord Lovell, Richard III’s chamberlain, in 1486 was ill prepared and unimportant; but in 1487 came the much more serious revolt of Lambert Simnel. Claiming to be Edward, earl of Warwick, the son of Richard III’s elder brother, George, duke of Clarence, he had the formidable support of John de la Pole, earl of Lincoln, Richard III’s heir designate, of many Irish chieftains, and of 2,000 German mercenaries paid for by Margaret of Burgundy. The rebels were defeated (June 1487) in a hard-fought battle at Stoke (East Stoke, near Newark in Nottinghamshire), where the doubtful loyalty of some of the royal troops was reminiscent of Richard III’s difficulties at Bosworth. Henry, recognizing that Simnel had been a mere dupe, employed him in the royal kitchens.

Then in 1491 appeared a still more serious menace: Perkin Warbeck, coached by Margaret to impersonate Richard, the younger son of Edward IV. Supported at one time or another by France, by Maximilian I of Austria, regent of the Netherlands (Holy Roman emperor from 1493), by James IV of Scotland, and by powerful men in both Ireland and England, Perkin three times invaded England before he was captured at Beaulieu in Hampshire in 1497. Henry was also worried by the treason of Edmund de la Pole, earl of Suffolk, the eldest surviving son of Edward IV’s sister Elizabeth, who fled to the Netherlands (1499) and was supported by Maximilian. Doubtless the plotters were encouraged by the deaths of Henry’s sons in 1500 and 1502, and of his wife in 1503. It was not until 1506, when he imprisoned Suffolk in the Tower of London, that Henry could at last feel safe. When he died, his only surviving son, Henry VIII, succeeded him without a breath of opposition.


Foreign policy
In the early years of his reign, in a vain attempt to prevent the incorporation of the duchy of Brittany into France, Henry found himself drawn along with Spain and the Holy Roman emperor into a war against France. But he realized that war was a hazardous activity for one whose crown was both impoverished and insecure, and in 1492 he made peace with France on terms that brought him recognition of his dynasty and a handsome pension. Thereafter, French preoccupation with adventures in Italy made peaceful relations possible, but the support that Maximilian and James IV gave to Warbeck led to sharp quarrels with the Netherlands and Scotland. The economic importance of England for the Netherlands enabled Henry to induce Maximilian and the Netherlands to abandon the pretender in 1496 and to conclude a treaty of peace and freer trade (the Intercursus Magnus).

With Scotland the long tradition of hostility was harder to overcome; but Henry eventually succeeded in concluding in 1499 a treaty of peace, followed in 1502 by a treaty for the marriage of James IV to Henry’s daughter Margaret. James’s consent to the match may have been fostered by the arrival in England of Catherine of Aragon for her marriage with Prince Arthur in 1501. Spain had recently sprung into the first rank of European powers, so a marriage alliance with Spain enhanced the prestige of the Tudor dynasty, and the fact that in 1501 the Spanish monarchs allowed the marriage to take place is a tribute to the growing strength of the Tudor regime in the eyes of the European powers.

After Arthur’s death in 1502, Henry was in a strong position to insist on the marriage of Catherine to his surviving son, Henry (later King Henry VIII), since he had possession both of Catherine’s person and of half her dowry, and Spain needed English support against France. Indeed, in these last years of his reign, Henry had gained such confidence in his position that he indulged in some wild schemes of matrimonial diplomacy. But the caution of a lifetime kept him from involvement in war, and his foreign policy as a whole must not be judged by such late aberrations. He had used his diplomacy not only to safeguard the dynasty but to enrich his country, using every opportunity to promote English trade by making commercial treaties. He made his country so prosperous and powerful that he was able to betroth his daughter Mary to the archduke Charles (afterward Emperor Charles V), the greatest match of the age.


Government and administration
In home affairs Henry achieved striking results largely by traditional methods. Like Edward IV, Henry saw that the crown must be able to display both splendour and power when occasion required. This necessitated wealth, which would also free the king from embarrassing dependence on Parliament and creditors. Solvency could be sought by economy in expenditure, such as avoidance of war and promotion of efficiency in administration, and by increasing the revenue. To increase his income from customs dues, Henry tried to encourage exports, protect home industries, help English shipping by the time-honoured method of a navigation act to ensure that English goods were carried in English ships, and find new markets by assisting John Cabot and his sons in their voyages of discovery. More fruitful was the vigorous assertion of royal fiscal rights, such as legal fees, fines and amercements, and feudal dues. This was largely achieved by continuing Yorkist methods in ordering most of the royal revenue to be paid into the chamber of the household, administered by able and energetic servants and supervised by the king himself, instead of into the royal exchequer, hidebound by tradition. So efficient and ruthless were Henry’s financial methods that he left a fortune to his successor and a legacy of hatred for some of his financial ministers.

In restoring order after the civil wars, Henry used more traditional methods than was once thought. Like the Yorkist kings, he made use of a large council, presided over by himself, in which lawyers, clerics, and lesser gentry were active members. Sitting as the Court of Star Chamber, the council dealt with judicial matters, but less than was formerly thought. Nearly all the heavy fines levied for the illegal retaining of armed men toward the end of his reign were imposed in the Court of King’s Bench and by the justices of assize. Special arrangements were made for hearing poor men’s causes in the council and for trying to promote better order in Wales and the North by setting up special councils there; and more powers were entrusted to the justices of the peace. The King, moreover, could not destroy the institution of retainers since he depended on them for much of his army and society regarded them as natural adjuncts of rank. So Henry’s government was conservative, as it was in its relations with Parliament and with the church.


Character
The whole of Henry’s youth had been spent in conditions of adversity, often in danger of betrayal and death, and usually in a state of poverty. These experiences, together with the uncertainties of his reign, taught him to be secretive and wary, to subordinate his passions and affections to calculation and policy, to be always patient and vigilant. There is evidence that he was interested in scholarship, that he could be affable and gracious, and that he disliked bloodshed and severity; but all these emotions had to give way to the needs of survival. The extant portraits and descriptions suggest a tired and anxious-looking man, with small blue eyes, bad teeth, and thin white hair. His experiences and needs had also made him acquisitive, a trait that increased with age and success, and one that was opportune for both the crown and the realm.

Alexander Reginald Myers

Encyclopaedia Britannica

 

 


Woodcut by Ambrosius Holbein
for the 1518 edition
of Thomas More's
"Utopia"

Thomas More

Thomas More, who in 1516 wrote about an ideal state in the novel Utopia, became lord chancellor of England in 1529 after long experience as a member of Parliament.

As he rejected the divorce of the king and the Reformation, he stepped down, but he was still accused by Henry VIII of high treason for refusing to recognize the Act of Supremacy that designated the king as head of the church and beheaded in July 1535. In 1935, the Catholic Church canonized him as a martyr.



Arrest and execution of Thomas More painting, 16th century

see also text:




THOMAS MORE

"Utopia"





 

 

 

Sir Thomas More

English humanist and statesman
also called Saint Thomas More
born February 7, 1478, London, England
died July 6, 1535, London; canonized May 19, 1935; feast day June 22

Main
English humanist and statesman, chancellor of England (1529–32), who was beheaded for refusing to accept King Henry VIII as head of the Church of England. He is recognized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

Early life and career
Thomas—the eldest son of John More, a lawyer who was later knighted and made a judge of the King’s Bench—was educated at one of London’s best schools, St. Anthony’s in Threadneedle Street, and in the household of John Morton, archbishop of Canterbury and chancellor of England. The future cardinal, a shrewd judge of character, predicted that the bright and winsome page would prove to be a “marvellous man.” His interest sent the boy to the University of Oxford, where More seems to have spent two years, mastering Latin and undergoing a thorough drilling in formal logic.

About 1494 his father brought More back to London to study the common law. In February 1496 he was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn, one of the four legal societies preparing for admission to the bar. In 1501 More became an “utter barrister,” a full member of the profession. Thanks to his boundless curiosity and a prodigious capacity for work, he managed, along with the law, to keep up his literary pursuits. He read avidly from Holy Scripture, the Church Fathers, and the classics and tried his hand at all literary genres.

Although bowing to his father’s decision that he should become a lawyer, More was prepared to be disowned rather than disobey God’s will. To test his vocation to the priesthood, he resided for about four years in the Carthusian monastery adjoining Lincoln’s Inn and shared as much of the monks’ way of life as was practicable. Although attracted especially to the Franciscan order, More decided that he would best serve God and his fellowmen as a lay Christian. More, however, never discarded the habits of early rising, prolonged prayer, fasting, and wearing the hair shirt. God remained the centre of his life.

In late 1504 or early 1505, More married Joan Colt, the eldest daughter of an Essex gentleman farmer. She was a competent hostess for non-English visitors, such as the Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus, who was given permanent rooms in the Old Barge on the Thames side in Bucklersbury in the City of London, More’s home for the first two decades of his married life. Erasmus wrote his Praise of Folly while staying there.

The important negotiations More conducted in 1509 on behalf of a number of London companies with the representative of the Antwerp merchants confirmed his competence in trade matters and his gifts as an interpreter and spokesman. From September 1510 to July 1518, when he resigned to be fully in the king’s service, More was one of the two undersheriffs of London, “the pack-horses of the City government.” He endeared himself to the Londoners—as an impartial judge, a disinterested consultant, and “the general patron of the poor.”

More’s domestic idyll came to a brutal end in the summer of 1511 with the death, perhaps in childbirth, of his wife. He was left a widower with four children, and within weeks of his first wife’s death he married Alice Middleton, the widow of a London mercer. She was several years his senior and had a daughter of her own; she did not bear More any children.

More’s History of King Richard III, written in Latin and in English between about 1513 and 1518, is the first masterpiece of English historiography. Though never finished, it influenced succeeding historians. William Shakespeare is indebted to More for his portrait of the tyrant.


The Utopia
In May 1515 More was appointed to a delegation to revise an Anglo-Flemish commercial treaty. The conference was held at Brugge, with long intervals that More used to visit other Belgian cities. He began in the Low Countries and completed after his return to London his Utopia, which was published at Leuven in December 1516. The book was an immediate success with the audience for which More wrote it: the humanists and an elite group of public officials.

Utopia is a Greek name of More’s coining, from ou-topos (“no place”); a pun on eu-topos (“good place”) is suggested in a prefatory poem. More’s Utopia describes a pagan and communist city-state in which the institutions and policies are entirely governed by reason. The order and dignity of such a state provided a notable contrast with the unreasonable polity of Christian Europe, divided by self-interest and greed for power and riches, which More described in Book I, written in England in 1516. The description of Utopia is put in the mouth of a mysterious traveler, Raphael Hythloday, in support of his argument that communism is the only cure against egoism in private and public life. Through dialogue More speaks in favour of the mitigation of evil rather than its cure, human nature being fallible. Among the topics discussed by More in Utopia were penology, state-controlled education, religious pluralism, divorce, euthanasia, and women’s rights. The resulting demonstration of his learning, invention, and wit established his reputation as one of the foremost humanists. Soon translated into most European languages, Utopia became the ancestor of a new literary genre, the utopian romance.


Career as king’s servant
On May 1, 1517, a mob of London apprentices attacked foreign merchants in the city. More’s role in quenching this Evil May Day riot inspired a scene, attributed to Shakespeare, in Sir Thomas More, a composite Elizabethan play. More’s success in the thorny negotiations with the French at Calais and Boulogne (September to December 1517) over suits born of the recent war made it harder for him to dodge royal service. That year he became a member of the king’s council and from October was known as master of requests. He resigned his City office in 1518. While yielding to pressure, he embraced the chance of furthering peace and reform. The lord chancellor, Thomas Wolsey, now looked ready to implement some of the political ideas of the Christian humanists.

Between 1515 and 1520 More campaigned spiritedly for Erasmus’s religious and cultural program—Greek studies as the key to a theology renewed by a return to the Bible and the Church Fathers—in poems commending Erasmus’s New Testament. More’s Latin poems were published in 1518 under one cover between his Utopia and Erasmus’s Epigrammata; they are extremely varied in metre and matter, their main topics being government, women, and death.

Erasmus offered his London friend as a model for the intelligentsia of Europe in letters to the German humanist Ulrich von Hutten (1519); the Paris scholar Germain de Brie (1520), with whom More had just engaged in a polemic; and Guillaume Budé, whom More had met in June 1520 at the Field of Cloth of Gold, the meeting ground, near Calais, between Henry VIII and Francis I. According to Erasmus, simplicity was More’s mark in food and dress. He shrank from nothing that imparted an innocent pleasure, even of a bodily kind. He had a speaker’s voice and a memory that served him well for extempore rejoinders. “Born for friendship,” he could extract delight from the dullest people or things. His family affections were warm yet unobtrusive. He gave freely and gladly, expecting no thanks. Amid his intense professional activity, he found hours for prayer and for supervising his domestic school. Most of his charges were girls, to whom he provided the most refined Classical and Christian education.

In 1520 and 1521 More took part in talks, at Calais and Brugge, with the emperor Charles V and with the Hansa merchants. In 1521 he was made undertreasurer and knighted. His daughter Margaret married William Roper, a lawyer. For Henry VIII’s Defense of the Seven Sacraments, More acted as “a sorter out and placer of the principal matters.” When Martin Luther hit back, More vindicated the king in a learned, though scurrilous, Responsio ad Lutherum (1523). In addition to his routine duties at the Exchequer, More served throughout these years as “Henry’s intellectual courtier,” secretary, and confidant. He welcomed foreign envoys, delivered official speeches, drafted treaties, read the dispatches exchanged between the king and Wolsey, and answered in the king’s name. Often he rode posthaste between the cardinal’s headquarters at Westminster and Henry’s various hunting residences. In April 1523 More was elected speaker of the House of Commons; while loyally striving to secure the government’s ends, he made a plea for truer freedom of speech in Parliament. The universities—Oxford in 1524, Cambridge in 1525—made him their high steward.

By 1524 More had moved to Chelsea. The Great House he built there bore the stamp of his philosophy, its gallery, chapel, and library all geared toward studious and prayerful seclusion. In 1525 he was promoted to chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, which put a large portion of northern England under his judiciary and administrative control.

On More’s return from an embassy to France in the summer of 1527, Henry VIII “laid the Bible open before him” as proof that his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, who had failed to produce a male heir, was void, even incestuous, because of her previous marriage to Henry’s late brother. More tried in vain to share the king’s scruples, but long study confirmed his view that Catherine was the king’s true wife. After being commissioned in March 1528 by Bishop Tunstall of London to read all heretical writings in the English language in order to refute them for the sake of the unlearned, More published seven books of polemics between 1529 and 1533—the first and best being A Dialogue Concerning Heresies.


Years as chancellor of England
Together with Tunstall, More attended the congress of Cambrai at which peace was made between France and the Holy Roman Empire in 1529. Though the Treaty of Cambrai represented a rebuff to England and, more particularly, a devastating reverse for Cardinal Wolsey’s policies, More managed to secure the inclusion of his country in the treaty and the settlement of mutual debts. When Wolsey fell from power, having failed in his foreign policy and in his efforts to procure the annulment of the king’s marriage to Catherine, More succeeded him as lord chancellor on October 26, 1529.

On November 3, 1529, More opened the Parliament that was later to forge the legal instruments for his death. As the king’s mouthpiece, More indicted Wolsey in his opening speech and, in 1531, proclaimed the opinions of universities favourable to the divorce; but he did not sign the letter of 1530 in which England’s nobles and prelates, including Wolsey, pressured the pope to declare the first marriage void, and he tried to resign in 1531, when the clergy acknowledged the king as their supreme head, albeit with the clause “as far as the law of Christ allows.”

More’s longest book, The Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer, in two volumes (1532 and 1533), centres on “what the church is.” To the stress of stooping for hours over his manuscript More ascribed the sharp pain in his chest, perhaps angina, which he invoked when begging Henry to free him from the yoke of office. This was on May 16, 1532, the day when the governing body (synod) of the church in England delivered to the crown the document by which they promised never to legislate or so much as convene without royal assent, thus placing a layperson at the head of the spiritual order.

More meanwhile continued his campaign for the old faith, defending England’s antiheresy laws and his own handling of heretics, both as magistrate and as writer, in two books of 1533: the Apology and the Debellacyon. He also laughs away the accusation of greed leveled by William Tyndale, translator of parts of the first printed English Bible. More’s poverty was so notorious that the hierarchy collected £5,000 to recoup his polemical costs, but he refused this grant lest it be construed as a bribe.


Indictment, trial, and execution
More’s refusal to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn, whom Henry married after his divorce from Catherine in 1533, marked him out for vengeance. Several charges of accepting bribes recoiled on the heads of his accusers. In February 1534 More was included in a bill of attainder for alleged complicity with Elizabeth Barton, who had uttered prophecies against Henry’s divorce, but he produced a letter in which he had warned the nun against meddling in affairs of state. He was summoned to appear before royal commissioners on April 13 to assent under oath to the Act of Succession, which declared the king’s marriage with Catherine void and that with Anne valid. This More was willing to do, acknowledging that Anne was in fact anointed queen. But he refused the oath as then administered because it entailed a repudiation of papal supremacy. On April 17, 1534, he was imprisoned in the Tower. More welcomed prison life. But for his family responsibilities, he would have chosen for himself “as strait a room and straiter too,” as he said to his daughter Margaret, who after some time took the oath and was then allowed to visit him. In prison, More wrote A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation, a masterpiece of Christian wisdom and of literature.

His trial took place on July 1, 1535. Richard Rich, the solicitor general, a creature of Thomas Cromwell, the unacknowledged head of the government, testified that the prisoner had, in his presence, denied the king’s title as supreme head of the Church of England. Despite More’s scathing denial of this perjured evidence, the jury’s unanimous verdict was “guilty.” Before the sentence was pronounced, More spoke “in discharge of his conscience.” The unity of the church was the main motive of his martyrdom. His second objection was that “no temporal man may be head of the spirituality.” Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, to which he also referred as the cause for which they “sought his blood,” had been the occasion for the assaults on the church: among his judges were the new queen’s father, brother, and uncle.

More was sentenced to the traitor’s death—“to be drawn, hanged, and quartered”—which the king changed to beheading. During five days of suspense, More prepared his soul to meet “the great spouse” and wrote a beautiful prayer and several letters of farewell. He walked to the scaffold on Tower Hill. “See me safe up,” he said to the lieutenant, “and for my coming down let me shift for myself.” He told the onlookers to witness that he was dying “in the faith and for the faith of the Catholic Church, the king’s good servant and God’s first.” He altered the ritual by blindfolding himself, playing “a part of his own” even on this awful stage.

The news of More’s death shocked Europe. Erasmus mourned the man he had so often praised, “whose soul was more pure than any snow, whose genius was such that England never had and never again will have its like.” The official image of More as a traitor did not gain credence even in Protestant lands.


Assessment
Though the triumph of Anglicanism brought about a certain eclipse of Thomas More, the publication of the state papers restored a fuller and truer picture of More, preparing public opinion for his beatification (1886). He was canonized by Pius XI in May 1935. Though the man is greater than the writer and though nothing in his life “became him like the leaving of it,” his “golden little book” Utopia has earned him greater fame than the crown of martyrdom or the million words of his English works.

Erasmus’s phrase describing More as omnium horarum homo was rendered later as “a man for all seasons” and was given currency by Robert Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons (1960). Monuments to More have been placed in Westminster Hall, the Tower of London, and the Chelsea Embankment, all in London. In the words of the English Catholic apologist G.K. Chesterton, More “may come to be counted the greatest Englishman, or at least the greatest historical character in English History.”

The Rev. Germain P. Marc’hadour

Encyclopaedia Britannica
 

 


Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein the younger

 


Study for a portrait of Thomas More's family, c. 1527, by Hans Holbein the Younger

 


Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein the younger

 


Painting of More and his Family from the Holbein Sketch
Sir Thomas More, his father, his household and his descendants by Rowland Lockey,
after
Hans Holbein the younger

 


Sir Thomas More's Farewell to his Daughter (Edward Matthew Ward, English, 1816-1879)

 

 

 

Henry VIII


Henry VIII, painting by Hans Holbein the younger, c. 1536


king of England

born , June 28, 1491, Greenwich, near London, Eng.
died Jan. 28, 1547, London

Main
king of England (1509–47) who presided over the beginnings of the English Renaissance and the English Reformation. His six wives were, successively, Catherine of Aragon (the mother of the future queen Mary I), Anne Boleyn (the mother of the future queen Elizabeth I), Jane Seymour (the mother of Henry’s successor, Edward VI), Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr.

Accession to the throne
Henry was the second son of Henry VII, first of the Tudor line, and Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV, first king of the short-lived line of York. When his elder brother, Arthur, died in 1502, Henry became the heir to the throne; of all the Tudor monarchs, he alone spent his childhood in calm expectation of the crown, which helped give an assurance of majesty and righteousness to his willful, ebullient character. He excelled in book learning as well as in the physical exercises of an aristocratic society, and, when in 1509 he ascended the throne, great things were expected of him. Six feet tall, powerfully built, and a tireless athlete, huntsman, and dancer, he promised England the joys of spring after the long winter of Henry VII’s reign.

Henry and his ministers exploited the dislike inspired by his father’s energetic pursuit of royal rights by sacrificing, without a thought, some of the unpopular institutions and some of the men that had served his predecessor. Yet the unpopular means for governing the realm soon reappeared because they were necessary. Soon after his accession, Henry married Catherine of Aragon, Arthur’s widow, and the attendant lavish entertainments ate into the modest royal reserves.

More serious was Henry’s determination to engage in military adventure. Europe was being kept on the boil by rivalries between the French and Spanish kingdoms, mostly over Italian claims; and, against the advice of his older councillors, Henry in 1512 joined his father-in-law, Ferdinand II of Aragon, against France and ostensibly in support of a threatened pope, to whom the devout king for a long time paid almost slavish respect.

Henry himself displayed no military talent, but a real victory was won by the earl of Surrey at Flodden (1513) against a Scottish invasion. Despite the obvious pointlessness of the fighting, the appearance of success was popular. Moreover, in Thomas Wolsey, who organized his first campaign in France, Henry discovered his first outstanding minister. By 1515 Wolsey was archbishop of York, lord chancellor of England, and a cardinal of the church; more important, he was the king’s good friend, to whom was gladly left the active conduct of affairs. Henry never altogether abandoned the positive tasks of kingship and often interfered in business; though the world might think that England was ruled by the cardinal, the king himself knew that he possessed perfect control any time he cared to assert it, and Wolsey only rarely mistook the world’s opinion for the right one.

Nevertheless, the years from 1515 to 1527 were marked by Wolsey’s ascendancy, and his initiatives set the scene. The cardinal had some occasional ambition for the papal tiara, and this Henry supported; Wolsey at Rome would have been a powerful card in English hands. In fact, there was never any chance of this happening, any more than there was of Henry’s election to the imperial crown, briefly mooted in 1519 when the emperor Maximilian I died, to be succeeded by his grandson Charles V. That event altered the European situation. In Charles, the crowns of Spain, Burgundy (with the Netherlands), and Austria were united in an overwhelming complex of power that reduced all the dynasties of Europe, with the exception of France, to an inferior position. From 1521, Henry became an outpost of Charles V’s imperial power, which at Pavia (1525), for the moment, destroyed the rival power of France. Wolsey’s attempt to reverse alliances at this unpropitious moment brought reprisals against the vital English cloth trade with the Netherlands and lost the advantages that alliance with the victor of Pavia might have had. It provoked a serious reaction in England, and Henry concluded that Wolsey’s usefulness might be coming to an end.


Loss of popularity
While the greatness of England in Europe was being shown up as a sham, the regime was also losing popularity at home. The fanciful expectations of the early days could not, of course, endure; some measure of reality was bound to intrude. As it was, journalists and writers continued to be full of hope for a king who, from 1517, commanded the services of a new councillor, Sir Thomas More, one of the outstanding minds of the day. But More soon discovered that Henry found it easy to keep his enjoyment of learned conversation apart from the conduct of policy. Nothing for the moment could dent Wolsey’s strength, and this had serious drawbacks for the king, who supported him. The country was showing increasing signs of its discontent, and Wolsey’s efforts to remedy grievances only exasperated men of influence without bringing satisfaction to the poor. Feelings came to the boil in the years 1523–24. Although he disliked parliaments, Wolsey had to agree to the calling of one in 1523, but the taxes voted were well below what was required. Next year, the attempt to levy a special tax led to such fierce resistance that Henry rescinded it, he and the cardinal both trying to take the credit for the remission of what they had been jointly responsible for imposing. While he had Wolsey to take the blame, Henry could afford such fiascoes; the cardinal could not. By 1527 a government policy that, though seemingly Wolsey’s, was really the king’s was facing bankruptcy; ineffective abroad, unpopular at home, it made the regime look as empty of positive purpose as in fact it was.

At this point, the king entered affairs unmistakably and spectacularly. Among his failures so far had been his or Catherine’s inability to provide a male heir to the throne; several stillbirths and early deaths had left only a girl, the princess Mary (born in 1516), to carry on the line, and no one relished the thought of a female succession with all the dynastic and political uncertainties it would bring. Being the man he was, Henry could not suppose the fault to be his. His rapidly growing aversion to Catherine was augmented by his infatuation with one of the ladies of the court, Anne Boleyn, the sister of one of his earlier mistresses. Henry was no profligate; indeed, he had a strong streak of prudery, but he sought the occasional relief from marriage to a worthy but ailing wife to which princes have generally been held entitled. In Anne he met his match; this 20-year-old girl, brought up in a tough school of courtly intrigue, would be more than a king’s mistress. It took Henry, who in any case needed to marry her if the expected issue was to solve the succession problem, some six years to achieve their joint purpose. Inadvertently, he provoked a revolution.

From 1527 Henry pursued what became known as “the King’s great matter”: his divorce from Catherine. He convinced himself that his first marriage had been against the divine law; that is, against the biblical injunction (Lev.) forbidding marriage with a brother’s widow. The deaths of the children proved God’s judgment on the union. With his characteristic readiness to convert his own desires into the law of God, Henry rapidly assured himself that he was living in mortal sin with Catherine and had to find relief if he was again to become acceptable to God. He appealed to Rome for a declaration of annulment. Popes had usually obliged kings in such matters, but Henry had picked both his time and his case badly. He was asking Pope Clement VII to help him discard the emperor’s aunt, but Clement, the emperor’s prisoner in 1527–28, never thereafter dared resist Charles, whose powerful feelings of familial honour and public prestige barred any concession to Henry’s wishes. Moreover, the pope’s reluctance was increased by the fact that he was being asked to declare illegal an earlier exercise of papal power—which had licensed Henry’s marriage to his brother’s widow—of a kind that brought a good deal of money to the papal coffers.

Thus, Henry’s attempts to solve his dilemma in the accepted legal way were doomed from the start. Wolsey, in a worse dilemma, since only success in the impossible could keep him in power, obtained a trial of the case in England, but this was frustrated by his fellow judge, Cardinal Campeggio, on orders from Rome (1529). Within weeks, Wolsey was ousted, but his disappearance solved nothing, and the councillors who succeeded him could offer little help to their king, who knew only what he wanted, not how to get it.

The chancellorship went to Thomas More, who had told Henry that he did not approve of the divorce and who wished to devote himself to a fight against Lutheran heresy. Confusion was the keynote of policy for some three years while the king dithered between hope that Rome might yet be forced to let the formal trial of his first marriage take place in England and stirrings of a more radical nature—to reject Rome outright. But, though he occasionally talked of doing just that, neither he nor anyone else knew how to convert talk into action.


The breach with Rome
Action called for a revolution, and the revolution required a man who could conceive and execute it. That man was Thomas Cromwell, who, in April 1532, won control of the council and thereafter remained in command for some eight years. The revolution consisted of the decision that the English church should separate from Rome, becoming effectively a spiritual department of state under the rule of the king as God’s deputy on earth. The revolution that he had not intended gave the king his wish: in January 1533 he married Anne Boleyn; in May a new archbishop, Thomas Cranmer, presided over the formality of a trial that declared the first marriage annulled; in September the princess Elizabeth was born. The pope retaliated with a sentence of excommunication; it troubled no one.

The supreme headship on earth over the Church of England, though he had not sought it, represented Henry’s major achievement. It had very wide-ranging consequences, but those that immediately concerned the king were two. In the first place, the new title consolidated his own concept of kingship, his conviction that (as he once said) he had no superior on earth. It rounded off the majestic image of divinely instituted royal rule that it was Henry’s constant ambition to present to an awed and obedient world. But, in the second place, it created a real personal problem for the king: earlier, in his book Assertio septem sacramentorum adversus Martinum Lutherum (1521), he had attacked Luther and had expressed a profound devotion to the papacy and had been rewarded with the title of Defender of the Faith. Now he had turned against the pope; his act was equal to encouraging the Protestant Reformation, a thing attractive to Cranmer and Cromwell (and perhaps Anne Boleyn) but not to Henry, who despised Luther. The religion of the newly independent church was for its head to settle: for the rest of his life, Henry, who prided himself on his theological learnings, was to give much time and thought to the nature of the true religion. With the exception of the papal primacy, he never gave up the main tenets of the faith in which he had grown up, but he changed his mind on details and arrived at an amalgam of his own in which transubstantiation and clerical celibacy mingled with radical views about the worldly authority of the church and man’s ability to seek salvation without the aid of priests.


Domestic reforms
Cromwell’s decade, the 1530s, was the only period of the reign during which a coherent body of policies was purposefully carried through. Cromwell’s work greatly enlarged Henry’s power, especially by transferring to the crown the wealth of the monasteries, dissolved in 1536–40, and new clerical taxes; but it also, more explicitly than ever, subjected the king to the law and to the legislative supremacy of Parliament. Since Henry knew how to work with parliaments, the immediate effect was to make him appear more dominant than ever and to give to his reign a spurious air of autocracy—spurious because in fact the rule of law remained to control the sovereign’s mere will. The appearance of autocracy was misleadingly emphasized by the fact that all revolutions have their victims. As heads rolled, the king’s earlier reputation as a champion of light and learning was permanently buried under his enduring fame as a man of blood. Old friends such as More, refusing to accept the new order, fell before the onslaught, as did some 50 other men caught by the treason laws. Between 1538 and 1541 the families of Pole and Courtenay were destroyed by the axe for treasons linked with efforts abroad to reverse the course of events in England but mainly because they could claim royal blood and represented a dynastic danger to the unprolific Tudor line.

The king now embarked on the series of matrimonial adventures that made him appear both a monster and a laughingstock. He soon tired of Anne, who failed to produce a male heir; in 1536 she was executed, with other members of the court, for alleged treasonable adultery. Catherine of Aragon, rejected but unbowed, had died a little earlier. Henry immediately married Jane Seymour, who bore him his son Edward but died in childbirth (1537). The next three years were filled with attempts to replace her, and the bride chosen was Anne, sister of the duke of Cleves, a pawn in Cromwell’s policy for a northern European alliance against dangers from France and the Emperor. But Henry hated the first sight of her and at once demanded his freedom, an end achieved by a quick divorce.


Physical and mental decline
The Cleves fiasco destroyed Cromwell; it enabled his many enemies to turn the king against him, and in July 1540 his head fell on the scaffold. Henry had by now become truly dangerous: always secretive and suspicious, now he was beginning to show paranoiac tendencies. Convinced that he controlled everyone, he was in fact readily manipulated by those who knew how to feed his suspicions and pander to his self-righteousness. Full of experience—the oldest king in Europe—and increasingly competent in the routine of rule, he lacked the comprehensive vision and large spirit that would have made him a great man. His temperamental deficiencies were aggravated by what he regarded as his undeserved misfortunes and by ill health; he grew enormously fat. His mind did not weaken, but he grew restless, peevish, and totally unpredictable; often melancholy and depressed, he was usually out of sorts and always out of patience. In 1540–42 he briefly renewed his youth in marriage to the 20-year-old Catherine Howard, whose folly in continuing her promiscuity, even as queen, brought her to the block. The blow finished Henry. Thereafter, he was really a sad and bitter old man, and, though he married once more, to find a measure of peace with the calm and obedient Catherine Parr, his physical ruin was complete.

But he was still the king and, from Cromwell’s fall (which he regretted too late), the only maker of policy. Policy in the hands of a sick, unhappy, violent man was not likely to be either sensible or prosperous, and so it proved. Left to himself, Henry concentrated on keeping the realm united, despite the growing strife between the religious factions, and on keeping before the world his own image as the glorious monarch of the age. The first resulted in frequent explosions against the ingratitude of his subjects and against his councillors. The second brought him back to his first love—war and conquest, the sport of kings.

In 1542 the emperor and the king of France resumed hostilities. After a pretense of independence, Henry again joined the former; the Scots promptly joined the French. The Scots were routed at Solway Moss (1542), and their king died soon after: this opened the possibility of subjugating that country permanently by means of a marriage alliance between the infant heirs to the two thrones. But the Scottish dream quickly collapsed as Henry’s crude handling of that nation gave control to a pro-French party, determined to resist even an alliance with England; physical conquest was beyond the king’s means. Henry personally managed both the war and the subsequent negotiations, and he displayed amazing energy for so sick a man. But energy is not the same thing as competence. The war proved ruinous. Money had to be raised by selling off the monastic lands, which had brought a good income; the desperate expedient of debasing the coinage, though it brought temporary succour, led to a violent inflation that made things worse. Yet, even after the emperor made peace with France (1544), Henry would not let go until two years later.

As the year 1546 drew to a close, it was apparent to all observers that the king had not long to live. Not that it was clear to the man most concerned; he continued as before, lamenting religious dissension, attending to the business of government, continuing the pretense of deathless majesty, destroying the powerful Howard family, whom he suspected of plotting to control his successor. Conscious almost to the very end, he died on Jan. 28, 1547. He left the realm feeling bereft and the government the more bewildered because, to the last, he had refused to make full arrangements for the rule of a boy king.


Assessment
As king of England from 1509 to 1547, Henry VIII presided over the beginnings of the English Reformation, which was unleashed by his own matrimonial involvements, even though he never abandoned the fundamentals of the Roman Catholic faith. Though exceptionally well served by a succession of brilliant ministers, Henry turned upon them all; those he elevated, he invariably cast down again. He was attracted to humanist learning and was something of an intellectual himself, but he was responsible for the deaths of the outstanding English humanists of the day. Though six times married, he left a minor heir and a dangerously complicated succession problem. Of his six wives, two joined a large tally of eminent persons executed for alleged treason; yet otherwise his regime observed the law of the land with painful particularity. Formidable in appearance, in memory, and in mind, and fearsome of temper, he yet attracted genuine devotion and knew how to charm people. Monstrously egotistical and surrounded by adulation, he nevertheless kept a reasonable grasp on the possible; forever taking false steps in politics, he emerged essentially unbeaten and superficially successful in nearly everything he attempted to do.

Henry VIII has always seemed the very embodiment of true monarchy. Even his evil deeds, never forgotten, have been somehow amalgamated into a memory of greatness. He gave his nation what it wanted: a visible symbol of its nationhood. He also had done something toward giving it a better government, a useful navy, a start on religious reform and social improvement. But he was not a great man in any sense. Although a leader in every fibre of his being, he little understood where he was leading his nation. But, if he was neither statesman nor prophet, he also was neither the blood-stained monster of one tradition nor the rowdy bon vivant of another. Though cold, self-centred, ungiving, forever suspicious of the ways of the world, he could not descend to the second stereotype; despite a ruthlessness fed by self-righteousness, he never took the pleasure in killing required of the first. Simply, he never understood why the life of so well-meaning a man should have been beset by so many unmerited troubles.

Sir Geoffrey R. Elton


Encyclopaedia Britannica
 

 


Henry VIII, by Hans Holbein the younger

 


Painting depicting the family of Henry VIII of England, ca. 1545, currently on display at Hampton Court Palace.
Left to Right: 'Mother Jak', Princess Mary, Prince Edward, Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, Princess Elizabeth and William Sommers.

 


The Family of Henry VIII, now at Hampton Court Palace, c. 1545 (detail)
Left to Right: Prince Edward, Henry VIII, Jane Seymour

 

 

Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

 
| privacy