Thursday, May 2, 2013

MM Mini View: Kings of England (Part VI)

The Tudors

King Henry VII: The Wars of the Roses that had stagnated and bled England for years finally came to an end with Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty. My impression of Henry VII was that of a not terribly pleasant man, not someone very flashy or inspirational but a very cautious, shrewd and talented national leader. The stability he brought was welcome though he seems to have been a bit of a control freak which opened the door for some problems but he was basically a competent and successful monarch, keeping the country on an even keel, providing for the succession and securing a marriage alliance with the emerging super-power of Spain. He was rather cold and miserly but given his life it is not surprising that he was a rather hard-nosed, unemotional sort of man who kept his eye on the prize and the bottom line. Neither great nor terrible he was a pretty solid monarch.

King Henry VIII: Oh, what a waste! One of the worst things about all of the chaos caused by Henry VIII was how unnecessary it all was. He changed the religion of a country and cut a woman’s head off just to have a son and as it turned out his most famous offspring was his youngest daughter. Henry VIII was like the schoolboy captain of the football team, fawned over in his youth and then a fat disgrace in middle age. His religious tinkering set England on the path for many, many years of turmoil and it seems so useless as he was never really a Protestant. He had great qualities, being quite the dashing warrior-king in his youth, presiding over some great achievements and he was quite intelligent and took his duties seriously. But he was also vindictive, paranoid, cruel and possibly the most selfish man to ever sit on the English throne. I approve of some of his foreign policies but by the time it was over he had undone most of the good he ever did and was just not a good man. Not one of the good ones to be sure. Others were worse in their own time but Henry gets extra demerits for setting the stage for future disasters.

King Edward VI: The boy king, or “God’s Imp” as someone called him, there is not much I can say about Edward VI because he never had a chance to prove himself and the fanaticism he displayed was the result of the guardians who raised him. In his personal dealings with people he seems to have been a sweet boy. He was certainly very gifted, extremely intelligent and might have made an exceptional monarch were he given the chance. If the religious zealotry instilled in him had remained he might have turned out to be terribly harsh and done Protestantism more harm than good, which is odd given that his mother was nothing like that. So, it was definitely environmental rather than genetic.

Queen Mary I: No other English monarch has received more bad press than “Bloody Mary”. Protestants despise her and even most Catholics consider her to have done the Church of Rome more harm than good. Nonetheless, I will always defend Queen Mary, truth be told, she was nowhere near that bad. In fact, she was quite a kind woman, compassionate, generous to the poor and very fond of children. Despite what the xenophobes claim, her marriage alliance with Spain was a smart move and while she will always be known for having 300 Protestants burned alive, she didn’t turn nasty until people started turning against her. Initially, she was prepared to forgive and forget and she actually had fewer people executed than her father or more popular sister did. Many burned for heresy could have been executed for treason anyway. For me, the biggest point to remember is that she never inflicted anything on others that she would not have endured herself. She was not, like her father, executing people just for not going along with her but because she truly believed that Catholicism was the only true faith and anything else was dangerous and even under great pressure from her father and brother she never renounced her Catholicism for the sake of convenience. Her zeal was genuine.

Queen Elizabeth I: Not one of my favorites, I must admit. Still, I will give credit where credit is due. “Good Queen Bess” was a public relations genius and totally brilliant when it came to promoting the public image of herself and the monarchy. She presided over some great cultural and political achievements but, all that being said, though I was once a fervent admirer back in my frivolous college days, I cannot say many good things about her. She failed to marry and secure the succession (a dereliction of duty in my view), she supported republican rebels in Holland fighting against their lawful sovereign, supported rebels in France and most outrageously, signed the death warrant for a fellow monarch. Yes, she agonized over it, but she still did it (she wasn’t a very decisive leader at all) and in my book that is unforgivable. Her religious persecutions seem worse to me than those of her sister because, as a Protestant historian said of her, she was both “intolerant and indifferent”. She changed her religion depending on who was in power at the moment and yet, when her turn came, put people to death for having stronger principles than she did. I know many consider it an unpardonable sin not to love Queen Elizabeth I, but I cannot, though I will readily admit that her “image” was certainly glorious.


  1. As a graduate student, I'm pleased to say that I listened to a presentation from a fellow student last night defending Mary. I think that your point about being principled is really the crucial one. We'll never know for sure, but I suspect that Mary might have willingly gone to her own death for the Catholic cause.

    I also agree about Elizabeth. I'm a hardcare Anglophile, so I would like to love her as much as the modern-day English do, but I just can't quite bring myself. She always seems petulant (though perhaps that's just the image from the Cate Blanchett movie) and she gave the Church one too many martyred saints.

  2. Remember that QE life was basically one and ruined by religious persecution. the only mother she ever really knew (Katherine Parr), is almost killed because of it kama her step sister when she was close with her when she was younger saw her mother persecuted and how did to death over it, Mary pounded her about turning to Catholicism she imprisoned her. He had to change her religion in order to survive. no wonder she was nonchalant about religion.

    Queen Mary's biggest problem - other than your obsession with King Philip - was the loss of Calais . Mary was ill equipped to be queen she should have been a great mother and helpmate, but her father denied her that opportunity.

    Henry VII couldn't have been that much of a cold fish, unless is gorgeous wife was. Because they were very very close. and he never cheated on her, rare in that day and age.

    1. And Mary was not "pounded" about turning to Protestantism? I could list the years and years of ill-treatment and threats of death she received -if I thought it would do any good. And it is not that Elizabeth I was simply "nonchalant about religion" it was that she seemed nonchalant about it and yet had people beheaded or crushed to death for it at the same time. As for King Philip, it sounds like you have the obsession with him, I never even mentioned him but the historical record is clear that he was no villain in England and urged Queen Mary to be more merciful and tolerant.

      As for Henry VII, I obviously was not speaking about his marriage but overall he was a man ruled by his wits and not his emotions. He had a 10-year-old boy put in the Tower and when you see how he treated Catherine of Aragon, he was obviously a man who could be quite cold.

    2. First, I want to apologize for my phone & typing too fast on it.

      "Pounded" was supposed to be "hounded", as was "how did". And my comma's are coming over as "kama" or "karma".

      I do agree that Queen Elizabeth killed & persecuted more Catholics. Queen Mary should've realized after her subjects refused to convert back that she was only making it worse by digging in her heels & having big public bonfires & trials. That doesn't excuse Queen Elizabeth at all.

      I do, however, firmly agree that Mary should've never been Queen in her own right. She did not have the stamina and she was too obsessed with Prince Phillip. She would've made a great Queen Consort.

      And you are correct on King Henry VII. He was PERCEIVED as a cold man to many others. Possibly related to his overbearing mother & his precarious childhood. Which is probably why he still is not considered a popular king in England today, when he should be, considering all that he accomplished (& his son wasted away).

  3. I know I'm super late with this, but do you dislike Henry VII for overthrowing Richard III? I do.


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