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1500-1600

The Tudors: Henry VIII gets his portrait painted, England changes religion (twice) and Shakespeare starts writing plays

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1500: Wynkyn de Worde's new press

Worde was an assistant to printing innovator Caxton and continued his good work, establishing his new press in Fleet Street. His catalogue of works include all the important literary works of the decade.

1509: Henry VII succeeded by Henry VIII

Henry's succession and relatively long reign established the Tudor dynasty firmly as the ruling family of England.

c.1509-1519: Everyman first performed

The finest example of a Medieval morality play, Everyman is summoned by Death and finds the only friend who will stay with him is Good Deeds.

09 Sep 1513: Battle of Flodden

Taking advantage of the fact that the English were busy fighting in France, the Scottish Army invaded England under James IV (with French assistance). The Scots are thoroughly defeated at this battle, with almost 10,000 of their number, including the King, lying dead on the battlefield. The most famous battle to take place in Northumbria.

1515: Hampton Court re-modelled

Thomas Wolsey is made Archbishop of York in 1514 and begins re-modelling Hampton Court the following year. The aim is to turn it into one of the most modern and magnificent palaces in England, fit for a man of his status. By the time the palace was finished in about 1540 he had long since been ousted by Henry VIII who had decided he would rather like to live there himself!

The King James Bible

1516: Sir Thomas More publishes Utopia

Utopia literally means "no place" but this word was invented by More as the name of the ideal state and form of government he describes in this book

11 Oct 1521: Henry is made Defender of the Faith

After Martin Luther had nailed his "95 Theses" to a church door in Wittenberg, the tide of religious reformation swept across Europe. England rejected Luther's ideas and in recognition for this support, the Pope awarded Henry VIII with the title Defender of the Faith (fidei defensor). Ironically it was only 13 years later that Henry made his break with Rome and founded the Church of England. English monarchs still hold this title and the initials FD are still found on our coins.

1525: Portrait Of A Grotesque Old Woman

This portrait by Dutch artist Quinten Massys is in the National Gallery and inspired Tenniel's portrayal of the Duchess in Alice's Adventures In Wonderland.

Alice In Wonderland

1525: Tyndale's New Testament

William Tyndale was responsible for the first printed edition of New Testament in English. It was seen as heresy by the Church and mere possession of this translation was liable to get you burned at the stake (as Tyndale himself was in 1536).

The King James Bible

1526: Holbein in England the first time

On his first visit to England, Holbein finds himself on the fringes of the Royal Court but gets commissioned for portraits of Sir Thomas More and his family.

Holbein's Henry VIII

c.1527: Greensleeves song becomes popular

Legend has it that Henry VIII writes Greensleeves while courting Anne Boleyn

Holbein's Henry VIII

17 Apr 1534: More refuses the oath of succession

Sir Thomas More denies to take the oath of succession which would demonstrate his agreement that Elizabeth, daughter of Henry's second wife, is the only legitimate successor to the English throne. More's principled stand got him executed for treason. Robert Bolt's famous play, A Man for All Seasons, dramatises these events.

17 Nov 1534: Act of Supremacy passed

This Act declared Henry VIII the supreme head of the Church in England, breaking away from Roman Catholicism which recognised the overall authority of the Pope. The relationship between the Crown, Church and State continued to be developed and debated for hundreds of years.

The King James Bible

1535: Coverdale's Old Testament

Miles Coverdale produces an English translation from German and Latin of the Old Testament.

The King James Bible

18 Mar 1536: Act of Suppression

This Act begins the Dissolution of the Monasteries in which thousands of religious buildings and works of art were destroyed.

14 Apr 1536: Wales incorporated into England

The English Parliament decrees that Wales is now to be run with the same laws and administration as England. Seven new counties are established and English is made the official language of administration and daily use.

1537: Holbein's portrait of Henry VIII

Holbein paints this famous portrait of Henry, his wife Jane Seymour and his mother and father. It is painted as a mural on the wall of Henry's privy chamber in the Palace of Whitehall

Holbein's Henry VIII

1537: Matthew-Tyndale Bible

This is the first complete English version of the Bible translated directly from the original Hebrew and Greek texts. It is therefore much closer to the original in terms of meaning, so had a huge impact on the way the Church and the potential corruptions of its teachings were regarded. It is known as the Matthew-Tyndale Bible because is was the combined work of Tyndale and John Rogers, working under the pseudonym of Thomas Matthew.

The King James Bible

1539: The Great Bible commissioned

At the behest of Henry VIII, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, commissioned this edition from Miles Coverdale. It was the first Bible to be authorised for public use and was distributed to every church in the country. It got its name because of its enormous size (over 14in tall). Having declared himself independent of the Pope in Rome, Henry's authorisation of this Bible in English was just another way of proving it. Each copy cost 10 shillings (12 shillings bound) and 20,000 were run off.

The King James Bible

18 Jun 1541: Henry VIII made King of Ireland

The Irish Parliament proclaims Henry as the official king and Head of the Irish Church. This is the first move towards a unified country ruled from Dublin but England has little power in the short term.

1543: Holbein dies

Holbein dies of the plague in the summer, leaving a final work depicting Henry presenting a charter to the Barber Surgeons' Company unfinished. The role of court artist passes to Flemish painter Hans Eworth.

Holbein's Henry VIII

20 Jul 1545: Mary Rose sinks in the Solent

The Mary Rose was Henry VIII's flagship so her sinking during a French raid on Portsmouth was an embarrassment as well as a tragedy (500 lives were lost). Henry made peace with France after this incident. The Mary Rose was raised from the bottom of the Solent in 1982.

28 Jan 1547: Henry VIII succeeded by Edward VI

Edward was Henry's son by his third wife, Jane Seymour. Henry's two daughters had been declared illegitimate by two Acts of Succession. Edward was a sickly boy who only lasted six years.

March 1549: Act of Uniformity

This Act orders exclusive use of the Book Of Common Prayer. This is the English-language service book of the Church of England. The text was supervised by Thomas Cranmer and shows the emerging influence of Protestantism on the Church of England.

The King James Bible

10 Jul 1553: Lady Jane Grey enters London

Through the machinations of the Duke of Northumberland, Lady Jane Grey is declared Queen and enters London in great state. She was officially Queen for only nine days before the faction which had supported her accession was discredited and Mary, daughter of the first wife of Henry VIII, was chosen instead.

03 Aug 1553: Mary I becomes Queen

After the unrest surrounding her accession, it did not help matters that Mary was a Catholic, being daughter of Spanish Catherine of Aragon. Her nickname, "Bloody Mary", came from the ruthless treatment of Protestants under her reign. See 1555.

25 Jul 1554: Mary I marries King Philip II

Philip was the King of Spain and, like Mary, a militant Catholic. The marriage does not seem to have been a happy one. Philip spent little time in England, he was despised by his English subjects and the couple failed to produce an heir.

16 Oct 1555: Protestant martyrs made in Oxford

Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley burnt at the stake in Oxford (on Broad Street) for being Protestant Reformers. They were just two of more than 300 people who were burned for heresy during Mary's reign.

1558: Mary I succeeded by Elizabeth I

Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry's second wife, Anne Boleyn. When Mary died childless, the succession passed to her.

1560: Geneva Bible published

This Bible is produced by a group of exiled English Protestants in Geneva, including Coverdale, John Foxe, John Calvin and John Knox. It was 90% the same as Tyndale's translation but full of controversial marginal notes that interpret the text from a strict post-Reformation standpoint.

The King James Bible

19 Jun 1566: Birth of James VI of Scotland

James is born to Mary Queen of Scots and her second husband, Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley.

The King James Bible

24 Jul 1567: Scots Mary abdicates for her son

Lord Darnley, Mary's husband, is murdered, probably by the Earl of Bothwell. Mary marries Bothwell (her third husband), is imprisoned and forced to abdicate. Scotland is ruled by a Regent as James is at this time only one year old.

1568: Bishops' Bible published

This was a revision of the Great Bible (1539) that was intended to be an Establishment rival to the inflammatory Geneva Bible.

The King James Bible

1575: Publication of Cantiones Sacrae

This joint work of Latin church music is by Thomas Tallis and William Byrd. It was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth and featured 17 pieces by each composer, one for each year of her reign. It was intended to bring the achievements of English music to the attention of Europe.

1576: The Theatre built in Shoreditch

Ratherly unimaginatively named, the Theatre is the first public playhouse. Built by James Burbage it became the favourite home of the Lord Chamberlain's men and, as such, was the venue for the first performance of many of Shakespeare's early plays. When the Theatre's lease ran out the timbers were carried over the river and used to build the Globe Theatre.

1577: Holinshed's Chronicles published

Raphael Holinshed was a historian who collated a series of documents about England, Scotland and Ireland into his Chronicles. They are the first continuous and vernacular history of England. Shakespeare used them when writing his history plays.

04 Apr 1581: Francis Drake is knighted

Drake is knighted by Elizabeth on board his ship, the Golden Hind, in recognition of his circumnavigation of the globe.

1582: Douay-Rheims Bible

This was written by English theological colleges in France and based solely on the Latin Vulgate version. It was the official Roman Catholic Church Bible. The Old Testament was produced in 1582 and the New Testament appeared in 1609.

The King James Bible

18 Oct 1585: News of first English colony

Sir Richard Grenville arrives at Court with news of the first English colony on Roanoke Island in North America. The area has been called Virginia, in honour of Queen Elizabeth.

1587: Mary Queen of Scots executed

After her abdication, Mary fled to England for Elizabeth's protection. She was Elizabeth's heir, but the English government, fearing a Catholic uprising on behalf of Mary, had her imprisoned. She is executed on Elizabeth's orders.

31 Jul 1588: Spanish Armada dispersed

England had been at war with Spain since the previous year, due to the execution of Catholic Mary Queen of Scots. Philip II assembled a huge fleet of ships which the proud Spanish referred to as "the Invincible Armada". A hurriedly put together English fleet under Lord Howard of Effingham disperses the Spanish ships, preventing an invasion of England.

1589: Hakluyt's Principal Navigations

Richard Hakluyt publishes The Principal Navigations, Voyages And Discoveries Of The English Nation in one volume, which is later expanded to four. It is a treasure trove of information about the exploration of the globe up to this point, and on the beginnings of colonisation, especially in America.

c.1589: First potato planted in Ireland?

There are many stories surrounding how the potato, which was to become such an important part of the Irish and English diet, first reached our shores. One idea is that Thomas Hariot, a pioneer from Roanoke, brought tobacco and potatoes back with him from that colony. Being a great friend of Sir Walter Ralegh, he stopped off at Ralegh's estate, Myrtle Grove, Youghal, near Cork. This is where the first potato was planted.

1590: First 3 books of The Faerie Queen

The Faerie Queen is an allegorical poem in six books by Edmund Spenser which, among other things, celebrated Queen Elizabeth. The poem is widely admired and very influential on later writers, including Milton and Keats.

1594: First performance of Dr Faustus

Dr Faustus by Christopher Marlowe dramatises the medieval legend of a scholar/magician who sells his soul to the Devil in return for infinite wisdom and power for 24 years.

1597: First appearance of Falstaff

Falstaff is a character in Shakespeare's Henry IV plays, a hard-drinking, womanising, immensely fat and cowardly companion to the young Prince Hal. Falstaff is the character who represents comedy as part of the Shakespeare Memorial in Stratford-upon-Avon. This year sees the first performances of Henry IV parts one and two. Falstaff also appears in The Merry Wives Of Windsor.

1598: First appearance of "crickett"

The word "crickett" appears in Florio's Italian-English dictionary

1598: John Stow's Survey Of London

Written by tailor John Stow, this is an invaluable history book that tells the story of London and provides a picture of what life in the contemporary city was like. It was popular at the time and has remained in print more or less ever since. It was the first book of its kind ever to be published.