(PROTESTANT REFORMATION to 1600 – continued)
Henry VIII died at the age of fifty-five, after he had grown a waistline of 54 inches and had suffered ailments. He was succeeded by a son, Edward VI, who died after a little more than six years, and he was succeeded by Mary Tudor, the devout Catholic daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. She began her rule with clemency for those who had taken up arms against her and pursued a policy of reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants.
Then Queen Mary announced that she would marry Prince Philip of Spain. Insurrections erupted against Mary. The rebellions were quelled, she married Philip in July 1554 – two years before he became King Philip II – and she launched an effort to return the realm to Catholicism. Her reign remained unpopular.
She thought herself kind toward the poor, but she had several hundred Protestants burned at the stake. Many Protestants fled to the continent, and the devout Mary was to become known as "Bloody Mary." Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, survived by maintaining a discrete silence. Elizabeth had been reared a Protestant, and she was ill-disposed to Roman Catholic jurisdiction which did not recognize the legitimacy of her birth.
In 1558, Mary Tudor died and Elizabeth was her successor. Her regal bearing and intelligence impressed England's common people, and her reign began with their enthusiastic support. Protestant exiles returned to England, and they advocated the Church of England being purified of its remnants of Catholicism. They were to become known as Puritans. The wanted to strip away the trappings and formalities that had been building in Christianity during the previous 1300 or so years. Theirs was an attempt to "purify" the church and their own lives.
Elizabeth kept to middle ground regarding religious doctrine and ceremony. Elizabeth is reported to not have cared what people believed so long as they kept quiet about it. What she insisted upon was dignity in church services and political order. Elizabeth governed without use of ecclesiastics in foreign or domestic bureaucratic affairs. The Church of England's Archbishops were restricted to church affairs.
Ruling in Scotland, meanwhile, was Elizabeth's nearest relative, Mary Stuart, who was Roman Catholic. Elizabeth had inaugurated a policy of aloofness from Catholic Spain, and the King of Spain, Philip II, was plotting to replace her with Mary Stuart. Mary was also a rallying point for those in England opposed to Elizabeth. In support of Mary and against Elizabeth, uprisings occurred. Two attempts were made on Elizabeth's life.
In 1587, Elizabeth solved her problem with Mary by having her beheaded. But it did not solve the conflict between her and the Catholic Church. Upon hearing of Mary's execution, Pope Sixtus V promised to pay Philip one million gold ducats if his troops invaded England. It was the beginning of Spain sending an armada of ships and troops to invade England. Elizabeth had angered King Philip by sending 8,000 troops in 1585 to help the Protestant Dutch fighting his rule. The historian Max Boot writes that at Philip's court "it presented a clinching argument in favor of invading England and deposing its troblesome queen." Boot adds that Philip thought it the "best way to safequard his existing domains in the Americas and the Low Countries." (War Made New, p. 30)
Queen Elizabeth visited her troops at Tilbury Camp and made her famous "heart of a king" speech, expecting an invasion. She said,
I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chief strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good-will of my subjects; and therefore I come among you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved in the midst and heat of the battle to live and die among you all; to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and my people, my honor and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king.
According to Max Boot, Elizabeth "had almost no army of her own, just a pitiful militia that could not possible stand for long against [the] battle hardened Spanish veterans" being transported with the Spanish Armada. Enland's only hope, writes Boot, lay in prevening the Armada from landing. (p.28)
The English Navy scattered the Spanish Armada, and only about 65 of Spain's ships made it back to their home port. According to Max Boot the English had "superior training, morale, organization, strategy, seamanship – and technolgoy. The English won, he adds, because British ships outgunned the Spanish Armada. "The English fleet had one-third more firepower." (p. 45)
The following year, 1589, England sent a counter-armada to invade Portugal, led by Francis Drake. It failed in its effort to put a pro-English pretender, Dom Antonio, on Portugal's throne. The war between Spain and Elizabeth dragged on. Philip died in 1598, at seventy-one, and Elizabeth died a natural death five years later, in 1603.
Her rule was followed by that of her cousin, James I, the King of Scotland and son of the beheaded Mary Stuart.
Copyright © 2009-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.