8 Interesting Facts About The Tudors

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The Tudor Family
The Tudor Family, painted circa 1572. Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

One of the most well-documented regal dynasties in history, the Tudors are known for their ruthless and decadent lifestyle which became popularised through characters such as Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and ‘Bloody Mary’. Sovereignty lasting from the victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 right through to Elizabeth I’s demise in 1603 saw the Tudors create a distinctly ‘English’ culture. Altered religions, solidification of England’s role in colonialism, and a burst of social and cultural creativity was ultimately overshadowed by the zealous violence shown by these monarchies. But who really were the Tudors?

1. THE TUDORS WEREN’T A BRITISH MONARCHY

People commonly label this family as a famous British Monarchy however they were actually only the English monarch during this period. It would not be till after the death of Elizabeth I, with no direct English heirs available, that the union between Scotland and England began and the Tudor dynasty ended. The family interestingly themselves were not English and came from Welsh heritage through a wholly scandalous marriage between a Welsh royal attendant – Owain ap Maredydd ap Tudur – and King Henry V’s widow Catherine of Valois. 

2. HENRY VIII MAY HAVE KILLED AROUND 70,000+ PEOPLE

Known for his outrageous romantic relationships in the quest for a male heir, Henry VIII made his ineloquent way through 6 wives, two of which met their unfortunate end at his demand. However, he did not keep this ruthless behavior to his nearest and dearest as a primary source from the time mentioned that Henry VIII ordered the death of roughly 72,000 of the English people through capital punishment during his 38-year reign. Despite many recent debuffs of this incredibly high stat, which could be put down to historical exaggeration, current scholars in the field all agree it is clear Henry VIII was a vicious killer of those who upset or opposed him.

 3. TUDORS LOVED TO SQUISH PEOPLE TO DEATH

Mercy and compassion are not words you could use to describe the Tudor rule of England. The violence of this royal dynasty is perhaps most poignantly displayed through one of their favorite torture and capital punishment methods, ‘peine forte et dure’ or more colloquially known as ‘pressing’. Having gone through the wary English judicial system, state wrong-doers had the choice of starving in prison or a quicker, yet what you could only assume to be, fairly excruciating demise via the form of being pressed to death. This torture method evidenced signs of true cruelty during the Tudor era, allowing subjects to be squished between two wooden boards that gradually got topped by weights until the victim was flattened.

The first person to use a stairlift, Tudor King Henry VIII.
King Henry VIII, circa 1560. Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

4. HENRY VIII WAS THE FIRST PERSON EVER TO USE A STAIRLIFT

You could be easily mistaken for thinking a stairlift would’ve been a fairly recent invention but historian Dr. David Sharkley recently uncovered something remarkable. Dr. Sharkley noted that within a list of Henry VIII’s possessions, the illustrious historical figure had a stairlift installed in the royal abode of Whitehall Palace, London. Noted in the records as ‘a chair that goweth up and down’ it was functioned by servants yanking at either end to haul the rotund Henry VIII up and downstairs with ease. 

5. ELIZABETH I SURVIVED 9 ATTEMPTED ASSASSINATIONS

Like a cat with 9 lives, Elizabeth I managed to successfully evade a total of 9 combined plots against her life during her turbulent reign. Despite the history books chronicling Elizabeth I as the most ‘liked’ Tudor, it turns out the people didn’t seem to think so. Recorded attempts at taking her life were the Northern Rebellion (1569); the Ridolfi Plot (1571); Tyrells’s Plot (1581); the Throgmorton Plot (1583); the Somerville Plot (1583); Dr. Parry’s Plot (1548); the Babington Plot (1586); Dr. Rodrigo Lopez’ attempt (1594) and the Essex Rebellion (1601). It would eventually be ‘settled and unremovable melancholy’ from a string of close friends and family which resulted in her passing. 

6. ‘BLOODY MARY’ WASN’T ACTUALLY THAT BAD

So notorious she has a cocktail named after her. “Bloody Mary” has a distinct reputation of bloodshed (hence the tomato juice). The first female ruler of England burned hundreds of protestants at the stake for heresy to the crown. However, comparative to her own father Henry VIII’s impressive kill tally, and her half-sister and successor Elizabeth I who was known to trial all heretics for treason and kill them accordingly, ‘Bloody Mary’ wasn’t THAT bad. Mary I of England is known to be a particularly vicious ruler but one could possibly put that down to Elizabethan propaganda.

Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom in a yellow hat and yellow clothing smiling in 2007. She is related to the Tudor monarchy.
Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, 2007. NASA // Public Domain

7. ENGLAND’S LONGEST SERVING AND CURRENT MONARCH IS RELATED TO ENGLAND’S FIRST FEMALE RULER

Despite some removals and a lot of relations in between you can directly relate the current Queen of the United Kingdom, Elizabeth II, up the family tree straight to Henry VII, who was the grandfather of Mary I and Elizabeth I. Elizabeth I did not produce an heir and thus the lineage shifted to her cousin James VI via the marriage of Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII’s sister, and thus continued the royal line down 16 generations to the current Queen of the United Kingdom. So whilst not a direct link between the first Elizabeth I and her half-sister Mary I of England, the current Queen remains distant relatives with the Tudors.

8. THE TUDORS WERE TALLER ON AVERAGE THAN THE AVERAGE 20TH CENTURY BRIT

Usually, as humans advance through the centuries they have been getting taller with improved diet and nutrition. However, the Tudors are perhaps an exception to the norm. They were seemingly very tall people! Within the royal family it can be noted King Henry VII was 5ft 9in with his son Henry VIII hitting a remarkable 6ft 2in. Henry VIII’s wives Catherine Parr and Catherine of Aragon boasted a tall 5ft 10in and 5ft 8in, respectively. In fact the average height of the workmen and sailors on Henry VIII’s famous ship – the Mary Rose – was found to be 5ft 8in. This is taller than the average Brit in the early 20th century!

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One Response

  1. Queen Victoria also had many assassination attempts on her too. I believe 1 she even pardoned and overturned his execution.

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