A Timeline of Tudor and Stuart Britain

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A Brief History

This article serves as chronological listing of key bizarre events in the history of Great Britain and Ireland during the Tudor and Stuart dynasties that ruled over these islands and England’s colonies from 1485 through 1688.  This article also provides a sort of table of contents to our other articles concerning these eras in British and Irish history.

Digging Deeper

On June 26, 1483, Richard Plantagenet, Duke of Gloucester, proclaimed himself King Richard III of England.  Just a couple of years later, Henry Tudor would defeat Richard III in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth where Richard died fighting, the last English king to do so.  Soon after becoming king, Henry Tudor, now Henry VII, had the Act of Parliament which declared his future wife Elizabeth of York illegitimate revoked, and the two married, finally uniting the two most powerful branches of the family into the new House of Tudor.

On March 5, 1496, in the wake of the tremendous news about the voyage of Christopher Columbus to the New World, King Henry VII of England granted “letters patent” to John Cabot, an Italian sailor and adventurer, along with his sons, to explore the world on behalf of the English Crown.

On November 20, 1518, Sir Marmaduke Constable, a Tudor Era English courtier and soldier, died in a most unusual way. 

By June 18, 1529, an ecclesiastical, legatine court, presided over by a representative of the Pope, had been created to try the validity of the marriage between Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.  The trial was held at Blackfriars Priory in London, and on June 18, both Henry and Catherine were summoned to appear before the court.

On September 7, 1533, in what had to ironically have been one of the most disappointing births in history, the future Queen Elizabeth I of England made her grand entrance onto the world and political stage.

On May 17, 1536, King Henry VIII of England had his marriage to Anne Boleyn annulled, although she had borne him the future Queen Elizabeth I. He then had her decapitated two days later for treason and adultery, which even then was a pretty harsh parting of the ways. Divorce is rarely a happy and light hearted thing, but some divorces are stranger or more vicious than others. Of course in Anne Boleyn’s case, one is left asking how she could have committed adultery if she was not married to her husband in the first place?!  

On October 24, 1537, in a cruel twist of fate, Queen Jane Seymour died of complications following childbirth after having just 12 days earlier provided Henry VIII with his much longed-for son and heir.

On July 9, 1540, the marriage between Henry VIII and his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, was annulled.

On December 10, 1541, Thomas Culpeper and Francis Dereham were executed by King Henry VIII of England for having sexual affairs with the Queen, Catherine Howard, wife of Henry VIII!

On July 12, 1543, King Henry VIII of England married Catherine Parr, his sixth and final wife.

On July 29, 1565, Mary, Queen of Scots, married her first cousin Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. In her case, the only thing advantageous about this marriage, was that it ensured that the Scottish throne stay under the control of the House of Stuart by keeping it in the family so to say. Other that that, except for producing a son to carry on the lineage, the marriage was a complete disaster.

On December 13, 1577, Francis Drake set out from Plymouth, England on his ship, The Golden Hind, on a voyage that would take the ship and crew around the world, the first circumnavigation of the globe by an English vessel. This voyage of course goes down in history as a famous one, as do the rest of the voyages listed here.

On October 10, 1580, after a three-day siege, an English army beheaded over 600 Papal soldiers and civilians in Ireland.

On June 16, 1586, Mary, Queen of Scots, named her heir and successor, Phillip II of Spain.  Since Mary was imprisoned at the time and not on any throne to give, this move was sure to irritate her jailer, Queen Elizabeth I of England.  Plus, Phillip II was Catholic as was Mary, something the Protestant Elizabeth would certainly not tolerate.

On July 22, 1587, a detachment of English settlers landed at Roanoke Island, in what is now North Carolina, with the intention of establishing a colony.

On August 18, 1587, Virginia Dare was born in the Roanoke Colony in what is now North Carolina.  Each year the current residents of Roanoke Island celebrate her birthday with an Elizabethan Renaissance Festival.

On July 19, 1588, during the Anglo-Spanish War’s Battle of Gravelines, the ultimately doomed Spanish Armada was sighted in the English Channel.

On July 25, 1609, the excellently named British ship, Sea Venture, encountered serious storms while crossing the Atlantic Ocean en route to Virginia, and was purposely run ashore to prevent loss of the ship and passengers.

On August 18, 1612, the trials of the Pendle Witches began in England, while over in France 22 years later Urbain Grandier was convicted of sorcery and burned alive.  Apparently August 18 is not a good day to be a witch in Europe, at least not back in the 17th Century.

On August 19, 1612, 3 women from Samlesbury in Lancashire, England, were put on trial for witchcraft.  

On April 5, 1614, a milestone in European and Native American relations was reached when John Rolfe, English colonist, married Pocahontas, Native American princess!

On August 5, 1620, the Mayflower set out from England with another ship, the Speedwell, on its first attempt to take Puritans to the New World.

On August 5, 1620, 2 small English sailing ships left Southampton Water in England on a trip to the New World, carrying a group of Puritans seeking a land where they could practice their brand of religion without interference.

On September 6, 1620, the Mayflower sailed from Plymouth, England, headed for The New World in America.  Many Americans are under the false impression that these were the first white settlers of North America, and of course, they got history wrong! 

On November 11, 1620, while anchored in Provincetown Harbor (off Cape Cod), the male passengers of the Mayflower wrote and signed a document known as The Mayflower Compact.

On March 16, 1621, only about 4 months after landing at Plymouth Rock and setting up their new colony in what was then called Plymouth Colony (Now Massachusetts and Maine) the Pilgrims that had traveled across the Atlantic on the Mayflower had their first friendly contact with a Native person, and that contact came as quite a shock!

On March 22, 1621, the European (basically British) colonists of Plymouth Colony, a “Pilgrim” venture for displaced religious zealots to find a place to practice their religion in peace, signed a peace treaty with Chief (or “Sachem”) Massasoit of the Wampanoag Native American coalition of tribes that had occupied what is now Massachusetts.

On September 23, 1641, off the coast of Cornwall, England, a British merchant ship named the Merchant Royal sank with a cargo of Spanish treasure. She has not been found, and your treasure awaits you somewhere at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean southwest of England.

In June 1647, the Long Parliament passed an Ordinance confirming the abolition of the feasts of Christmas and Easter.    Oliver Cromwell (also known as the dick who cancelled Christmas) was so keen that no one in England celebrated Christmas that he ordered guards to arrest and fine anyone caught with festive food and drink, meaning that there is at least one person in history charged with the crime of “attempted partying”.

On April 20, 1657, a fleet of 23 British Royal Navy warships sailed boldly into the defended harbor at Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands, to attack a Spanish treasure fleet anchored there.

On January 30, 1661, Oliver Cromwell, former Lord Protector of The Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, was removed from his grave and “executed” 2 years after his death!

On September 2, 1666, one of history’s most memorable fires occurred in the English capital of London.  The medieval portion of central London within the old Roman wall was devastated, basically gutted.

On August 12, 1676, John Alderman, known as a “Praying Indian” because he was a Native American converted to Christianity, shot and killed Chief Metacomet of the Wampanoag people, thus ending the conflict known as King Phillip’s War.

On July 27, 1689, the Battle of Killiecrankie was fought between Scots and Irish Jacobites against the forces of the Williamite Government of Scotland.

On September 21, 1745, the Battle of Prestonpans was fought in the  East Lothian council area of Scotland between a British army under the command of Sir John Cope and an upstart rebel army of Jacobites under the command of Charles Edward Stuart, the grandson of King James II and VII of Scotland and England.

Question for students (and subscribers): Do you have a favorite Tudor or Stuart monarch?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Morrill, John.  The Oxford Illustrated History of Tudor and Stuart Britain (Oxford Illustrated Histories).  Oxford University Press, 2001.


About Author

Dr. Zar graduated with a B.A. in French and history, a Master’s in History, and a Ph.D. in History. He currently teaches history in Ohio.