The Renaissance Arrives in England with a New Dynasty
In 1485 Henry Tudor (Twydr) invaded England from Wales to fill the power vacuum that had developed following the fratricidal wars between rival English aristocratic families. Having defeated Richard III at the battle of Bosworth and having a distant claim to the throne, he more or less crowned himself as King Henry VII. With great skill in political propaganda he established the Tudors as a new dynasty after hundreds of years of rule by the Normans and their relatives the Plantagenets. He was the first renaissance humanist king of England and began reforming the corrupt and increasingly dysfunctional feudal structures of both church and state which his son continued, thereby laying the foundations for the rise of a new educated middle class. The Abbot at Glastonbury had already subscribed to the Arthurian mythos by “discovering” the tomb of King Arthur in the abbey grounds thereby adding to the income from the steady stream of pilgrims.
Significantly Henry named his oldest son Arthur but the young man unexpectedly died before he could be crowned. His successor was the younger brother, a well-educated, talented and a devout Roman Catholic who was persuaded by his father to marry his brother’s widow. As King Henry VIII he impressed the Pope so much by his carefully argued criticism of Luther’s heresy that he was granted the important title of “Defender of the Faith”. As many years went by without the birth of a male heir Henry came to believe that this because he had married his older brother’s widow, Katharine of Aragon, a practise condemned by some theologians on biblical grounds.
A Third Branch of Established Orthodox Christianity
The newly established Tudor dynasty was extremely vulnerable without a male heir. In order to remarry to produce one Henry needed a divorce, which meant obtaining a papal dispensation. This was by no means unprecedented in royal circles. His wife, to whom he had been happily married for many years, was unfortunately the proud daughter of one the most powerful kings in Christendom. The Pope was therefore powerless to grant it. No doubt fortified by the Arthurian mytho-dynamics, which included repainting the Winchester Round Table, he took the momentous step of defying the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor in order to divorce his wife and remarry. He founded the Church of England as a schismatic reformed branch of the Catholic Church. The King of England and Defender of the Faith was its political head of state charged with protecting the faith and the Archbishop of Canterbury was its spiritual head. Thus was founded the third politically independent episcopalian branch of the Christian church. The royal heads of the previous two main branches of Christendom being the Greek Byzantine Emperor and the Latin Holy Roman Emperor.
Unfortunately after his brilliant start as a popular and successful monarch his bad taste and bad luck with women led to the execution of two of his foolish wives and increasing pain in his leg drove him to become more and more tyrannical. Ironically his only son, an extreme Protestant, died soon after being crowned as Edward VI and his eldest daughter, an extreme Catholic, became Mary I. She married the powerful King of Spain but died after a few years. England was torn with uncertainty and religious confusion. Henry’s youngest daughter Elizabeth had an intellect and personal charm as great as her father’s but fortunately her taste and understanding of the opposite sex was more mature, unlike that of her only rival, her cousin Mary Queen of Scots. Elizabeth exercised reasonable tolerance for both Catholic and Protestant extremists but having refused to marry a Catholic king from Europe needed an efficient secret service to protect her from the many assassination attempts by Papist priests, who being caught and executed then became “martyrs”. She also had a small but skilled navy to protect her against Catholic military invasion.