Bosworth – what did the Tudors do for us?

Some of my friends are both Catholics and Eurosceptics. They are sensible people, and rightly see nothing contradictory in that stance. The once Catholic kingdom of France is now a secular Republic, and once Catholic Spain is no longer an aggressive exporter of the faith by force of arms. Protestant Germany is an important motor of the EU. The forces which impelled England to the Protestant anti Spanish anti French side in the wars of religion have mercifully dissipated.

I make this point because I was thinking about yesterday’s anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth. It wasn’t much of battle in many ways. 5000 troops loyal to the invading Henry, the Lancastrian, took on maybe 12000 troops of Richard, the Yorkist King. In less than two hours the Stanleys switched sides and the battle was over, as their substantial force completely changed the odds.

There were two remarkable things about Bosworth. The King himself died on the battlefield, with no obvious Yorkist successor capable of claiming the title. His early death ended the battle. Henry Tudor and his heirs arrived in triumph, and proved able enough to unite England and Wales under their rule and put an end to the long and miserable history of succession squabbles and mini wars which had characterised much of the fifteenth century.

So I asked myself, What did the Tudors do for us? Time and space does not permit a full answer, for there is so much. If you like me saw any of the Globe productions, then just look around you. The flowering of English poetry, drama, music, art and architecture in the later Tudor period was remarkable.

The Tudors certainly knew how to spin and to brand. They blazoned the portcullis and crown logo on so much, the constantly travelled their country bringing government to the people. They left us a version of history which portrayed their achievements in a good light. Whether it was Henry VIII on the field of the cloth of gold, or Elizabeth seeing off the Armada, they established England as a force to be reckoned with. They played the courtiers off against each other, ensuring power was mainly brokered by them at court.

Above all they led England and Wales decisively into Reformation Europe. This was much more than a religious choice which some of my readers will now regret and criticise. It was a general statement of foreign policy and even of economic policy. It meant our country aligned with the smaller countries of western Europe, with Holland and the German states, against the bureaucratic Empire and against the Catholic superpowers. It meant the property of the monasteries passed into new landowners hands which helped power and economic advance based on enterprise and family capital. It meant the anti clericalism of the English was allowed reasonable freedom. I see the anticlericalism of the 1520s and 1530s as the forerunner of the scepticism about big government and expert opinion we still see today.

The Tudors ensured England and Wales would be a united country, a unity that has never been split to this day. They established a stronger rule of law from the centre, but relies on substantial devolution of power to local JPs, municipal authorities and local landowners. They had to recognise the limits of their power in an age before instant communication and huge government budgets.

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11 Comments

  1. Posted August 23, 2008 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    They kept peace. With the exception of the Armada & Battle of Flodden England was never threatened with war on its own soil. There were a couple of risings in favour of pretenders but they weren't very serious. Since war tends to concentrate power in the hands of the Great Leader they also were responsible for the rise of constitutional rule, The Wars Of the Roses before them were traditional feudal wars about who should sit on the throne, The Civil War was about how the throne & Parliament should share power.

    As a family they were pretty charmless, even Elizabeth, & one of the signs of their charmlessness was the ruthlessness with which they killed off anybody else with a claim to the throne. Unjust & non-legal as that certainly was it is difficult to argue that it did not save far more lives than it ended.

  2. mikestallard
    Posted August 23, 2008 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    I have just come back from Peterborough Cathedral where the Tudors took over a working Abbey, commandeered all the lead off the roof, took away, in carts, all the vestments, food, money and precious objects down to London and left a wreck. The King generously then renamed the wreck a Cathedral and built a small annex called the New Building behind the Chancel.
    After a powerful sermon by Bishop Latimer, Edward VI endowed my school and also a couple of hospitals along with several other Grammar Schools out of the vast profits which resulted from the pillage of the Christian Church.
    It is often forgotten that Bloody Mary was actually married to Felipe II of Spain who launched the Armada. On her death in 1553, she had already introduced the Inquisition under the bishop of Toledo.
    The Tudors were not nice people in lots of ways.
    But, of course, Henry VII set the family up for their successful dynasty. Henry VII instituted the British Navy and Queen Elizabeth instituted the Empire in America.
    Compared with the disaster of the Stuarts, they were fantastic.
    And, to quote a local Bedfordshire worthy, "they made England what she are."

    • mikestallard
      Posted August 23, 2008 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

      Sorry – Henry VIII instituted the British Navy!!!

      • mikestallard
        Posted August 23, 2008 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

        And Queen Mary died in 1558!!!!

  3. Posted August 24, 2008 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    for Mike Stallard
    First of all King Henry VIII did not institute the "British" navy it would have been ENGLISH and secondly it was initially created by the English King, Alfred.

    Unlike Mr Redwood's assertion England and Wales have been split apart by the Devolution Acts which give the Welsh Assembly more self government than England has with its own dedicated representatives to ensure the interests of Wales.

    England needs its own dedicated parliament in the same relationship to the UK Parliament as the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish devolved administrations or a return to a United Kingdom with one Parliament. Any other solution is a fudge.

  4. mikestallard
    Posted August 26, 2008 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    Of course, in the 1530s, the Privy Council of the King was in control of the Navy (Elton). The King was, at this time, King of Wales and ruled it through "the Chamberlayne of North and South Wales, and the hole Principalite of the same."
    I don't reckon in the Middle Ages that Britannia ruled the waves in quite the same way as it did in the 19th century – but I attribute the start of this process to Henry VIII, and his daughter Elizabeth.

  5. Posted September 5, 2008 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    I believe we are connected to a long long history of millions of years of civilization through our ancestral past and I believe mankind has already born witness to or experienced in some way, everything which is happening now.

    We consider "now" as if it holds great importance when in reality now is nothing but a fleeting moment. Some consider the future is important even though it hasn't yet occurred. For myself I believe our history is important solely because it brings education of former events from which we learn and should connect us with one another as human beings which share the lessons of our ancestors.

    When you consider there is nothing which we can do in human activity which has not yet already been done in some similar form, politics and government specifically, you can also predict the outcome of events because all events have a cause, a meaning and an end. This is the way it has been for millions of years and is as natural as the earth we live on that change will occur, and it will last a certain period and then it will die. In relation to America it is a fact that the American system of government was built on Roman ideals including imperialism.

    This is expressed by "neo-cons" and is real. But it is also expressed by European governments in the form of republicanism and federalism and of course the all powerful E.U. institutions with a similar fashion of Roman bureaucracy which imposes laws upon the people.

    NATO is a mighty military tool of course and maybe it once had a purpose ( which I'm not entirely satisfied it ever did ), of ensuring peace in Europe through overwhelming force ( might makes right ). – But the natural order of mankind dispels "might being right" and our histories are littered with dead dictators who followed this belief only for another to rise in his place.

    When mankind comes to realise the natural order is to have cause, meaning and death, and that all things coming to pass have already happened many many times over, and he learns and begins to use his natural ability to predict an eventual outcome, then he can only arrive at one conclusion as the correct conclusion and that is to live in peace.

    A writing by Tacitus soon after the invasion of Britain by Rome, might sum up the "current situation" i.e. as it is now before the now dies…………….

    "And so the population was gradually led into the demoralising temptations of our caves, baths and sumptuous banquests. The unsuspecting Britons spoke of such novelties as civilization when in fact they were a feature of their enslavement"
    ( Tacitus 56 – 117 AD )

    Naturally or unnaturally all empires will fall without support of the people, this is a fact so fundamental it can be predicted. It is impossible to hold an empire together unless it is peaceful, honors people above economics, engages support of all the people and doesn't oppress them or instil fear and present unwise laws which restrict their freedoms and liberties which connect us to our ancestral past.

    These "mistakes" by America and Europe will bear fruit of death and misery unless they each seek to remedy themselves to find peaceful co-existence with their people and neighbours and it's only a matter of time as to whether they die or we do in the process of change which will naturally occur as it is written.

    Globalization of the planet is Imperialism and it must be stopped or we will be slaves until it can finally globalize no more and thus reaches its own natural death.

    Am I liberal ? I think not. I'm a realist which has a grasp on where his own destiny lies and someone who can predict the natural outcome of our current situation if it is not changed because I have a deep rooted belief in honouring my ancestral past.

    These two video's will show you what I mean and I hope you enjoy them both.
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=868163351
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=504784612

    Ancient Britons worshipped death and had no fear of it.
    The genetic code of ancient Britons is still within us today.
    Ancient Britons are proven to have existed on these isles for 10,000 years and there is no reason to doubt they didn't exist 2 million years earlier.
    Rome did not civilize us they learnt from us.
    Before the pyramids were built ancient Britons were farming, building houses, had fitted kitchens, inside toilets and roads.
    Our view of history has been shaped only by what we've been "led to believe" in order to disconnect us with our true ancestral knowledge and culture along with the ability to think for ourselves how we govern.

    • mike stallard
      Posted September 6, 2008 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

      Wow! That is taking the long view!
      I am not sure, looking at the Irish, that the ancient Brits had that much impact on us.
      The Romans certainly did. So did the Anglo-Saxons.
      People always forget the Vikings who, I suggest, had a bigger impact than either of the above.
      I like the think, too, that Christianity was decisive: it stopped us becoming Arabs or Chinese.

  6. Victor Cowen
    Posted September 6, 2008 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Where is the conservative party promise to hold a referendum on the EU denied to us by the lies of the Labour party?
    If you ignore the Labour jibes on this subject you would be 40 points ahead not 19.6 or whatever today. The people are beginning to realise under their daily financial pressures that belonging the Bureaucratic EU is costing more than it's worth. Yes I know it used to be a non-subject and dangerous to talk about but things have changed radically now.

  7. SJB
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    JR: "Protestant Germany is an important motor of the EU."

    Is it fair to say Germany is still a Protestant country?
    "Protestant 34%, Roman Catholic 34%, Muslim 3.7%, unaffiliated or other 28.3%" https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-worl

    And the religious breakdown for the Netherlands is as follows: "Roman Catholic 30%, Dutch Reformed 11%, Calvinist 6%, other Protestant 3%, Muslim 5.8%, other 2.2%, none 42%" https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-worl

  8. elena
    Posted September 24, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    What did the Tudors do for us

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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