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9 Controversial FAQ About Tudor England

The Tudor Dynasty has captured the minds of generations of history lovers for centuries. There is an inherent fascination with the Tudors and the country they ruled. Therefore, it is no wonder people are so curious about them. To satiate a portion of Tudor's curiosity I have compiled nine frequently asked questions on the Tudor family alongside the best answers current scholars have to offer. Enjoy!



QUESTION 1: WHAT KILLED QUEEN ELIZABETH I?

Since Elizabeth I's body never went through a formal autopsy, historians can only guess the true cause of her death. The predominant theory, according to scholars, is blood poisoning induced by Elizabeth's constant wearing of lead-based makeup. Other causes include pneumonia, streptococcus, or even some type of cancer. However, lead poisoning is still the most logical choice for the cause of death amongst scholars.

 

QUESTION 2: WHAT ACTIVITIES WERE POPULAR DURING THE TUDOR ERA?


Jousting--a combat sport involving two armored riders sprinting towards each other alongside a fence, hoping one will knock the other off their horse with a long pole--was a popular pastime for the Tudors, especially Henry VIII. In fact, Henry VIII nearly died while competing in a jousting tournament, which likely scared the king senseless since he had yet to produce his coveted male heir.


In addition to jousting, the Tudors, especially Elizabeth I, enjoyed theatre. Shakespeare's Globe, in particular, was a hot spot for the rich Tudor Era folks to enjoy a good story.

 

QUESTION 3: WHY ARE THE TUDORS SO FAMOUS?


This question is difficult to answer due to its inherent lack of an empirical answer. However, from a historical perspective, the Tudors lived especially temerity-fueled royal lives, with Henry VIII being a perfect example. Henry VIII was the primary catalyst in creating the dramatic and imagination, capturing marital escapades in his quest to produce a male heir. One also must consider the rapid socio-economic and socio-political changes caused by macro-level movements like the Reformation and the Renaissance. In other words, these sweeping changes, combined with the Tudors leading inherently interesting personal lives, placed the fiery Tudors in the thick of change, which they instigated in a captivating fashion.

 

QUESTION 4: DID QUEEN ELIZABETH I HAVE A LOVER?


Though Elizabeth I had many suitors and men who flirted with her, there is no empirical evidence to prove the Tudor Queen had a physical lover. Famous and influential men like Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake, and Lord Robert Dudley tried to win her affections, with the latter man proposing marriage. And despite Elizabeth I's evident love for Dudley, she never considered marrying him or anyone else.

 

QUESTION 5: DID HENRY VIII WRITE GREENSLEEVES?


A persistent rumor alleges Henry VIII, a known songwriter, wrote the well-known song Greensleeves in response to Anne Boelyn rejecting his sexual advances. However, the rumor holds no merit when held up to the scrutiny of historians, who believe the song was composed not during Henry VIIIs reign, but his daughter Elizabeth's, which began 11 years after the Tudor king's death in 1547. Their reasoning is Greensleeves' Italian style composition had not yet reached the music scene in England during Henry VIIIs lifetime, making Henry VIII an unlikely candidate for the song's authorship.

 

QUESTION 6: WAS QUEEN ELIZABETH I REALLY A VIRGIN?


Later in life, Queen Elizabeth I proudly declared she had maintained her virginity, despite having many eligible male suitors. The veracity of Elizabeth Is claims of celibacy, however, have consistently been challenged by skeptics, despite there being no evidence to support Elizabeth's inherent virginity nor skeptics' theories that argue the Tudor Queen gave it away. Elizabeth I was nicknamed the "Virgin Queen" by her peers, a virtuous reputation of which she was proud. Virtuousness was a sought-after characteristic for Tudor Era women like Elizabeth I, who wore her virginity as an iconoclastic badge of honor against the societal- expectation for a woman to marry and bear children. Moreover, there is no verifiable evidence that says otherwise.

 

QUESTION 7: WAS ANNE OF CLEVES UGLY?


Henry VIII described his 4th wife, Anne of Cleves, as: "nothing so fair as she hath been reported." This famously negative complaint from Henry VIII has led to Anne receiving a reputation for being particularly ugly, which, by most people's standards, she was not. Beauty is, of course, subjective by nature, and it certainly seems that Anne of Cleves was not Henry VIIIs type, despite seeing a portrait of Anne before meeting her. Another theory proposes Henry's disappointment was induced from Anne's treatment of Henry VIII in addition to her ostensibly disappointing looks. One courtier's account reads:


"[The King] so went up into the chamber where the said Lady Anne was looking out of a window to see the bull-baiting which was going on in the courtyard, and suddenly he embraced and kissed her, and showed her a token which the king had sent her for New Year's gift, and she being abashed and not knowing who it was thanked him, and so he spoke with her. But she regarded him little, but always looked out the window .... and when the king saw that she took so little notice of his coming he went into another chamber and took off his cloak and came in again in a coat of purple velvet. And when the lords and knights saw his grace they did him reverence."


This reverence would have indicated to Anne of Cleves who Henry VIII was, which would have ideally caused Anne to course correct from aloofness to flirtatiousness. However, the damage to Henry's ego was done, leading to the Tudor royal dismissing her thereafter. Nevertheless, most scholars still attribute Henry's disgust to Anne's appearance, which led to perhaps the first documented catfish in history.

 

QUESTION 8: WAS QUEEN ELIZABETH I REALLY A GOOD QUEEN--OR DID HER MINISTERS DO ALL THE WORK?


Queen Elizabeth, I had over 600 ministers running her royal administration. The top ministers were personally appointed by Elizabeth I and, in turn, could be unappointed just as quickly. Put another way, Elizabeth I had significant input on how her government was conducted. However, Elizabeth I did not make every decision on her own, and she certainly utilized the knowledge and wisdom of her ministers. But all of this credit allocation is dependent on the presumption that the so-called Elizabethan Era was inherently "good." Under Elizabeth I's watchful eye, England progressed economically, finally began its exploration age, and continued its transformation into a protestant nation. Simultaneously, Elizabeth I struggled to work with parliament, accrued copious amounts of debt through wars with Spain and persecuted the Catholic population with pro-protestant legislation. Overall, Elizabeth I helped push England in a good direction, with plenty of help from self-appointed ministers.

 

QUESTION 9: DID THE TUDORS SMELL?


During the 16th century, bathwater was a rare commodity. For the Tudor family, however, certain aspects of hygiene were important. King Henry VIII, in particular, was quite the clean freak. For example, the Tudor king is said to have taken bathing very seriously; he even had his clothes washed and scented daily. The primary reason some people remember him as odorous is due to Henry's varicose ulcers, which he obtained later in life on his leg.


Plus, it is supposed that perfumes were used to mask body odors – which made lingeringly heady scents like ambergris, tuberose, jasmine, and musk particularly popular. Queen Elizabeth I beckoned Venetian traders to Southampton to offer their scented wares, and musk and rose scented pomanders and sachets became part of the fashion.

The above photo is a charming snippet from an Elizabethan recipe.


*****

Landon Girod - HFC Blog Writer


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Don Maker
Don Maker
16 oct 2021

Interesting. VERY briefly mentioned was the "Reformation," when the conversion from Catholicism to Protestantism was actually a major upheaval throughout Europe, and not the least a source of great angst in England during the Tudor era -- especially as it had been deliberately started by Henry VIII. This article implies Elizabeth "persecuted the Catholic population", but in fact she was very tolerant. Her cabinet was forced to pass a lot of anti-Catholic legislation because the Catholic Church worked very hard to get her off the throne in favor of Mary (of Scotland), and many times sent assassins and other plotters to disrupt her reign. And probably the most popular form of entertainment in Tudor England was bear-baiting.

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landongirod
landongirod
16 oct 2021
Contestando a

Thank for the comment Don! The reformtion is a complex issue. And due this being a listicle I did not have the word count flexibility to address it. The word count restriction also applies to your other comment about the article implying Elizabeth persecuted the Catholic population. I did not have the space to divulge into the political complexities of Elizabeth's cabinet. However, it is still her cabinet. Everything they did was under her watch. Therefore, it makes sense for me to generalize the persecution under her name. As for your last observation. Bear-baiting probably was the most popular. However, the topic was about popular activities in Tudor England, not debating which one was the most popular.

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