Essay: Significant Kings In British History

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  • Subject area(s): History
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  • Published on: 10th June 2012
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Significant Kings In British History

There are many significant kings in British history, one being Henry VII. Founder of the Tudor dynasty, he was a somewhat shadowy figure; a cautious, rigid man who paid constant attention to the administration and the input of the royal funds. Henry was an accomplished politician who restored peace and stability to England. He was more of a dry, spiritless person. Henry VII first gained his right to the throne at the mere age of fourteen, when Henry VI and his son Prince Edward had died. However, Prince Edward's brother, Richard III claimed the throne for himself by declaring that Henry was illegitimate. The disappearance and presumed murder of the young Prince Edward turned many of Richard's subjects against him and then they promoted the illegitimate Henry Tudor. Henry was now the leading claimant to the throne as Richard was now an illegal leader. Henry reinforced his promised marriage to Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV. This brought Houses of Lancaster and York, which brought dissident Yorkists to Henry's side ('Crofton,' 2006).
After the death of the last Yorkists claimants, Henry's position on the throne was much more secured. However, a man Perkin Warbeck impersonated one the deceased relatives of Henry's wife, which led to chaos. He had then isolated Warbeck from foreign allies by securing peace with Charles VII of France, the Emperor Maximilian, and James IV of Scotland. He married his daughter Margaret to the Scotland king, James VI. In addition, he made a marriage alliance with the rising power in Spain for his eldest son Arthur to marry Catherine of Aragon in 1501. However, he died in the following year to this proposal. Henry then set for her to marry his surviving son, the future Henry VIII ('Crofton,' 2006).
Not only was Henry's alliance with other countries important, but also his approach to governance at the time has been characterized as 'the new monarchy', making a break with the medieval past. There was no part he was sterner about than in the raising of money for the Crown. He relied more on his personal servants than the aristocratic allies. He employed ruthless men to do his swindle business. However, he did not entirely trust anyone and would constantly insist that he should personally audit the household accounts. Henry turned his kingship into a profitable business. He minimized expenditure by avoiding costly wars and enforced that he did not need to rely on Parliament ('Crofton', 2006).
Similar to Henry VII importance, Queen Elizabeth I was essential to British History. Queen Elizabeth I was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, his second wife. She was the last of the Tudor Dynasty. Her early life was full of unpredictability, and her chances of succeeding to the throne seemed very slight once her half-brother Edward was born in 1537. She was the third in line behind her Roman Catholic half-sister, Princess Mary. Roman Catholics considered her illegitimate and she narrowly escaped execution in the wake of a failed rebellion against Queen Mary in 1554. Elizabeth succeeded the throne after Mary's death in November 1558. She was very well educated due to her parents determined teachings. Her 45-year reign is generally considered one of the most glorious in England history. She established the Church of England; its doctrines were laid down in the 39 Articles of 1563, a compromise between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism ("Elizabeth I", n.d.).
During Elizabeth's reign there were many historical voyages of discovery particularly into the Americas. These expeditions prepared England for an age of colonization and trade expansions, which Elizabeth recognized by establishing the East India Company in 1600. Additionally, the arts thrived during Elizabeth's reign. The Queen attended the performance of Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.' Also, composers, like William Byrd and Thomas Tallis, worked in the Queen's court, at the Chapel Royal, and St. James Palace. All in all, Elizabeth's reign was one of triumph and success; she was repeatedly called 'Good Queen Bess.' However, her rule was also one of considerable danger and difficulty with many threats of invasion. For example, the countries of Spain and France threatened England by forcing Ireland and Scotland to invade. Much of northern England was in rebellion during 1569-70. A papal bull, a type of letters issued by the Pope, of 1570 explicitly released Elizabeth's subjects from their allegiance, and she passed uncivil laws against Roman Catholics after plans against her life were discovered. Queen Elizabeth once said, 'Do not tell secrets to those whose faith and silence you have not already tested,' ('Elizabeth I', n.d.).
Throughout her long reign, the nation suffered high prices and severe economic depression, especially in the countryside during the 1590s. The war against Spain was not successful after the Armada had been beaten and was very costly. Wars during this time were estimated to have cost ??5 million. Which her Crown revenues could not match, her total annual revenue amounted to about ??392,000. With this, she left large debts to her successor. Although the nation was in debt, she wore expensive jewelry and clothes to look the part of a successful queen. As a likely successor to Elizabeth, her niece, Mary Queen of Scotland, spent nineteen years as a prisoner because she was the focus for rebellion and possible assassination plots against Elizabeth, such as the Ridolfi plot. Mary was also a temptation for invaders such as Philip II. In a letter of 1586 to Mary, Elizabeth wrote, 'You have planned' to take my life and ruin my kingdom' I never proceeded so harshly against you' ('Crofton', 2006 para 16).

Given that Henry VII and Elizabeth I had a successful rule, their contribution to Common Law impacted that idea. The English common law, which the Americans borrowed during the colonial period, has evolved during centuries in England. The principles and rules were extensive and complex, and they varied by regions. Common law was developed through practical experiences over time and thus became distinguished from a legal code in which the law was summarized simultaneously. The royal courts established by the Normans, slowly brought together the laws and practices that had characterized the Anglo-Saxon courts before the conquest of English in 1066. Since the royal courts were in greater contact with one another than the old courts, they developed similar laws. This did not create a single law for all of England. However, it did overlay variations of principles with the explanations that were common to the whole nation ('Kingdom of England', 2009).
These common laws were not legislated by meetings, but rather through judges as they confronted new situations needing these established principles. One of the greatest of these interpreters of Common law was Sir Edward Cole, Chief Justice of Common Pleas and King's Bench from 1606-1616. He lost the position after arguing that King James I was bound by the law like any other man. However, Cole's knowledge of common law rulings became the most detailed works of English law for succeeding generations ('English Common Law', 1997).
On the other hand, so far in 2014, Parliament has implemented thirteen public general acts of legislation. Some of these laws include: National Insurance Contributions Act, Supply and Appropriation (Anticipations and Adjustments) Act, Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Camping and Trade Union Administration Act, and Mesothelioma Act. The other laws that are currently in effect have had a large impact on history. The Anti-Social Behavior, Crime, and Policing Act is an act to make provisions about anti-social behavior, crime and disorder, including recovery of possession of dwelling houses. Also, to make provisions about firearms, sexual harm and violence, forced marriage, and the police. Another historical act is the International Development (Gender Equality). This act is to promote gender equality in the provision by the Government of development assistance and humanitarian assistance to countries outside the United Kingdom, and for connected purposes ('The National Archives', n.d.).
Another important aspect of English culture is their customs. Being that every country has its own food style England's is more traditional. When the Romans came to England, they found Celtic people living and eating like uncultured people. The Romans introduced kitchens, tableware, and decorations to the savages to make life more pleasurable. It was said that one Roman governor of Britain, Coldius Albinus, "could swallow of a morning five hundred figs, a hundred peaches, ten melons, twenty pounds of grapes, a hundred figpeckers, and four hundred oysters," p. 87. Anglo-Saxons, who came after the Romans, would eat horsemeat during every meal. The Christians outlawed the consumption of this meat so they would seem diverse and unlike the Anglo-Saxons. However meat was not a common food group to eat. Cattle were primarily used to plow fields and cows were used for their milk. Farming was simple, and with a population of less than two million, there was plenty of land for everyone. Ale and wine, which many people brewed in their homes, were the most common drinks. In addition, through medieval times, the rich were known to eat large amounts of food. Their main meal of the day was a feast consisting of roasted meats with various stews, soups, and sauces. Spices other than salt were not commonly used until the thirteenth century. Only the rich used spices like ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon which soldiers returning to England brought back from the Middle East. On the other hand, peasant lifestyle was not easy; they lived on a diet of coarse bread, barley porridge, eggs, peas and beans. The only meat they ate was from wild birds like partridges. Water was of very terrible quality and widely considered a poor man's drink ('Faiella', 2005).

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