Tudor England held some very colourful monarchs. But what was Tudor life like for the 'average joe'? How was an illness handled? Did they live in fear? Was it possible to climb the social ladder? Were there special events to enjoy?
Tudor Life under Henry VII
Once Henry VII took the crown of England, Tudor life quickly got started. There was opportunity for prosperity, and the building of wealth for the individual was quickly realized.
Although there were minor skirmishes between the crown and various members of Tudor England, European conflicts were almost nil. Henry was only interested in seeing his country prosper. There was no room for Continental wars to interfere with trade, so Tudor life began to see a settled, and more peaceful, existence.
Taxes were collected, though, and the collector was not a welcome sight in any village or town. Henry VII's tax men, for instance, were quite an aggressive lot, and many didn't make it back with their collections. Still, Henry VII amassed quite a fortune, which went right into the coffers for the country.
The Tudors did know how to spend though, and usually for the amusement of their subjects. Tudor times began to be filled with street processions, grand parades, and marvelous tournaments.
For Henry VII, a massive expenditure was the marriage ceremony for his son, Arthur, and Princess Catherine of Aragon. St. Paul's Cathedral was the venue and all of Tudor England was invited.
County-wide progressions were beginning to be the norm, which caused a great financial burden on the nobility as they were expected to host their monarch. However, Tudor times were good for the general population. They could enjoy the show without having to spend a shilling.
The sweating sickness made its first appearance in Tudor England during Henry VII's reign. Tudor life was bought to a standstill when a person felt a little pain in the head and a sweat began to form. The accepted cure? The patient was kept awake and not allowed to lapse into a coma.
Beginning with Henry VII, a member of Tudor England was able to trade peacefully, keep their money in their pockets (unless the tax man made a call), and generally enjoy a standard of life unequalled in a long while, as long as you avoided illness.
Tudor Times under Henry VIII
It wasn't difficult for the 'little man' to work himself up the social ladder. During Henry VIII's reign, butcher's sons could become Chancellors of England, while servants of servants could rise to be Earls.
Slowly, however, Tudor life was beginning to be filled with fear. As Henry VIII grew older, Tudor England had to be careful with their voiced opinions.
It was easy for anybody (either nobleman or boatman) to be hauled into court for saying something "against His King's Grace" and then finding themselves without an ear...or head, courtesy of the headsman at The Tower of London.
Once The Reformation took place, making a statement about religion was especially tricky. If religion was going to be discussed, your opinion had better coincide with Henry VIII's. Tudor life was beginning to be a bit sticky, even for those who never visited court.
However, The Reformation did bring about financial fortune to the general population. Although most of the monastic wealth went to Henry's courtiers, merchants, lawyers, doctors, and other 'lower folk' were able to take possession of former monastery property. The rising middle class suddenly found themselves knocking on the doors of landed gentry.
Joining the sweating sickness, at this time the bubonic plague began to run rampant through Tudor life. In its case, the accepted cure was to out-run the disease, which was no problem for the rich who had other homes to inhabit.
The poor, however, didn't have the means to escape. Remedies had to be tried. A combination of raisins, sorrel, marigolds, and snapdragons was very popular. For the truly wealthy, like Henry VIII, ground pearls was a favourite medicine.
The only sure cure for Tudor times? Don't catch any illness.
Tudor England under Edward VI and Mary I
For Edward VI and "Bloody" Mary Tudor's subjects, a major fear was believing in the wrong religion. Espouse the doctrine of "Protestantism" and you were safe during Edward's short reign.
Espouse that same dogma, however, during Mary's time on the throne and the chances were you'd be the main course at a stake dinner. Tudor England saw droves of common folk burned at the stake for believing something other than what Mary felt in her heart.
Daily Tudor life was greatly disrupted during her reign, also. Besides the religious divide, rebellions against the monarch were commonplace. As Mary's husband was Philip of Spain, it was inevitable that Tudor England would be drawn into Philip's war with France.
Trade suffered, soldiers were conscripted, the coinage was debased, and taxes were collected with a vengeance. Tudor life was looking more and more toward Princess Elizabeth ascending the throne.
Tudor Life under Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I managed to put life back on track. Mary and Philip's war with Spain was brought to a speedy peace and, although relations continued to be 'iffy', troop conscription was at an end. Quickly bringing the coinage back to strength, trade was back on top within a few years, and the middle class found themselves gathering the rewards.
Attending plays became a part of Tudor life. Shakespeare's Globe Theatre quickly grew popular during the later years of Elizabeth's life.
Religion ceased to be a loose cannon and as long as you followed the Church of England, even if you were a secret Catholic, you were left pretty much alone.
It was during these Tudor times that the feeling of nationalism was at its height. The defeat of the Spanish Armada was the epitome of "Gloriana's" reign and Tudor life was at its peak.
Article by "Tudor Rose"
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