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Manual England and Europe in the Sixteenth Century

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Its vastness formed a barrier cutting the islands off from the real centers of civilization, stretching in a band from the Mediterranean to China. For millennia, Britain was a backwater at the western end of this band. By the last centuries BC, northern France heavily influenced southern England; in the first centuries CE, Rome directly ruled England and Wales; after , Germans and Norsemen settled and plundered much of Britain; and in , England was invaded from both Norway and France.

By , though, Edward IV had renounced all claims on France in return for a cash gift. It took several centuries, but these gradually converted the Atlantic from a barrier isolating Western Europe to a highway linking it to lands of untold wealth.

Of each other’s making

At first Spain and Portugal, which combined excellent access to the Atlantic with centralized monarchies, were better placed than England to exploit these highways. They grabbed the richest pickings in India, South America, and the Caribbean, reducing the English, along with the French and Dutch, to colonizing those bits of North America that the Iberians did not want.

If anything, Britain actually looked more vulnerable to continental domination than ever in the 16th century, culminating in the attempted Spanish invasion of Oceangoing ships turned the North Atlantic into a Goldilocks Ocean, one big enough for very varied societies and ecological zones to flourish around it, but small enough for European ships to cross it, making money at every point. In the 16th century, Spanish kings had treated their merchants like ATMs, extracting cash from them to fund royal wars to dominate Europe.

The World in the Sixteenth Century

By Spain was overextended and bankrupt. English kings, by contrast, were too weak to plunder either their North American colonists or their traders very effectively. Then, in the 18th century, a handful of Britons carried out one of the profoundest strategic reorientations in history. From this perspective, the most important thing about Britain was that it stuck out into the Atlantic, and the only point of fighting in Europe was to prevent any single power from dominating the continent, because such a land power might then challenge Britain at sea.

By Britain had made this vision a reality, establishing both a continental balance of power and an intercontinental empire on which the sun never set. In Scotland of course, it was adopted as the official Bible of the church, once Knox got back there. And it had the important side effect of teaching the Scottish people to speak English. The fact that Scotland is now an English speaking country is due to this.

This might have gone on and come to no effect whatsoever, except in , Mary died on the 17th of November. Cardinal Pole who had been her right hand man died 12 hours later.

He died a natural death in his bed, and I believe he is buried in Westminster Abbey which goes to show you there were no hard feelings at the end. This opened the way to the return of the exiles who began flooding back into England at this particular point. The new queen, Queen Elizabeth was not altogether welcoming of them. She was broadly sympathetic to their aims, their views and what they had suffered, but she realized also that the years of exile had radicalized these people.

Having been in Geneva, they had a much clearer idea of the kind of reformation they wanted to introduce into England, than they had had before. They were much more confident in their understanding of the kind of thing they wanted to see changed. Now, Elizabeth is an enigma. No one really knows what she personally believed.

This is not because she did not have personal beliefs of her own. But, Elizabeth, unlike her sister Mary had a lot of common sense. She was not going to let people know any more about her personal beliefs than was absolutely necessary.

Britain and Europe: a long history of conflict and cooperation

Not because she was ashamed of them, or anything like that, but she recognized that in her position as queen the best thing for her was to find a solution to the religious problem which most people could live with whether it was what she particularly herself wanted or not. And then once a common policy was agreed, she would adopt it and say this is what I believe, and stick to that through thick and thin until she died. That is what happened. What we do know is that once it was introduced she accepted it and she expected everybody else to accept it, and there was to be no budging from there.

Elizabeth did not want to break with Rome. Remember when she took over, the Church was still in communion with Rome. Elizabeth made no move to break the connection once again. She refused to be called the Supreme Head of the Church. Instead, she took a different title which was Supreme Governor of the Church. Head being a controversial word, because the Puritans thought Christ was the head of the church, not the king.

So, she took the title Supreme Governor, which is still the title of the British monarch today. Queen Elizabeth the 2nd is Supreme Governor of the Church of England, not the supreme head of the Church of England, even though nobody seems to realize this. That is what Elizabeth did in She brought back as much as she could of the way things had been before her sister Mary took over. Now, Elizabeth was stuck as far as the Catholic Church was concerned. But on the other hand she could not become openly a Catholic herself, quite apart from her beliefs, which were probably not Catholic; she was probably a Lutheran, if she was anything in theology.

Because the annulment of the first marriage was never recognized by Rome, Elizabeth was a bastard as far as the pope was concerned. And because of that, she had no right to be queen. Therefore she was kind of stuck. Elizabeth had no intention of abdicating. The situation being what it was, she more or less had to be a protestant whether she wanted to or not. But even so, the pope did not excommunicate her until Meanwhile, other developments were taking place. In France, the protestant churches had organized in , and within a very short time, there were registered protestant congregations.

Related terms

These were people who had been around before who were now organizing themselves. Large tracts of southern France became protestant; the majority of the population accepted the reformation. The most important convert was the queen of Navarre, Queen Jeanne, accepted Protestantism. She married a French nobleman who also accepted Protestantism. Their son Henry of Navarre was brought up as a Calvinistic protestant, but through his father he had a claim to the throne of France.

Eventually he became king of France as Henry the 4th and provoked a crisis because he was a protestant king of a country which was still a majority Catholic. Henry had to decide whether he would accept Catholicism or not.

England and Europe in the Sixteenth Century

He did. That was the beginning of the end for Protestantism in France. But this is looking ahead. In , there was a national synod of the French Protestant church in Paris which devised a confession of faith. It became and has remained to this day the main confession of faith of the French protestant churches. The French Protestants realized that the only way they were going to survive was by organizing themselves militarily. They had to have some kind of protection in order to persuade the French king that it would not be a very good idea to attack them.

In order to do this, they called on mercenaries from the Holy Roman Empire, from Germany, Switzerland, and so on, and these people came into France and were known as the confederates. The German word for confederate was corrupted into French as Huguenot, probably. The French Protestants have been known ever since as the Huguenots.

They were organized, ready for battle if battle was to come. The big question that France had to face at this stage was: Is it going to be possible to tolerate a religious minority in the state? Can you have one country, but two religions? France was having to face this issue at this time.

But before anything could be done, in , the same year that the confession of faith was drawn up, the king, Henry the 2nd, died. He was jousting, and he got hit in the eye by a lance, and he died of that. He was succeeded by his teenage son who we know as Francis II. When we last had a look at Mary, she was a 5 year old girl who was spirited out of Scotland in , and taken to France where she was raised at the French Court and was betrothed and eventually married to the son of the French King.

So she became queen of France in when she was 17 years old. This did not last long. Sixteen months after Francis became king, he was dead of earache. Mary was left as an 18 year old widowed queen. What were they going to do with her? Well, the only thing they could think of was send her back to Scotland, she is queen of Scotland as well. She died in Scotland was up for grabs. Things were complicated by the fact that one of the people who wanted to go back to England in was John Knox. But, Elizabeth put her foot down.

There was no way she was having him back in the country. Everybody tried to persuade him not to do this, even Calvin told him it was a bad idea to do this and he would live to regret it. But Knox was not to be dissuaded. He produced this thing saying that no woman was fit to rule. Because Mary was a woman was why all the troubles had happened in England, the return to Catholicism that if you had a real man in there that none of this would have happened.

This was not a good argument. Everybody but Knox saw how stupid Knox was being. I read that tract. She said you are not coming back, this is seditious, it is against me as much as it is against my sister. At this point, Knox starts falling all over himself. Elizabeth saw that even Knox had his uses.

In , you have a convergence of forces. You have Mary Queen of Scots heading back north to reclaim her kingdom. And you have John Knox with an English army appearing on the scene, basically taking over. Knox got there first. On the 17th of August in , he called together an assembly of the Church of Scotland and they voted for the reformation, with a little encouragement I have no doubt from the English army.

Knox immediately took over the church and the state, and introduced in Scotland a Geneva style reformation, more or less overnight. He could do this because the regent in the castle was breathing her last, and the Queen had not yet arrived. Here she is turning up in Edinburgh. But his idea of monarchy was taken straight out of the Old Testament. Now Mary of course, having been brought up in the French Court had a rather different idea of morality from that of John Knox. Before very long she was sleeping with so many different noble men in the kingdom that nobody really knew who she was with on any given occasion.


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She was in fact officially married off to one of them, Lord Darnley. But when her son was born in , nobody really knew who the father was.

As far as she was concerned, John Knox was the court preacher, and how would you feel if you were an 18 year old reasonably beautiful young girl and you have to go to church every Sunday and listen to this dour old minister all dressed in black telling you about the evils of Disney World, which is basically what John Knox did. As a result of various intrigues, Mary realized that she had to flee for her life and she did so, and she landed up in England, in February of Well, this was not what Elizabeth had asked for for Christmas.

Elizabeth did not want Mary Queen of Scots in England. Not least, because Mary was the successor to the throne, probably. She was distantly related through Henry VII. Overview The British overseas trade of the 16 th to 17 th centuries went through two major phases separated by a lengthy interim period, which can be described as a transformational period that defined the English trade to come for several centuries. These two phases are quite dissimilar in their broad aspects, and there is a clear break of continuity by the Elizabethan times.

This page will look into the well-established English trade of the early to middle sixteenth century. This was what the author feels should be called the 'old-style' English trade, as it was a direct descendant of the English mediaeval trade. As a matter of fact, the similarities between the early to middle Tudor trade and the traditional English late mediaeval trade are so apparent that it would be more correct to view the two phenomenons as simply one.

Salzman , The Tudor rule in England coincided with the dawn of the Modern Age, a period that historians call 'the Early Modern'. Due to - broadly - the changing times and - specifically - the different political climate, England experienced massive changes in the sixteenth century that set it apart from the fifteenth century. However, despite all of these shifts and upheaval, the English Tudor trade actually remained essentially the same until the middle of the sixteenth century.

Therefore, this page will proceed to paint a picture of this specific period. The old-style English Tudor trade was rather simple in its composition and in the general nature of the distribution of the trading routes. In other words, the English did not trade extensively. Their trade, whatever the volume, was very limited in scope — the Dutch were the near-exclusive trading partners of England — or the rather the near-exclusive intermediaries, as the Dutch did not actually produce that much. The Dutch were renowned traders, but due to several limitations, their small size and the lack of natural resources — even in terms of the arable land — meant that they focused on the re-sale of goods, instead of production, to earn their living.

Davis , Other minor direct trading destinations of the early Tudor English merchants included Bilbao and Seville in Spain; Bordeaux in France; Lubeck, Rostock, Gdansk, and Konigsberg — which were scattered around the German states and the Rzeczpospolita, but all constituted the core of the Hanseatic League. The English also traded early on with cities such as Rouen, Cologne, Frankfurt, Venice, Ragusa and Istanbul, but all of the aforementioned trading was indirect. That is, those cities had the merchandise that the Dutch bought up and then sold to the English, again in Antwerp.

Less commonly, traders from those cities travelled to Antwerp and traded directly with the English, but again, on the Dutch soil. The staple: Woollens. Wool as well as the various cloths made out of wool was the chief and almost only export of England until the middle of seventeenth century. These two products compromised the overwhelming bulk of the English exports to Antwerp, where they financed the purchase or barter of the Continental European and Eastern goods.

While woollen cloths themselves enjoyed a lasting tenure as the chief export of Britain, plain wool, not weaved in any cloth collapsed as a market commodity by Lloyd , Meanwhile, the exports of woollen cloths boomed. Initially, this was due to the thick, heavy broadcloths, which had a voracious market in Central and Northern Europe. The kersey was a lighter, but a coarser cloth, which actually seems rather paradoxical, with the common expectation that coarse wool is also thick wool, and vice versa.

Indeed, sometimes these various classifications of English woollens and the plethora of textile jargon confuses the author of this webpage as well. In any case, this coarseness of kerseys was due to less thorough felting, which is the process of compression and rubbing together of wollen cloths under warm, moist conditions, during which the woollens interlock. Both of these cloths were usually shipped undyed and undressed to Antwerp, in the early years of the trade.