In 1485, Henry Tudor won the battle of Bosworth against Richard III, becoming Henry VII, the founder of one of the greatest dynasties of English history. His victory marked the end of the civil war between the noble houses of York and Lancaster known as the War of the Roses (1455-1485). To reinforce his position on the throne, the newly-risen king, who strongly believed in the political benefits of dynastic marriages, married, in 1486, Elizabeth of York, the daughter of Edward IV. Henry VII turned out to be a cautious and thrifty politician, trusting nobody, and concerned, above all, about reinforcing the centralized national state.
That is why, he created the Court of Star Chamber, a new institution developed out of a judicial committee of the King's Council; he protected the interests of the rising bourgeoisie and of the new nobility (instead of those of the old' noble houses) and created the merchant fleet. The ensuing economic development and political stability at home caused literacy to extend among the people at large: reading and writing ceased to be the monopoly of the clergy, and prosperous towns founded grammar schools with the material support of the local authorities.
[...] With its spirit of inquiry and its vision of the ancient freedom of Greek and Roman thought, the Renaissance was transplanted, in early sixteenth century, from the continent to bloom afresh in England. The interest in classical learning in England was boosted by private donations of ancient manuscripts to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. “William Grocyn, the first teacher of Oxford, Thomas Linacre, who taught Greek to Erasmus and Thomas Morus, John Colet, the founder of St-Paul's School, the first English secondary school devoted to the New Learning, established the teaching of Greek on sound principles and wrote grammatical works and translations” (Gavriliu, 2000: 72-3). [...]
[...] The first half of the century witnessed the revival of lyrical poetry through the introduction of the sonnet (Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard), the rise of the secular drama (the early comedies and tragedies) and the emergence of urbane prose (Sir Thomas Morus). Moreover, the second half of the century, and particularly its final decades, brought about an unprecedented surge of creativity, especially in poetry and drama writing: In the brief space of some ten to fifteen years, what had been until then an essentially imitative literature looking towards the continent for its models came suddenly into its own, and the poetry of Sidney and Spenser, Marlowe and Shakespeare not only projected England to the forefront of the European scene, but set new standards against which the drama and poetry of future generations would be judged. [...]
[...] (Mary's execution turned her into martyr, the innocent romantic victim of tyrannical jealousy”. Gavriliu, 2002: 82) Last but not least, during the last years of Elizabeth's reign, after the English failure in Ireland (1598-99) brought disgrace upon one of the queen's former favourites, Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex, another plot threatened Elizabeth's position on the throne in 1601: Intelligent, well-educated, handsome, generous and courageous, Essex was, as Ophelia said of Hamlet expectancy and rose of the fair state”. He soon won the heart if not the mind of the aging queen, became a member of the Privy Council and gathered about him a group of brilliant young aristocrats including the Earl of Southampton, Shakespeare's patron. [...]
[...] But, as Roston rightfully points out, Renaissance was far more than a revival of classical learning or the imitation of an ancient style. It represented, rather, a complex shift in human thought of which the return to classical models was more a symptom than a cause” (1982: 4). This search for new ‘styles of thought' of the Renaissance, that would provide a counterweight to those dominating the Middle Ages, materialised in Humanism, characterised by interest in man, asserting the intrinsic worth of human life. [...]
[...] That young Edward was raised as a bigoted Protestant and his uncle was the leader of the Protestant faction in the Privy Council favoured the evolution of the Church of England along clearly Protestant lines. In 1549, the Act of Uniformity was passed by the House of Lords, making the Catholic Mass illegal and introducing the Book of Common Prayer, which embodied Protestant doctrines. more radical Book of Common Prayer was passed in the Second Act of Uniformity in 1552.) The architect of these reforms was Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. [...]
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