By Jasper Ridley

From the coming of Henry Tudor and his military, at Milford in 1485, to the loss of life of the nice Queen Elizabeth I in 1603, this used to be an astonishingly eventful and contradictory age. the entire strands of Tudor existence are accrued in a wealthy tapestry - London and the rustic, costumes, furnishings and meals, go back and forth, medication, activities and hobbies, grand tournaments and the nice flowering of English drama, juxtaposed with the stultifying narrowness of peasant existence, bad roads, an unlimited underclass, the tough therapy of heretics and traitors, and the distress of the Plague.

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He certainly became very fat, for we know from his suit of armour in the Tower of London that in his last years he was 54 inches round the waist; but he was almost as much of a tyrant when he was young as when he was old. Even in the early years of his reign he executed more people than his father did in his whole life. There is very little contemporary evidence that he ever flew into a violent rage, and everything suggests that he calmly planned his changes of policy, and the executions which always accompanied them, as acts of cold, calculating policy.

1576–8 Martin Frobisher’s voyages to find the North-west Passage. 1577 James Burbage opens The Theatre in Finsbury Fields. 1577–80 Drake sails round the world. 1579–81 Revolt in Munster, Ireland, suppressed. 1580 Massacre of Spanish prisoners at Smerwick in Ireland. Men begin to wear their cloaks ‘Collywestonwise’. The French farthingale replaces the Spanish farthingale in women’s dress. 1584 Elizabeth I expels the Spanish ambassador. Assassination of William the Silent by a Catholic agent in the Netherlands.

Even in the early years of his reign he executed more people than his father did in his whole life. There is very little contemporary evidence that he ever flew into a violent rage, and everything suggests that he calmly planned his changes of policy, and the executions which always accompanied them, as acts of cold, calculating policy. He could be charming and courteous, not only to the ladies at his court, and to the common people whom he met on his travels through his realm, but also to the ministers whom he had marked for destruction and to foreign ambassadors immediately before declaring war.

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