Famous Tudors

Many people alive during the Tudor Period (1485 to 1603) are still very well-known today.

Below is a list of famous Tudors. Click on their names to learn more about them.

Tudor Royalty

King Henry VII

King Henry VIII

Catherine of Aragon

Anne Boleyn

Jane Seymour

Anne of Cleves

Catherine Howard

Catherine Parr

Lady Jane Grey

Queen Elizabeth I


Other Famous Tudors

Thomas Wolsey

Thomas Cromwell

Thomas Cranmer

Thomas More

Sir Francis Drake

William Shakespeare

Christopher Marlowe

Sir Walter Raleigh

Ferdinand Magellan

John Cabot

Vasco da Gama

Christopher Columbus

Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Visit our Tudor resources page to discover even more Tudor facts.

Tudor Medicine: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about health and medicine in Tudor times.

  • Tudor medicine mostly consisted of herbal remedies. For example, a mixture of sage, lavender and marjoram was recommended to treat a headache, chamomile was taken to help ease a stomach ache, and feverfew was consumed to help with colds and high-temperatures.

  • Herbal remedies were often known as ‘simples’ and most Tudor women would have known how to make them.
  • Other Tudor medicines were much more outlandish. For example, it was thought that smallpox could be cured by hanging red curtains around the patients bed, and jaundice could be cured by drinking lice mixed in ale every morning for a week.
  • Bleeding was a common practice in Tudor England. People believed that illness was often caused by having too much blood, so ‘bad blood’ was let (either by cutting a vein or by applying leeches to the skin).
  • There wasn’t a National Health Service in Tudor England, so the type of doctor Tudors saw if they were feeling unwell varied according to how much money they had and where they lived. The wealthy were visited by Tudor physicians or surgeons. Tudor barbers could pull out rotten teeth or let blood. A Tudor apothecary was the Tudor version of a pharmacist, selling medicine and remedies. Poor Tudors would get basic health care from their own family members, the Church or by visiting the local wise woman (who would make herbal remedies and potions).
  • Plague Doctors, who treated those suffering from diseases like the Bubonic Plague (the Black Death) and typhoid, dressed in a beaked mask, boots, gloves and were wrapped head-to-toe in vinegar-doused clothes.

Plague Doctor

  • The Tudors didn’t know about antibiotics or anesthetics.
  • Tudor doctors often examined a patient’s urine – checking its smell, colour and even taste!
  • Astrology also played a key role in diagnosing a patient’s illness.
  • Some individuals did begin to advance medical knowledge in Tudor times, basing their findings on observation and evidence, rather then tradition and superstition. Leonardo da Vinci made accurate drawings of a human bodies, Andreas Versalius published a book called The Fabric of the Human Body which included many accurate diagrams of the human anatomy, and Ambroise Pare improved the way in which wounds were treated and designed artificial limbs.

What next? Find out more about The Tudors by visiting out Tudor resources page.

Thomas Cranmer: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Thomas Cranmer.

  • Thomas Cranmer was born in 1489 near Nottingham, England. He spent 8 years at college in Cambridge, collected Medieval books and was awarded a Master of Arts.

  • Thomas Cranmer was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1532 to 1555. He was also one of the leaders of the English Reformation.
  • Cranmer was popular with King Henry VIII, because he supported the King’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon.
  • One of Cranmer’s most important achievements was writing the Book of Common Prayer.
  • Thomas Cranmer heard the last words of King Henry VIII as he lay on his deathbed. apparently, Henry squeezed Cranmer’s hand so hard that he took it to be a sign from God.
  • Cranmer was not allowed to acknowledge the existence of his wife while he was Archbishop. Some historians claim that he carried her around in a box with air holes in it.
  • Thomas Cranmer was Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Edward VI. When the king made it clear that he he wanted his cousin, Lady Jane Grey (a Protestant), rather than Mary (the Catholic daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon) to succeed him, Thomas Cranmer supported him.
  • When Mary became the Queen of England, Cranmer and other key figures of the English Reformation were put on trial. Cranmer was executed by being burnt at the stake on 21st March 1556. He was 66 years old.
  • Thomas Cranmer is commemorated in the Communion service of the Anglican Church, on the anniversary of his death on March 21st.

What next? Find out more Tudor facts by visiting our Tudor resources page.

Thomas Cromwell Facts

Here are some facts about Thomas Cromwell.

  • Thomas Cromwell was an English statesman and lawyer, who also served Henry VIII’s chief minister for 8 years.
  • Cromwell was born in about 1485 in Putney, London. His father was a blacksmith by trade, but he also owned a brewery and traded as a cloth merchant.

  • Thomas Cromwell spent much of his early life abroad. At various times he was a merchant in Belgium, a soldier in Italy and worked in an office in the Netherlands.
  • Thomas Cromwell became a Member of Parliament in 1523, and in 1524, he worked for Thomas Wolsey, Henry VIII’s chief adviser at the time.
  • By the early 1530s, Thomas Cromwell had become one of Henry VIII’s most important adviser. Cromwell was one of the biggest driving forces behind the English Reformation, establishing the King as the head of the Church in England.
  • Cromwell was given several positions between 1532 and 1536, making him one of the most influential men in England. He was Lord Privy Seal, Master of the King’s Jewels and Principal Secretary.
  • However, Cromwell’s popularity with the King did not last long, because of Henry’s failed marriage to Anne of Cleves, which Cromwell had endorsed.
  • Cromwell was beheaded on 28th July 1540, the day of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine Howard. Cromwell was executed on Tower Hill (just outside the Tower of London) and his head was displayed on a spike on London Bridge.
  • It is believed that Henry VIII regretted the execution of Thomas Cromwell.
  • The famous artist Hans Holbein the Younger painted a portrait of Thomas Cromwell, which is today in the Frick Collection in New York.

Thomas Cromwell

  • Thomas Cromwell has been portrayed in several movies and television programs, usually as an evil and villainous character. He is also commemorated with a plaque at the Tower of London near the spot where he was killed.

What next? Learn more facts about the Tudors by visiting out Tudor resources page.

Who was Thomas Wolsey? Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Thomas Wolsey.

  • Thomas Wolsey was born in Ipswich, Suffolk in about 1473.
  • He attended Ipswich School and then went on to study theology at Magdalen College, Oxford.

  • Wolsey became a priest in 1498 and he was promoted several times within the Church. At the height of his power, Wolsey held several important positions. He was the Bishop of Lincoln, Canon of Windsor and also Prince Bishop of Durham.
  • In 1515, Wolsey was made a Cardinal.
  • Thomas Wolsey was also a very successful politician. When Henry VIII became King of England in 1509, Wolsey was his almoner (in charge of distributing funds to the poor).

Thomas Wolsey

  • He became Lord Chancellor, and Henry VIII’s key adviser, in 1515.
  • One of Wolsey’s biggest successes was organizing a meeting (named the Field of the Cloth of Gold) between King Henry VIII and Francis I of France to strengthen their relationship. The meeting featured wine, music and two Royal monkeys performing.
  • Wolsey also made big changes to how taxes were collected in England. He changed the taxation system so that the Tudor poor did not pay as much as the rich Tudors.
  • Although popular with King Henry VIII, Thomas Wolsey was unable to arrange the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon (so that he was free to marry Anne Boleyn), and this brought about his downfall.
  • Thomas Wolsey was arrested in 1529. Accused of treason, Wolsey died on 29th November 1530 on the journey to London.
  • Thomas Wolsey was succeeded as Lord Chancellor by Thomas More.
  • Today, Thomas Wolsey is remembered for his great political and religious influence and power, and his passion for architecture – Wolsey lived in and redesigned Hampton Court Palace, a magnificent building near London.
  • A statue of Wolsey stands in his home town of Ipswich.

What next? Learn more Tudor facts by visiting the Primary Facts Tudor resources page.

Thomas More: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Thomas More:

  • Thomas More was born in London and lived from 1478 to 1535. He was a lawyer, humanist, statesman and author as well as advisor to Henry VIII.

  • He is also famous for writing Utopia, published in 1516, about the political system on an imaginary island. The name has been used to describe a perfect society ever since, and Utopia is one of the most influential books ever written.
  • Thomas More also wrote many letters, some of which can be seen in museums today. He wrote to his friends, his children, to other scholars and to government officials.
  • More studied at Oxford University, where he learned Latin, wrote comedies and studied Greek literature. He then studied law before standing for election to Parliament in 1504. He represented Great Yarmouth and then London.
  • More held many political titles. He was an Undersheriff of the City of London, Master of Requests, a member of the Privy Council, Speaker of the House of Commons. In 1529, he succeeded Thomas Wolsey as Chancellor.

Thomas More

  • When Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church, More refused to recognize him as the Supreme Head of the Church. More was found guilty of treason and he was beheaded on 6th July 1535. He was 57 years old.
  • More’s severed head was displayed on London Bridge, but his daughter, Meg Roper, managed to have it taken down. His skull now rests in a vault in St Dunstan’s Church in Canterbury, England.
  • Thomas More was a devout Catholic. He saw the Protestant reformation as being evil and dangerous. He rejected the work of Martin Luther and William Tyndale, believing that the Catholic Church was the only true church. He spied on suspected Protestants and made sure their religious books were not shipped to England.
  • Thomas More was made a saint in 1935. In 2000, he was declared by Pope John Paul II to be the Patron of Statesmen and Politicians.
  • More was the subject of a play called A Man For All Seasons which was also made into a movie in 1966. The movie won the Oscar for best picture that year.
  • Today, there are dozens of schools, churches and other institutions in the UK and US named after Thomas More. Colleges in Malaysia, Belgium and Germany are named after him, too.

What next? Discover more Tudor facts by visiting our Tudor resources page.

Ferdinand Magellan: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Ferdinand Magellan.

  • Ferdinand Magellan was a Portuguese explorer, who lived from about 1480 until 1521. His exact birthplace in Northern Portugal is not known.

  • Magellan is famous for being the first person to sail from the Atlantic Ocean into the Pacific Ocean, and for crossing the Pacific Ocean. His voyage proved that the world was round.
  • Magellan became a pageboy to the Portuguese queen at the age of 10. He studied maps and navigation and, when in his 20s, he joined a voyage to East Africa.
  • Spain was concerned with finding a new sea route to the Spice Islands, in what is now Indonesia. Ferdinand Magellan was convinced that a sea route from Spain existed through the New World.

Ferdinand Magellan

  • Magellan’s expedition to discover the Pacific Ocean set sail in 1519. He named the newly discovered ocean the Pacific, because it seemed so calm.
  • Magellan believed it would only take a few days to cross the Pacific Ocean, instead of the 4 months it actually took. During that time, many of the crew starved because of a lack of food.
  • Ferdinand Magellan landed in the Philippines in April 1521, where he converted hundreds of natives to Christianity. However, he was killed when fighting one of the tribes.
  • Although Ferdinand Magellan had proved it was possible to sail around the world, it was so difficult that it would be almost 60 years before someone else did it – Francis Drake in 1577.
  • The Strait of Magellan, the passage of water at the tip of South America, is named after him. Magellan has also given his name to a species of penguin and two craters on the moon.
  • A type of cloud is also named after him. He was the first European to write about the ‘Magellanic clouds’, now known to be galaxies in space.

What next? Find out about Vasco da Gama and John Cabot, two other Tudor explorers.

Vasco da Gama: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Vasco da Gama.

  • Vasco da Gama is one of the most famous of the Portuguese explorers from the Age of Discovery, which occurred during the 15th and 16th centuries.
  • He lived from about 1460 to 1524 and was the first European to reach India directly by sea. His discovery meant that the Portuguese could colonize parts of Asia.

  • Much of Vasco da Gama’s early life was spent on fishing boats. He also studied navigation and astronomy, and he was friends with Ponce de Leon, who discovered Florida.
  • His father was also a well known explorer. He would have made the sea voyage to India that made Vasco da Gama famous, but he died before he could complete the journey.
  • The land on the East African coast under Muslim rule was very important for Portuguese expansion plans. At one point, Vasco da Gama impersonated a Muslim to secure a meeting with a local sultan.

Vasco da Gama

  • Da Gama stayed in India for several months, leaving when he was asked to pay taxes and leave his goods behind. In retaliation, he took some hostages.
  • In 1502, da Gama made his second voyage to India. On this voyage, he came upon a ship carrying Muslim pilgrims. He looted the ship and then cruelly killed all of the passengers in cold-blood.
  • His third voyage was in 1524, when he set sail to India with two of his sons. However, he died while on the voyage, possibly from pneumonia although some say it was from exhaustion and overworking.
  • A city in India is named after Vasco da Gama, as well as three Brazilian football teams, several ships, a crater on the moon and several places in Lisbon, Portugal.

John Cabot: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about John Cabot.

  • John Cabot lived from about 1450 until 1499 and was a well known navigator and Tudor explorer. He is credited as being the first European to see North America since the Vikings.

  • John Cabot was born in Italy, although his exact birthplace is not known for sure.
  • Cabot’s family moved to Venice when he was 11, where he was taught navigation and sailing from Italian seamen. He also spent time in Seville, Spain where he worked on building a stone bridge.
  • In 1488, Cabot moved from Venice (Italy) to Valencia (Spain) to Seville (Spain), before finally arriving in England to secure funding for an Atlantic voyage.

John Cabot

  • In May, 1497, Cabot sailed in his ship, the Matthew, west from Bristol, England, trying to find a shorter sea passage to Asia. He actually sailed to North America. Nobody knows for sure where Cabot landed; it may have been somewhere in Canada (perhaps the island of Newfoundland) or in Maine, United States.
  • Cabot was hailed as a hero when he arrived back in England. King Henry VII gave him permission to undertake another voyage to America.
  • Cabot sailed again in May, 1498. Nobody knows for sure whether Cabot reached North America a second time, or whether his ship was lost at sea. Some historians have suggested that John Cabot did reach America and established a religious colony. If so, it was the first Christian settlement in the New World.
  • There are many reminders of John Cabot in Bristol, England. A 300 foot sandstone tower commemorates the explorer and there are a school and shopping centre named after him.
  • Cabot is also celebrated in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, Canada. There are several statues to the explorer, as well as a 200 mile scenic drive known as the Cabot Trail.
  • In 1997 a replica of John Cabot’s ship, the Matthew, sailed across the Atlantic from England to Newfoundland. It was greeted by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, along with members of the Canadian and Italian governments.
  • John Cabot’s son, Sebastian Cabot, was also explorer and he made several voyages to North America.

What next? Discover more Tudor facts, learn about Christopher Columbus (another Tudor explorer) or find out about voyages of exploration.

Hampton Court Palace: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Hampton Court Palace.

  • Hampton Court Palace is situated on the River Thames, in the borough of Richmond Upon Thames, about 17 miles from Central London.
  • The palace was built in 1514 originally as a home for Cardinal Wolsey, the advisor to King Henry VIII, although its most famous resident was Henry VIII himself.

  • Hampton Court Palace was considered modern and sophisticated when it was built in Tudor times. It had bowling greens, a 36,000 square foot kitchen and a toilet area that could seat 30 people.
  • Tennis was extremely popular in Tudor England. The tennis courts at Hampton Court date from 1526 and are set in about 60 acres of gardens.
  • The last monarch to live in the palace was George II, and the palace was first opened to tourists in 1838, by Queen Victoria.
  • The famous maze at the palace is the oldest surviving hedge maze in the UK and it was designed in about 1700. Today, it includes half a mile of paths and sounds depicting Tudor life, are triggered by sensors.
  • Another highlight of the palace is the astronomical clock, designed in 1540. It shows the hours, days of the week, high tides, phases of the moon and signs of the Zodiac.
  • The Great Hall has a hammer beam roof and tapestries decorating the walls. The plays of William Shakespeare were performed here during the early 17th century.
  • About 600 people were employed at Hampton Court Palace.
  • The huge state of the art kitchens at Hampton Court Palace had to provide meals for hundreds of people at least twice a day. Today, they are still used to prepare authentic Tudor style banquets.

What next? Find out Richmond Palace, a nearby Tudor palace, or learn more about the Tudors by visiting the Primary Facts Tudor resources page.