The reign of the five Tudor monarchs relatively closely followed the fatal fates of the famed “Princes in the Tower,” who are suspected of being killed so that their uncle, Richard III, could claim the throne.
Richard III’s downfall was ultimately brought down by the first Tudor ruler, Henry VII, whose eldest son, Arthur, died while still a youth, leaving the throne vacant for Henry’s second son to become Henry VIII.
Henry VIII and his sisters, Margaret and Mary, proceeded to produce some of the most tragic children and grandchildren to inhabit royal nurseries. Each of these children gained a crown, but none obtained a peaceful rule.
Mary I and Elizabeth I
“Tragic Tudor Royal Children After Henry VIII” continues from the short biographies of Henry’s daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, with short biographies of Henry’s male heir and great-nieces.
Lady Jane Grey (1536/7–1554)
Lady Jane was the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s younger sister, Mary. She was a learned child, but even by the standards of the day, her mother had a cruel parenting technique. Jane was regularly beaten, and she was eventually used by her parents in an attempted political power struggle.
In an attempt to strength their political power, Jane’s parents betrothed their still very young daughter to Lord Guilford Dudley, who was the son of the powerful John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland. Jane supposedly greatly objected to the marriage, but her mother forced her into it.
Following the death of her cousin, King Edward VI, Jane was briefly placed on the throne ahead of Edward’s sisters, Mary and Elizabeth. However, ultimately, the usurpation failed, and Jane was executed for treason.
Edward VI (1537-1553)
Edward was the only legitimate son of Henry VIII. He was born to Henry and his third wife, Jane Seymour, and Edward’s gentle mother died within days of his birth.
Of Henry VII’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Edward probably enjoyed the most pleasant existence, but he was orphaned while not yet ten years of age, and he may have also been manipulated by several political figures, including his own uncles, Edward and Thomas Seymour, who were both executed during Edward’s rule.
Edward eventually died, unmarried and without issue, at the age of only fifteen.
Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587)
Mary was the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s older sister, Margaret, who had married the king of Scotland.
Mary’s father died while she was an infant, and as his only surviving legitimate child, Mary inherited the throne of Scotland within days of her birth.
At age five, she was sent to France to be raised with her betrothed, who was the dauphin. Mary was wed to the dauphin, but not long into his youthful reign, he died, leaving Mary a young widow.
She returned to Scotland, which was in religious and political turmoil. She married a second husband and produced a son, but during her pregnancy, Mary shockingly witnessed the murder of a close confidante. The murder was initiated by her husband, and her already decaying marriage became destroyed.
Soon, her husband died under suspicious circumstances, and doubts were thrown upon Mary’s character. She was abducted and raped, by her eventual third husband, and Mary was soon forced to abdicate. While in captivity, she miscarried of twins, and she was kept from her baby son.
Finally, Mary escaped to England, where she hoped for the protection and assistance of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, but instead, Elizabeth imprisoned Mary for twenty years. Eventually, Mary was controversially executed by Elizabeth’s government, but it was Mary’s son who eventually inherited both the Scottish and English thrones.