At the beginning of the Tudor period English was still spoken in a number of different ways. There were still reminders of the Saxon, Angle, Jute and Viking invasions in the different forms of language spoken in different parts of the country. Since the time of Chaucer, in the mid-fourteenth century, London English, itself a mixture of south Midland and southeastern English, had become accepted as standard English. Printing made this standard English more widely accepted amongst the literate population. For the first time, people started to think of London pronunciation as "correct" pronunciation. One educator in Henry VIII's time spoke of the need to teach children to speak English "which is clean, polite, [and] perfectly . . . pronounced." Until Tudor times the local forms of speech had been spoken by lord and peasant alike. from Tudor times onwards the way people spoke
began to show the difference between them. Educated people began to speak "correct" English, and uneducated people continued to speak the local dialect.
Literacy increased greatly during the mid-sixteenth century, even though the religious houses, which had always provided traditional education, had closed. In fact, by the seventeenth century about half the population could read and write.
Nothing, however, showed England's new confidence more than its artistic flowering during the Renaissance. England felt the effects of the Renaissance later than much of Europe because it was an island. In the early years of the sixteenth century English thinkers had become interested in the work of the Dutch philosopher Erasmus. One of them, Thomas More, wrote a study of the ideal nation, called Utopia, which became extremely popular throughout Europe.
The Renaissance also influenced religion, encouraging the Protestant Reformation, as well as a freer approach to ways of thinking within the Catholic Church. In music England enjoyed its most fruitful period ever. There was also considerable interest in the new painters in Europe, and England developed its own special kind of painting, the miniature portrait.
Literature, however, was England's greatest art form. Playwrights like Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, and William Shakespeare filled the theatres with their exciting new plays.
Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, and went to the local grammar school. His education was typical of the Tudor age, because at this time the "grammar" schools, which tried to teach "correct" English, became the commonest form of education. His plays were popular with both educated and uneducated people. Many of his plays were about English history, but he changed fact to suit public opinion.
Nothing shows the adventurous spirit of the age better than the "soldier poets". These were true Renaissance men who were both brave and cruel in war, but also highly educated. Sir Edmund Spenser, who fought with the army in Ireland, was one. Sir Philip Sidney, killed fighting the Spanish in the Netherlands, was another. A third was Sir Walter Raleigh, adventurer and poet.
The Stuarts (three lectures)
Lecture Thirteen.Crown and parliament.
Parliament against the Crown.
Religious disagreement. Civil war.
The Stuart monarchs, from James I onwards, were less successful than the Tudors. They quarrelled with Parliament and this resulted in civil war. The only king of England ever to be tried and executed was a Stuart. The republic that followed was even more unsuccessful, and by popular demand the dead king's son was called back to the throne. Another Stuart king was driven from his throne by his own daughter and her Dutch husband, William of Orange. William became king by Parliament's election, not by right of birth. When the last Stuart, Queen Anne, died in 1714, the monarchy was no longer absolutely powerful as it had been when James VI rode south from Scotland in 1603. It had become a "parliamentary monarchy" -trolled by a constitution.
These important changes did not take place simply because the Stuarts were bad rulers. They resulted from a basic change in society. During the
seventeenth century economic power moved even
faster into the hands of the merchant and landowning farmer classes. The Crown could no longer raise money or govern without their co-| operation. These groups were represented by the
House of Commons. In return for money the Commons demanded political power. The victory of the Commons and the classes it represented was unavoidable.
It would be interesting to know how the Tudors would have dealt with the growing power of the House of Commons. They had been lucky not to have this problem. But they had also been more willing to give up their beliefs in order that their policies would succeed. The Stuarts, on the other hand, held onto their beliefs however much it cost them, even when it was foolish to do so.
The political developments of the period also resulted from basic changes in thinking in the seventeenth century. By 1700 a ruler like Henry VIII or Elizabeth I would have been quite unthinkable. By the time Queen Anne died, a new age of reason and science had arrived.