More Thomas

Sir Thomas More , venerated by Roman Catholics as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance humanist. Born in Milk Street in London, on 7 February 1478, Thomas More was the son of Sir John More, a successful lawyer and later judge, and his wife Agnes. He was the second of six children. More was educated at St Anthony’s School, then considered one of London’s finest schools. More began his studies at Oxford in 1492, and received a classical education. Studying under Thomas Linacre and William Grocyn, he became proficient in both Latin and Greek.

More then left Oxford after only two years—at his father’s insistence—to begin legal training in London at New Inn, one of the Inns of Chancery. More married Jane Colt in 1505. She was five years younger than her husband, quiet and good-natured. Erasmus reported that More wanted to give his young wife a better education than she had previously received at home, and tutored her in music and literature. The couple had four children before Jane died in 1511: Margaret, Elizabeth, Cicely, and John. In 1504 More was elected to Parliament to represent Great Yarmouth, and in 1510 began representing London.

As secretary and personal adviser to King Henry VIII, More became increasingly influential: welcoming foreign diplomats, drafting official documents, and serving as a liaison between the King and Lord Chancellor Wolsey. More later served as High Steward for the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. In 1523 More was elected as knight of the shire for Middlesex and, on recommendation, the House of Commons elected More its Speaker. In 1525 More became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, with executive and judicial responsibilities over much of northern England. More supported the Catholic Church and saw the Protestant Reformation as heresy, a threat to the unity of both church and society.

More believed in the theology, polemics, and ecclesiastical laws of the church, and “heard Luther’s call to destroy the Catholic Church as a call to war.” As the conflict over supremacy between the Papacy and the King reached its apogee, More continued to remain steadfast in supporting the supremacy of the Pope as Successor of Peter over that of the King of England. In 1530, More refused to sign a letter by the leading English churchmen and aristocrats asking Pope Clement VII to annul Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and also quarrelled with Henry VIII over the heresy laws.  More, however, saw he could not render the support Henry expected from his Lord Chancellor for the policy the King was developing to support the annulment of his marriage with Catherine.

In 1532 he petitioned the King to relieve him of his office, alleging failing health. Henry granted his request. In 1533, More refused to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn as the Queen of England. Technically, this was not an act of treason, as More had written to Henry acknowledging Anne’s queenship and expressing his desire for the King’s happiness and the new Queen’s health. Despite this, his refusal to attend was widely interpreted as a snub against Anne, and Henry took action against him.  He was sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered (the usual punishment for traitors who were not the nobility), but the King commuted this to execution by decapitation. The execution took place on 6 July 1535.

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Queen Mary of Scots

Mary, Queen of Scots, also known as Mary Stuart or Mary I of Scotland, reigned over Scotland from 14 December 1542 to 24 July 1567. Mary, the only surviving legitimate child of James V of Scotland, was six days old when her father died and she acceded to the throne. She spent most of her childhood in France while Scotland was ruled by regents, and in 1558, she married the Dauphin of France, Francis. Mary was born on 7 or 8 December 1542 at Linlithgow Palace, Scotland, to King James V and his French second wife, Mary of Guise. She was the great-niece of King Henry VIII of England, as her paternal grandmother, Margaret Tudor, was Henry VIII’s sister.

King Henry VIII of England took the opportunity of the regency to propose marriage between Mary and his own son, Prince Edward, hoping for a union of Scotland and England. On 1 July 1543, when Mary was six months old, the Treaty of Greenwich was signed, which promised that at the age of ten Mary would marry Edward and move to England, where Henry could oversee her upbringing. The treaty provided that the two countries would remain legally separate and that if the couple should fail to have children the temporary union would dissolve. With her marriage agreement in place, five-year-old Mary was sent to France to spend the next thirteen years at the French court. The French fleet sent by Henry II, commanded by Nicolas de Villegagnon, sailed with Mary from Dumbarton on 7 August 1548 and arrived a week or more later at Roscoff or Saint-Pol-de-Léon in Brittany.

In November 1558, Henry VIII’s elder daughter, Queen Mary I of England, was succeeded by her only surviving sibling, Elizabeth I. Under the Third Succession Act, passed in 1543 by the Parliament of England, Elizabeth was recognised as her sister’s heir, and Henry VIII’s last will and testament had excluded the Stuarts from succeeding to the English throne. Yet, in the eyes of many Catholics, Elizabeth was illegitimate, and Mary Stuart, as the senior descendant of Henry VIII’s elder sister, was the rightful queen of England. Mary returned to Scotland nine months after her husband’s death, arriving in Leith on 19 August 1561. Having lived in France since the age of five, Mary had little direct experience of the dangerous and complex political situation in Scotland. Mary was convicted on 25 October and sentenced to death with only one commissioner, Lord Zouche, expressing any form of dissent.

Despite this, Elizabeth hesitated to order her execution, even in the face of pressure from the English Parliament to carry out the sentence. At Fotheringhay, on the evening of 7 February 1587, Mary was told that she was to be executed the next morning. She spent the last hours of her life in prayer, distributing her belongings to her household, and writing her will and a letter to the King of France. Mary was not beheaded with a single strike. The first blow missed her neck and struck the back of her head. The second blow severed the neck, except for a small bit of sinew, which the executioner cut through using the axe.

Across The World

Ferdinand Magellan was a Portuguese explorer who organised the Spanish expedition to the East Indies from 1519 to 1522, resulting in the first circumnavigation of the Earth, completed by Juan Sebastián Elcano. Magellan was born in northern Portugal in around 1480, either at Vila Nova de Gaia, near Porto, in Douro Litoral Province, or at Sabrosa, near Vila Real, in Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro Province. He was the son of Rodrigo de Magalhães, Alcaide-Mor of Aveiro (1433–1500, son of Pedro Afonso de Magalhães and wife Quinta de Sousa). Born into a Portuguese noble family in around 1480, Magellan became a skilled sailor and naval officer and was eventually selected by King Charles I of Spain to search for a westward route to the Maluku Islands (the “Spice Islands”).

For that expedition, the Spanish king, Charles I,  named Magellan and Faleiro captains so that they could travel in search of the Spice Islands in July. He raised them to the rank of Commander of the Order of Santiago. The king granted them monopoly of the discovered route for a period of ten years, their appointment as governors of the lands and islands found, with 5% of the resulting net gains etc”. The expedition was funded largely by the Spanish Crown, which provided ships carrying supplies for two years of travel.  Finally they set sail on 20 September 1519 and left Spain. Heading northwest, the crew reached the equator on 13 February 1521. On 6 March they reached the Marianas and Guam.

On 16 March Magellan reached the island of Homonhon in the Philippines, with 150 crew left. Members of his expedition became the first Europeans to reach the Philippine archipelago. Rajah Humabon of Cebu was friendly towards Magellan and the Spaniards; both he and his queen Hara Amihan were baptized as Christians and were given the image of the Holy Child (later known as Santo Niño de Cebu) which along with a cross (Magellan’s Cross) symbolizes the Christianization of the Philippines.  On the morning of 27 April 1521, Magellan sailed to Mactan with a small attack force.

During the resulting battle against Lapu-Lapu’s troops, Magellan was struck by a bamboo spear, and later surrounded and finished off with other weapons. The casualties suffered in the Philippines left the expedition with too few men to sail all three of the remaining ships. Consequently, on 2 May they abandoned and burned Concepción. Reduced to Trinidad and Victoria, the expedition fled westward to Palawan. When Victoria, the one surviving ship and the smallest carrack in the fleet, returned to the harbor of departure after completing the first circumnavigation of the Earth, only 18 men out of the original 237 men were on board. Among the survivors were two Italians, Antonio Pigafetta and Martino de Judicibus.

Terribly Great

Ivan IV Vasilyevich, commonly known as Ivan the Terrible or Ivan the Fearsome, was the Grand Prince of Moscow from 1533 to 1547. The last title was used by all his successors. Ivan was the first son of Vasili III and his second wife, Elena Glinskaya, who was of half Serbian and half Litvin descent. When Ivan was three years old, his father died from an abscess and inflammation on his leg that developed into blood poisoning.

Ivan was proclaimed the Grand Prince of Moscow at the request of his father. His mother Elena Glinskaya initially acted as regent, but she died of what many believe to be assassination by poison. During his reign, Russia conquered the Khanates of Kazan, Astrakhan and Sibir, becoming a multicontinental state spanning approximately. Ivan exercised autocratic control over Russia’s hereditary nobility and developed a bureaucracy to administer his new territories. He transformed Russia from a medieval state into an empire, though at immense cost to its people, and its broader, long-term economy. Ivan established close ties with the Kingdom of England. Russo-English relations can be traced to 1551.

Now, with the use of English merchants, Ivan engaged in a long correspondence with Elizabeth I of England. While the queen focused on commerce, Ivan was more interested in a military alliance. Historic sources present disparate accounts of Ivan’s complex personality: he was described as intelligent and devout, yet given to rages and prone to episodic outbreaks of mental instability that increased with his age. In one such outburst, he killed his son and heir Ivan Ivanovich.

This left his younger son, the pious but politically ineffectual Feodor Ivanovich, to inherit the throne. Ivan was an able diplomat, a patron of arts and trade, and founder of the Moscow Print Yard, Russia’s first publishing house. He was popular among Russia’s commoners (Ivan the Terrible in Russian folklore), and he is also noted for his paranoia and harsh treatment of the Russian nobility. Ivan died from a stroke while playing chess with Bogdan Belsky on 28 March 1584. Upon Ivan’s death, the Russian throne was left to his unfit and childless middle son Feodor. Feodor died childless in 1598, ushering in the Time of Troubles.

The New World

Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer, navigator, and colonizer. Born in the Republic of Genoa, under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean. Those voyages and his efforts to establish settlements on the island of Hispaniola initiated the permanent European colonization of the New World. His name in Italian is Cristoforo Colombo and, in Spanish, it is Cristóbal Colón.  He was born before 31 October 1451 in the territory of the Republic of Genoa (now part of modern Italy), though the exact location remains disputed. His father was Domenico Colombo, a middle-class wool weaver who worked both in Genoa and Savona and who also owned a cheese stand at which young Christopher worked as a helper. His mother was Susanna Fontanarossa. Bartolomeo, Giovanni Pellegrino, and Giacomo were his brothers.

In 1473, Columbus began his apprenticeship as business agent. At a time when European kingdoms were beginning to establish new trade routes and colonies, motivated by economic competition, Columbus proposed to reach the East Indies (South and Southeast Asia) by sailing westward. This eventually received the support of the Spanish Crown, which saw a chance to enter the spice trade with Asia through this new route. During his first voyage in 1492, he reached the New World instead of arriving at Japan as he had intended, landing on an island in the Bahamas archipelago that he named “San Salvador”. Over the course of three more voyages, he visited the Greater and Lesser Antilles, as well as the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and Central America, claiming all of it for the Crown of Castile.

Columbus was not the first European explorer to reach the Americas, having been preceded by the Viking expedition led by Leif Erikson in the 11th century, but his voyages led to the first lasting European contact with the Americas, inaugurating a period of exploration, conquest, and colonization that lasted several centuries. These voyages thus had an enormous effect on the historical development of the modern Western world. He spearheaded the transatlantic slave trade and has been accused by several historians of initiating the genocide of the natives. Columbus himself saw his accomplishments primarily in the light of spreading the Christian religion.

Now, Columbus never admitted that he had reached a continent previously unknown to Europeans, rather than the East Indies for which he had set course. He called the inhabitants of the lands that he visited indios (Spanish for “Indians”). His strained relationship with the Spanish crown and its appointed colonial administrators in America led to his arrest and dismissal as governor of the settlements on the island of Hispaniola in 1500, and later to protracted litigation over the benefits that he and his heirs claimed were owed to them by the crown. During a violent storm on his first return voyage, Columbus, then 41, suffered an attack of what was believed at the time to be gout. In subsequent years, he was plagued with what was thought to be influenza and other fevers, bleeding from the eyes, and prolonged attacks of gout. The suspected attacks increased in duration and severity, sometimes leaving Columbus bedridden for months at a time, and culminated in his death 14 years later.

The Faint Smile

There are many masterpieces of art throughout the world, but for most people, the first art masterpiece that comes to mind is the Mona Lisa or the Last Supper. Today I’ll be writing about the artist whose name was Leonardo Da Vinci. He was born on the 15th of April, year 1452, in Italy. Born to a notary, Piero da Vinci, and a peasant woman, Caterina, in Vinci in the region of Florence, Leonardo was educated in the studio of the renowned Florentine painter Andrea del Verrocchio.

Leonardo was, and is, renowned primarily as a painter. As I mentioned earlier, he made the Mona Lisa, which is the most famous portrait. He also made the Last Supper, which the most reproduced religious painting of all time. He made a few more paintings alongside his thoughts on art that was big contribution to later generations of artists. You must be pretty amazed by now, but that’s not all, Leonardo was not known just for his art, but also as a scientist and an engineer.

He conceptualised flying machines, a type of armoured fighting vehicle, concentrated solar power, an adding machine, and the double hull. Relatively few of his designs were constructed or even feasible during his lifetime, as the modern scientific approaches to metallurgy and engineering were only in their infancy during the Renaissance. A number of Leonardo’s most practical inventions are nowadays displayed as working models at the Museum of Vinci. With all these achievements, Leonardo is widely considered one of the most diversely talented individuals ever to have lived. Even as of today, this still is true.

Ivan the Great 

There are many “greats” in history and today I’ll be writing about one of them. His name was Ivan the Great of Russia. He is also known as Ivan III. Before we get to how he earned his “great” nickname, I’ll talk about his early years. When Ivan III was a child, Russia wasn’t yet its own country. Why? Well it’s because it was under the rule of outsiders called the Tatar Mongols. The Tatar Mongols were a ravaging group of warriors from Mongolia. This group of warriors were descendants of the “great and terrible” Genghis Khan, so they were feared.

The grandson of Genghis Khan whose name was Batu Khan, was the person who first claimed Russian for the Mongols. His army was named the Golden Horde. It was named this because their gold-colored tents that glistened in the sun along the Volga River. Now that I explained the situation at that time, I’ll be going back to Ivan III. Ivan was the prince of Muscovy, which is a region in Russia that includes Moscow. Ivan was not scared nor impressed by the Golden Horde. He desperately wanted to free Russia from their rule. This was expected because the Mongols had ruled for 240 years! Can you believe that? No one for 240 years dared to revolt against the Mongols.

Thankfully someone finally did something, and that was Ivan III. He was not named the Great for nothing, and by now, you might have already guessed why. Yup, he was the one who freed Russia. I’ll explain how in a bit.  This is because before he did that, he had to get more power. He did this by marrying an important woman named Sophia. She was the niece of the last Byzantine emperor. Before I get into why she was important, I’ll briefly explain the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire which was separated from the Western Roman Empire and Western Roman Church. The Byzantine Empire created its own church, Eastern Orthodox Church. This church did the basically the same thing as the West. It blended the power of the church and state.

This where Sophia comes in. You see, Sophia was one of the last royal members that was still alive. Her uncle, who was the last Byzantine emperor, died in battle and because of this, Sophia inherited the power of her uncle, which included the power of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Now if you connected the dots, you’ll realize something. For those who didn’t connect the dots, the main man, Ivan III married Sophia and thus the leadership of the Eastern church shifted to him. With this marriage, he was able to free Russia from the Mongols. That is how Ivan III was named Ivan the Great. Well he did some things after this but I won’t get into that in this blog.

Henry VIII… Right?

Henry VIII  was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. Henry was the second Tudor monarch, succeeding his father, Henry VII. Henry is best known for his six marriages with Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Parr, Catherine Howard, and, in particular, his efforts to have his first marriage, to Catherine of Aragon, annulled. His disagreement with the Pope on the question of such an annulment led Henry to initiate the English Reformation, separating the Church of England from papal authority and appointing himself the Supreme Head of the Church of England. Despite his resulting excommunication, Henry remained a believer in core Catholic theological teachings.

Born 28 June 1491 at the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, Kent, Henry Tudor was the third child and second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.[4] Of the young Henry’s six siblings, only three – Arthur, Prince of Wales; Margaret; and Mary – survived infancy. Henry VII died on 21 April 1509, and the 17-year-old Henry succeeded him as king. Soon after his father’s burial on 10 May, Henry suddenly declared that he would indeed marry Catherine, leaving unresolved several issues concerning the papal dispensation and a missing part of the marriage portion. Domestically, Henry is known for his radical changes to the English Constitution, ushering in the theory of the divine right of kings to England.

Besides asserting the sovereign’s supremacy over the Church of England, he greatly expanded royal power during his reign. Charges of treason and heresy were commonly used to quash dissent, and those accused were often executed without a formal trial, by means of bills of attainder. He achieved many of his political aims through the work of his chief ministers, some of whom were banished or executed when they fell out of his favor. Thomas Wolsey, Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell, Richard Rich, and Thomas Cranmer all figured prominently in Henry’s administration. He was an extravagant spender and used the proceeds from the Dissolution of the Monasteries and acts of the Reformation Parliament to convert into royal revenue the money that was formerly paid to Rome.

Despite the influx of money from these sources, Henry was continually on the verge of financial ruin due to his personal extravagance as well as his numerous costly continental wars, particularly with Francis I of France and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, as he sought to enforce his claim to the Kingdom of France. At home, he oversaw the legal union of England and Wales with the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542 and following the Crown of Ireland Act 1542 he was the first English monarch to rule as King of Ireland. His contemporaries considered Henry in his prime to be an attractive, educated and accomplished king. He has been described as “one of the most charismatic rulers to sit on the English throne”. He was an author and composer. As he aged, Henry became severely obese and his health suffered, contributing to his death in 1547. He is frequently characterised in his later life as a lustful, egotistical, harsh, and insecure king. He was succeeded by his son Edward VI.

Queen Elizabeth 

When you think of english history, the first thing that comes that comes to mind is usually Queen Elizabeth. If you’re wondering why, well here’s why. Elizabeth’s reign is known as the Elizabethan era. The period is famous for the flourishing of English drama, led by playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, and for the seafaring prowess of English adventurers such as Francis Drake. But before we get deeper into her achievements, I’ll first talk about her beginnings and how she became the queen of England.

Elizabeth was born in September 7, 1533 in of course, England. She was the daughter of Henry VIII (anothrr famous name in history) and Anne Boleyn which was Henry the eighth’s second wife. Anne was executed two-and-a-half years after Elizabeth’s birth. This is important because when Anne’s marriage to Henry VIII was annulled, and Elizabeth was declared illegitimate. Elizabeth’s half-brother, Edward VI, ruled until his death in 1553, bequeathing the crown to Lady Jane Grey and ignoring the claims of his two half-sisters, Elizabeth and the Roman Catholic Mary, in spite of statute law to the contrary. Edward’s will was set aside and Mary became queen, deposing Lady Jane Grey.

During Mary’s reign, Elizabeth was imprisoned for nearly a year on suspicion of supporting Protestant rebels. I know, sounds bad right? But Mary’s reign did not last long, for in 1558, Elizabeth succeeded her half-sister to the throne and set out to rule by good counsel. She depended heavily on a group of trusted advisers, led by William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley. One of her first actions as queen was the establishment of an English Protestant church, of which she became the Supreme Governor. This Elizabethan Religious Settlement was to evolve into the Church of England.

Putting this aside for a while, many people at that time expected Elizabeth to marry someone and produce a heir to continue the Tudor line, but she never did. As she grew older, Elizabeth became famous for her virginity, despite numerous courtships. Imagine that, so many admirers turned down. Anyway, going back to more important things, Elizabeth was careful when it came to foreign affairs, manoeuvring between the major powers of France and Spain. She only half-heartedly supported a number of ineffective, poorly resourced military campaigns in the Netherlands, France, and Ireland.

By the mid-1580s, England could no longer avoid war with Spain. England’s defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 associated Elizabeth with one of the greatest military victories in English history. After this, near the end of her reign, Elizabeth encountered economic and military problems that damaged her popularity by a bit. She even had a rival. Her rival’s name was Mary, Queen of Scots. Elizabeth had her imprisoned and then excuted a few years later. To wrap up, her 44 years on the throne provided welcome stability for the kingdom and helped forge a sense of national identity.