Thomas More: The King’s Good Servant

Thomas More is best remembered for his refusal to acknowledge Henry VIII supremacy over the Church and later executed. More was considered a genius by his contemporaries. Thomas was born in London on 7 February 1478, the son of Judge John More. He was taken into the Archbishop of Canterbury John Morton’s household as a…

Margaret Tudor: James IV of Scotland’s Queen

Margaret Tudor led a very turbulent life, causing scandal. She married three times, and, like her brother Henry VIII, had trouble obtaining divorces. She “had the faults of the Tudors without their brains”! Margaret was born on 28 November 1489—“a sturdy, healthy child”—the eldest daughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. She was a…

James IV of Scotland (1488-1513): Scotland’s Renaissance King

James IV brought unity, international status and the Renaissance to Scotland but his foreign policies proved his downfall. James encouraged artists, musicians and writers at his court. The first printing press was established in 1507.  His reign was also a time of peace and prosperity. His parliament passed the first compulsory education act in 1496.…

The Provisions of Oxford: Simon de Monfort’s Reforms

The British parliament’s origins began with the Provisions of Oxford when the barons took control of the government, key appointments and reform of common law. English kings always summoned gatherings of ministers and barons to discuss state matters. They were known as Witans under the Anglo-Saxons or great councils (colloquia) after the Norman Conquest. They…

The Magna Carta: England’s First Written Constitution

The Magna Carta was originally intended as a peace treaty between the king and his barons, but it became the cornerstone of liberty in the English-speaking world. English kings became more powerful and influential after 1066, through the Norman system of centralised government and the acquisition of Normandy. King John of England King John was…

Scotland’s Fight For Independence: William Wallace and Robert The Bruce

William Wallace won a dramatic victory against the English in 1297. The large, well-equipped and arrogant English army were annihilated by Wallace’s men—a mere rabble. Robert the Bruce continued the fight for independence. English intervention began after Alexander III’s death in 1286. Alexander’s young granddaughter Margaret—the Maid of Norway—was his sole heir. She died en-route…

Macbeth (1040-1057): King of Scotland

Macbeth lived during brutal times. He defeated Duncan I in 1040 and reigned for seventeen years. His story differs from Shakespeare’s play written six centuries later. Macbeth belonged to the hereditary aristocracy of Moray, with a claim to the Scottish throne. His mother was closely related to Malcolm II. (Sources claimed she was one of…

Marie Antoinette: Queen Consort of Louis XVI of France

Austrian-born Queen Marie Antoinette was solely blamed for bankrupting France with her extravagance and executed during the French Revolution. Marie Antoinette was born Maria Antonia Josepha Joanna on 2 November 1755 at the Hofburg Palace, Vienna. She was the youngest daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and Maria Theresa. She was promised in marriage…

Margaret Beaufort: My Lady The King’s Mother

Lady Margaret Beaufort was the Tudor dynasty's matriarch. She harboured strong ambitions for her son during the turbulent Wars of the Roses. She wept at his coronation. Margaret was extremely intelligent and very literate. She founded St John’s College, Cambridge, in 1511. She also promoted higher learning for girls. The first women’s college, Lady Margaret…