SEE ALSO Renaissance Men | The Renaissance | Famous Renaissance Women I 15th Century Italy
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England - Famous Renaissance Men
Who were the famous men during the Renaissance?
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King Henry VIII
| King Henry VIII|
King Henry VII of England and Ireland, the third child and second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, was born on the 28th of June 1491 and, like all the Tudor monarchs except Henry VII, at Greenwich Palace. His two brothers, Prince Arthur and Edmund, Duke of Somerset, and two of his sisters predeceased their father; Henry VIII was the only son, and Margaret Tudor, afterwards Queen of Scotland, and Mary Tudor, afterwards Queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk, were the only daughters who survived. Henry VIII is said, on authority which has not been traced farther back than Paolo Sarpi, to have been destined for the church; but the story is probably a mere surmise from his theological accomplishments, and from his earliest years high secular posts such as the viceroyalty of Ireland were conferred upon the child. He was the first English monarch to be educated under the influence of the Renaissance, and his tutors included the poet Skelton; he became an accomplished scholar, linguist, musician and athlete, and when by the death of his brother Arthur in 1502 and of his father on the 22nd of April 1509 Henry VIII succeeded to the throne, his accession was hailed with universal acclamation. He had been betrothed to his brother's widow Catherine of Aragon, and in spite of the protest which he had been made to register against the marriage, and of the doubts expressed by Pope Julius II and Archbishop Warham as to its validity, it was completed in the first few months of his reign. This step was largely due to the pressure brought to bear by Catherine's father Ferdinand upon Henry VIII's council; he regarded England as a tool in his hands and Catherine as his resident ambassador. The young king himself at first took little interest in politics, and for two years affairs were managed by the pacific Richard Foxe and Warham. Then Cardinal Wolsey became supreme, while Henry was immersed in the pursuit of sport and other amusements.
1485 - 1540
| Thomas Cromwell|
Thomas Cromwell was as great a statesman as England has ever seen and, in his decade of power, permanently changed the course of English history. Unlike his mentor, Cardinal Wolsey, Cromwell was not a priest or a papist. He was a lawyer determined to impose his own character - methodical, detached, and calculating - upon government. Cromwell wanted government to be effective and efficient; to achieve this, he had to end the chaos of feudal privilege and ill-defined jurisdictions. He was blessed with a logical mind in an age sadly devoid of them. And unlike his royal master, he did not let his emotions interfere with his position. He was the ideal statesman for Tudor England and, just months after his execution in 1540, Henry VIII was bemoaning his loss. Cromwell was introduced to government service as a secretary for Cardinal Wolsey. His abilities won him the older man's respect and soon Cromwell was his most trusted servant and principal secretary. But Cromwell managed to distance himself from Wolsey immediately after the Cardinal fell from grace and soon had taken his place as Henry's most valuable advisor.
Before entering Wolsey's service, Cromwell lived an adventurous life. His father had been a brewer and blacksmith known for permanent drunkenness and illegal activities. From this inauspicious beginning, his son went on to indulge his curiosity and practical nature by traveling through Europe. Over the course of several years, he was a soldier in Europe, a banker in Italy, clerk in the Netherlands, and a lawyer in London. Like so many ambitious men, he was in Wolsey's service in the mid-1520s. His most important work was the suppression of 29 religious houses whose monies Wolsey used to endow colleges at Ipswich and Oxford. When Wolsey fell from grace in 1529, Cromwell was hurriedly elected burgess for Taunton so he could remain in government service.
1st Duke of Clarence
| George, Duke of Clarence|
George, Duke of Clarence, younger son of Richard, Duke of York, by his wife Cicely, daughter of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, was born in Dublin on the 21st of October 1449. Soon after his elder brother became king as Edward IV in March 1461, he was created duke of Clarence, and his youth was no bar to his appointment as lord-lieutenant of Ireland in the following year.
Having been mentioned as a possible husband for Mary, daughter of Charles the Bold, afterwards Duke of Burgundy, Clarence came under the influence of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, and in July 1469 was married at Calais to the earl's elder daughter Isabella. With his father-in-law he then acted in a disloyal manner towards the king. Both supported the rebels in the north of England, and when their treachery was discovered Clarence was deprived of his office as lord-lieutenant and fled to France.
Returning to England with Warwick in September 1470, he witnessed the restoration of Henry VI, when the crown was settled upon himself in case the male line of Henry's family became extinct. The good understanding, however, between Warwick and his son-in-law was not lasting, and Clarence was soon secretly reconciled with Edward. The public reconciliation between the brothers took place when the king was besieging Warwick in Coventry, and Clarence then fought for the Yorkists at Barnet and Tewkesbury. After Warwick's death in April 1471 Clarence appears to have seized the whole of the vast estates of the earl, and in March 1472 was created by right of his wife Earl of Warwick and Salisbury.
Sir Thomas More
| Thomas More|
Thomas More was born in Milk Street, London on February 7, 1478, son of Sir John More, a prominent judge. He was educated at St Anthony's School in London. As a youth he served as a page in the household of Archbishop Morton, who anticipated More would become a "marvellous man."1 More went on to study at Oxford under Thomas Linacre and William Grocyn. During this time, he wrote comedies and studied Greek and Latin literature. One of his first works was an English translation of a Latin biography of the Italian humanist Pico della Mirandola. It was printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1510.
Around 1494 More returned to Londn to study law, was admitted to Lincoln's Inn in 1496, and became a barrister in 1501. Yet More did not automatically follow in his father's footsteps. He was torn between a monastic calling and a life of civil service. While at Lincoln's Inn, he determined to become a monk and subjected himself to the discipline of the Carthusians, living at a nearby monastery and taking part of the monastic life. The prayer, fasting, and penance habits stayed with him for the rest of his life. More's desire for monasticism was finally overcome by his sense of duty to serve his country in the field of politics. He entered Parliament in 1504, and married for the first time in 1504 or 1505. While his work in the law courts was exemplary, his fall came quickly. He resigned in 1532, citing ill health, but the reason was probably his disapproval of Henry's stance toward the church. He refused to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn in June 1533, a matter which did not escape the King's notice. In 1534 he was one of the people accused of complicity with Elizabeth Barton, the nun of Kent who opposed Henry's break with Rome, but was not attainted due to protection from the Lords who refused to pass the bill until More's name was off the list of names.1 In April, 1534, More refused to swear to the Act of Succession and the Oath of Supremacy, and was committed to the Tower of London on April 17.More was found guilty of treason and was beheaded alongside Bishop Fisher on July 6, 1535. More's final words on the scaffold were: "The King's good servant, but God's First." More was beatified in 1886 and canonized by the Catholic Church as a saint by Pope Pius XI in 1935.
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Cardinal Thomas Wolsey
King James I of England
by Georg Stuart
photos: Peter D'Aprix