House of Lancaster reigns, 1399-1461
Henry IV, 1399-1413
Henry V, 1413-1422;

Henry VI, 1422-1476; House of York reigns, 1461-1485; Edward IV, 1461-1483
Edward V, 1483 (murdered)
Richard III, 1483-1485


Printing from moveable type invented ca. 1440-1460 in Mainz, Germany, by Johannes Gutenberg and others. The art quickly spread across Europe. Printing in English began with William Caxton. Caxton learned printing in Cologne, 1471-72, and at Bruges in late 1473/early 1474 he and probably Colard Mansion printed Recuyell of the Histories of Troy, the first book printed in English. Returning to England in 1476, Caxton printed (before 13 December) a broadside indulgence at his new shop in Westminster, the earliest dated piece of English printing. The earliest dated book printed in England is the Dicts and Sayings of the Philosophers, printed by Caxton at Westminster in 1477. A number of Caxton’s books without printed dates may have preceded this work, including the first printing of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Chaucer, Geoffrey, d.1400

Canterbury Tales, in MS 1387 and after; first printing Westminster, W. Caxton, 1477

Troilus and Criseyde, in MS 1385, first printing Westminster, W. Caxton, 1483

Malory, Thomas, Sir, 15th cent.

Le Morte d’Arthur, written before 1471 as The Book of King Arthur and his Noble Knights; first printed by Caxton at Westminster in 1485 Wycliffe, John, d.1384 Wycliffe and his followers (Lollards) were strong advocates of translating the Bible into English, though translation was heresy. The first two complete translations by Wycliffites into English, 1384 and 1395, circulated only in manuscript. But with the advent of printing many excerpts in English began to appear. Caxton printed fourteen lives of Old Testament figures in the Golden Legend, 1483. Beginning about 1500 books were freely paraphrasing or translating passages from the Bible, including the Ten Commandments, the Credo, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Passion of Christ. Not until 1525-26 was a complete New Testament printed in William Tyndale’s translation (see under Henry VIII).


House of Tudor

Henry VII reigns, 1485-1509

  • 1485 Battle of Bosworth (Aug. 22), Henry Tudor defeats and kills Richard III and takes crown as Henry VII
  • 1486 Henry marries Elizabeth Plantagenet, daughter of Edward IV, to strengthen throne; both are descendents of John of Gaunt
  • Those accused of high treason denied right of sanctuary. Parliament in ‘Star Chamber’ act gives Privy Council power to punish sedition and other crimes, strengthening king over nobles. John Morton becomes Lord Chancellor (and Archbishop); heavily taxes nobility to build up royal treasury.
  • Expedition against France. Treaty of Etaples; France agrees not to support pretenders to English throne such as Perkin Warbeck (hanged 1499).
  • 1496 John Colet, humanist scholar and friend of Erasmus, lectures at Oxford, founds St. Paul’s School to encourage Greek learning. In 1499 Colet persuades his friend Erasmus to begin work on a new translation of Greek New Testament.
  • 1500 Flemish engineers control flooding in fen district, East Anglia.
  • 1501 Prince Arthur, elder brother of Prince Henry, marries Catherine of Aragon. Prince Arthur dies 1502 making Henry heir to the throne.
  • 1502 Treaty of perpetual peace between England and Scotland, followed 1503 by marriage of James IV of Scotland and Princess Mary Tudor
  •   Henry VIII reigns, 1509-1547  
  • 1508 Henry VII seriously ill, dies 21 April 1509, succeeded by Prince Henry as Henry VIII who marries Catherine of Aragon June 11 despite his reservations about marrying his brother’s widow.
  • 1509 Erasmus, Praise of Folly, written at house of Thomas More; Erasmus teaching at Cambridge Univ.; first Professor of Greek 1511-14; works on new Latin translation of Greek New Testament (Latin the language of scholars at the time; Erasmus worked from original Greek text [Septuagint] rather than the old Latin Vulgate).
  • 1512 Completion of Henry VII chapel at Westminster Abbey; late gothic fan vaulting.
  • 1513 Henry VIII, allied with father-in-law Ferdinand of Spain, leads English army against France, wins battle in Flanders but Ferdinand fails to support him; Henry deserts Ferdinand and joins France, marries his sister Mary Rose to aged King Louis.
  • 1515 Thomas Wolsey named Cardinal and Lord Chancellor.
  • 1516 Thomas More, Utopia, first published in Latin in Louvain, Belgium; English translation 1551.
  • 1516 Erasmus publishes new Latin tr. of New Testament.
  • 1516 Francis I is new king of France, Charles V is king of Spain and in 1519 becomes Emperor; England (Henry VIII with Wolsey) pretends alliance with each, first 1520 with France at Field of Cloth of Gold, then 1525with Emperor Charles, who defeats and captures Francis in Italy. Princess (later Queen) Mary, only surviving child of Catherine of Aragon, born.
  • 1517 Martin Luther posts 95 theses at Wittenberg; subsequent events lead to German Reformation 1521 Wolsey approves burning of Luther’s writings; Henry publishes Assertion of the Seven Sacraments condemning Luther.
  • 1522 Luther publishes German New Testament, based on Erasmus’s Latin version. 1524 William Tyndale visits Germany seeking a printer for his English New Testament, also based on Erasmus and Luther versions.
  • 1525 Tyndale’s English New Testament printed in Germany; 1526, 6,000 copies imported, some copies sold in England, but the book quickly banned by London diocese, then burned at Paul’s Cross.
  • 1525 Wolsey suppresses nunnery, uses funds to found new college, Christ Church, at Oxford.
  • 1526 Henry publicly favors Anne Boleyn at court.
  • 1527 Henry tells Catherine of Aragon he plans to divorce her. Catherine’s nephew, Charles V, now controls Papacy, dashing hopes of papal approval for the divorce. Wolsey’s commission set up to annul marriage fails to reach decision.
  • 1529 October. Thomas More becomes Lord Chancellor (though not in favor of royal divorce), replacing Wolsey. Thomas Cranmer appointed Royal chaplain.
  • 1530 Oxford and Cambridge universities declare in favor of royal divorce. Wolsey arrested for treason; Wolsey dies while en route from York to Tower.
  • 1531 Pope orders Henry not to remarry. Henry demands royal tax "as supreme head of the English church and clergy." Henry moves into Woodstock Palace with Anne Boleyn.
  • 1532 Thomas More resigns Lord Chancellorship; Thomas Cromwell of inner council becomes King’s Councillor in chief; Lord Chancellor reduced in importance; Cromwell becomes Chancellor of Exchequer.
  • 1533 Henry and Anne Boleyn secretly married; Archbishop Cranmer declares marriage to Catherine of Aragon void and that to Anne Boleyn valid; (June) coronation of Anne Boleyn; (Sept) birth of Princess (later Queen) Elizabeth.
  • 1534 Act of Succession, succession to lie with heirs of Henry and Anne Boleyn; (Nov) Act of Supremacy, Henry declared Supreme Head of Church of England. Oath of Supremacy of Henry, not Pope, required of all religious houses and church leaders, 1535 Cardinal Fisher and Thomas More oppose supremacy of Henry; both committed to Tower and beheaded. Many Carthusian monks executed for denying Succession. Plans laid to suppress religious houses.
  • 1535 Miles Coverdale completes translation of Old Testament, using portion translated by Tyndale and Tyndale’s New Testament to publish complete English Bible at Cologne Tyndale imprisoned near Brussels by Charles V forces; executed 1536
  • 1536 Pilgrimage of Grace, uprisings protesting Henry’s religious changes, dissolution of monasteries and economic effects, led by Robert Aske in Lincoln and York; pardon is first offered but further northern risings in early 1537 lead to cruel executions.
  • 1536 Anne Boleyn imprisoned in Tower, indicted for high treason (adultery) and beheaded. Henry marries Jane Seymour.
  • 1537 James Nicholson, London printer, issues two revised editions of Coverdale Bible with Henry VIII’s permission but not royal approval. John Rogers issues (at Antwerp?) so-called Matthew Bible, based on Tyndale’s, with King’s permission. (1538) Cromwell orders an English Bible placed in every church.
  • 1537 Prince (later King) Edward born; his mother, Jane Seymour, dies following childbirth.
  • 1538 Holbein visits European courts, painting portraits of eligible candidates for Henry’s fourth wife. Larger English monasteries are targeted for dissolution and begin to surrender. Act of Six Articles restores conservative Catholic orthodoxy; heavy penalties for doctrinal violations.
  • 1539 Coverdale works under Cromwell’s patronage to modify radical Protestantism of Matthew Bible; issues his revised version as the "Great Bible". Printing begins in Paris, but is stopped by French authorities; some sheets are saved and the type is taken to London where the entire Bible is printed and finished by April. This is the ancestor of the modern English Bible; the Psalter in the Book of Common Prayer is today still virtually unchanged from the Great Bible. This edition placed by Cromwell in all churches. Also this year Taverner’s Bible published, a revision of Matthew Bible by Richard Taverner, a Greek scholar on Cromwell’s staff. While often reprinted until the 1550s Taverner’s Bible had little influence on later texts, though he introduced important English terms such as parable and passover, and had a vivid style.
  • 1540 Henry weds Anne of Cleves, though he detests her, in 4th marriage, arranged by Cromwell, who soon falls from power and is accused of treason. (July) Anne of Cleves marriage annulled; King weds Catherine Howard in 5th marriage; Cromwell beheaded.
  • 1542 Thomas Wyatt dies; first to use Italian sonnet form in English; his poems circulate in MS and the love sonnet becomes wildly popular; first printed in Tottel’s Miscellany (1557) with other verse by the Earl of Surrey (see below, 1546). Wyatt an early lover (before Henry) of Anne Boleyn.
  • 1542 Catherine Howard executed for adultery. Marriage planned between Prince Edward and infant Princess Mary Stuart of Scotland (later, Mary Queen of Scots) but marriage never arranged; Mary Stuart raised in France as a Catholic (see 1558).
  • 1543 Henry marries Catherine Parr (his 6th), a moderate Protestant who influences reform; (1544) Henry orders use of English liturgy in churches.
  • 1544 Henry goes to Calais, besieges and takes Boulogne. John Cheke, Protestant humanist, appointed tutor to Prince Edward (age 6)
  • 1545 (Dec) King in impassioned speech to Parliament urges religious unity; (1646) King’s Prymer issued by Cranmer to replace former Catholic primers
  • 1546 Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, poet, sonneteer, and governor of Boulogne, defeated by French, sentenced to death for treason, executed 1547
  • Edward VI reigns, 1547-53, under Regency, Somerset (1547-49), then Northumberland (1549-53)   1553 (Reign of Mary I, 1553-1558)   1558 (Reign of Elizabeth I, 1558-1603)  
  • 1558 (Nov.) Princess Elizabeth acclaimed as Queen, enters London in triumph. Mary buried at Westminster.
  • 1559 Elizabeth I crowned, reorganizes royal household, appoints William Cecil (later Lord Burghley) Secretary of State. Philip II proposes marriage; Elizabeth tells Parliament she has no plans to marry. Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity passed, reviving all the legislation Mary’s Parliament had repealed, revoking the heresy acts and Papal supremacy, and enforcing conformity to the Book of Common Prayer liturgy. Matthew Parker, a noted moderate, appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, uses patronage to check the spread of Puritanism. .
  • 1559 Thomas Sackville, a diplomat attached to Elizabeth’s court, writes The Mirror for Magistrates, a collection of verse tragedies in the form of dramatic monologues about the fall of princes from power. He followed this with Gorboduc (first acted 1561, printed 1562), in blank verse, the first English tragedy, in collaboration with Thomas Norton.
  • 1560 Treaty of Edinburgh, Mary Queen of Scots recognizes Elizabeth as rightful queen of England and a Protestant government is installed in Scotland.
  • 1560 First printing (in Geneva) of the Geneva Bible. Edited by William Whittingham, Anthony Gilby, and Thomas Sampson; a careful revision of Whittingham’s New Testament of 1557, the Old Testament based mainly on the Great Bible, with corrections based on French and Latin translations.
  • Often distinctly Calvinistic in tone. The most influential English version of the Age of Elizabeth, its phrases echoed in Shakespeare; 140 editions of the Geneva Bible appeared between 1560 and 1644. The King James version of 1611 was influenced more by the Geneva Bible than by any other version. (Nicknamed the Breeches Bible because of phraseology in Genesis about Adam and Eve.)
  • 1561 Mary Queen of Scots refuses to ratify Treaty of Edinburgh. After the death of her French husband Mary returns to Scotland but Elizabeth refuses Mary safe passage.
  • 1561 First English edition of Castiglione, The Courtier, translated by Thomas Hoby. A widely read guide, how to succeed at court both intellectually and socially.
  • 1562 England gains another foothold in France at Le Havre in exchange for helping French Protestants. Elizabeth ill with smallpox; Robert Dudley (later, Earl of Leicester), a favorite, named Protector
  • 1563 First English edition of John Foxe, Acts and Monuments (commonly called Book of Martyrs), an immensely popular defense of Protestant martyrs of Mary’s reign and a signpost urging Elizabeth to adopt more liberal Protestant views. Convocation adopts conservative Thirty-Nine Articles of faith which soft-pedals Protestantism and infuriates Puritans; Elizabeth refuses to approve Articles until 1571. Constant controversy over clerical garments; many clergy deprived of livings for refusing to wear the surplice, a holdover from Catholic ritual. Oath of Supremacy required of all college graduates, schoolmasters, and members of Parliament.
  • 1564 Elizabeth proposes that Robert Dudley marry Mary of Scotland. Instead (1565), to strengthen her claim as successor to Elizabeth, Mary marries her cousin Henry Stuart, Earl of Darnley, a Catholic. Darnley is third in line for the English throne (Mary is 2nd). Calais handed back to France in Treaty of Troyes.
  • 1565 Puritan supporters centered at St. John’s College, Cambridge, seek to liberalize Church of England. Debates and bills about the Church introduced in Parliament cause Elizabeth to declare religion a royal prerogative, forbidding debate on the subject in Parliament (1566).
  • 1566 Darnley, seeking Mary’s crown in his own right, involved in coup that leads to murder of his opponent David Rizzio, Mary of Scotland’s powerful and influential private secretary. Mary does not forgive Darnley and denies him political power. (June) birth of Prince James Stuart, later James VI of Scotland, and still later James I of England (1603-25), only son of Mary of Scotland and Lord Darnley. Mary falls under influence of James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell.
  • 1567 Darnley murdered in Edinburgh, Bothwell accused but acquitted of crime. He abducts Mary of Scotland and takes her to Dunbar Castle,where he marries her. Mary and Bothwell defeated by nobles in battle at Carberry Hill, Bothwell flees to Denmark. (July) Nobles all turn against Mary. Mary abdicates in favor of her infant son James VI of Scotland; Earl of Moray, former Protestant advisor to Mary, becomes Regent.
  • 1568 Mary of Scotland defeated in further battles by Scottish nobles, flees to England, becomes prisoner of English government. College founded at Douai (former spelling, Douay), France, to train English Catholic priests
  • 1568 First issue of the Bishops’ Bible, a revision of Coverdale’s Great Bible by Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, with the assistance of many bishops and scholars. The Greek scholarship is better than the Hebrew, hence the Old Testament revision is less successful. In typography and illustration the most sumptuous of the folio Bibles of the period. Many issues of this version were printed, including a quarto edition with corrections which became the final text.
  • 1569 Revolt of the Northern (Catholic) Earls in favor of Mary of Scotland; the rebellion is quickly crushed, 450 executed.
  • 1570 Roger Ascham, The Scholemaster, a widely used guide for the teaching of Latin in schools and an influential philosophy of education, advocating persuasion rather than physical punishment. Ascham was also an early advocate of English as a literary language. He was tutor to Princess Elizabeth, 1550-53, and Latin Secretary to her as Queen.
  • 1570 Regent Moray shot dead in Scotland, succeeded by Earl of Lennox. Papal bull excommunicates Elizabeth, urges Catholics to revolt and oppose her; however most English Catholics are loyal to her.
  • 1571 Mary of Scotland’s supporters kill Earl of Lennox, Regent. All churches are ordered to display Foxe’s Acts and Monuments. Elizabeth approves Thirty-Nine Articles (first proposed 1563), a conservative, anti-Puritan document defining the doctrine of the Church of England, but now revised to clarify so-called medieval corruptions of Catholic teaching. Parliament passes Subscription Act, ordering all clergy ordained since 1509 (Henry VIII) to swear obedience to the Thirty-Nine Articles. Ridolfi plot hatched by Italian Catholic banker and Duke of Norfolk discovered; plan was to murder the Queen, marry Norfolk to Mary of Scotland and place them on the English throne. Norfolk executed, intense anti-Catholic feeling aroused.
  • 1572 Puritans in Parliament seek law permitting each congregation to amend Book of Common Prayer to suit its needs (excepting only Catholics); Queen forces the bill’s withdrawal. Huguenot refugees from St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre arrive in England.
  • 1573 Francis Walsingham appointed Secretary of State; a staunch Protestant, he opposed Mary of Scotland, unravelled Ridolfi Plot,and organized a secret service. Queen permits Robert Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, to attack and reduce rebel Irish forces prior to English colonization (plantation) of Ulster; he captures Brian O’Neill and executes him, sparking further rebellion (1574); Queen withdraws support. Drake captures huge Spanish treasure in West Indies and lands it at Plymouth; Queen fears threat to relations with Spain.
  • 1575 Archbishop of Canterbury Parker dies; he is replaced by Edmund Grindal, then Archbishop of York.
  • 1576 George Gascoigne, The Steele Glas, in blank verse, the first English satire. Gascoigne also translated and adapted Greek and Italian plays; including the first Greek tragedy performed in English, Euripedes’ Phoenician Women, staged at Gray’s Inn in 1566.
  • 1577 "Prophesyings," public conferences held in towns by local ministers to discuss often radical Puritan views, seen as threat to Church by Queen Elizabeth. She demands Archbp. Grindal ban Prophesyings; he refuses and is placed under house arrest.
  • 1578 John Lyly, Euphues, The Anatomy of Wit, sometimes called the first English novel, with a precious style, characterized by alliteration and antithesis, called euphuism. Lyly was a witty figure at court and a member of Parliament. He wrote plays based on Roman comedy. Also 1578: Raphael Holinshead, Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, a principal source for plots of history plays by Shakespeare and other Elizabethan dramatists
  • 1581 Edmund Campion, Oxford graduate, earned favor from Queen for brilliant debating; ordained in Church of England but at Catholic College of Douai became a Jesuit priest, secretly ministered to English Catholic families; betrayed and arrested, tortured and hanged; four other Catholics hanged (1578-81); Parliament passes acts demanding obedience to Church of England and voting death for priests saying mass.
  • 1583 Death of Edmund Grindal, Archbishop of Canterbury; he is replaced by John Whitgift , Bishop of Worcester. Whitgift draws up list of queries to interrogate suspect nonconformist ministers, issues anti-Puritan articles.
  • 1586 Philip Sidney, poet and statesman, governor of Flushing (Vlissingen), killed in battle of nearby Zutphen at age 32, attempting to free Netherlands from Spanish rule. None of his work was published in his lifetime, notably Arcadia, a pastoral narrative, the first of consequence in English. A later version, dedicated to his sister Mary, was published in 1593 under the title The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia. Trial of Mary of Scotland at Fotheringhay Castle, England.. Mary is found guilty of treason. Elizabeth refuses to sign death warrant, but Mary is executed anyway under a new act of Parliament.
  • 1587 Peter Wentworth, member of Parliament, argues for right to debate religious matters, having previously sought to replace Book of Common Prayer with Genevan prayer book. Queen sends him and two other MPs to prison. (Wentworth later dies during an imprisonment.)
  • 1588 Government arrests and executes 31 Catholic priests. Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, a young favorite at court, becomes Master of the Horse (see 1598 for his later career).
  • 1588-1594 Shakespeare’s early plays on stage, including history plays Henry VI, pt. 1-3, Richard III comedies such ascomedies such as Love"s Labour’s Lost and Taming of the Shrew.
  • 1589 Edmund Spenser begins epic poem, The Fairie Queen, completed 1596, cast in antique language as a pastoral romance. Also in 1589, because of subversive Marprelate tracts, Royal proclamation issued against seditious printers.
  • 1591 Robert Cecil made a Privy Councillor; Edward Seymour returns to favor.; Christopher Hatton , Lord Chancellor, dies Nov. 21.
  • 1593 Christopher Marlowe, author of many plays including Tamburlaine, Jew of Malta, Edward II, Dr. Faustus, dies in tavern brawl under suspicious circumstances. .Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia first published.
  • 1594-8 Shakespeare’s plays on stage include Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Henry IV pts. 1-2., Henry V, Merchant of Venice, Much Ado about Nothing.
  • 1594 Richard Hooker publishes Of the Lawes of Ecclesiasticall Politie, Books I-IV, Book V, 1597; important contribution to political thought, defends Elizabethan church against Puritans..
  • 1595 University of Cambridge divided by Calvinist doctrine of predestination. Archbishop Whitgift agrees to Calvinist set of principles known as Lambeth Articles.
  • 1596 Robert Cecil made principal royal secretary, increased favir with Queen. Poor harvest, severe plague; plays forbidden in London in July because of plague. Shortage of grain in 1596-98 leads to food riots in Kent and other counties.
  • 1597 Robert Devereux, 2nd. Earl of Essex, becomes Earl Marshal, in favor again at court; 1599; Governor--General of Ireland; makes truce with Tyrone and returns to London without permission; charged with unlawful treaty with enemy and other plots against Queen; executed as traitor 1601
  • 1598-1603 Shakepeare’s plays on stage include AsYou Like It, Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida.
  • 1598 Ben Jonson’s first important play, Every Man in his Humour, on stage; later plays include Volpone, The Alchemist, Bartholomew Fair.
  • 1601 Monopolies of products grow, Parliament discusses abuses; Queen soothes their concerns.
  • 1602 Robert Cecil entertains Queen at Strand house; Queen noted to be unwell and infirm.
  • Death of Queen Elizabeth March 24; she names James VI of Scotland as successor with dying breath
    1. House of Stuart

      Reign of James I, 1603-1625

    Reign of Charles I, 1625-1649