1509-1603: The Tudors

Henry VIII and his children (Royal Museums Greenwich)


The Tudors of England react to the printing press with censorship and crack down on libellers and freethinkers with harsh punishments.


Henry VIII (r. 1509-1547) issues a list of proscribed books in 1529. He also declares it an act of treason to call him a ‘tyrant’ and a ‘heretic’. In the 1530s, the cuts England from the Catholic church and initiates the English Reformation to devorce his wife.


Henry’s daughter, Mary I (r. 1553-58) issues a revised list of proscribed books and punishes slanderous writings with hand amputations. She tries to make England Catholic again and burns around 300 heretics at the stake. This earns her the nickname ‘Bloody Mary’.


Henry’s second daughter, Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603), finishes the Reformation and declares England a Protestant state. She makes it illegal to skip church and declares it an act of treason to call her a ‘bastard’ and a ‘usurper’.