1520: A Tudor Year in Review

by Heather R. Darsie, J.D.

19 January — King Christian II of Denmark, Christina and Dorothea of Denmark’s father, defeats the Swedes during the Danish invasion of Sweden.

Christina of Denmark c. 1533 by Anon.

30 January — Birth of Sir William More, whom Henry VIII elected to Parliament in 1539. More served Elizabeth I in every single one of her parliaments, as well. More held various political appointments throughout his life. More died around July 1600.

6 April — The great artist Rafaello Sanzio da Urbino, or simply Raphael, died in Rome. He was 37 years old. It is unknown what killed him, but Raphael was severely ill for two weeks before his death. 

16 April — The Revolt of the Comuneros against Holy Roman EmperorCharles V began. Charles, born and raised in Flanders, was considered an outsider within the Kingdom of Castile. His mother Juana the Mad, the true ruler of Castile, was shut away years before by Charles and his maternal grandfather, Ferdinand of Aragon. The rebels attempted to reinstall Juana as their ruler. They succeeded in temporarily controlling several important Castilian cities throughout 1520 to 1521, when Charles was able to instill order through force.

26 May — Charles V meets Henry VIII at Dover. Charles hoped to win over Henry and undo the Anglo-French alliance.

Charles V as a teenager, c. 1515, by Bernard van Orley

7 June — Henry VIII and Francis I meet at the Field of Cloth of Gold. The summit was organized to further unify the friendship between Henry VIII and Francis I, following from the treaty signed in 1514. Although an impressive and ostentatious display of wealth came during the next couple weeks of the summit, nothing of much import was completed politically.

15 June — Pope Leo X issues the Exsurge Domine in response to Martin Luther. In the Exsurge Domine, Pope Leo X threatened Luther with excommunication from the Catholic Church if Luther did not recant several portions of his Ninety-Five Theses within sixty days of the papal bull being published in Saxony. Luther responded with even more pro-Reform writings.

6 August — Kunigunde of Austria, sister of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, dies in Bavaria. Kunigunde was one of Eleonore of Portugal‘s daughters with Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III. Eleonore and Fredrick had a total of five children, of whom only Maximilian and Kunigunde survived to adulthood. Their other three children died before their third birthdays. Kunigunde married Albert IV von Wittelsbach on 2 January 1487 against her father’s wishes. Kunigunde was 21 years old and her new husband was 39. The couple had seven children, six of whom lived to adulthood. Kunigunde retired to the Convent of Puettrich after she was widowed in 1508. She later died there.

10 August — Madeleine de Valois, daughter of Francis I and Claude de France, was born. She had frail health. Madeleine was raised by her paternal aunt Marguerite, Queen Consort of Navarre. Madeleine was chosen by James V as a bride, fulfilling the terms of a treaty signed between France and Scotland to keep the Auld Alliance alive. Originally, Francis intended for James to wed Mary of Bourbon, but James was quite taken with Madeleine. The couple wed in France on 1 January 1537. Madeleine and James returned to Scotland in May that year. Sadly, Madeleine died of illness roughly two months later. She is known to history as the “Summer Queen of Scots”.

Madeleine de Valois by Corneille de Lyon

August — Martin Luther writes To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation.

13 September — William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, is born to Sir Richard Cecil and Jane Heckington. Cecil was one of four children. He had three sisters. Cecil managed to make something of himself, particularly during his career under Elizabeth I. Cecil originally severely disappointed his father when Cecil wed the poor Mary Cheke in 1540. Cecil’s father was so against the marriage that he wished to alter his will. Sadly, Mary died in 1542, possibly from complications giving birth to Cecil’s oldest son and child Thomas. Cecil’s father died in March 1553, and did not get to see Cecil grow into his full potential.

26 October — Charles V is crowned King of the Germans — Romans in Aachen. Anna of Cleves’ grandfather and the Elector of Saxony had a spat about precedence leading up to the ceremony.

October — Martin Luther publishes Adversus Execrabile Antichristi Bullam in response to the Papal bull Exsurge Domine. Luther received his official, sealed copy of the bull in early October.

10 November — Dorothea of Denmark is born to Christian II of Denmark and Isabella von Habsburg.

Portrait of an Unknown Princess by Gossaerts, thought to be Dorothea of Denmark and Norway

8-10 November — Christian II, recently crowned King of Sweden after his months-long conquest, beheads several members of the Swedish Resistance. The event is known to history as the Stockholm Bloodbath.

28 November — After three weeks, Ferdinand Magellan and his crew successfully navigate the strait now known as the Strait of Magellan in Chile, arriving in the Pacific Ocean. They are the first Europeans to successfully navigate between the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans.

29 November — Martin Luther publishes a second pamphlet in response to Exsurge Domine. It is called, All the Articles Wrongly Condemned in the Roman Bull.

10 December — Martin Luther publicly burns a copy of Exsurge Domine and The Book of Canon Law at the Elster Gate in Wittenberg.

Date Unknown — Agatha Streicher, first female physician in Germany, is born.

Date Unknown — Hans Eworth is born. Mary I of England was a patron of Eworth’s. Eworth completed at least three portraits of Mary, and also painted portraits of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, and Elizabeth I.

Portrait of Mary I after her marriage to Philio von Habsburg by Hans Eworth

Date Unknown — Possible birth year of Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII.

1520 was monumental for its shows of wealth and power at the Tudor court more so than the births or deaths of famous persons. The year did show dramatic changes outside of England, especially the increasing viciousness between Martin Luther and the Papacy. Magellan’s feat of sailing to the Pacific was incredible, too: the Europeans were learning that their corner of the world was quite small.

Please note this article first appeared here.

Love learning about the Early Modern period? Are you interested in Tudor history or Women’s history? Then check out my book, Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister’, a new biography about Anna of Cleves told from the German perspective!

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