Reformation Europe - The Protestant Reformation - History of Europe
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Reformation Europe

Catherine de Medici
Catherine de Medici
wearing pearls

September 2016 - By the time Francis I of France and Henry VIII of England both died in 1547 AD, attacks by the Ottoman Empire were less of a problem, and civil war within Europe was more of a problem. All of Europe was beginning to fall into the Wars of Religion, with the Catholic kings fighting a widespread Protestant movement. From 1560 to 1589 France was mostly under the control of Francis' son's wife Catherine de Medici, who managed to keep all her sons on the throne, but could not stop the civil wars between Catholics and Protestants. Catherine negotiated with the Ottoman ruler, Nurbanu Sultan to try to unite against the Holy Roman Empire, but she didn't have any more success than Francis had.

Queen Mary
Queen Mary
Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth I of England

England also continued to suffer religious civil wars, first under Henry's daughter Queen Mary (a Catholic known as Bloody Mary) and then after 1558 under Mary's sister Queen Elizabeth (a Protestant).

Charles Quint, on the other hand, did succeed in keeping peace in Spain (as a Catholic country) and in Germany (mainly as a Protestant country) and ruling both.

Philip II
Philip II of Spain

The Wars of Religion got worse after Charles Quint died in 1558 AD. With Charles and Mary gone, England's new queen Elizabeth abandoned Charles' alliance with England and began to seize control of world shipping as Charles had done before: now Elizabeth's friend and admiral Sir Francis Drake attacked and burned Spanish ships. Elizabeth also tried to make an alliance with the Ottoman ruler Nurbanu Sultan against Spain. Elizabeth suggested that Protestants like herself were closer to Islam than Catholics, because they didn't worship statues and believed in only one God instead of the saints, but Nurbanu's death in 1583 put an end to it. Charles V's successors in Spain finally tried to destroy England's fleet in 1588, but they lost. Elizabeth's navy destroyed the Spanish Armada (the ships) in a great victory for England (helped out by a big storm) - and a great defeat for Spain. From then on, England controlled world trade - including buying African people and selling them as slaves in the Americas - and got richer and richer. By 1600, British settlers were beginning to take land along the East Coast of North America from the Iroquois and other Native people.

Early Modern Spain
Early Modern France
Early Modern England

Bibliography and further reading about Europe during the Reformation:

Early Modern Spain
Early Modern France
Early Modern England
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For Presidents' Day, check out our articles about Washington in the Revolutionary War and Lincoln in the Civil War. Find out about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the other Amendments, and how Washington promised to include freedom of religion.
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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