With this week marking the 566th anniversary of Henry VII’s birth, I’ve given some thought to the origins of the Tudor dynasty – and, more specifically, the meaning behind the name ‘Tudor’.
In the words of Shakespeare, what’s in a name?
It is believed that the personal name ‘Tudur’ is a derivative of the British Celtic Toutorīx, the literal translation of which is a compound of ‘people’ and ‘king.’ The idea that ‘Tudur’ is the Welsh equivalent of the Latin Theodorus has also enjoyed wide currency in recent years. Theodorus itself derives from the Greek Theodōros, meaning ‘gift from God’ (theos meaning God, and dōron ‘gift’.) However, the Welsh form of Theodorus is normally spelled ‘Tewdwr.’
Both ideas represent a supremely emblematic image for the dynasty as a whole, perhaps seen most distinctively in the reigns of the first and final Tudor sovereigns.
Henry VII’s reign brought peace to England and a definitive end to a bloody, destructive civil war that had been raging throughout the country for more than thirty years. Many decades later, his granddaughter Elizabeth ushered in a ‘Golden Age’ for the kingdom.
Under Elizabeth’s rule, England and its people thrived, the English Renaissance flourished, and the symbol of ‘Britannia’ solidified. The respective reigns of Henry VII and Elizabeth I contrasted sharply with the previous and following regimes, in terms of peace and prosperity.
Which brings us back to the root of the ‘Tudors.’ Was this dynasty a ‘gift’ to England?
Daniella A. Novakovic is a freelance writer based in the United States.