Stuart Britain: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)

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Full of startling detail, this is an introduction for those interested in the period, and also contains much to challenge and stimulate those who already feel at home in Stuart England. Wordery is one of the UK's largest online booksellers. With millions of satisfied customers who enjoy low prices on a huge range of books, we offer a reliable and trusted service and consistently receive excellent feedback. We offer a huge range of over 8 million books; bestsellers, children's books, cheap paperbacks, baby books, special edition hardbacks, and textbooks.

All our books are dispatched from the UK. Wordery offers Free Delivery on all UK orders, and competitively priced international delivery. About Wordery Wordery is one of the UK's largest online booksellers. Why should you use Wordery. Hallowed tradition, native patriotism, and post-imperial gloom have united to swell our appreciation of the period as a golden age. The splendours of the court of Henry VIII, the fortitude of Sir Thomas More, the making of the English Bible, Prayer Book, and Church of England, the development of Parliament, the defeat of the Armada, the Shakespearian moment, and the legacy of Tudor domestic architecture - these are the undoubted climaxes of a simplified orthodoxy in which genius, romance, and tragedy are superabundant.

Reality is inevitably more complex, less glamorous, and more interesting than myth. The most potent forces within Tudor England were often social, economic, and demographic ones. Thus if the period became a golden age, it was primarily because the considerable growth in population that occurred between and the death of Elizabeth I did not so dangerously exceed the capacity of available resources, particularly food supplies, as to precipitate a Malthusian crisis. Famine and disease unquestionably disrupted and disturbed the Tudor economy, but they did not raze it to its foundations, as in the fourteenth 1 century.

More positively, the increased manpower and demand that sprang from rising population stimulated economic growth and the commercialization of agriculture, encouraged trade and urban renewal, inspired a housing revolution, enhanced the sophistication of manners, especially in London, and more arguably bolstered new and exciting attitudes among the English people, notably individualistic ones derived from Reformation ideals and Calvinist theology. Recovery of Population The matter is debatable, but there is much to be said for the view that England was economically healthier, more expansive, and more optimistic under the Tudors than at any time since the Roman occupation of Britain.

Certainly, the contrast with the fifteenth century was dramatic. In the hundred or so years before Henry VII became king of England in , England had been under-populated, underdeveloped, and inward-looking compared with other Western states, notably France. The country's recovery after the ravages of the Black Death had been slow-slowerthan in France, Germany, Switzerland, and some Italian cities.

The process of economic recovery in pre-industrial societies was basically one of recovery of population, and figures will be useful. On the eve of the Black Death , the population of England and Wales was between 4 and 5 millions; byi, successive plagues had reduced it to 2. Yet the figure for England without Wales was still no higher than 2. However, the growth of population rapidly accelerated afteri see page 3. Between and the population grew extremely fast, an impressive burst of expansion after long inertia.

This rate of growth slackened off somewhat after , but the Tudor population continued to increase steadily and inexorably, with a temporary reversal only in 2 English population totals Year Population total in millions 2. Wrigley and R.

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In addition, the population of Wales grew from about , in to , by Problems of Adjustment While England reaped the fruits of the recovery of population in the sixteenth century, however, serious problems of adjustment were encountered. The impact of a sudden crescendo in demand, and pressure on available resources of food and clothing, within a society that was still overwhelmingly agrarian was to be as painful as it was, ultimately, beneficial.

The morale of countless ordinary English people was to be wrecked by problems that were too massive to be ameliorated either by governments or by traditional, ecclesiastical philanthropy. Inflation, speculation in land, enclosures, unemployment, vagrancy, poverty, and urban squalor were the most pernicious evils of Tudor England, and these were the wider symptoms of population growth and agricultural commercialization.

In the fifteenth century farm rents had been discounted, because tenants were so elusive; lords had abandoned direct exploitation of their demesnes, which were leased to tenants on favourable terms. Rents had been low, too, on peasants' customary holdings; labour services had been commuted, and servile villeinage had virtually disappeared by At the same 3 time, money wages had risen to reflect the contraction of the wagelabour force afteri, and food prices had fallen in reply to reduced market demand.

But rising demand afteri5oo burst the bubble of artificial prosperity born of stagnant population. Land hunger led to soaring rents. Tenants of farms and copyholders were evicted by business-minded landlords. Several adjacent farms would be conjoined, and amalgamated for profit, by outside investors at the expense of sitting tenants.

Marginal land would be converted to pasture for more profitable sheep-rearing. Commons were enclosed, and waste land reclaimed, by landlords or squatters, with consequent extinction of common grazing rights. The literary opinion that the active Tudor land market nurtured a new entrepreneurial class of greedy capitalists grinding the faces of the poor is an exaggeration.

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Yet it is fair to say that 1. Churning butter. Of the various types of husbandry, dairy farming was best suited to domestic producers. Although much milk had to be converted into butter or cheese before it could be sold, the necessary butter churns, cheese tubs, etc. Crete herball, 4 not all landowners, claimants, and squatters were scrupulous in their attitudes; a vigorous market arose among dealers in defective titles to land, with resulting harassment of many legitimate occupiers. The greatest distress sprang, nevertheless, from inflation and unemployment.

High agricultural prices gave farmers strong incentives to produce crops for sale in the dearest markets in nearby towns, rather than for the satisfaction of rural subsistence. Rising population, especially urban population, put intense strain on the markets themselves: demand for food often outstripped supply, notably in years of poor harvests due to epidemics or bad weather.

In cash terms, agricultural prices began to rise faster than industrial prices from the beginning of the reign of Henry VIII, a rise which accelerated as the sixteenth century progressed. In real terms, the price rise was even more volatile than it appeared to be, since population growth ensured that labour was plentiful and cheap, and wages low. The size of the work-force increasingly exceeded available employment opportunities; average wages and living standards declined accordingly. Men and women were prepared to do a day's work for little more than board wages; able-bodied persons, many of whom were peasants displaced by rising rents or the enclosure of commons, drifted in waves to the towns in quest of work.

The best price index hitherto constructed covers the period , and its base period is most usefully - the end of the fifteenthcentury era of stable prices. From this index, we may follow the fortunes of wage-earning consumers, because the calculations are based on the fluctuating costs of composite units of the essential foodstuffs and manufactured goods, such as textiles, that made up an average family shopping basket in southern England at different times.

Two indexes are, in fact, available: first the annual price index of the composite basket of consumables; secondly the index of the basket expressed as the equivalent of the annual wage rates of building craftsmen in southern England. No one supposes that building workers were typical 5 of the labour force in the sixteenth century, or at any other time.

Phelps Brown and S. Hopkins, Economica, no. The price index stood at the or so level until , when it rose to A gradual rise to had occurred by , and a further crescendo to was attained by , the year of Henry VIN's death. In the index reached ; two years later, it hit a staggering peak of , though this was partly due to the delayed effects of the currency debasements practised by Henry VIII and Edward VI. On the accession of Elizabeth I, in , the index had recovered to a median of It climbed again thereafter, though more steadily: in , in , and in But the later witnessed exceptionally meagre harvests, together with regional epidemics and famine: the index read in , in , and only settled back to in An abrupt decline in the purchasing power of wages occurred between and , the commodity equivalent falling by some 40 per cent in 20 years.

The index fell again in the , but recovered in the next decade to a position equivalent to two-thirds of its value in Apart from , it then remained more or less stable until thei5gos, when it collapsed in , and to 29 in On the queen's death in it had recovered to a figure of 45 - which meant that real wages had dropped by 57 per cent since Growth and its Effects When the percentage change of population in the sixteenth century is plotted against that of the index of purchasing power of a building craftsman's wages over the same period, it is immediately plain that the two lines of development are opposite and commensurate see graph.

Living standards declined as the population rose; recovery began as population growth abated and collapsed between and Standards then steadily dropped again, until previous proportions were overthrown by the disasters of and - though the cumulative increase in the size of the wage-labour force since must also have had distorting effects. In other words, population trends, rather than government policies, capitalist entrepreneurs, European imports of American silver, the more rapid circulation of money, or even currency debasements, were the key factor in determining the fortunes of the British Isles in the sixteenth century.

English government expenditure on warfare, heavy borrowing, and debasements unquestionably exacerbated inflation and unemployment. But the basic facts of Tudor economic life were linked to population growth. In view of this fundamental truth, the greatest triumph of Tudor 7 Percentage change of population since last total Source: E.

Schofield, The Population History of England, , London, Percentage change since last total averaged over three years in index of purchasing power of building craftsman's wages as compared to index of his purchasing power in Source: E. A major national subsistence crisis was avoided. Malthus, who wrote his historic Essay on the Principle of Population in , listed positive and preventive checks as the traditional means by which population was kept in balance with available resources of food. Preventive checks included declining fertility, contraception, and fewer, or later, marriages; positive ones involved heavy mortality and abrupt reversal of population growth.

Fertility in England indeed declined in the Iaten55os, and again between and In the reign of Elizabeth I, a higher proportion of the population than hitherto did not marry. Poor harvests resulted in localized starvation, and higher mortality, in ,,, ,,,, and , the most serious crop failures being in and In fact, as the effect of a bad harvest in any particular year lasted until the next good or average crop was gathered, the severest dearths lasted from to , and from 8 to Yet devastating as dearth and disease proved for the affected areas, especially for the towns of the , the positive check of mass mortality on a national scale was absent even during the influenza epidemic of True, in addition to its other difficulties, Mary's regime faced the most serious mortality crisis since the Black Death: the population of England dropped by ,, or by 6 per cent.

But since some regions were relatively lightly affected, it is not proved that this was a national crisis in terms of its geographical extent. Population growth was only temporarily interrupted. Indeed, the chronology, intensity, and restricted geographical range of famine in the sixteenth century suggest that starvation crises in England were abating, rather than worsening, over time, while epidemics took fewer victims than before in proportion to the expansion of population.

The countryside escaped crisis during two-thirds of Elizabeth's reign and the rural population remained in surplus. When the towns suffered an excess of deaths over births, this surplus was sufficient both to increas the numbers who stayed on the land and to compensate for urban losses by immigration to towns. So there is much to be said for an optimistic view of the age of the Tudors. The sixteenth century saw the birth of Britain's pre-industrial political economy - an evolving accommodation between population and resources, economics and politics, ambition and rationality.

England abandoned the disaster-oriented framework of the Middle Ages for the new dawn of low-pressure equilibrium. Progress had its price, unalterably paid by the weak, invariably banked by the strong. Yet the tyranny of the price index was not ubiquitous. Wage rates for agricultural workers fell by less than for building workers, and some privileged groups of wage-earners such as the Mendip miners may have enjoyed a small rise in real income.

Landowners, commercialized farmers, and property investors were the most obvious beneficiaries of a system that guaranteed fixed expenses and enhanced selling prices - it was in the Tudor period that the nobility, gentry, and mercantile classes alike came to appreciate fully the enduring qualities of land.

The victims 9 of Tudor economic changes were the poor. But many wage-labouring families were not wholly dependent upon their wages for subsistence. Multiple occupations, domestic self-employment, and cottage industries flourished, especially in the countryside; town-dwellers grew vegetables, kept animals, and brewed beer, except in the confines of London.

Wage-labourers employed by great households received meat and drink in addition to cash income, although this customary practice was on the wane by the Bosworth Field was, indeed, conclusive only because Richard III, together with so many of his household men and noble supporters, was slain in the battle; because Richard had eliminated in advance the most plausible alternatives to Henry VII; and because Henry was ingenious enough to proclaim himself king with effect from the day before the battle, thus enabling the Ricardian rump to be deemed traitors.

The ensuing births of Arthur in , Margaret in , Henry in , and Mary in achieved the 'Union of the Two Noble and Illustrious Families of Lancaster and York' upon which the pro-Tudor chronicler Edward Hall lavished the praise later echoed by Shakespeare's history plays. The victor of Bosworth Field could found a new dynasty; it remained to be seen whether he could create a new monarchy. The essential demand was that someone should subordinate the nobility and position the English Crown above mere aristocratic faction. The king should not simply reign; he should also rule.

For too long, the king of England had been 'first among equals', rather than 'king and emperor'. The Wars of 11 the Roses had done negligible permanent damage to agriculture, trade, and industry, but they had undermined confidence in monarchy as an institution: the king was seen to be unable, or unwilling, to protect the rights of all his subjects. In particular, royal government had ceased to be politically neutral, having been excessively manipulated by individuals as an instrument of faction.

All aspects of the system, especially the legal system, had been deeply permeated by family loyalties, aristocratic rivalries, favouritism, and a web of personal connections. Refoundation of the Monarchy In fairness to Edward IV, whom Sir Thomas More thought had left his realm 'in quiet and prosperous estate', the work of refoundation had already been started. Edward IV's failure to make sufficient progress was primarily due to his excessive generosity, his divisive marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, and his barely controlled debauchery.

His premature death had become the cue for the usurpation of Richard III, who was leader of a large and unusually powerful northern faction. Henry VII was, by contrast, dedicated and hard-working, astute and ascetic, and financially prudent to the point of avarice, or even rapacity, as some have maintained.

He cultivated a view of monarchy that was different to that of fifteenthcentury England. His stand point was modelled on the values of the new administrative monarchies of Europe: notably Brittany and France, where he had been in exile. He had no direct experience of government and administration before he became king. He was unconstrained by traditional values, and even risked destabilizing the monarchy by his bias against independent noble power. Fifteenth-century English rulers had been content to be the partners of the nobility.

For Henry VII, in comparison, the goal was a monarchy in which the nobility served the king. To ensure the subordination of the nobles, he subverted their local and landed influence and took their gentry supporters into his own 12 household. He had determined to rule England from his court and household, and not through the nobility. The risk was that if the nobles proved lukewarm at moments of crisis, Henry would be troubled by plots and rebellions for longer than he should have been. Of the two Yorkist impostures, that of Lambert Simnel as earl of Warwick in , although the more exotic, was, thanks to Irish support, the more menacing; that of Perkin Warbeck, as Richard of York during the , was more easily contained despite Scottish involvement.

Simnel was routed at Stoke 16 June ; his promoters were killed or pardoned, and the young impostor was taken into the royal household as a servant. Warbeck fell into Henry's hands in August ; before long he had abused the king's leniency and was hanged in His demise was then made an occasion for executing the real earl of Warwick.

But it was another seven years before the incarceration in the Tower of Edmund de la Pole, duke of Suffolk, completed th defensive process. Conciliar Enforcement Henry Vll's mantra was enforcement - the enforcement of political and financial obligation to the Crown, as much as of law and order. In achieving the restoration of the monarchy, he held that ability, good service, and loyalty to the regime, irrespective of social origin and background, were to be the primary grounds of appointments, promotions, favours, and rewards. This belief was most evident in his use of royal patronage and in his appointments of councillors.

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Patronage was the process by which the Crown awarded grants of offices, lands, pensions, annuities, or other valuable perquisites to its executives and dependants, and was thus its principal weapon of political control. Subjects, from great peers of the realm to humble knights and gentry, vied with each other for a share of the spoils - no noble was too high to join in the undignified scramble.

Henry VII gradually restructured the patronage system to reflect more realistically 13 the Crown's limited resources, and next ensured that the values of grants were fully justified in terms of return on expenditure. The resources of the monarchy were relatively meagre in the years before the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and again in the later part of Elizabeth I's reign. Henry VII set the pace and the standards for distributing royal bounty for much of the sixteenth century; indeed, the only danger inherent in the Tudor model was that it might veer towards meanness or excessive stringency.

The level and flow of grants might become so far diminished in relation to expectations as to foment impatience, low morale, and even active disloyalty among the Crown's servants and suitors. Henry Vll's councillors were all selected for their ability, assiduity, shrewdness, and loyalty.

Bray was chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster; soon after he died, in , Empson succeeded him; Dudley was 'president of the Council', which effectively meant minister without portfolio. But Bray and the rest exercised control, under the king, far in excess of their apparent status. For Henry VII managed in an absurdly short space of time to erect a network of financial and administrative checks and blueprints, the records of which never left the hands of himself and the selected few, and the methods of which were equally of their own devising.

Financial accounting, the exploitation of the undervalued resources of the Crown lands along the most modern lines known to the land-holding aristocracy, the collection of fines and obligations, and the enforcement of Henry Vll's morally dubious but probably necessary system of compelling political opponents, or even apparent friends, to enter into coercive bonds for good behaviour - these vital matters were dealt with only by the king and his inner ring. It was a system that owed nothing to Parliament; it owed more to the Council in so far as Bray and the others sat there and spawned a new conciliar tribunal called the Council Learned in the Law; but it owed everything to the king himself, whose vigilance and attention to detail were invincible.

Nothing slipped past 14 Henry's keen eye. The extant Chamber books, the master-documents of the early Henrician nexus of conciliar enforcement, are signed, and thus checked, on every page, and even beside every entry, by the king, who was the best businessman ever to sit on the English throne. Subordination of the Nobility Henry Vll's methods were a judicious combination of carrot and stick.

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In his large and active Council, he practised consultation in a way that inspired, alternately, participation and boredom. All noblemen might be councillors before the reconstruction of the Council in the , and political identity depended on attending Council meetings from time to time. At Westminster the Council sat in Star Chamber literally camera stellata, the room's azure ceiling being decorated with stars of gold leaf , which was both a meeting place for the working Council and a court of law. When Parliament was not in session, Star Chamber formed the chief point of contact between the Crown, its ministers, and the nobility until Wolsey's fall in , and under Henry VII it discussed those issues, such as internal security, the armed defences, and foreign affairs, which, of necessity, had to secure the support of the magnates, who were also the muster-men and captains of armies.

The large Council never debated fiscal or enforcement policies under Henry VII, matters which remained firmly vested in the hands of ministers and those of the Council Learned in the Law and the Conciliar Court of Audit. But by making conciliar involvement a dimension of magnate status, Henry VII went far towards filtering out the threat of an alienated nobility that sprang from lack of communications and isolation in the political wilderness.

Next, Henry VII made a determined bid to concentrate the command of castles and garrisons, and, as far as possible, the supervision of military functions, in the hands of his courtiers, and he launched direct attacks on the local, territorial powers of the nobles, if he felt that those powers had been exercised in defiance of perceived royal interests. Such attacks 15 normally took one of two forms, either that of prosecutions and fines at law for misfeasance, or the more drastic resort of attainder and forfeiture.

George Neville, Lord Abergavenny, for instance, was tried in King's Bench in on a charge of illegally retaining what amounted to a private army. It seems that the 'army' comprised 25 gentlemen, 4 clerics, yeomen, 1 cobbler, andi tinkertheTudors got details right. But Henry VII was not opposing retaining on principle on the occasion of this prosecution; he valued Abergavenny's force, down to that last Kentish tinker, just as much as did its true territorial proprietor - it was even better that Abergavenny was footing the bill.

Despite Henry Vll's peaceful foreign policy, he brought England into the mainstream of European affairs, quite apart from her fluctuating relations with Scotland. The all-too-brief marriage of Prince Arthur to Catherine of Aragon in considerably raised Henry Vll's prestige in Europe, while his treaty with Anne of Brittany obliged him briefly to invade France in England, or rather the king of England, had virtually no army beyond that recruited on demand from the royal demesne, and that provided on request by the nobility.

Thus, in Abergavenny's case, which was exemplary and admonitory, it was especially relevant that the accused was by birth a Yorkist, and that he had been implicated in an unsuccessful rising of Cornishmen in Far more drastic was the weapon of attainder and forfeiture. Acts of attainder were parliamentary statutes proclaiming convictions for treason, and declaring the victim's property forfeit to the king and his blood 'corrupted'. The method almost always involved execution of the victim, but did not necessarily lead to the total forfeiture of his lands.

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Duration: Added: 14 May Ixxii: i. Yet Somerset's most spectacular failure was his continued adherence to the defunct treaty of Greenwich. Showing results 1 - 10 for short introduction. Immanuel Kant. In Henry's view, the models for statecraft were the kings of Israel, especially David and Solomon, and the late Roman emperors, especially Constantine and Justinian, who governed both Church and State. Lorenzo Valla.

Most attainders were by tradition repealed later in favour of the heirs, though not always with full restoration of property. Henry Vll's reign 16 saw persons attainted, and 86 of these attainders were never reversed. Henry VII realized that attainders were not simply a tool of faction and dynastic intrigue: they could be used to subdue 'overmighty' or hostile magnates, while at the same time significantly augmenting the Crown's own power and income.

Finesse was required if the method was not to backfire. Its excessive use, and repeated failure to reverse attainders in favour of heirs, could spark resentment among the peerage. Attainders could also do serious damage if they left a power vacuum in a particular region, as occurred in East Anglia when the third duke of Norfolk was attainted by Henry VIII in His attaind reversed by Mary in , created instability which the Crown could not easily correct, and paved the way for Ket's Rebellion in In , he commissioned one Polydore Vergil, who was a visiting collector of papal taxes, to write a history of England, and it was Polydore who claimed that the first of the Tudors had practised financial rapacity afteri5O2: For he began to treat his people with more harshness and severity than had been his custom, in order as he himself asserted to ensure that they remained more thoroughly and entirely in obedience to him.

The people themselves had another explanation for his action, for they considered they were suffering not on account of their own sins but on account of the greed of their monarch. It is not indeed clear whether at the start it was greed; but afterwards greed did become apparent. Whatever the eventual outcome, three points are proven.

These bonds aimed to hold the political nation, especially the nobility, at the king's mercy, and to short-circuit due process of common law in case of offence by the victims. If anyone was deemed to have misbehaved, he would simply be sued for debt on his bond - it was not possible to litigate over the nature or extent of the alleged offence. Second, Empson and Dudley corrupted juries to find verdicts in favour of Henry Vll's feudal rights.

The best example is the case of the estates of the earl of Westmorland. A conciliar inquiry had to be launched to rectify this matter in Henry VIN's reign. Lastly, Henry VII sold offices, including legal ones. He twice sold the chief justiceship of the Court of Common Pleas, and at high prices. He also sold the posts of attorney-general, Master of the Rolls, and Speaker of the House of Commons. As Francis Bacon maintained, there was now'no such thing as any great or mighty subject who might eclipse or overshadow the imperial power'.

The first of the Tudors enhanced the prestige of the monarchy, its financial resources and its regional authority. He turned his court into the crucible of politics and the magnates into a service nobility. On the other hand, his fiscal success has been vastly overrated. It is unlikely that he left a vast treasure, as Bacon later claimed.

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Again, Henry Vll's England was something of a bureaucrat's paradise. The king was too mean to pay his administrators properly: a culture of acquisitiveness permeated his administration. His councillors were capable of 18 penalizing landowners on their own account, and of fixing their own deals in order to build landed fortunes for themselves. Apart from Bray, the classic instance is Sir Henry Wyatt, who purchased land at knockdown prices from people who were unable to pay their debts to the Crown. Did the king know that they were doing this, pretending otherwise in order to be able to attaint them if they put a foot wrong, or was he less competent than he has always seemed?

Finally, Henry VII passed on his throne to his son, but not automatically. His innermost courtiers sought primarily to ensure their own survival. Henry died at n pm on 21 April , but his death was kept secret until the afternoon of the 23rd, when it was announced to the main body of councillors and Henry VIN's accession was proclaimed. The delay gave those at the seat of power time to protect themselves. A general pardon was issued that included treasons and felonies committed in Henry Vll's reign, and Empson and Dudley, the two most hated councillors, were arrested.

They were imprisoned in the Tower for a year, and then executed. This was a ploy to win popularity, and provide a scapegoat for the methods of the reign. Furthermore, Henry Vll's executors, who were his innermost councillors, contrived that Henry VIII was not allowed fully to be king or to enjoy untrammelled sovereignty until Wolsey liberated him from these constraints. Henry VIII was not even allowed to sign his name to royal gifts or letters patent without the counter-signature of his father's 'minders'. If anything, the reign of Henry VII marked as much the triumph of the king's courtiers in politics as of the king himself.

Under pressure from his father's executors, Henry began his 'triumphant' reign by marrying his late brother's widow, Catherine of Aragon - a union that was to have momentous, not to say revolutionary, consequences. He continued by executing Empson and Dudley.

His character was fascinating, threatening, and sometimes morbid. His egoism, self-righteousness, and capacity to brood sprang from the fusion of an able but second-rate mind with what looks suspiciously like an inferiority complex. Henry VII had restored stability and royal authority, but it may have been for reasons of character, as much as policy, that his son resolved to augment his regal power. As his reign unfolded Henry VIII added 'imperial' concepts of kingship to existing 'feudal' ones; he sought to give the words 'king and emperor' a meaning unseen since the days of the Roman Empire.

He was eager, too, to conquer - to emulate the glorious victories of the Black Prince and Henry V, to quest after the golden fleece that was the French Crown. He wished, in fact, to revive the Hundred Years War, despite the success of Valois France in consolidating its territory and the shift of emphasis of European politics towards Italy and Spain. Repeatedly the efforts of his more constructive councillors were bedevilled, and overthrown, by his chivalric dreams, and by costly wars that wasted men, money, and equipment.

If, however, humanist criticism of warfare by Colet, Erasmus, and Thomas More is well known, it should not be 20 2. Henry VIM. Portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger, forgotten that 'honour' in the Renaissance was defended in the last resort by battle. Also, war was the 'sport of kings'. By competing dynastically and territorially with his European counterparts, especially Francis I, Henry VIII acknowledged settled convention and, even more obviously, popular demand.

His reign saw the boldest and most extensive invasions of France since the reign of Henry V. In fact, only a minority of contemporaries had any sense of the serious long-term economic damage that Renaissance warfare could inflict. Evaluation is always a matter of emphasis, but on the twin issues of monarchic theory and lust for conquest, there is everything to be said for the view that Henry VIll's policy was consistent throughout his reign; that Henry was himself directing that policy; and that his ministers and officials were allowed freedom of action only within accepted limits, and when the king was too busy to take a personal interest in state affairs.

Wolsey and the Church Cardinal Wolsey was Henry Vlll's first minister, and the 14 years of that proud but efficient prelate's ascendancy saw the king in a comparatively restrained mood. Henry, unlike his father, found writing 'both tedious and painful'; he preferred hunting, dancing, dallying, and playing the lute. In his more civilized moments, Henry studied theology and astronomy; he would wake up Sir Thomas More in the middle of the night in order that they might gaze at the stars from the roof of a royal palace.

He wrote songs, and the words of one form an epitome of Henry's youthful sentiments: 22 Pastime with good company I love and shall until I die. Grudge who lust, but none deny; So God be pleased, thus live will I; For my pastance, Hunt, sing and dance; My heart is set All goodly sport For my comfort: Who shall me let? Yet Henry himself set the tempo; his pastimes were only pursued while he was satisfied with Wolsey. Appointed lord chancellor and chief councillor on Christmas Eve , Wolsey used the Council and Star Chamber as instruments of ministerial power in much the way that Henry VII had used them as vehicles of royal power- though Wolsey pursued uniform and equitable ideals of justice in Star Chamber in place of Henry Vll's selective justice linked to fiscal advantage.

But Wolsey's greatest asset was the unique position he obtained with regard to the English Church. Using these powers, Wolsey contrived to subject the entire English Church and clergy to a massive dose of Tudor government and taxation, and it looks as if an uneasy compromise prevailed behind the scenes in which Henry agreed that the Church was, for the moment, best controlled by a churchman who was a royal servant, and the clergy accepted that it was better to be obedient to an ecclesiastical rather than a secular tyrant - for it is unquestionably true that Wolsey protected the Church from the worst excesses of lay opinion while in office.

The trouble was that, with stability restored, and the Tudor dynasty apparently secure, England had started to become vulnerable to a 23 mounting release of forces. It used to be argued that anti-clericalism was a major cause of the English Reformation, but this interpretation has lately been challenged. Recent research has established that the majority of late medieval English clergy were not negligent or unqualified: Church courts were not usually unfair; probate, mortuary, and tithes disputes were few; pluralism, absenteeism, nepotism, sexual misconduct, and commercial 'moonlighting' by clergy were less serious than once was thought.

On the other hand, there were priests who failed to hold services at the proper times, who did not preach, and whose habits were aggressive - the rector of Addington in Northamptonshire, cited before the Lincoln consistory court in , had two children by his cook and marched about the village in chainmail.

In fact, it was all too easy for a priest to behave like other villagers: to make a mistress of his housekeeper, and to spend the day cultivating his glebe. Although the English Church was free of major scandals, such abuses as non-residence, pluralism, concubinage, and the parochial clergy's neglect to repair chancels, where these occurred, continued to attract attention.

Also tithes disputes, probate and mortuary fees, charges for saying mass on special occasions, and the trial and burning of heretics could become flash-points. In particular, it was pointed out by prominent writers, notably the grave and learned Christopher St German , that the Church's procedure in cases of suspected heresy permitted secret accusations and hearsay evidence, and denied accused persons the benefit of purgation by oath-helpers or trial by jury, which was a Roman procedure contrary to the principles of English common law- a clerical plot to deprive the English of their natural, legal rights.

Such ideas were manifestly explosive; for they incited division between clergy and common lawyers. Late medieval religion was also sacramental and institutional. As the expectations of the educated laity mirrored those of the Renaissance, many people sought to found their faith on texts of Scripture and Bible stories preferably illustrated ones , but vernacular Bibles were illegal in England - the Church authorities believed that the availability of an 24 3.

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Title page to Coverdale's English Bible, David was a model for the royal supremacy, and St Paul was revered as a symbol of evangelical freedom in contrast to the papacy English Bible, even an authorized version, would foment heresy by permitting people to form their own opinions. Sir Thomas More, Wolsey's successor as lord chancellor, declared in his proclamation of 22 June that 'it is not necessary the said Scripture to be in the English tongue and in the hands of the common people, but that the distribution of the said Scripture, and the permitting or denying thereof, dependeth only upon the discretion of the superiors, as they shall think it convenient'.

More pursued a policy of strict censorship: no books in English printed outside the realm on any subject whatsoever were to be imported; he forbade the printing of scriptural or religious books in England, too, unless approved in advance by a bishop. But More and the bishops were swimming against the tide. The invention of printing had revolutionized the transmission of new ideas across Western Europe, including Protestant ideas.

Heretical books and Bibles poured from the presses of English exiles abroad, notably that of William Tyndale at Antwerp. The demand for vernacular Scriptures was persistent, insistent, and widespread; Henry VIII was enlightened enough to wish to assent to it, and publication of an official English Bible in Miles Coverdale's translation was first achieved in , the year of More's execution. Humanism and Lutheranism Of the forces springing from the European Renaissance, humanism and the influence of classical learning came first. The humanists, of whom the greatest was Erasmus of Rotterdam , rejected scholasticism in favour of simple biblical piety, or philosophic Christi, which was founded on primary textual scholarship, and in particular study of the Greek New Testament.

Erasmus made several visits to England, and it was in Cambridge in that he worked upon the Greek text of his edition of the New Testament. The humanists first challenged the English establishment in - when, preaching before Convocation, John Colet attacked clerical abuses and 26 demanded reform of the Church from within.

His sermon caused resentment but the humanists continued to call for spiritual renewal. Erasmus embellished Colet's evangelism with racy criticisms of priests and monks, Catholic superstition, and even the papacy. Also in he published his Greek New Testament together with a revised Latin translation. Scholars and educated laity were delighted; at last they drank the pure waters of the fountain-head.

More's Utopia was more complex. It wittily idealized an imaginary society of pagans living on a remote island in accordance with principles of natural virtue. The Utopians possessed reason but lacked Christian revelation, and by implicitly comparing their benign social customs and enlightened attitudes with the inferior standards, in practice, of Christian Europeans, More produced an indictment of the latter based largely on deafening silence.

For the irony and scandal was that Christians had so much to learn from heathens. Yet the humanism of Colet, Erasmus, and More was fragile. Even without Luther's challenge it would have become fragmented because faith and reason in its scheme were at odds. More's solution was to argue that faith was the superior power and that Catholic beliefs must be defended because God commanded them, but Erasmus trusted human rationality and could not accept that God tested people's faith by making them believe things that Renaissance scholarship had thrown into question.

Even Luther regarded Erasmus as an enemy because of his emphasis on reason. So these fissures weakened humanism and new exponents of reform caught public attention. In England, the influence of Lutheranism exceeded the small number of converts: the rise of the 'new learning', as it was called, became the most potent of the forces released in the and Luther's ideas and numerous books rapidly penetrated the universities, especially Cambridge, the City of London, the inns of court, and even reached Henry Vlll's court through 27 the intervention of Anne Boleyn and her circle.

At Cambridge, the young scholars influenced included Thomas Cranmer and Matthew Parker, both of whom later became archbishops of Canterbury. Wolsey belatedly made resolute efforts as legate to stamp out the spread of Protestantism, but without obvious success. His critics blamed his reluctance to burn men for heresy - for Wolsey would burn books and imprison men, but shared the humane horror of Erasmus at the thought of himself committing bodies to the flames.

However, the true reason for Luther's appeal was that he had given coherent doctrinal expression to the religious subjectivity of individuals, and to their distrust of clerical power and papal monarchy. His view of the ministry mirrored the instincts of the laity, and his answer to concubinage was the global solution of clerical marriage.

Although Catherine of Aragon had borne five children, only the Princess Mary b. It was clear by that Catherine was past the age of childbearing; meanwhile Henry coveted Anne Boleyn, who would not comply without the assurance of marriage. Yet royal annulments were not infrequent, and all might have been resolved without drama, or even unremarked, had not Henry VIII been a proficient, if mendacious, theologian. The chief obstacle was that Henry, who feared international humiliation, insisted that his divorce should be granted by a competent authority in England -this way he could deprive his wife of her legal rights, and bully his episcopal judges.

In order to have his case decided without reference to Rome, in face of the papacy's unwillingness to concede the matter, 28 Henry had to prove against the reigning pope, Clement VII, that his predecessor's dispensation was invalid - then the marriage would automatically terminate, on the grounds that it had never legally existed.

Henry would be a bachelor again. However, this strategy took the king away from matrimonial law into the quite remote and hypersensitive realm of papal power.

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If Julius ll's dispensation was invalid, it must be because the successors of St Peter had no power to devise such instruments, and the popes were thus no better than other human legislators who had exceeded their authority. Henry was a good enough theologian to know that there was a minority opinion in Western Christendom to precisely this effect.

He was enough of an egoist, too, to fall captive to his own powers of persuasion - soon he believed that papal primacy was unquestionably a sham, a ploy of human invention to deprive kings and emperors of their legitimate inheritances. Henry looked back to the golden days of the British imperial past, to the time of the Emperor Constantine and of King Lucius I. In fact, Lucius I had never existed - he was a myth, a figment of pre-Conquest imagination.

But Henry's British 'sources' showed that this Lucius was a great ruler, the first Christian king of Britain, who had endowed the British Church with all its liberties and possessions and then written to Pope Eleutherius asking him to transmit the Roman laws.

However, the pope's reply explained that Lucius did not need any Roman law, because he already had the lex Britanniae whatever that was under which he ruled both Church and State: For you be God's vicar in your kingdom, as the psalmist says, 'Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness to the king's son' Ps. Ixxii: i. A King hath his name of ruling, and not of having a realm.

You shall be a king, while you rule well; but if you do otherwise, the name of a king shall not remain with you. God grant you so to rule the realm of Britain, that you may reign with him for ever, whose vicar you be in the realm. Henry's divorce had led him, incredibly, to believe in his royal supremacy over the English Church. The Reformation and Cromwell With the advent of the divorce crisis, Henry took personal charge of his policy and government.

He ousted Wolsey, who was hopelessly compromised in the new scheme of things, since his legatine power came directly from Rome. He named SirThomas More to the chancellorship, but this move backfired owing to More's scrupulous reluctance to involve himself in Henry's proceedings. He summoned Parliament, which for the first time in English history worked with the king as an omnicompetent legislative assembly, if hesitatingly so. Henry and Parliament finally threw off England's allegiance to Rome in an unsurpassed burst of revolutionary statute-making: the Act of Annates , the Act of Appeals , the First Act of Succession , the Act of Supremacy , the Treasons Act , and the Act against the Pope's Authority The Act of Appeals proclaimed Henry Vlll's new imperial status - all English jurisdiction, both secular and religious, now sprang from the king - and abolished the pope's right to decide English ecclesiastical cases.

The Act of Supremacy declared that the king of England was supreme head of the Church of England - not the pope. The Act of Succession was the first of a series of Tudor instruments used to settle the order of succession to the throne, a measure which even Thomas More agreed was in itself sound, save that this statute was prefaced by a preamble denouncing papal jurisdiction as a 'usurpation' of Henry's imperial power.

More, together with Bishop Fisher of Rochester, and the London Carthusians, the most ascetic and honourable custodians of papal primacy and the legitimacy of the Aragonese marriage, were tried for 'denying' Henry's supremacy under the terms of the Treasons Act. These terms made it high treason maliciously to deprive either king or queen of 'the dignity, title, or name of their royal estates' - that is, to deny Henry's royal supremacy.

The victims of the act, who were in reality martyrs to Henry's vindictiveness, 30 were cruelly executed in the summer of Ayear later the Reformation legislation was completed by the Act against the Pope's Authority, which removed the last vestiges of papal power in England, including the pope's 'pastoral' right as a teacher to decide disputed points of Scripture.

Yet why did bishops who held crucial votes in the House of Lords and Convocation permit the Henrician Reformation to occur? The answer is partly that Henry coerced his clerical opponents into submission by threats and punitive taxation; but some bishops actually supported the king, albeit reluctantly. They preferred to be ruled by the Tudors personally, with whom they could bargain and haggle, than be subordinated to Parliament, which was the alternative. As early Cromwell had sought to make the Tudor supremacy parliamentary.


But Parliament's contribution was cut back to the mechanical, though still revolutionary, task of enacting the requisite legislation. In Henry's view, the models for statecraft were the kings of Israel, especially David and Solomon, and the late Roman emperors, especially Constantine and Justinian, who governed both Church and State. Henry held his supremacy to be 'imperial' despite the use of Parliament. Royal supremacy was 'ordained by God'; all Parliament had done was belatedly to recognize the fact.

Also it was not until ,, and that the full implications of the break with Rome became clear, when the royal supremacy became a Trojan horse for Protestantism. Not everyone realized what was happening in the Many saw the Acts of Appeals and Supremacy as a temporary squabble between king and pope, a cause unworthy of martyrdom. Before Henry had ruled his clergy through Wolsey; after he did so personally, and through his second minister, Thomas Cromwell.

A former aide of Wolsey, Cromwell had risen to power as a client of the Boleyn interest. Byjanuaryi he had taken command of the machinery of government, especially the management of Parliament. Whereas the king was a doctrinal conservative with largely orthodox views on the sacraments, Cromwell was a supporter of the evangelical Reformation. Thus Henry was not opposed on principle to the monastic ideal: he simply regarded the religious houses after the break with Rome as bastions of 'popery' and of opposition to his second marriage. By contrast, Cromwell was anti-monastic: as vicegerent he sought the suppression of the monasteries as well as the abolition of shrines, the veneration of saints and images, pilgrimages, and the doctrine of purgatory, all on grounds of superstition.

But their reasons were different. Henry VIII interpreted the Bible as God's 'efficacious Word' - almost a sacrament in itself, one which he personally distributed as supreme head of the Church, and which was not dependent upon the mediating role of the clergy. Overall, Henry imagined a 'Church of England' which would retain Catholic doctrine, but curtail the influence of the clergy.

This is why he was opposed to cults of saints, intercessions, and the use of images and pilgrimages for the people at large, but did not eradicate these traditional rites and ceremonies from the Chapel Royal. Cromwell was likewise a leading patron of the English Bible, but his position was completely different. He agreed with the Protestant reformers that Scripture was the supreme authority against which the Church and clergy should be judged.

He sought the reform of the Church on biblical lines, in particular the extirpation of idolatry and unnecessary ceremonies. He did not deny the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, nor did he teach the Lutheran doctrine of 'justification by faith alone'. But his emphasis on faith, the Bible, and the role of preaching put him in the reformed camp. His injunctions , attacked images idolatrously abused, and paved the way for the destruction of altars in 32 the reign of Edward VI. When Henry VIII finally became convinced that his vicegerent was a religious radical who was protecting Protestants secretly, he withdrew his support and allowed Cromwell to fall victim to his conservative opponents.

It was not for nothing that the parliamentary bill of attainder against Cromwell charged him in with heresy as well as treason. The Dissolution of the Monasteries Cromwell's most important assignment was the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Probably Henry VIN's main motivation was financial.