Tuesday, 17 November 2009

How was authority maintained?

Role of the Church

There were some 9500 parishes in England and the church was the one truly national institution. It remained the most important means of communication with the people and means of control.
Before the Reformation it provided the Tudors with it’s leading ministers Morton, Fox, Wolsey. The Church quickly recognised Henry VII and preached in his support. Wolsey controlled the North using his position as Archbishop of York.
After the Reformation the church was used by Cromwell to impose control. There was, however, concern about the loyalty of some Priests as their involvement in the religious rebellions indicates. Cromwell issued letters giving precise instructions to the Priests.
JP’s were used to check up on the Priests.
Under Edward Homilies were issued in 1547, Elizabeth reissued the Homily on obedience a further set being issued in 1563.
In addition under Elizabeth new royal festivals were created to reinforce loyalty to the monarch.
During the middle period the church lost some of it’s authority with the people. As Elizabeth’s reign progressed the Church became increasing loyal to the monarchy as the priests became Protestant and with increasing education they began to see themselves as on a par with the gentry.

Image of the monarchy

The Tudor’s tried to cultivate an image that they were appointed by God to help create a certain amount of mystique and respect. God had given sovereigns to the realm and expected them to be obeyed. This was a way of ensuring laws were accepted. There were various ways that they used image.
• Henry VII and Henry VIII built a large number of palaces. They were large and decorated with symbols of the Tudors: a clear sign to all who saw them from the fields, or who stayed with them, of the might of the monarchy.
• Paintings and portraits were used to add to the image of power and authority- i.e. Armada Painting- Rainbow Portrait. In Elizabeth’s time all portraits had to be checked by the government. Henry VIII employed Holbein.
• Paintings could only be seen by a few people so the Tudors used coins- shown most clearly in Edward’s reign. Images were designed for maximum political impact i.e. Edward crowned holding the symbols of state. Coins were the strongest way of promoting the monarch and were available to nearly everyone.
• Progresses helped the monarch to be seen throughout the nation. Henry VII went on progress around the North almost immediately he was trying to assert his authority. In 1535 Henry VIII went on a progress around the South West. It is no coincidence that there was no rebellion in this region during 1536. Henry did not go on many progresses and did not go to the North until 1543.
• The use of image was important to all the Tudors but reached it’s peak under Elizabeth with the promotion of Gloriana.

The Role of the Nobility

The nobility had a twofold role during the Tudor period. They were generally a force for stability, when they did take part in rebellions those rebellions proved to be a threat to the regime. Throughout the period we see a reduction in the power and influence of the nobility as the Tudors neutralised a possible threat.
Faction had been a major problem during the 15th century and had led to a rapid turnover of faction and rulers (The Wars of the Roses). Henry VII became king as a result of a military victory and knew he would have to create a strong regime. In 1504 he passed laws against retaining and he would often use the Order of the Garter as a way of rewarding loyal nobles. He would also rely on nobles to put down local unrest (first part of the chain of response). He succeeded in reducing the power o the overmighty noble whilst keeping the importance of the nobility.
Henry VIII acceded the throne with no major problems although he often felt threatened by the nobility (there were still some Yorkists about), this led to the execution of Buckingham in 1521. Furthermore, he elevated few people to the peerage and with Wolsey (low-born) and then Cromwell (also low-born) he continued to centralise power.
The reformation complicated the matter. The P of G was led by the disgruntled nobility in the North. As the reformation quite literally split the nation, it made it easier for nobles to raise support should they need to. During the late 1530’s Henry dealt with the White Rose Party. However, the nobility were also responsible for putting down many rebellions and where there were no nobles the rebellion often got more dangerous (Western & Ket’s)
1549 resulted in a change of attitude. The nobility became worried by the near anarchy and started to ally themselves with the ruling classes in order to maintain stability. Elizabeth continued to centralise power and continued to appoint her own people (to the annoyance of the Northern Earls). By the end of the period the nobility had learned that revolt was no longer the best way to deal with grievances (unless you were Essex) and disputes were often dealt with in courts and parliament. Indeed by the end of the period the JP’s had become the main agents of control in the localities rather than the gentry.

Increased centralisation of power

The Tudor period saw a huge increase in the power of the state. These changes would often occur as a direct response to rebellion or would be an attempt to reduce the power of the nobility.
Following the activities of Lord Lovell and the Stafford brothers Henry VII established a council of the North and Wales in an attempt to increase Royal authority. He also strengthened the position of JP’s (Justice of the Peace) and appointed fewer nobles. Under Wolsey the North was controlled by the Dean of York Wolsey’s deputy. The rest of the country was controlled by Wolsey’s agents who he placed in the localities.
After P of G Henry VIII promised to re-establish the Council of the North and both Edward and Mary continued to strengthen government. As a direct response to the rebellions of 1549, Northumberland created the role of Lord Lieutenant. This was originally a temporary position but by the 1580’s had become a permanent administrative post.By 1587 all counties had a Lord Lieutenant. Its main responsibility was to look after the local militia.
Elizabeth continued to develop a greater control of local government and introduced many of her own people into positions of power. By appointing her own people (for example Gargrove and Forster) she was able to contain the Northern Earls. By creating a large government machine Elizabeth was able to increase her control over village life and prevented minor riots from escalating eg The Oxfordshire rising.

The conservatism of the rebels

Many rioters believed that they were upholding social order or going against a perceived enemy of the state. The population was always reluctant to support causes that they felt lacked legitimacy. Northumberland’s attempt to seize power in the LJG Affair was partially thwarted by the population rallying to Mary, the legitimate heirs, defence. The aim of the rebels was often to return to a set of previous circumstances i.e. the Western Rebellion wanted to return to a time when the Six Articles were still in force and the country was mainly Catholic. This can also be seen in the P of G where the rebels wanted a restoration of the monasteries. The pilgrims also wanted the return of a previous political system that had allowed its leaders more power. This was also true in the Northern Rebellion.
In economics they looked back to a mythical golden age. Ket’s looked back to times under Henry VII, when was no enclosure and no inflation. In taxation rebellions it was the subsidy rather than the 15th and 10th that caused problems.
So we can see that there was religious, political, social and economic conservatism. There was very little radicalism that can be identified. Maybe some Protestantism in Wyatt’s, but Ket’s was not radical in religion at all.


The population generally believed in the idea of deference and the Great Chain of Being. This was the system by which everyone was connected by a theory of obligation and obedience. In may rebellions this was a factor that greatly lessen the potential threat to the regime. This did not, however, always lead to the preservation of peace. Instead in times of unrest it encouraged the lower orders to look up to their superiors amongst the nobility and could follow them into rebellion. When this happened and the gentry joined the commons it was often as they felt that the government was showing contempt for the society of orders. This was seen in the P of G where the pilgrims felt that the government was neglecting their economic and religious welfare. It was also true that the Pilgrims focused there anger at Cromwell, Cranmer and Rich believing that if they could let Henry know what was happening than he would surely understand their plight. The same was true in 1549 when the Cornish rebels appealed to Edward who they mistakenly felt would hear there demands. However it ensured the loyalty of the popn provided the monarch was willing to fulfil his obligation. The pilgrims voluntarily dispersed once it was promised that their grievance would be listened to. They were only a threat if they felt ignored (Cornish, Amicable Grant)
This was also a crucial factor in 1549 with most of the rebellions being put down by the local nobility often by simply listening to the rebels. Indeed Somerset recommended pasties as the best way to put rebellions down.( No I’m not joking Jess). Arundel put down a rebellion in Sussex by having the rebels round for dinner.
The Tudors were aware of this as being crucial and used imagery to reinforce the deferential nature of society.
As time went on and that Tudors developed the Nation State so people became more loyal to the Crown, rather than to their local noble.

The Chain of Response

Local nobility - Pardon - Negotiation -
Crush it - Revenge.
Not all of these measure happen all the time but most did (for egs look at the P of G and Kets) The measures varied according to the strength of the regime and proximity to London. Mary dare not display the corpses of the executed rebels after Wyatt’s Rebellion as Henry had done after the P of G. Rebellions closer to London, the seat of government were crushed quicker and more decisively i.e. during the Cornish Rebellion HVIII raised a troop of 25,000 to attack the rebels without a pardon or negotiations.

The JP’s

In local government Henry VII was to restore the role of the nobility by reducing the power of the overmighty subject and. The power of the JP’s grew throughout the period. First under Henry VII he extended their powers in dealing with local administration and keeping law and order. Henry is said to have known the name of all his JP’s. During the 1530’s it was the JP’s upon whom Cromwell relied to enforce the reformation, being directly controlled by the Privy Council through letters. In 1539 they were warned to watch for supporters of the Pope and to see that all religious legislation was enforced. In 1555 their powers were reiterated. In 1569 following the Northern Rebellion all JP’s in Wiltshire received instructions to keep the area under tight control. In 1583 one JP outlined his duties, religion, food shortages, retaining, lusty youth producing illegitimate babies, unlawful games and alehouses the ‘nurseries of naughtiness’ Their powers grew when it was their responsibility to administer the Poor Laws of 1597 and 1601.
By the end of the period local officials drawn from the gentry such as JP’s had become the backbone of local administration rather than the nobility.

The lack of standing army/police force and the ability to raise forces through the muster.

Throughout the period there was no police force/ standing army, but the monarch had a range of ways of building an army up. Firstly they could negotiate with the rebels as a means of playing for time (P of G). Secondly they could pass laws against retaining (1504) and finally they could raise forces through the muster.
The muster had been around since the 13th century and required all men of a certain wealth to keep a horse and a suit of armour in readiness. Additionally commissioners were appointed to view all able bodied men to see who could fight for the crown if necessary. Although the state was not guaranteed well trained soldiers they were able to defeat untrained rebel forces many times on the battlefield (Battle of Stoke, Ket’s).
As a result of prohibiting retaining, the power of the nobility was reduced and following the Militia Act of 1558 they were brought into the national system and thus improved the militia

The skill of the monarch in dealing with the rebellion

Throughout the period different monarchs used different skills when dealing with rebels or rebellions.
Henry VII and Henry VIII both cancelled taxes as a result of passive resistance. Following the Cornish rebellion Henry VII even negotiated with the King of Scotland to avoid going to war. Henry VII was an extremely skilled General who defeated his enemies on the battlefield at Bosworth and Stoke.
During the P of G Henry VIII used a variety of skills to deter the rebels. He wasted their time by demanding the rebels be clearer with their demands. Later he promised the rebels that he would re-establish the Council of the North if they dispersed, he lied! After P of G he displayed the body of Aske on the gates of York.
Mary was very good at rousing the support in times of trouble, most notably during the Lady Jane Grey affair and Wyatt’s. She also understood the importance of staying near the seat of power in London.
Elizabeth centralised the power of the state which made it easier for her to get an army together, she was also in a very strong position after the rising of the Northern Earls and executed 450 of the rebels. She also moved MQS to Coventry
from the North.