Revolution in government_handout

Was there a Tudor revolution in government?
This is a contentious historical issue and has been argued about by historians. G R Elton first raised the
argument in 1953s and his main arguments for a “revolution in Tudor government were that until the 1530s the
government of the country was based upon the Royal Household i.e. the state equated with the King’s private
estate. It was during the 1530s that Cromwell reduced the role of the Royal Household in government and
substituted instead a bureaucratic administration. i.e. a system of government by officials, responsible only to
their departmental chiefs who in turn were responsible to a chief executive – Cromwell – presiding over the
Privy Council. Cromwell also created a unified and independent sovereign state. This revolution was achieved
by a series of reforms which
 ended papal supremacy and made the king the supreme head,
 eroded the ancient privileges of the nobility,
 used parliamentary statute to bring about changes, thus increasing its importance and
 reformed the administration of government, making it more efficient and bureaucratic and making it
less dependent on the officials of the King's household.
But is this the case? Was there a Tudor Revolution in government?
Other historians have claimed that Elton’s arguments are overstated as many of the reforms happened under the
reigns of Edward IV (1461-70) and Henry VII (1485-1509) (Starkey and Guy). Therefore wasn’t Cromwell
returning to old practices? Or did he simply make the existing systems work rather than creating them?
Further counter arguments have been that the administrative changes were not firmly rooted until the 1560s
under Elizabeth 1st. Other historians see the 1530s as the years contributing to a developing trend which began
with the accession of Edward IV in 1461 and continue to at least 1561; therefore the term revolution has been
debated, surely it is evolution not revolution.
Topic and the situation in late
medieval times.
Situation in post Cromwellian
Does this show a revolution in
government? (Criticism or
support of Elton’s theory?
Household Finances
Edward IV introduced a new
system of finance which did not
use the exchequer and treasury.
Instead the money was control by
offices in their private rooms
(Privy Chamber).
The Privy Chamber was deprived of
receiving revenue and the
Exchequer was revived so that it
received customs and parliamentary
taxation and set up new departments
of state.
e.g. Henry VII developed the
Chamber to such an extent that
most revenues went there rather
than the Exchequer.
By 1540 increasing specialism had
been introduced with 4 new courts.
This gave the monarch significant
control over day –to-day decisions
about income and expenditure.
Privy council did increasing
assume corporate responsibility
especially for finance and legal
Cromwell introduced new
financial institutions to work
alongside the Privy Chamber.
 Court of Augmentations,
 Court of first fruits and
 Court of wards and liveries
 Court of general surveyors.
The Council
The King met regularly with his
advisors. This was a large (c50 -60
men) group which included
noblemen, clergy and members of
the King’s household
The council was reduced to a group
of c19 men.
Of the 50 adult peers alive, only c10
were members of the Privy Council.
Starkey: The elimination of the
household from the government
and the dominance of the national
bureaucracy under the Privy
Council is WRONG!
Men were thus obtaining lands and
titles because they held offices, not
the other way round.
Members were expected to attend
regularly and could no longer act as
individuals, but as a collective. The
Privy Council now functioned as a
corporate board – letters from it
were written in the name of the
Council and signed collectively.
Letters signed in this way were
regarded by their recipients as legal
instruments of the government
without the need for further
validation by formal seals e.g. the
privy seal or the king’s stamp
It’s discussions were minuted and it
became more specialised e.g. the
Star Chamber now limited itself to
specialist legal work
Courtiers and councillors were the
SAME people. There is no retreat
of the PC from administration
instead there is constant
interaction. So the Privy Chamber
and the Privy Council formed an
inner ring which overlapped and
got power from the King.
No revolution or evolution – due to
royal personality that things
During H8 did a more
professional P Council
Historians disagree whether it
appeared before 1530, in 1530 or
c1540 after Cromwell fell e.g.
there were precedents regarding
the Privy Council.
1526 Eltham Ordinances planned
to reduce the size of the Council to
20, to meet daily at 10am and 2pm
in the King’s dining chamber.
How did Cromwell find the time?
– 1536 = dissolution of
monasteries; fall of AB;
Pilgrimage of Grace
Half the members on the
reorganised PC were religious
conservatives and enemies of
Cromwell. Unthinkable that
Cromwell would have so stacked
the cards against himself
Royal Household
Medieval idea of “personal
monarchy” (where the monarch
was directly involved in the
decision making through his
offices in the royal court)
All action centred upon his person
and thus advisers, ministers et al
moved around with the King. This
caused practical problems e.g. how
to access archives and records?
Thus, departments of government
went ‘out of court’ and became
The King’s Privy Chamber no
longer had control of revenue (see
household finances)
 1536 – Court of
Augmentations set up to
deal with monastic wealth
 1540 – Court of Wards fully
 1540 – Court of First Fruits
However it is important to note that
b) and c) were set up shortly after
Cromwell’s fall. Did he set them in
Starkey: The elimination of the
household from the government
and the dominance of the national
bureaucracy under the Privy
Council is WRONG! Courtiers and
councillors were the SAME
people. There is no retreat of the
PC from administration instead
there is constant interaction. So the
Privy Chamber nad the Privy
Council formed an inner ring
which overlapped and got power
from the King. No revolution or
evolution – due to royal
static, based in London e.g. the
Exchequer – in the 12thc, the
Courts of common-law.
personality that things changed.
Harriss: Radical objection that
there was a transition from
medieval household to
bureaucratic government. Nonhousehold nature of government in
1350-1450. It is the Yorkist and
Early Tudor which regressed to an
earlier form of government due to
the nature of the War of the Roses
(civil war).
But how could the King enact his
will when he was such a distant
from the instruments of
government? E.g. no document
was authentic unless issued under
the Great Seal, but the Great Seal
was kept by the Chancellor.
The answer was to develop a
“Privy Seal” with which all
authorisations sent to Chancery
had to be stamped.
It was the demands of the 1530s
that led to Cromwell returning to
the “more formalised government
of the late middle ages”.
However it relied on the personal
effort of the king and chamber to
power the machine. So the system
broke if the king was inactive or
If looking for a revolution you
need to look from 14th – 176th
century. A trend will emerge that
shows “1530 as a RESUMPTION
of normal development after a
period of emergency”
Did Cromwell turn it into a
“bureaucratic government
where specialised departments
and trained officials managed
the routine of government
Late medieval government already
exhibited elements of bureaucratic
govt. H7’s revival of the
“household” interrupted a trend in
which government was being
extracted from the household.
Cromwell reverting back to it????
Cromwell’s dominance prevented
the return to bureaucratic govt. It
was his fall which permitted a
return to the earlier pattern of
Royal control over the whole
Wales had been conquered by
Edward I (c1284). The Council of
the Marches was created by
Edward IV in the 1470s.
1537 = Council for the North
established in York. It was
controlled from London so it could
suppress trouble. It replaced the
Penny Williams: Control of
central government over outlying
regions was tightened, especially
in Wales and Ireland, where the
Ireland: English authority in
Gaelic Ireland (The Pale).
France: England controlled the
area of Calais
temporary council which had
existed from Edward IV’s time.
Therefore separatism was replaced
with centralisation.
1536: Council for the Marches of
Wales, based in Ludlow. Wales was
now incorporated into England. The
marcher lordships were dissolved
and some were annexed into
existing Welsh and English
counties. Others were divided into 5
new counties. The Welshmen were
given the “benefits” of common law
like the rest of England. But it was
at the expense of their local custom,
JPs were provided based on the
English model.
pressure of events forced into
reality developments that had long
been maturing.
Wales had been conquered by
Edward I. The Council of the
Marches was created by Edward
IV in the 1470s. English control of
Wales had begun to improve from
that point.
Ireland: no attempt was made to
assert English authority in Gaelic
Ireland i.e. beyond the Pale.
Calais: even though administered
more effectively, full control was
In 1536 Calais was provided with
two parliamentary burgesses
(political representative).
In Ireland Cromwell tried to enforce
English authority in the Pale.
Cromwell also attempted to control
local government e.g. by
introducing in 1536 the “Abolition
of Franchises and Liberties”. This
allowed the Crown to make inroads
into local feudal jurisdiction.
Most Kings needed to have control
over parliament.
In Medieval times parliament only
met to grant taxes and to pass laws
e.g. in Henry VII’s reign it met 7
times between 1485 and 1509.
Henry VII rarely needed to call
them because he did not rely on
them to grant him money for wars,
unlike his son.
During Henry VII’s reign the
commons were gaining in power
and he recognised their
importance. However, while
Henry conversed with the Lords,
he rarely spoke directly to the
Commons. They communicated
their thoughts to the king via the
Speaker of the Commons.
Parliament was important in passing
the legislation that led to the “Break
with Rome” and the “Royal
Supremacy” (see previous notes for
supporting evidence)
Think about the amount and scope
of the legislation passed. In the
1530s every important step was
embodied by the parliament.
Penny Williams: the authority of
parliament as a law making body
was already well established… the
decline of the government (under
Lancastrians) had resulted from the
collapse of royal authority. ..Henry
VII and Wolsey were faced with
the quite exceptional task of
rebuilding the crown’s power.
Parliament was important in
legislation the break with Rome
and Reformation; think about
amount of legislation, scope of
legislation (see previous notes)
1530s every important step
embodied by the pmt.
Role of the principle Secretary
The recognised role of the
principle secretary was to enforce
the King’s wishes. They often had
control of the Royal seals.
Royal seals lost their significance
e.g. the functions of the old Privy
Seal were taken over by Cromwell
as Lord Privy Seal. Therefore
Cromwell was signing his own
letters rather than using the seal. .
Principle Secretary’s role was
extended as he acquired control over
pretty much everything from
finance, home and foreign affairs to
defence and religion
The importance of the position of
King’s secretary was dependent
on the personality and priorities
of the man doing the job. ‘it was
attached to the man not the
office’(Elton). Nobody made
much of the job until William
Cecil in Elizabeth’s time.
AGR Smith:
 1530s was revolutionary up to a point but argues that the 1540s and 1550s were also significant because
of the continued transfer of Church lands and the advance of the Protestant Reformation.
J Guy:
 1530s as significant but argues that change occurs gradually over course of Tudor century. So a
 There was a change from household of king to greater control by privy council – but an examination of
this change needs to encompass Elizabeth’s reign.
 “Henrician politics increasingly focused on the Court, therefore the Privy Council lived and moved
there. Cromwell was therefore successful as a politician until 1538-9 because he responded to royal
demands and immediate needs.”
 Privy Council was not created by Cromwell especially as the later Privy council was dominated by
religious conservatives who opposed Cromwell.
 rejects notion that any kind of revolution, or evolution, took place.
 argues that systems were dependent upon the character of the monarch, and that each monarch revived
previous practices.
 Thus denies the existence of any developmental pattern in the methods of government.
What do you think?? Was it
 A revolution in government?
 A returning to old practices?
 Simply making the existing systems work rather than creating a new one?
 An evolution not revolution?