Henry VII's attempts to restore good

The Reign of Henry VII
What problems did Henry face having become King?
Henry did not inherit an easy position and his immediate priority had to be to secure his
position. Henry faced many problems:
- Many important Yorkists that had fought against him (e.g. Francis Lovell) were still at
large, and may challenge him. He also had to decide what to do with the more powerful
Yorkist nobles such as John De La Pole, the Earl of Lincoln.
- He did not have the support of all the nobility. The nobles were very strong and may try
to overthrow him (The actions of the Stanley’s at Bosworth had shown how much power
the nobles wielded). He would need to secure their loyalty in a way that the previous
kings of this period had failed to do.
-There was little money available for Henry to fight rebellion with. In the search for
money, Henry would have to be careful not to increase opposition.
-Henry had a relatively weak claim to the throne. (His mother inherited a weak claim
from Edward III, he also had a claim as his father Edmund married Catherine, who had
previously been married to Henry V of England) Henry’s claim was weaker than those of
the Yorkists, and people may decide not to support him. This posed a problem to Henry
later on, with the arrival of the two pretenders, Simnel and Warbeck.
-Henry had no experience of government. Previously, future kings would have seen how
their fathers had governed, and would be exposed to the mechanisms of government at a
young age. As Henry had been in exile, he had no experience of this. This may also lead
to nobles having a lower opinion of him.
-The quick turn over of kings did little to increase people’s confidence in them. People
would be reluctant to support a king who may be overthrown at any moment.
-Henry had no wife, and no heir. Without either of these he did not look like a
particularly strong king.
- Henry had received a lot of foreign support. People may be worried that he may give in
to the demands of those that had protected him (this did not turn out to be the case)
BUT- Henry’s position was not entirely hopeless
- Warwick (the closest Yorkist claimant) was in prison, and Richard III was dead.
-Henry was supported by key nobles such as the Stanley’s at Bosworth. Whilst these
powerful nobles could be dangerous if they turned against him, in the shorter term, they
offered some security to Henry.
How did Henry secure his position in the short term?
Henry was in a difficult position, England had been divided, but he realised his best
chance of success was to try and unite the country and its two warring factions. He could
however be extremely strict, as shown by his early policies.
Act of resumption
This put all land that had been given out by the Yorkist kings back under the control of
the crown. It was effectively a way of taking all land that had been given to Yorkists as
Dated official beginning of reign from before Bosworth
This meant that he could declare anybody who fought against him at Bosworth as traitors
(it was not however in his interests to do this). This allowed him to pass Acts of Attainder
against those Yorkists that had fought against him (although they had been fighting for
the anointed King at that point!)
He arranged his coronation (30 Oct) one week before the opening of Parliament (7th
Nov). This was designed to show that he did not owe his position to them.
Applied for papal dispensation (permission from the pope) to marry Elizabeth of
York (Edward IV son)
This was in order to unite the two families. Papal dispensation was needed as the two
were loosely related. This arrived in 1486
Negotiated a truce with France which was extended to 1489, and agreed a truce with
Scotland in 1486. He established a commercial treaty with Brittany, and in 1487 he
renewed a Treaty with Maximilian (the Holy Roman Emperor) which had
previously been made under Edward IV.
These initial measures were designed to ensure he was on good terms with the various
European powers. Alliances could potentially drag him into other country’s wars,
however a series of truces would allow him to focus on establishing his rule and
establishing Yorkist opposition whilst keeping foreign powers out.
Henry’s policy towards the Yorkists
Yorkists, and in particular Yorkist nobles posed the biggest threat to Henry. As they had
enjoyed a privileged position under the Yorkist kings, it is likely they would oppose
Henry, as they wanted their favoured factional status back (Henry would clearly be
reluctant to give them lands, titles and influence). It would however be unwise for Henry
to simply kill these Yorkists. As well as causing rebellion, this would also severely limit
Henry’s ability to run the country, as he relied on these people to help him govern- he
could not afford to dispose of all Yorkists!.
Thomas Howard, a Yorkist noble who fought against Henry at Bosworth was originally
attainted and sent to the tower, however having convinced Henry of his good intentions,
he was released from prison in 1489 to help put down the Yorkshire Rebellion (he had
impressed Henry by turning down the chance to escape during Simnel’s Rebellion in
1487). He was put in charge of maintaining law and order in Northern England, and,
having done a good job was gradually given most of his lands back. (It was not however
until the reign of Henry VIII that he was given his Ducal title back). This shows that
whilst Yorkist nobles were often treated severely, they were not permanently cast aside
by Henry, as he realised that they could serve a useful purpose.
He attempted to secure the loyalty of John De La Pole (Earl of Lincoln) who was Richard
III’s cousin and nominated heir by giving him a place on the council (it is interesting to
see how this was out of keeping for Henry). Lincoln however fled to Burgundy, where he
joined other key Yorkists before being defeated at the Battle of Stoke. Although Henry
was noted for being particularly strict in terms of his policy towards the nobles, he made
a similar mistake with (Edmund De La Pole). Having allowed him to inherit his father’s
title of the Duke of Suffolk, he later fled abroad in 1501 in an attempt to gain support for
a Yorkist invasion.
Francis Lovell was a relatively minor noble but remained a firm Yorkist, who Henry was
eager to track down. Henry attainted him, however this ensured that he stayed
“underground”. He remained at large, and played a key role in several Yorkist led
rebellions until his disappearance in 1487.
The 10 year old Earl of Warwick (Clarence’s son, and the strongest Yorkist claimant)
was incarcerated in the Tower of London, where he remained until he was executed in
The Earl of Northumberland was briefly imprisoned (suggesting Henry believed he
would have fought against him at Bosworth if he could). He was however quickly
released and was appointed “Warden of the Middle and East Marches” (a key position in
the north). Although Henry was reluctant to allow nobles to control particular areas, as
they could become magnates, he had little choice but to use Percy to govern the remote
and volatile north given the status the Percy’s had in the region.
Minor Yorkist Rebellions
Lovell’s Rebellion 1486
Francis Lovell and Thomas and Humphrey Stafford had been claiming sanctuary at
Colchester following Richard’s defeat at Bosworth. Having heard that Henry was
travelling north to York, they broke their sanctuary, with the intention of seizing him
whilst raising a rebellion in the west. Their ultimate aim was to depose Henry, and
replace him with a Yorkist, however it is unclear who they envisaged for this. Due to the
lack of any real figurehead to rally around, the rebellion never gained any real support.
Henry heard of the rebellion quickly and sent an armed force to meet them. Thomas
Stafford was forgiven and Humphrey Stafford was beheaded, however Lovel was able to
get away, and played a key role in Simnel’s Rebellion.
The Welsh Rebellion 1486
This was led by Thomas Vaughan, a committed Yorkist who hoped to kill Henry and
seize Brecon Castle. Its intentions and causes were similar to those of Lovell, and the
rebellion was quickly put down by Rhys Ap-Thomas
The Flight of Suffolk
Despite being allowed to inherit his father’s Ducal title, Edmund de la Pole fled England
for Burgundy where he tried (and failed) to gain support for a Yorkist invasion. Although
Henry had been on the throne for over 15 years when Suffolk fled, his position became
increasingly precarious following the death of his youngest child Edmund, his oldest son
Arthur, and his wife Elizabeth. Although Henry was eventually able to organise his return
after seven years on the run, it had become a major source of worry for Henry. Even
when Suffolk returned in 1506, the Yorkist threat was not completely over, with Richard
de la Pole remaining on the loose until the reign of Henry VIII.
Simnel’s Rebellion 1487
Factional grievances on the part of the Yorkists, who disputed the succession, and wanted
to restore a Yorkist King who would be more favourable to them.
When Henry seized the throne in 1485 he had a relatively weak claim to it, in spite of
being head of the Lancastrian faction. Despite his attempt to heal the rift between the
Yorkists and the Lancastrians by marrying Richard III and Edward IV sister, Elizabeth of
York (1486) his attempts were not completely successful. Although Henry pardoned
many key Yorkists, (e.g. Lincoln and Howard) other Yorkists such as Francis Lovell lost
power, patronage and land. Many were attainted, and one of Henry’s first acts, The Act
of Resumption in 1485 placed all land previously granted by the Yorkist kings back
under the ownership of the crown. As a result, disillusioned members of the Yorkist
faction plotted to remove Henry and re establish a Yorkist king. It is however likely that
Simnel was nothing more than a puppet, who would be discarded by John de la Pole if
the Yorkists won.
One aspect that made the rebellion possible was the foreign support that Simnel’s
Rebellion was able to generate. Ireland (which was officially part of England) had been
extremely pro Yorkist. They had respected Richard Duke of York when he had been
Lietenant of Ireland in the 1450’s, and both Edward and Richard had permitted Ireland to
largely rule itself with the Earl of Kildaire (the major Irish chieftain) as ruler. As a result,
they were quick to offer their support. Simnel was also assured support from Margaret of
With rumours circulating as to the fate of Warwick, and Oxford priest, Richard Symonds
tried passing of one of his pupils (Lambert Simnel) as Richard (the youngest of the two
princes in the tower) however with fresh rumours about the fate of Warwick it is then
thought he change his mind to imitate Warwick.
What Happened?
The plot originated in Oxford (a Yorkist stronghold), where Richard Symons, a priest
detected a likelyood between Warwick and one of his parishioners. In 1486 Simnel was
taken to Dublin by Symons, where he was proclaimed King. Margaret of Burgundy sent
money as well as 2000 mercenaries commanded by the well known commander Martin
Schwarz to Ireland to help Simnel’s Rebellion. As Richard III’s sister, she remained
resolutely opposed to Henry VII and would do all she could to oppose him. In 1486,
Lincoln had fled to Burgundy to meet up with Lovel, and the two would head the
invasion alongside Schwarz. The rebels landed in Lancashire in 1487, however relatively
few joined their ranks in England (partly due to the fear of the Irish.) The two sides met
at the Battle of Stoke, and after around three hours of fighting, Henry’s forces emerged
How dangerous was it?
It was dangerous in that it occurred early on in Henry’s reign, at a time when he had been
unable to cement his position (e.g. not all unreliable elements had been removed, and the
position of Kings in general remained weak, as there had been three kings in six years).
Henry was relatively slow to respond (something he can be criticised for). As the
rebellion was largely planned in Ireland and Flanders he was forced to take a reactive
approach and wait for the rebellion. He knew that Ireland had remained sympathetic to
the Yorkists, and he should have tried to follow a more proactive policy.
It was also a rebellion that involved foreign forces (this made it more difficult to suppress
(particularly in the early stages when it was been co-ordinated from abroad.) Although it
is thought planning began in 1486, Henry did not hear about it until late 1486/early 1487.
It involved potentially dangerous nobles. John De La Pole (Lincoln) was Richard III’s
named heir to the throne, and despite being offered a position in Henry’s council he fled
to Flanders to join the rebellion. Powerful nobles like this may have been able to mobilise
significant support as well as providing strong leadership
Henry showed his fear by offering pardons to long standing Yorkist rebels such as
Thomas Broughton. Although this policy was nothing new, it does perhaps show that he
was scared that those who saw themselves with “nothing to lose” may unite against him.
The ultimate aim of the rebellion was to overthrow the king. The rebels had an army with
a core of German and Irish mercenaries, who put up a stiff fight at Stoke, even with
extremely limited support from within England itself.
Again, Stanley held his troops back until the outcome was clear- this was proof that
Henry did not have the full backing of the nobility.
The rebels had learned from Lovel’s Rebellion. In order for a succession based rebellion
(one that aimed to change who was on the throne) to be dangerous there needed to be a
figurehead to rally around. In the absence of a legitimate claimant (the princes in the
tower were most likely dead, and the Earl of Warwick was in the tower) having “a
pretender” in the form of Simnel provided this. It also provided an air of legitimacy to
the rebels.
Henry paraded Warwick in 1487, something that discredited Simnel’s Rebellion and
helped reduce popular support
The leadership provided was generally weak. They had underestimated the extent of
public support, and were in no position to beat Henry’s army. The fact that they were
unable to raise forces having landed perhaps reveals that people were not particularly
concerned at removing the current monarch.
Although his initial response can be criticised, once the rebels landed, Henry responded
extremely quickly, immediately sending a superior force to meet him. This would prevent
the rebels from gathering increased support on the march to London. The rebels were
outnumbered by approximately two to one, and Henry took absolutely no chances,
engaging the rebels from both in front and behind.
What was the long term response of the government?
-Henry was relatively fortunate in that Lincoln (De La Pole) and Broughton were killed,
and Lovell had disappeared. This meant that the main ring leaders would be unable to
pose any further threat. Simnel, and much of the rank and file were pardoned.
-In the following parliament, 28 acts of attainder were passed. This was an attempt to
further exclude unreliable nobles.
-Henry hurried to have his wife, Elizabeth be declared Queen. She was declared Queen in
-Edgecombe was sent to Ireland in order to pacify the Irish. In 1494 Poynings’ Law was
introduced, however Henry only did this after Ireland had gone on to support Warbeck.
Key Questions/issues for consideration
Was the succession issue (represented by Simnel) simply a front for the ambitions of the
Yorkist faction?
Why was it necessary for the Yorkists to have a figurehead? (think of how this may help
generate popular support)
Other non Yorkist Rebellions
Yorkshire Rebellion 1489
Parliament had granted a £100000 to pay for war with France, most of which was raised
as an income tax. It was badly received in Yorkshire as the northern counties tended to be
exempt from such taxation as they bore the brunt of the fighting against the Scots. Like
the Cornish Rebellion, the anger of the protesters was further compounded by the poor
harvests of 1489.
Henry Percy put their case to King Henry, and, having failed to persuade him to modify
his decision he was murdered by protesters on the way back. Although this was a
rebellion of low politics, Henry was worried that anger within the region could be
harnessed by those with Yorkist sympathies. His fears seemed further compounded by
the involvement of Sir John Egremont, and ex retained of Richard III and a staunch
Yorkist supporter. Fearful of the development of a factional rebellion Henry quickly sent
troops to the north, and was able to rally 18 peers in defence of the crown (this was
extremely encouraging for Henry, as he had only been able to get 6 to fight for him at
Stoke). The rebels dispersed and Thomas Howard was given responsibility for “mopping
up”. As a result of his actions, Thomas Howard was made Lord Lieutenant of the North
after this.
Overall outcome
Although the rebels were defeated, no more of the tax was collected
Interesting points
-Like the Cornish rebellion, the Yorkshire Rebellion was more successful than may first
-Henry responds quickly to the Yorkshire Rising as he is fearful of Yorkist involvement.
His response to the Cornish is however much slower as he is not worried of Yorkist
involvement, something which ultimately increases its threat levels.
-It appears that Henry is becoming more popular amongst the nobility (as 18 fight for
him) however the refusal of many to stop the Cornish rebels on their march to London
suggests otherwise. It seems likely that nobles were keen to fight with Henry in 1489 as it
was clear the rebels could not win, and was thus a good way of demonstrating loyalty to
the new king.
Cornish Rebellion
Taxation/ Regionalism/ Socio Economic + political factors
Henry VII needed money to deal with Warbeck in the aftermath of his attempted invasion
from Scotland in 1496. He was granted a subsidy of £120000 from parliament (Prior to
this only once had more than £31000 ever been collected). The people of Cornwall did
not see the events going on in the north as being relevant to them (largely due to their
traditional isolation and detachment from the rest of England) and felt they had already
contributed their fair share of men towards Henry’s army.
One of the issues that particularly incensed the Cornish was the introduction of the
“subsidy” in addition to the tenths and fifteenths. This was like an income tax, and was
unlike the traditional tax of “tenths” and “fifteenths” (1/10 the value of all moveable
goods in urban areas, and 1/15 in rural areas). The subsidy often fell on the poorer
members of society, and it was this, rather than the tenths and fifteenths that seemed to
aggravate the Cornish.
Angered as well by the actions of local favoured nobles such as Giles Daubeney and
Willoughby de Broke (who they felt were profiting from their role as absentee
landowners, whilst not fulfilling their noble functions e.g. maintaining law and order) the
Cornish were persuaded by a local lawyer, Thomas Flamank to direct their anger at
Henry’s “evil advisors” Morton and Bray.
Unlike other rebellions, it is certainly possible to criticize Henry for the outbreak of the
Cornish Rebellion, as unpopular policies exacerbated the economic difficulties the
Cornish faced, as well as eroding some of the privileges they had previously enjoyed. It is
however likely that as he had been brought up abroad he was unfamiliar with the strong
regional identity that existed within the region
What happened?
Led by Flamank, and a Blacksmith called Michael Joseph (An Gof) the rebels marched
through Devon and Somerset, where they acclaimed an impoverished noble, Baron
Audley as their leader.. At Guildford they met a force of 500 government troops under
the command of Lord Daubeney, however these were no match for the 15000 rebels, and
quickly dispersed. Having realized the severity of the situation Henry diverted the army
intended for use against Scotland and called up a civilian militia. The rebels camped
outside Blackheath, however unable to gain support from Kent many deserted once they
saw the government troops preparing for battle. Outnumbering the rebels by
approximately 25000 to 10000, the battle was a rout. The poor organization of the rebels
was perhaps best demonstrated when a group of rebels captured Daubeney, before
releasing him as they did not know what to do with him! Audley, Flamank and Joseph
were all executed, with others involved in the rebellion fined particularly heavily.
How dangerous was it?
It was arguably the first rebellion Henry faced that had a large degree of popular support.
The rebellion was concentrated in a particular area, which intensified the threat. (Notice
how the Cornish Rebellion had what both Simnel’s and Warbeck’s Rebellions both
lacked, concentrated internal support)
The fact that it was so far away from London made it difficult for Henry to get detailed
information about the strength and nature of rebellion. The fact that he sent just 500
troops to meet them at Guildford, and that they were able to get to Blackheath unhindered
shows how difficult it was to fight rebellion in the localities
The rebellion occurred at a time when Henry was pre occupied with other factors (in
particular Warbeck in the aftermath of his failed invasion from Scotland)
Henry did not appear to attach as much importance to the rebellion, as it did not have
factional/ succession based causes. This is an example of a poor response on the part of
Henry (contrast this with the lengths he went to in order to stamp out support for
It could be argued that the limited aims of the rebellion (it was not aimed at overthrowing
the king, but sought to encourage him to remove his evil advisors Morton and Bray and
to abolish the unpopular tax) increased its levels of danger, as it had more realistic aims.
This however depends upon how we constitute danger- is it chance of success, or is it
actual danger to the crown?
A lot of the fines actually implicate nobles, suggesting that the rebellion involved a cross
section of society. It is however likely that most of these fines were levied at nobles for
failing to respond to the threat, as opposed to actively supporting them.
The fact that the rebels were able to reach London unchallenged, suggests that nobles
were not willing to fight a major war on his behalf. This must have been a major worry
for Henry, particularly considering he had been on the crown for 12 years at this point!
The lack of noble support was a severely limiting factor. Noble support could increase
legitimacy, provide direction as well as increasing the likelihood of gaining further
support. Audley, who was not a particularly prominent noble was the only person of any
status to back the rebellion
The lack of factional involvement further reduced the threat levels (compare this to
Simnel’s and Warbeck’s Rebellion that had factional backing but little public support)
The distance from London ensured that it would take a long time to reach the city. Whilst
in the short term this helped the rebels to mobilize support with minimal governmental
interference, in the longer term it would be harder to win the support of London,
something that was essential was the rebellion to be a success.
The limited, and largely peaceful aims of the rebellion ensured that there were few
options open to them when Henry opted to fight them. Once he had refused to negotiate,
the rebels had no back up plan. This was perhaps best demonstrated when they captured
Lord Daubeney, one of Henry’s key commanders. Unsure of what to do, they released
him almost immediately.
The rebels failed to gain support from Devon (they had generally remained hostile to
Cornwall) and Kent (this was far more significant given its proximity to London). As a
result, many deserted, further reducing the chances of a successful outcome.
-Having underestimated their strength at Guildford, Henry would not make the same
mistake again. He personally led the defense of London, and ensured that the rebels were
crushed, even hen it was clear most did not want to fight.
Government’s response
Having allowed the rebellion to develop by failing to deal with it in its early stages,
Henry was quick to respond once he had gauged its seriousness. The army earmarked for
war against Warbeck was diverted, and no chances were taken, with Henry organizing
the defense of London.
- Henry attacked the rebels, even though most had lost the will to fight. This was a
meticulously planned attack which involved cutting off their means of retreat and using
cavalry, footmen and archers.
-Whilst the leaders were executed, Henry was relatively merciful to the rank and file. He
did however levy huge fines on the rebels and those that had assisted them, earning
around £15000 in the process.
Overall success
Whilst the rebels failed in their ultimate aims, Henry never again demanded as much
money and never introduced a subsidy and tenths and fifteenths in the same year. In total,
the subsidy only collected around £30000
Henry’s policy towards the nobility
The nobles were vital for stability, as in the absence of an army or police force, they were
the people responsible for dealing with violence, disorder and rebellion. They were
however also the people with the potential to make things difficult for Henry. As a result,
he needed to reduce their power, but he could not afford to isolate them.
Although a number of nobles had been killed in the War of the Roses, there were not as
many killed as first thought. Many nobles had used the War of the Roses to further their
own aims, so Henry had quite a powerful nobility to deal with (this was made worse by
the fact that Edward and Richard had given out land and titles to try and win support, thus
creating more powerful nobles). These kings had also used magnates to help govern
certain areas, e.g. the north of England. This posed a major problem to Henry, as he
wanted to reduce the power of these nobles, but did not want law and order in these
regions to collapse. Henry was keen to set up a service nobility- (nobles that would serve
the crown, not their own interests), and he felt that the best way to achieve this was by
imposing his will with ruthless impartiality. Unlike Edward who had been happy working
alongside the nobles, Henry oversaw a fundamental shift, in which he tried to distance
himself from the nobles both symbolically and financially in order to reinforce his status
as King.
Size of nobility
Henry was keen to reduce both the number of nobles, and the power of the magnate, as a
smaller nobility was far easier to control. One way of reducing the number of nobles was
not to grant new peerages if a noble died without any male heirs. It is estimated that 25%
of the nobility died without heirs every 25 years. Not making new peerages would save
the king money, as well as making him more powerful as he was able to claim this land.
In total, Henry only created three new Earls in his entire reign compared to Edward’s
eight. He was also fortunate in that he did not have any brothers, who could become
potentially dangerous overmighty nobles. By the end of his reign, there were only ten
major peers, compared to sixteen at the start. This limited noble class was both cheaper
and easier to control, however certain families such as the Stanley’s did remain extremely
powerful, with Henry willing to grant patronage to those who he deemed worthy (e.g
Jasper Tudor and John de Vere). Thomas Howard, his step uncle was not given however
given a title, and had to be content with being made an order of the garter.
The Carrot and Stick Policy
Henry needed to keep the nobility in check, both to reinforce his position as the leader of
the country, and to reduce the threat they posed. It was important that he could offer both
rewards, to encourage people to support him, and punishments, both to deter people from
disobeying him, and to make sure that they obeyed the rules. This is referred to as the
“Carrot and Stick” policy.
This meant giving land or titles away. Previous kings used this to try and win support,
however this was dangerous as it led to the creation of powerful nobles. Henry made it
clear that reward came as the result of good service, ensuring that only loyal supporters
were rewarded. This also let him save money as it was expensive to give away land and
titles. Henry believed in meritocracy, and would give positions to members of the gentry
(high social status, but not nobles) if they warranted it. A good example of patronage is
how Henry rewarded those that had joined him before Bosworth e.g. John de Vere (Earl
of Oxford) with land in East Anglia. Similarly, he gave land to Lord Daubeney after he
had proved his loyalty by putting down the Cornish Rebellion.
Order of the Garter
This was a special honour (although not new), for those that had served the King well. It
was beneficial for Henry as it rewarded good behaviour, but did not cost money, nor lead
to the recipient becoming too powerful. There was however the danger that people may
consider it scant reward for their good service (e.g. Thomas Stanley). It did however
work extremely well with Rhys Ap-Thomas.
Gaining a place on the council gave the recipient increased power, as well being a sign of
the king’s confidence. Like Edward IV, Henry was willing to appoint household officials
(non nobles). Henry’s key councillors, Bray, Daubeney and Guildford had all joined
Henry in exile, in effect proving their loyalty. Giving somebody a position in the council
was a good reward (providing it was used relatively sparingly). But putting John De La
Pole on it was not wise! Look at the example of John Morton.
Great Council
Key nobles may be given a place on the Great Council. This was only called 5 times in
Henry’s reign and tended to be called during emergencies. Although it was a great
honour to be on this, it was also an excellent method of control for Henry, it was also
useful as these nobles could not then go against Henry’s decision!
The Sticks
Acts of Attainder
These were nothing new, and had been used for centuries. If a family or person was
attainted, they lost their title as well as all lands. They were however reversible, so could
be used as a way of maintaining good behaviour. (If there was no chance of winning the
land back, there was no incentive for those attainted to be loyal to the king). Henry
passed 138 attainders, and reversed 46 of them, however these often involved special
terms (e.g. special service, or payment of money) An excellent example of this is Thomas
Howard (Surrey). He was attainted in 1485, but was released in 1489 and was given
responsibility for dealing with the Yorkshire Rebellion. Having done this he was given
much of his lands back and was made Lord Lieutenant in the north. Acts of attainder can
be seen as both a carrot and a stick.
Bonds and recognisances (don’t be too concerned about the differences!)
These were again relatively traditional. Bonds said that nobles would pay a certain some
of money if they did not carry out a particular action or promise. Recognisances were
more formal obligations of debt, and normally took the part of huge fines, which could
not be paid. Although they would have to pay some of these, it was a way of maintaining
good behaviour, as it was, in effect a suspended sentence, that could be called in if they
were to misbehave in the future. He demanded £10,000 from Viscount Beaumont after
Bosworth in order to secure his good behaviour. Of the 62 noble families 46 were at
some point under his financial control, 36 by recognisances and 7 by attainder. He only
collected £2000 from Northumberland. Dorset was given a £10000 recognisance in 1491.
Bonds and recognisances were nothing new, however what was unparalled was the way
in which Henry used these to curb the nobles’ political power and bind them to him.
Feudal dues (This probably fits in better with his financial rather than noble policies, so
don’t worry too much about this)
As the supreme feudal lord, Henry could assert certain privileges over the nobility. Not
only did these privileges help maintain his power over the nobility, they also reinforced
his position as their superior. Ways in which Henry tried to re assert his feudal rights
were: These were all ruthlessly investigated by the Council Learned (from 1494 plus)
-Wardship, The king took control of the estates of minors if they were too young to
inherit land. Once they were old enough to recover this they had to pay a fee. In 1487
Henry made £350 in wardships.1Following the appointment of a Master of the Wards in
1503 this went up to £6000 in 1506. Henry also used wardship to keep potentially
powerful nobles in check. Following the death of Northumberland in 1489, Henry would
not let his son inherit the land until he was 20, (at which point Henry was assured of his
-Marriage, nobles should not marry without the king’s licence. This was an attempt to
prevent families from becoming too powerful. In 1496 Katherine of Buckingham was
fined £6000 for marrying without the king’s licence. This was particularly important as it
could prevent over mighty power blocs from emerging. Although Edward did refuse to
sanction some marriages (e.g. that between Warwick’s daughter and Clarence) Henry
was far more proactive in this sense.
-Claiming relief ( a form of inheritance task- people paid relief when inheriting estates)
-Acts of escheat (this was when land passed on to the crown if there were no heirs)
This was a long standing practice where nobles had paid followers. Whilst initially these
were gentry officials, they went on to be used as private armies, which could be
dangerous to Henry. This was a problem, as during the War of the Roses, nobles had used
their private armies to advance their own positions. Previous kings had tried to limit
retaining, however Henry went further than these (He did not however want this
completely abolishing as he had relied on retainers to secure law and order as he had no
standing army. Lovel’s Rebellion had been put down by Northumberland’s retainers!) In
1485, lords and nobles swore in parliament that they would not retain illegally. This was
extended upon by legislation in 1504 that stated nobles needed the king’s licence to
retain. Lord Abergavenny was fined £70000 for retaining without a licence. This
legislation was a way of allowing retaining to continue amongst his more trusted nobles,
whilst at the same time ensuring that nobles did not become too powerful. This was a
definite attempt to limit the power of the magnates, who acted as quasi Kings. He fined
the Earl of Oxford £10,000 and even indicted his own mother showing how he would
enforce his laws with ruthless impartiality.
Crown Lands
Henry tried to bring as much land as possible under the control of the crown (a classic
example of this were the acts of resumption he passed in 1485) The more land the king
owned, the more powerful he was.
Henry was keen to establish a “Service Nobility”. He wanted the nobility to service his
needs- they were there to help him (e.g. advise him, or help him govern in certain areas)
Henry was however careful not to interfere with the nobles authority in specific areas. He
appointed Rhys Ap-Thomas as Lieutenant in Wales (he was effectively given power over
Wales) and Thomas Howard as Lieutenant of the North. Whilst this process of
overlordship was nothing new, Henry made completely sure that he could trust these
people (He had reluctantly appointed Northumberland as Lord Lieutenant of the north in
1487, although he was killed in 1489).
Did Henry distrust the nobles?
He did begin to remove nobles from the council at the expense of new men however he
still kept a significant number within the council.. Much of his distrust probably stems
from the fact that he had not been brought up with them, and had seen what overmighty
nobles could do. He did clearly distrust certain nobles such as Abergavenny, however his
policies were primarily aimed at securing loyalty rather than undermining and destroying
The Church
Henry had very close relations with the church. He saw it as a great way of maintaining
stability. The Church preached obedience, which Henry saw particularly useful in
maintaining stability. As part of “The Great Chain of Being”, the Church suggested that
everybody had their rightful place in society and that this should not be challenged.
Key Questions
-Did Henry pursue an anti noble policy?
-How did Henry go about reducing the power of the nobles whilst retaining their all
important position? (Remember how he could not get rid of the nobles as he was unable
to maintain law and order or govern without them)
-How successful were Henry’s policies towards the nobility? To what extent did he
succeed in creating a Service Nobility?
Henry VII’s attempts to restore good government
In order for Henry to be a successful monarch, it was vital that he was able to exert his
authority throughout the kingdom. As well as attempting to bring both the regions and the
nobles more under his control (we looked at his policy towards the nobility in the autumn
half term) Henry had to reform local government if he was going to increase his control
over the country.
Local Government
Local government was carried out by a network of officials, who were ultimately
responsible to the king. Within each country, the two most important officials were the JP
and the sheriff. The sheriff was in charge of arresting and prosecuting criminals, and was
in charge of mustering the militia during times of need. The JP’s (magistrates) were the
people who ran the courts and had tended to be made up of local landowners. The JP’s
were in effect the local government as they ran the courts (they were therefore in charge
of defending public order, implementing Henry’s laws, and trying criminals). JP’s would
also meet four times a year in Quarter sessions to try more serious cases, however more
difficult cases would be passed to the assize courts where they were heard by professional
What changes did Henry make?
Although Henry continued to select JP’s from the landholders, he started to rely on the
second tier (e.g. those who were not nobles). This would reduce the power of the
magnates and would hopefully prevent the corruption of justice. JP’s were given new
powers e.g. they could question poachers or hunters in disguise, could replace members
of the jury, and in certain cases operate without a jury completely. By the end of Henry’s
reign it was they, rather than the sheriffs who held the real power in the counties.
Were they all Henry’s ideas?
Edward IV had originally transferred the power to try criminals from the sheriffs to the
JP’s. He was also one of the first people to start appointing JP’s from the second rank of
landowners. Henry however continued with this policy and used it to a far greater extent
than Edward did.
Why was reform so important?
The JP’s were in effect local government, as they were the people who supervised
Henry’s laws and made sure they were obeyed. If his laws were being ignored it would
seriously weaken his position. In addition to this, as monarch it was in Henry’s interests
to uphold law and order. He had seen how the power of the nobles had grown during
times of instability (e.g. the Wars of the Roses) and he realised he had to prevent this.
Problems with the system
As the JP’s were unpaid, Henry was dependent upon people’s goodwill. Although the
system worked relatively well, it was extremely “medieval”. A system of paid local
officials would have been far more efficient (e.g. like the stewards he had to look after
land the crown had gained through attainder). The JP’s themselves could only try people
who were brought before them, and as there was no standing police force, many criminals
could easily escape. Henry also had no real authority over the JP’s; his only sanction was
to threaten them with removal.
Despite having an intricate appeals process (which was headed by the king) we do not
have a great deal of evidence to suggest this was used particularly much.
Although in certain cases it was necessary to appoint a Lord Lieutenant to oversee a
particular region, Henry tried to appoint individuals who did not have a power base in
that area. This would hopefully mean they would be impartial when passing judgements,
and would prevent the growth of magnate power, leading to greater links between local
and central government (a good example of this is the appointment of Thomas Howard
Earl of Surrey as Lord Lieutenant of the north following the death of Percy).
Centralisation- (the process of ensuring government is run from the centre)
Henry was extremely keen to supervise the government of his kingdom from the centre,
and ensure that all power came from him (e.g the Council of the North made sure
Henry’s laws were obeyed, and was there to increase his own power). Rather than tour
the country as Edward had done, Henry tried to direct all governmental operations from
London. He tried to achieve this in 3 major ways
1. Exploit crown land. As the king owned great amounts of land he could increase
his authority as well as his income if he effectively managed his lands
2. Encourage greater use of the royal council to settle disputes. This meant that the
king could pass judgement over disputes, thus increasing his own power.
3. Increase the power of the JP’s. These officials owed their positions to the king
and obeyed his instructions (under a weaker king, the JP’s may not however have
obeyed the kings instructions).
Henry’s use of Parliament
Parliament was not regularly summoned by Henry (7 times in 24 years). As its one major
role was to grant taxation, Henry did not call it particularly often as he tried to avoid
costly wars (he felt the expense could undermine his position as it would reduce his
finances and may strain the loyalty of his subjects). Although parliament had certain
judicial functions, these were becoming increasingly filled by committees such as the
Council Learned.
When Henry did call parliament, he used it to ratify his own position. Legislation against
retaining was passed, and in 1504 an act was passed which prevented corporations
(towns) from passing laws unless they had the approval of the king (an attempt to show
that power was held by him and not the towns). All acts of attainder had to go through
parliament, therefore there was never any chance of Henry ever removing parliament as
an institution.
Central Government
The King’s Council
The centre of government in this period was the king’s council. They would both advise
the king and act in a judicial capacity when prosecuting nobles. Although there were 227
councillors during Henry’s reign, the council totalled around 40 active members. As
Henry had little experience in dealing with the council (along with the fact he was a
deeply suspicious character) he relied on a group of core councillors including: The Lord
Chancellor John Morton, the Lord Privy Seal Richard Fox and the Lord Treasurer Lord
Dynham. Other key councillors were Bray, Poynings and Dudley.
In order to improve efficiency, Henry set up smaller committees formed from the council.
This meant that each committee could specialise in a specific area (e.g livery and
maintenance- retaining). In addition to increasing his own revenue, more efficient
committees would increase his control over the nobles. It was easier for Henry to
supervise the actions of these smaller committees, thus allowing him to increase his own
personal control. It is however interesting to not that Richard III had originally set up the
Court of Requests (a committee to deal with legal cases)
Court in Star Chamber
This was a council that met in the Star Chamber (a room in Westminster with stars
painted on the ceiling) to make judgements over disputes. The council operated without a
jury like all committees did, and it could not order death. People could petition the king
to have their disputes settled here (the king could however summon people to appear as
well). This was a way of further reducing the power of the nobles as it allowed the king’s
councillors to pass judgement over the nobles. This court was however open to all, and its
appeal function was alos an attempt to make the common law courts more efficient.
Council Learned (in the Law)
This was established in 1495 and was the most notorious and feared of Henry’s
committees. It was initially set up to establish Henry’s position as feudal overlord and
was supposed to deal with all of his lands in order to check he was maximising his
incomes. It dealt with wardships, marriage, payments on inheritance and administered
bonds and recognisances. Although it was particularly detested it brought Henry a
significant amount of money and helped increase peace as a result of the scrupulous
enforcement of royal rights.
Who made up Henry’s Council?
Henry is often seen as using “new men” in his councils (e.g. the middle class/ gentry who
had never previously been involved in government). Although some of his most trusted
servants e.g. Bray and Poynings were “new men”, the make up of Henry’s councils
changed little from that of Richard III
Just as before, the clerics (religious figures) made up half of Henry’s council. Morton and
Fox, two of Henry’s chief ministers were both clerics.
Although many claim Henry tried to oust nobles from government, there were a number
in his council. Henry did however demand loyal service from his nobles, and those who
had served him well (e.g. John de Vere, Jasper Tudor etc) were well rewarded.
It did not make sense to immediately alienate Yorkists, therefore Henry was willing to
give some Yorkist nobles a chance. Although Lincoln joined Simnel’s rebellion, Howard
was eventually made a councillor and remained loyal to Henry.
New men
A great deal of Henry’s advisors were drawn from the lesser landowners, however this in
itself was not new. Two of Richard III’s most loyal servants had themselves come from
the gentry.
Many of these “new men” had years of experience of local administration, and at a time
when Henry wanted to exploit his lands, he needed men who understood auditing and
property laws and were skilled administrators.
How far did he establish good government?
Henry sought to restore law and order by increasing the authority of the monarchy. He
recognised the threat posed by the nobility and largely stopped them from manipulating
the law. Although he did rely on some magnates e.g. Thomas Howard, he strictly
imposed the laws on issues such as retaining, and the threat of bonds, recognisances and
ultimately acts of attainder ensured that magnates dare not disobey. Although historians
criticise Henry by stating that he took few nobles to court, it appears a lot of cases were
settled out of court with the payment of a recognisance.
Henry believed in supervision and delegation, with all power stemming from the centre.
Although he built up the power of the gentry, he only gave power to those he felt could
be trusted. By giving power to the JP’s, Henry was banking on the fact that they would be
less able to resist the Kings will.
As the responsibilities of the various committees were clearly defined, Henry’s orders
could be carried out, and his authority was felt throughout the country. There were
however problems that Henry was unable to address; poor communications delayed the
speed at which his communications could travel, and the lack of a police force or
standing army ensured hat Henry remained reliant on the goodwill of local officials. In
spite of this, England was relatively law abiding by the time of Henry’s death.
Henry’s financial policy
Henry was aware of how important it was to have strong finances if he was to remain on
the throne. As a usurper himself, Henry was aware of the importance of money if he (or
later his son) was going to have to put down a rival claim. Having accumulated wealth, it
is then possible to fund armies and bribe opponent if necessary. Henry’s financial
resources help explain why rebellions failed, as a rich king is generally a strong king.
Kings were under pressure to “live of their own”. The idea of this was that the king had
certain types of regular income (ordinary revenue) which they should use to live off.
Although the king could demand taxation form parliament during extraordinary
circumstances he had to be careful, as regular taxation could provoke rebellion. Henry
did not innovate particularly much in financial matters, although he greatly improved the
efficiency of the existing methods.
Ordinary Revenue
Crown lands
As Henry did not give much land out as rewards (patronage) he was able to retain most of
the profits for himself. The Acts of Resumption in 1485 increased his holdings, and he
was able to rent far more land out. Aided further by Acts of Attainder, Henry’s income
from crown lands increased from £29000 pa in 1485 to £42000 in 1509. This was the
most important way in which he increased his income as he was able to let land out that
he took from attainders (e.g. Stanley had vast estates). Henry employed stewards to look
after his land for him in order to prevent other nobles becoming too powerful. Henry was
able to further increase his holdings through escheats. Due to Henry’s lack of relatives, he
did not have to share his land (this also increased his own position internally).
Customs duties
The king was supposed to receive the duty (tax) levied on all imported goods. Henry
continued many of Edward IV’s policies by attempting to cut down on fraud. He
attempted to block loopholes that some foreign merchants had enjoyed and updated the
Book of Rates (the customs duties merchants had to pay). Smuggling however continued,
and Henry was not able to significantly increase his revenue in this field.
Feudal dues
Henry was supposed to get money from those who held land and did not provide military
service. Henry was also owed wardship (when a minor inherited land, it would revert
back to the crown and would be auctioned to the highest bidder until the minor came of
age) and relief (a form of inheritance tax) and was supposed to arrange the marriage of
key nobles (for a fee- this was also designed to prevent the emergence of powerful blocks
of nobles). The establishment of the committee system allowed Henry to increase his
revenue in this field. In 1487 his income from wardships and marriage was £350,
however by 1507 with the appointment of an officer to regulate this, income had risen to
£6000pa. The Council Learned was initially set up to ensure that Henry was receiving his
full feudal dues (although later it regulated crown land and bonds and recognisances as
well). Katherine of Buckingham was fined £2000 in 1496 for marrying without the king’s
Profits of justice
Henry was entitled to all profits from the judicial system. These would come from court
fees and fines. Henry has been criticised for manipulating the legal system and although
there is no proof of this, he often preferred to punish criminal acts by fines. Acts of
Attainder would also bring the crown significant amounts of money (the attainting of
Stanley brought the crown £9000 plus another £1000 pa)
Extraordinary revenue
This did not come in regularly, and came from people’s requirement to help the king
during times of need, e.g. wars.
Parliamentary grants
Henry only called for tax when it was necessary, as he realised that if he asked for it too
much then parliament may demand restrictions in his power. He demanded tax in 1487 to
fight Simnel, 1489 to fight France and 1496 to fight Warbeck. It is interesting to note
how the 1496 grant of taxation caused a major rebellion in Cornwall.
Tenths and fifteenths
This was the traditional form of taxation, although Henry also tried unsuccessfully to
introduce a new style of tax, the “subsidy” (effectively an income tax) in 1496.
During times of emergency (e.g. Warbeck’s invasion), Henry could demand loans from
landowners. These were hard to decline and tended to be paid back in full as Henry did
not want to risk upsetting the nobles.
This was a forced loan, where subjects were asked to contribute as a sign of their
goodwill towards the king. This could be effective if used sparingly, as demonstrated by
the raising of £48500 in 1491 to fund the invasion of France.
Clerical taxes
When parliament made a grant, the convocation (a parliament for the church) would often
follow suit and make a contribution (e.g. they gave £25000 for the 1489 French war).
They could not however be forced into doing this. Henry also made money from simony
(selling appointments) however he did not exploit this method of revenue particularly
Feudal obligations
The king could demand feudal aid to help pay for specific occasions such as the
knighting of his eldest son, and the marriage of his daughter. Henry fully exploited these
rights, and in 1504 received £30000 for the marriage of Margaret to James IV of Scotland
(which took place in 1502) and the knighting of Prince Arthur in 1504, despite the fact he
had been knighted 15 years previously and had died in 1502!
The French Pension
The Treaty of Etaples provided Henry with a pension of £5000 pa
Bonds and recognisances
The amount of money generated from bonds rose from £3000 in 1493 to £35000 in 1505,
this those who fell behind pursued by the Council Learned. Of the 62 noble families, 46
were at some time financially at his mercy. 36 were bound by recognisances, 7 were
under attainder and 3 were bound by other means. Some historians have concluded that
the purpose of bonds and recognisances’ was to increase his revenue, rather than stabilise
his position. It seems however that Henry tried to threaten financial ruin in order to win
the loyalty of his subjects and therefore bolster his security. The best example of a
recognisance is the £70,500 levied on Aberganvenny for illegal retaining.
How successful were Henry’s financial policies?
Aim no 1: Increase his own personal revenue (and personal security)
This was crucial, as a rich King was inevitably a strong King- money let them raise
armies, and a full treasury was important on a monarch’s death so that their heir could
fight rebellion (notice how Edward IV’s lack of money on his death had posed problems).
Henry VII was keen to quickly become solvent as he was aware of the Yorksit threat, and
was determined to die solvent, in case his heir should be challenged by a rival Yorkist
In terms of increasing his annual revenue, Henry VII was incredibly successful, and by
his death his income was approximately £118,000 pa, more than any other monarch in the
period, and he left £113,000 to his son! (the King of France did however have an income
of approximately £800,000!)
Although this was his overall aim, in order to achieve this, he needed to achieve success
in his other financial aims
Aim no 2: Increase the efficiency of existing forms of revenue (making his main aim
Henry can perhaps be criticised for not being particularly innovative. He came up with
few new ways of boosting income, and tended to copy from the Yorkist kings, for
example using receiver generals, “new men” and the chamber system. But the crucial
thing to remember is that to be successful, Henry did not necessarily need to be
innovative; what he tried to do was to increase the efficiency of existing forms of
revenue- he did this so well he did not need to be innovative!
Although in the early stages of his reign (the first two years when he used the exchequer
rather than the chamber) income from crown land dropped from £25,000 under Richard,
to £12,000, by the end of his reign this had increased to £42,000. Rather than giving land
away to nobles, Henry kept hold of it(he liked to give rewards such as making people
Knights of the Garter, which cost nothing); this had the added bonus of reducing the
power of the nobles, whilst allowing him to keep hold of crown land and thus make more
Henry was extremely successful in increasing the efficiency of his revenue systems as a
result of his governmental reforms, especially his use of the committee system. The
Council Learned in particular under Empson and Dudley (and before this the Court of
General Surveyors) had the job of making sure that Henry received all he was due from
both his crown lands, and any feudal obligations to which he was entitled (Henry’s use of
the committee system could be seen as innovative). By 1507 Henry’s annual income from
wardship had risen to £6,000 (from £350 in 1487). In addition, Henry was ruthless with
his punishment, fining Katherine the Dowager Duchess of Buckingham £6,000 for
marrying without his permission. Whilst he was successful in maximising sources of
income here, the actions of the Council Learned in particular did start to anger people,
and towards the end of his reign he risked the potential of rebellion by fraudulently
exploiting his feudal rights in order to maximise his income.
Although incredibly successful in terms of increasing his income from crown lands and
feudal dues, Henry did not quite enjoy the same level of success in terms of maximising
his income from customs duties. Despite continuing Edward IV’s policy of employing
port inspectors, smuggling remained a problems, and income from customs duties only
Aim no 3: Reduce his dependence upon Parliament
It was essential for a King to “Live of His Own” as if he was dependent upon parliament
and the nobility for money (which came in the form of taxation) he would quickly lose
support, and may have to make concessions to Parliament in return for getting money.
Henry was on the whole very successful here, and although he demanded tax 3 times
1. 1487 to fight Simnel’s Rebellion
2. 1489 to fight France
3. 1496 to invade Scotland (and get Warbeck)
He was successful each time (shows parliament approved). Crucially he only wanted tax
for war (unlike Henry VI who needed tax as he gave away too much land), and by 1496
he was so secure he did not need to demand money from parliament again. By reducing
his dependence on parliament he had much more freedom of action, however he was only
able to do this because of the way he had been able to maximise existing forms of
It is interesting that in the later part of his reign from 1505-09 he gave £342,000 in aid to
the Habsburgs (the ruling royal family of Burgundy)- this freedom of action was only
possible because of the massive wealth he had accrued. This is testimony to his level of
success financially (although it could be argued that he wasted it by aiding the
Aim no 4: Use his financial policy to keep the nobles in check (an ulterior aim)
A crucial thing to acknowledge with Henry VII is how his noble policy, financial policy
and reforms to government are all interlinked. Bonds and recognisances served two major
purposes, and Henry used them incredibly well. They brought him large amounts of
money (although Lord Abergavenny only paid part of the £70,550 recognise placed upon
him this still greatly benefitted Henry) however more importantly they kept nobles in
check. 46/62 noble families were at some point bound to Henry by either a bond,
recognisance or suspended attainder, and the fact that he faced no rebellion from any
major noble after 1487 (John De La Pole-Lincoln’s involvement in Simnel’s Rebellion)
shows just how successful Henry’s financial policy was in achieving this ulterior aim.
Aim no 5; Increase the gap between him and the nobles (another ulterior aim)
Henry’s use of bonds and recognisance certainly helped increase the gap between him
and the nobility (unlike Edward IV who had been quite lenient of the nobility, such
policies clearly showed Henry was in control). If however Henry was to establish his
superiority over the nobles, he needed to make sure he earned far more than them (this
would also prevent the emergence of over mighty nobles such as Warwick during the
reign of Edward IV). Again, Henry was extremely successful here, as shown by the fact
that on his death he earned 20 times that of the next leading noble.
Foreign Policy
You need to know this, however I have not included it in the revision packs. Use notes
from this term to revise from.