Changes to Royal Finances in the Tudor Period

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  • Changes to Royal Finances
    • Changes to the Crown's finances
      • A constant theme of the Tudor period was the tension between the Crown's income and expenditure.
        • Both Wolsey and Cromwell attempted to put the Crown's finances on a more secure footing, but were both only partially successful.
        • In theory the monarch was supposed to be financially independent.
          • The Crown had two main sources of income...
            • 'Ordinary Revenue'
              • Came from royal lands and the monarch's status of landlord.
              • Come from the rents or sales of lands.
            • 'Extraordinary Revenue'
              • Usually taxation granted by parliament for the monarch's special needs, usually the costs of war.
          • The monarchy rarely had enough money and was often reliant on parliamentary taxation and other legally dubious source of income.
            • 1521- Royal officials were so short of money that they had to resort to loans to pay the royal servants.
            • The situation was not helped by extravagant expenditure.
              • Henry VIII spent more than £100,000 on building Hampton Court and Whitehall, while the royal household in the 1550s was costing £75,000 a year to run.
            • Even Elizabeth, who avoided the costs of war until 1585, found it difficult to balance the royal books and died owing £350,000.
    • Changes to Royal Finances under Henry VIII
      • Financial policy under Henry VIII was driven by his desire to go to war and the costs that this entailed.
        • It has been estimated that the income from Crown lands in 1515 was £25,000 per annum, but Henry's war against France in 1512-14 cost about £1 million.
        • Henry's chief ministers, Wolsey and Cromwell were responsible for funding Henry's ambitions.
          • Wolsey was prepared to try new methods to achieve this.
            • Introduction of the Subsidy, a new form of parliamentary taxation in 1513, based on an assessment of each individual's wealth.
              • This raised £322,099 between 1513 and 1523.
              • A further £117,936 was raised through the traditional form of taxation (The Fifteenths and Tenths).
            • This was still not enough to fund Henry's wars and Wolsey was forced to resort to less legal methods, in particular, the Amicable Grant (1525)
              • This was in effect a forced loan from his taxpayers, as this loan was on top of the high levels of taxation already demanded and 'loans' extracted in 1522-23 that had raised £260,000 but had not been repaid, the result was rebellion.
                • Wolsey was forced to take responsibility and withdraw the Grant, while Henry claimed no knowledge of his minister's plans.
          • 1530s- Cromwell tried to solve these problems by the acquisition of former monastery lands for the Crown.
            • This temporarily raised Crown income to a peak of £126,296 in 1541, but this did not last, as by the end of Henry's reign 2/3 of these lands had been sold off.
          • Cromwell also created 4 specialised financial courts to handle the increased flow of money to the Crown.
            • These were the Courts of Augmentation, First Fruits & Tenths, Wards & Liveries and General Surveyors.
              • However, only the Court of Wards and Liveries lasted beyond the end of the Tudor period, the other three courts were all amalgamated into the Exchequer under Edward and Mary.
    • Financial Developments under Edward, Mary & Elizabeth
      • Under the protectorate of Northumberland and then the rule of Mary, some attempts were made to put the Crown on a more sound financial footing.
        • Under Mary, Crown income from customs, which had remained the same since 1507, was reformed, increasing income from duties on imports and exports from £25,900 in 1550-51 to £82,797 in 1558-59.
          • Elizabeth reaped the benefits from these reforms but did little to change the financial system.
            • Her main contribution was to end the debasement of the coinage which had begun under Mary.
              • Elizabeth's natural caution also meant that she avoided costly warfare before 1585, but after this, the war with Spain led to high levels of taxation.
                • The situation was made worse because Elizabeth and her advisers did nothing to reform the system of taxation. The result was decreasing returns- a subsidy yielded £140,000 in 1558 but only £80,000 in 1603.
                  • This in turn led to Elizabeth's controversial exploitation of her royal prerogative, which soured the last years of her reign.
        • More Crown lands were sold off to reduce debt.


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