Britain, 1483-1529 Henry VIII


Early Reign of HVIII - renaissance prince

  • HVIII came to the throne as young and an ambitious renaissance prince 
  • been heir to the throne since his brothers death in 1502
  • HVIII had no practical experience in governance and his father had not sent him to Ludlow castle to learn the arts of govt 
  • poet John Skelton engaged as HVIII's tutor, he read widely was a keen sportsman and musician 
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the new reign: personal monarchy in action

new reign indicated by the introduction of 3 signficant changes:

  • the removal of Epsum & Dudley and the abolishment of the Counsel Learned
  • the marriage to Catherine of Aragon
  • the declaration of war against Franch 
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1- removal of epsum & dudley and removal of CL

  • HVIII percieved to have tryannised members of the gentry and nobility and to have imposed extortionate financial penalties such as bonds & recongisances through the CL - headed by Epsum & Dudley
  • they were arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of LDN
  • tension between the king and pol nation was further diffused when in the 1st parliament the CL was abolished 
  • King also set up Commissions of Oyer and Terminer across the country to hear grievances
  • although they only ever recieved petty complaints 
  • E & D executed to satisfy public and to symbolise the King's fresh start
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2- marriage to Catherine of Aragon

  • HVII had insisted CofA should stay in Eng after his other son, Arthur's death for several reasons
  • King needed to retain the Anglo-Spanish connection, despite relations between himself and Ferd deteriorating, after the marriage dowry that HVII refused to pay
  • HVII wanted to keep an option that CofA might marry prince H, made possible after the papal bull in 1504 giving papal dispensation 
  • CofA not a passive victim, and she was ambitious and determined to fulfil her role as Queen of Eng, that after 1506, she was official Spanish ambasasdor at court, working for her father to improve Anglo-Spanish relations 
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3- declaration of war against France

  • wanted to prove his status as warrior king and become and imperial king
  • his young courtiers such as Henry Stafford & Thomas and William Parr were bored of peace and wanted the chance for adventure and success 
  • it took time for HVIII to remove his father's progress for peace w/ France before he could assemble a pro-war counsel and prepare for war against Franch 
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The Counsel

  • H inherited his fathers established Counsel
  • relations between the new king and the Counsel were strained, especially with his desire to be an ambitious king and unwilling to work hard, unlike his father
  • Richard Fox, an adivser told H to avoid war w/ France, but was ignored
  • the counsel's relations were more strained by HVIII's mother Marg Beaufort who directed the King's affairs & she disliked Wolsey
  • pro-war and anti-war factions developed within the counsel & soon became public knowledge
  • policies and decisions became increasingly made at court and the Privy Chamber
  • two pol important sections in the court 1: The Chamber 2: The Privy Chamber
  • PC was established by HVII in 1490s to be a place for personal servants including the "Groom of the Stool"
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growing importance of the Privy Chamber

  • served a different function under HVIII 
  • King relied on 'minions' were he tried to emulate the French structure of court 
  • he transformed the PC into a prestigious part of the Royal Household
  • the Gentlemen of the PC were careerist politicians who expected money for their services
  • 1529, the royal finances had been split in 2 and the larger Chamber and Privy Purse supervised by Henry Norris, one of the Gentlemen of the PC
  • Privy Purse not funded by money from Chamber but had its own royal treasury - Privy Coffers
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the rise of Thomas Wolsey to 1515

  • an academic churchman who rose through the rannks of noble and royal service to position of royal chaplain - giving him access to the King and court, but his pol position was not secure or central in 1509
  • after Marg of Beaufort's death, he secured several court positions including registrar of the Order of the Garter, yet in 1510 was appointed to the Counsel, after a recommendation by Richard Fox and was to him (anti-war) informed of the pro-war factions actions
  • 1512 it was clear H was serious about plans for war, he wanted war and glory and Wolsey had to deliver it 

Wolseys personal skills:

  • intelligence
  • eloquence - power to persuade a key skill
  • capacity for hard work
  • admin & organisational talents
  • ambitious
  • ability to network
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rise of Wolsey continued

  • he rose rapidly and was well rewarded. 1515 became Lord Chancellor 1516 becamce Lord Privy Seal
  • Wolsey able to consolidate his power after his aides retired, Warham and Fox and other who stood in his way moved aside
  • DUKE OF SUFFOLK had been a fav of Henry's but he opposed Wolsey's emergence as chief minister, yet Wolsey won his pol gratitude and loyalty yet SUFFOLK married HVIII's sister Mary Tudor which angered the King and Wolsey offered to mediate w/Henry to prevent the pair's expulsion from court 
  • EARL OF SURREY, restored to DUKEDOM OF NORFOLK but failed to resist Wolsey's rise to dominance
  • DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM a serious opponent. he despised Wolsey and disliked the King for trusting him. Buckingham a powerufl enemy for the estates castle armouries and servants as he had a claim to the throne through Thomas of Woodstock, fifth son of ED III. 1521, Wolsey persuaded the king to execute him on grounds of treason
  • 1515 Wolsey had consolidated his power to 'chief minister'. not an official post but reflected his dominance in church and state 
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Wolsey as patron of the arts and learning

  • Erasamus recognised Wolsey as a patron of the arts and learning 
  • Wolsey had set up a college at Oxford University to house 500 students but was disbanded on a smaller scale in 1529 by HVIII as Christ Church College
  • he recongised the need for a feeder school to Oxford and set up Ipswich school but this was dismantled 
  • his desire to flaunt his personal wealth led to the creations of many architectural triumphs and the building house his art and mutiple libraries 
  • Hampton Court Palace became the physical manifestation of Wolsey's wealth and pol influence 
  • his previous tutor, John Skelton had become envious of his power and wrote a poem attacking him, Wolsey found out and orderd his execution yet he fled to sanctuary 
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relationship between king and minister: master or

  • the nature of the relationship between HVIII and his chief minister in the years 1515 to 1529 is fundamental to an analysis of Tudor pol history. it has been debated by generations of historians

traditional intepretation:

  • A.F Pollard claims Wolsey achieved a 'prime ministerial' dominance over policy making for 14 years a view also held by Elton who wrote Wolsey tried to rule as a king when he was not king. He had enormous power through his religious authority as Archbishop of Rome and Cardinal Legateand his position of Lord Chancellor. He manipulated his influence over HVIII to exclude rivals at court 

Revisionist interpretation:

  • seen by other historians as a man who followed instructions. Had to follow policies that reflected the King's will, greed and desire for conflict. Wolsey desired peace but was forced to declare war to satisfy HVIII. Gunn argues Wolsey was determined to enforce the King's laws and faced oppostion from contemporaries who failed to realise that he served the royal will

Resolving the conflicting interpretations:

  • H a young man in the years Wolsey had pol power. Guy stresses his view that the King regarded the olderman not as a servant but a friend and trusted him to make pol options 
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