Britain 1487-1509

In depth study into Britain 1483-1529.

This section is on

  • Foreign policy
  • Domestic policy
  • Domestic Industry
  • The nobility and controlling the nobility
  • Government and Parliament
  • The Counsel and Counsel Committees
  • The Court
  • Justices of Peace
  • The Church, Papacy and pre-reformation
  • Finance including ordinary and extraordinary revenue

Revision Quiz


The Nobility


  • Nobles were drawn into central government work
  • Henry VII, however, relied heavily upon his royal servants and counsel which suggests he was somewhat anti-noble
  • This is due to the fact that royal servants and members of the counsel were low-born and not members of the nobility by birth
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The Nobility

Controlling the nobles

  • Henry VII was reluctant to grant titles and give land as rewards
  • He developed Order of the Garter instead, which placed prestige on nobles without taking off the crown
  • Acts of attainders and financial sanctions such as bonds and recognisances were a way of controlling the nobility
  • The nobles were under close surveillance too
  • Star Chamber over saw charges against nobles and punished them accordingly
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  • Henry VII was closely involved in government
  • He developed already existing institutions and relationships more effectively
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  • The English court was a source of patronage
  • It grew in size and importance during Henry VII's reign
  • Henry VII lived at court along with those who served him
  • There was three sections to the court:
    - Service departments (Kitchen, scullery, etc.)
    - Privy Chamber (Formal reception areas)
    - Chamber (The King's quaters)
  • The Chamber was overseen by the Chamberlain

(NOTE: Patronage = land, titles officer, salaries given to royal servants who worked at the court)

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The Counsel

  • Henry VII ruled through his counsel
  • The counsel advised Henry VII and acted as a court of law
  • Despite the counsel's power, it had few procedures or formal rules
  • When the King went on a progress, the counsel ran the day-to-day country
  • 227 men have been recorded attending the counsel but Henry VII only consulted six or seven loyal, close advisors
  • The counsel was the link between the King and government
  • It was also the link between the local governments and the central government
  • Messages, orders, reports were sent between the main counsel and the JP's

(NOTE: JP's = Justices of peace who controlled the localities)

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Counsel Committees

  • Counsel committees took specialist work from the counsel
  • The first counsel committee was the Court of Star Chamber in 1487
  • It dealt with complaints of maintenance, riots and abuses of privileges
  • However, Star Chamber wasn't successful but other counsel committees such as counsel learned in the law, in 1495, was effective
  • This counsel dealt with the King as a feudal landlord, managing feudal income
  • It also collected debts such as bonds and recognisances
  • Sir Reginald Bray was put in charge of this committee
  • Empson and Dudley then took over upon Bray's death in 1509
  • Henry VII also set up a counsel under Prince Arthur to run the North of England
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  • Parliament was made of of the Commons and Lords
  • It was called by the King to deal with legislation and to grant tax
  • Henry VII called only seven parliaments during his reign
  • He legislated though parliament to strengthen royal authority
  • Parliament ensured law across the realm
  • It emphasise that there was one ruler in England
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  • Justices of peace controlled the localities
  • Their duties included:
    - Controlling riots
    - Controlling illegal retaining
    - Controlling gambling/ unlawful games
  • Henry VII increased their work load to limit power of sheriffs
  • JP's were amateurs; unpaid, crown appointed, crown controlled, crown rewarded
  • Henry VII always anxious about how efficient the JP's were
  • Low performance could result in a JP's suspension for the following year
  • The JP's were a social mix
    - Magnates
    - Churchmen
    - Lawyers
    - Gentry
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The Church

  • Henry VII was Roman Catholic
  • Through out his reign, Henry VII kept tight control over church appointments
  • Loyal, well educated churchmen were employed for important roles
  • The church strengthened royal control in England
  • Henry VII was lenient towards Richard III's churchmen
  • They were allowed to keep their positions if they could prove their loyalty
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The Church


  • There were 3 Pope's during Henry VII's reign
  • Henry VII did not have disputes with any of these pope's
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The Church


  • The Lloard organisation were heretics during the late 15th century
  • Out of 73 heretics Henry VII capture, only 3 were burned at the stake since the remaining 70 retracted their heresy
  • Leading reformists of Henry VIII's reign were already in positions of high importance under Henry VII
  • The building blocks for the reformation were already put in place
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Crown expenses

  • Henry VII had inherited a bankrupt throne
  • Fortunately, Henry VII was well practiced in managing little money since he was penniless in exile
  • Henry VII's main aims for fiance were:
    - To fund both ordinary and extraordinary expenses
    - Continue centralisation of power and discipline
  • Ordinary expenses had to be funded by ordinary revenue
  • Extraordinary expenses had to funded by extraordinary revenue
  • Both types of revenue were collected by specialised collectors who were atched and rewarded by the King
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Ordinary Revenue

  • Customs Duties
    - The tax on imported and exported goods
  • Crown Lands
    - Income generated from the extensive lands owned by the crown
  • Feudal Dues
    - Tennants-in-chief had to pay a relief to inherit land
    - If no heir was available land was given to the crown along with a payment from the deceased's fortunes
    - If the heir was a minor, the King took wardship of the land including all profits from it until the heir came of age
  • Profits from Justice
    - Fees to have cases heard in court
    - Money from fines issued to criminals by the courts
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Extraordinary Revenue

  • Parliamentary subsidies
    - Fifteenths and Tenths
  • Loans
    - From rich nobles and subjects
  • Benevolences
    - Forced loans
    - Not repaid
  • Bond and recognisances
    - Payments if a behaviour was not as agreed (i.e. loyalty)
  • Feudal aids
    - Tennants-in-cheif obliged to pay aid to the King
    - Were no repaid
  • Clerical Taxes
    - Paid by the church assembly
    - Matched the amount raised by the Parliamentary subsidy
  • French Pension
    - Income paid by the King of France
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The Exchequer and Chamber

  • Yorkist King's had used a Chamber system to deal with finances
  • This system had collapsed with the Yorkist dynasty
  • Therefore, at the start of Henry VII's reign the Exchequer system was used to organise finances at first
  • The Exchequer system was then used to keep accurate accounts
  • Gradually, the Chamber system was reintroduced and raised revenue more effectively
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Domestic industry

Main industries in England

  • Wool and cloth trade
  • Tin mining
  • Lead mining
  • Coal mining
  • Metal working
  • Ship building
  • Paper making


  • 90% of English trade was internal
  • Traders used rivers and coast to move goods
    Coastal trade therefore was massive
  • Little advance in Henry VII's reign
  • Henry VII didn't appear to have much involvement in trade
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Domestic industry

Main exports from England

  • Wool
  • Cloth
  • Barley
  • Malt

Main imports to England

  • Wine (France)
  • Wood (France)
  • Iron (Spain)
  • Cod (Scandinavia)
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Domestic industry


  • England was an agricultural country
  • Enclosures were beginning to replace open fields
  • Enclosures:
    - More effective
    - Generated a bigger profit
    - Generated more produce
    - Depopulated rural areas
  • The wealth and health of the country depended upon harvests
  • Prices of food and exports depended upon the harvests
  • The size of the population depended upon the harvests
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Domestic industry

Wool and cloth trade

  • Industry was dominated by the wool and cloth trade
  • It took place on individual farms
  • Cloth and wool merchants brought about capitalist production and helped increase exports
  • The Merchant Adventurers, who exported cloth from London, grew
  • Merchants of the Staple, who exported raw wool, declined though
  • The Hanseatic league continued to thrive until Henry VII took away their majority on English precious metal exports in 1489
  • This was soon reviewed when Henry VII needed the Hanseatic league's support
  • The Merchant Adventurers undermined the Hanseatic league anyway
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Domestic industry

Cloth trade and Burgundy

  • Burgundy was the primary source for English trade
  • This was due to the fact that the majority of English exports were cloth and wool and Burgundy was the centre from cloth trading in Europe
  • Trade was a bargaining chip between the two countries
  • The Trade Embargo in 1493 but political pressure on Burgundy to not support pretenders
  • It was resolved in 1496 by the Intercursus Magnus restored trade but it's terms were negotiated later in the Intercursus Malus
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Domestic Industry

Trade with France

  • Both countries used trade as a political bargaining chip, stopping trade to adjust political alliances:
    - 1487 - France stopped trade due to Henry VII support against France
    - 1492 - Treaty of Etaples reduced trade restrictions
    - 1495 - France ended all trade restrictions to ensure English neutrality over the Italian wars
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Overseas trade

  • Increased during Henry VII's reign
  • Still wasn't the primary source of crown income
  • Generated about £40'000 per year
  • Foreign relations were linked with trade
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  • 1485
  • Henry VII introduced a new coin system for political and financial reasons
  • He introduced a shilling with the first monarch portrait
  • This was an example of Tudor propaganda
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