Britain 1509-1529

In depth study into Britain 1483-1529.

This section is on

  • Reign of Henry VIII
  • Consolidation of power
  • Foreign policy
  • Domestic policy
  • Domestic Industry
  • Government and Parliament
  • The Court
  • The Church, Papacy and reformation
  • Wolsey
  • European superpowers

Henry VIII

Personality and appearance

  • Young
  • Ambitious
  • Typical Renaissance Prince
  • Musician, sportsman
  • Well educated
  • Tall
  • Fair haired
  • Knew how to dress
  • Regal appearance
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Henry VIII

New King

  • Henry became King at 17 years of age
  • Since he was the second child, he had not been prepared for kingship
  • Neither had he had any practical experience in government
  • John Skelton had been Henry VIII's tutor
  • The marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon occured even before Henry VIII was coronated
  • Henry VIII declared war on France as soon as he became King
  • He was determined to take back the title: King of France
  • It took time for Henry VIII to remove Henry VII's pacifist policies and advisors
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Henry VIII

Counsel Learned in the Law

  • When Henry VIII became King he removed the Counsel Learned in the Law
  • This was because he had seen it to be very unpopular
  • The leaders of the Counsel Learned in the Law, Empson and Dudley, were locked in the Tower and later executed
  • This signified a new reign and moved away from his father's legacy
  • Henry VIII even launched Commissions of Oyer and Terminer to register complaints against his father and his father's policies!
  • There was never very many registered though and for this reason, Henry VII's reign was viewed as rather successful

(NOTE: Counsel Learned in the Law was the debt collecting agency and had been unpopular with the people. It was still very efficient during Henry VII's reign)

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Henry VIII

Catherine of Aragon

  • Catherine of Aragon had stayed in England after the death of Prince Arthur in 1502
  • This was an advantageous decision for her father, Ferdinand King of Spain
  • Henry VIII disagreed with the way Henry VII had treated Catherine
  • In June, 1509, Catherine married Henry VIII
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Henry VIII

The Counsel

  • Henry VIII inherited Henry VII's well established counsel
  • But since Henry VIII was a different personality to Henry VII, counsel relations were strained
  • Henry VII's counsel was anti-war and had advised Henry VIII not to go to war with France
  • This advice often fell on deaf ears
  • It took time for Henry to remove his father's counsel and establish his own
  • Unlike Henry VII, Henry VIII ruled through the Privy Chamber

(NOTE: Privy Chamber is the middle section of the royal household)

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Henry VIII

Margaret Beaufort

  • Henry VII's mother, Margaret Beaufort, directed affairs after her son died
  • She was anti-war and cautious like her son
  • She also opposed Wolsey, and so he couldn't make any advancement in power during her authority
  • When Margaret Beaufort died, just months after Henry VII, Henry VIII declared war on France and Wolsey seized this opportunity to please the King and rise to power
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Henry VIII

The Privy Chamber

  • Henry VII had used the Privy Chamber as a place to wash, dress, eat and drink
  • Henry VIII changed this and used the Privy Chamber for political business
  • Under Henry VIII the Privy Chamber was:
    - Made up of his advisors, he named his "minions" (his favourite minions were named Gentlemen)
    - A prestigious but still small part of the royal household
  • The Privy Chamber also had to have it's own royal treasury to fund the wages of the Gentlemen
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Henry VIII


  • Henry VIII's favourite minions
  • Made up the Privy Chamber
  • Expected money and titles in return for their services
  • Had the power of the royal signature
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Henry VIII

Threats to the throne

  • The Duke of Buckingham
    - An enemy of Wolsey and resented the King for trusting Wolsey so much
    - An extremely powerful noble
    - Possed vast lands, fotified castles, armouries, servants
    - Most importantly, the Duke of Buckingham had a claim to the throne
    - Wolsey convinced Henry VIII to charge the Duke with Burgundy
    - The Duke was executed as a result and his threat eliminated
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Thomas Wolsey


  • Academic
  • Churchman
  • Ambitious
  • Intelligent
  • Hard Working
  • Roman Catholic
  • Power of persuasion
  • Administrative and organisation skills
  • Ability to network
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Thomas Wolsey

Rise to Power

  • Wolsey rose through the nobility to royal service to Chaplain
  • It wasn't until Margaret Beaufort's death that Wolsey could begin his rise to power under Henry VIII
  • In June 15010, he was appointed to the counsel by Richard Fox
  • However, this appointment was only to keep Fox informed about the pro-war factions of the counsel
  • After Wolsey saw that the King wanted war, he switched his allegiance to pro-war
  • This was because the war against France gave Wolsey a perfect opportunity to impress the King with his administrative skills
  • The King was impressed and rewarded Wolsey by granting him higher positions of authority
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Thomas Wolsey

Reasons why Wolsey rose to power

  • Impressive organisation skills for the French war
  • Personal attributes/personalities
  • Ability to please the King's wishes
  • The King looked on Wolsey as a friend
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Thomas Wolsey

Managing positions of high authority

  • Influential men, who may have stood in his way, stepped away from their positions or were forced away
  • For example, Richard Fox stepped down from his political position to his church position
  • Another example is the Duke of Suffolk who lost his political authority after eloping with Henry VIII's sister, Mary Tudor, after the death of her husband, Louis XIII
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Thomas Wolsey

Patron of the arts and education

  • Wolsey founded lectureships in Oxford in:
    - Theology
    - Civil Law
    - Medicine
    - Philosophy
    - Mathematics
    - Greek language
  • He also established Cardinal's college at Oxford and set up Ipswich feeder school
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Thomas Wolsey

Buildings and personal life

  • Wolsey was known for flaunting his wealth
  • He built Hampton Court with no expense spared:
    - Equal, if not better than the King's palace
    - Renaissance elegance in style
    - The most advanced sewer system
    - On the banks of the River Thames
    - 1'000 rooms
    - 280 beds
    - Housed art collections
  • The poet Skelton wrote a poem expressing how Wolsey's "palace" had out done the King's
  • Wolsey sent for his arrest but the poet fled to sanctuary
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Thomas Wolsey

Henry VIII

  • Wolsey held a Prime Minsterial dominance over the King
  • However, he also just followed the King's instructions
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