Elizabeth I - Government

The Royal Court

  • Elizabeth combined the political and social function of the Royal Court, much like Henry VIII. 
  • It contained both key ministers as well as members of the Queen's household, having a total of 1500 people employed within it. 
  • The Privy Chamber was largely staffed by women (alike Mary I) as Elizabeth was female, restricting the number of men who had close proximitry to the Monarch. 
  • This, in tern, increased the importance of The Chamber, as apposed to the importance of the privy chamber under Henry VII and Henry VIII. 
  • People were promoted if they were loyal to Elizabeth and the Tudor dynasty, but she also promoted men who flattered her (her 'court favourites' e.g. Robert Dudley).
  • Government officials had to attend court to secure Royal permission for their actions, as well as Nobles who wanted to increase their social status or be seen as powerful. 
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Use of Patronage

  • The crown controlled appointments to the local and central government, as well as the church, the legal profession and the royal household.
  • The crown could also grant rights such as the right to collect taxes in a locality or the right to a monopoly
  • The most prestigious form of patronage was the granting of office, and a key role in government.
  • Elizabeth used patronage to gain control over her nobles.
  • Alike Henry VII, Elizabeth rarely gave out patronage (only 18 her whole reign).
  • In 1603 there were fewer nobles than in 1558. 
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Factional Rivalry

  • Nobles often fought for position as Elizabeth's favourite, or to gain more land or titles
  • Key factional rivelries included:

- William Cecil v. Robert Dudley

- Robert Cecil v. Earl of Essex (Robert Devereux) 

  • The rivalries were usually the War party v. Peace party.
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Elizabeth's Use of the Privy Council (1)

  • Local and regional government was carried out by various institutions such as JP's. 
  • The Rpivy Council was a body that advised the monarch. 
  • Elizabeth reduced it to around 20 members as apposed to the norm of 40-50 members. 
  • She appointed councillors with opposing views in orfer to recieve a range of advice, however this led to disagreement and rivalry.
  • She removed many of the pro-catholic councillors with a core of professional administrators (much like Henry VII's New Men).
  • The Privy Council had many functions: Advising the monarch, esp. on foreign policy; administer public policy; co-ordinatew the work of different branches of government; act as a Royal Court of Law. 
  • The advisory role was most important: 1570 - advised on the transfer of a prisoner to the tower for torture to investigate his part in a murder; 1574 - advised preparedness of troops for intervention in Ireland. 
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Elizabeth's Use of the Privy Council (2)

  • In the 1570's the council was reshaped and the influence of conservatives was reduced; new appointments were firmly protestant e.g. Sir Francis Walsingham. 
  • Elizabeth had an 'inner circle' of 8 councillors. 
  • The council met frequently in times of crisis, for example in the 1590's (when England was at war with Spain and there was an economic crisis) it met six days per week.
  • Though the council couldn't exert much influence, there were occasions such as in 1560 where William Cecil threatened to resign if Elizabeth did not take military action against Scotland (and she listened to his advice). 
  • In the 1580's the council was weakened by the death onf many and reduced to 11 members. 
  • Elizabeth delayed making new appointments and tended to appoint the sons of former members who lacked their father's skills.
  • Her council failed to include any representatives of many of the most important families in the land. 
  • She prevented Cecil from retiring and his son, Robert Cecil, had to help him with administrative burdens. 
  • Elizabeth had less control over factional rivalry in the later years of her reign. 
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Local & Regional Government

  • In the 16th Century there was a greater interference in local affairs from the centre.
  • Most people involved in Government would do so as they saw it as a great honour, and of course carried the possibility of greater patronage from the queen. 
  • JPs: appointed from ranks of the gentry/the wealthy. Responsible for local administrations e.g. Poor Laws as well as punishment of local criminals and settling of disputes. 50 per county by 1600. Often open to bribary and corruption, so it is debatable how effective they were. 
  • Lord Lieutenants: appointed permanently in nearly every county by 1560. Rosponsible for raising troops, overseeing the role of JPs and reporting local affairs to the privy council. Below this level, there was a vast web of local officials playing a key role in Government.
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