Establishing royal authority

The concept of personal monarchy and Central and Local government under Henry VII.

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Relations with the nobility

The English magnate remained a significant force in the English Government towards the end of 15th century. Although the number of nobles families had fallen during the Wars of the roses to about 60. They became less and less free agents of the crown, the nobles were drawn into the work of central and local government. (decision making bodies who ran the country including the court, Counsel and parliament.) Henry VII turned to a conciliar solution for every administrative problem. The result was that domestic government was increasingly dominated by legal processes, fed by a system of information and enquiry, and governed by astute and searching legal minds with a steady tenacity of purpose. According to Christine Carpenter Henry VII came to a strong thrown because Richard III was disliked and he did not face a powerful rival house. In 1485 Henry passed an act against retaining (noblemen’s practice of recruiting members of gentry to serve as administrators, often accountants and also expected them to fight in their private army). A certain balance of legal retaining was necessary therefore the Act was not always consistent.

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Government and the Church

The king managed his own finances, especially the crown lands and his feudal dues, to enhance royal authority. There was greater emphasis on the dignity of the monarch with the court being reformed to project royal majesty in the fashion of continental Renaissance courts.

There were to politically important sections of the court: the Privy Chamber set up by Henry VII in the 1490’s to provide a place for his personal servants; and the Chamber. The latter section, overseen by the Chamberlain, was the centre of patronage and communication between the King, his ministers and all the gentry. He relied on his royal servants to carry out central and local government, and to represent him at the European courts. In return they expected patronage: to be rewarded by the King with lucrative favours such as land grants, titles, offices, salaries, fees and commissions.

The counsel, was the nerve centre of Henry’s government since he ruled through his counsel by issuing decrees and proclamations. The counsel advised the King and acted as court law. When the King went on progress he designated some counsellors to travel with him while others stayed at Westminster, to manage the ordinary business of government. A constant stream of messages was sent between the Counsel and the Justices of the Peace who controlled the localities.

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Government and church

The first of the conciliar committees was the Star Chamber court set up by an Act in 1487 to deal with overmighty subject, though in practice it met rarely.

Parliament or the national assembly, both Lords and the Commons, was called primarily by the King to do his business to legislate and grant tax. Henry called seven Parliaments over his 14 year reign. The first five were in the first decade of his reign and only one in the second half of his reign. This reflects his growing security on the throne. Parliament was called to ensure that his law was applied across the realm and to strenghen royal authority over the nobles.

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Management of the Church

Henry VII was a devout Roman Catholic who recognised the Pope as spiritual leader of the Christian Church. By the 15th century a modus vivendi had been installed, the King ran the Church in England and the Church was loyal to the king, upholding the rule of law. Henry VII used the Church to reinforce his royal power after 1485. He kept a tigh control over church appointments and selected the trusted churchmen to important state and episcopal posts.Henry followed a similar policy towards bishops who had supported the previous monarch to the policy he pursued towards any noblemen who had been noble to Richard the III. He allowed them to prove their allegiance to the tudor dynasty and them entrusted them with significant responsabilities.The Pope and Henry both needed each other's support to resist French and Spanish aggression. After Bosworth, Henry declared his obedience to Pope Innocent VIII who, in return, provided dispensation for the King to marry Elizabeth of York, and declared their children legitimate.

Reformation of the church was foreshadowed during the reign of Henry VII, Heretics, Anticlericals and Humanist ideas were small threats to the Catholic doctrine. A number of leading reformists were already in influential posts by 1509. Humanists wanted to change the way the Church taught, in order to widen the pupils education through the study of litterature, art, philosophy, science as well as theology and religion.

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