Finance (1485-1603)

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  • Created on: 20-04-19 16:55

Government (VII)

Until he became more experienced with finance, Henry began using the Exchequer...

- in 1487, Henry started to use the Chamber system (this was part of the royal household and under the King's direct supervision)                                                                                       1. it was known to be a flexible system (Treasurers included Thomas Lovell & John Heron)

Henry was expected to 'live off his own'+ inherited a bankrupt throne, but bequeathed a solvent treasury - clear evidence of his competent financial management...

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Cloth Trade (Henry VII)

Wool & Cloth trade accounted for 90% of exports...

- Henry ended Hansa's control of exported Bullion in 1489 (restored in 1504 to gain custody of Earl of Suffolk)

- Navigation Acts of 1485 & 1489 (English ships + crews had to be used in certain industries in order to end dependency on foreign ships)                                                          1. limited success by 1509 as half of all trade was with foreign ships                          2. Henry banned exports of finished cloth to foreign merchants

- Edward IV had 16 ships, while Henry let them decline from 7 to 5 in 1485 (90-95% of trade was internal)

Antwerp (main trading port):

- in 1493 Henry introduced a trade embargo (prepared to jeopardise trade to put political pressure on Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy - economically damaging but necessary)

- Intercursus Magnus in 1496 (merchants - except Flanders - would trade freely if Burgundy did not support Warbeck)

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Control of Nobility (Henry VII)

Henry inherited a bankrupt throne, but bequeathed a solvent treasury - clear evidence of his competent financial management...

- Sir Edward Belknap was appointed Surveyer of the King's Prerogative in 1508 (exacting fines on those who violated the king's prerogative)                                                                       1. Belknap collected £7000 in 7 months

- Sir Reginald Bray's developed techniques increased crown income from £2000 in 1486 to £42000 in 1508

- Henry used zealous agents with legal training to collect revenue (these agents benefitted from his patronage + were carefully supervised sometimes using spies)

- Henry was able to accumulate Crown Lands confiscated under Acts of Attainder + reclaimed under Acts of Resumption (continuing his centralisation of power)

- Bonds & Recognisances: between 1504-7, £200,000 promised to the king (though not all was collected)                                                                                                                               1. Lord Dacre had to invest £2000 for his loyalty in 1506)

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Rebellions (Henry VII)

Henry raised over £400,000 from extraordinary taxation - however, this provoked rebellions...

Yorkshire Tax Revolt (1489):

- subsidy of £100,000 granted for defence of Brittany in war against France (Yorkshire had been hit by bad harvests in 1488)                                                                            1. 90% of the population lived in the countryside (as farmers)                                              2. Henry was forced to compromise and only £27,000 was raised

- move towards sheep farming in the 1480-90's contributed to an increase in enclosure (Henry VII passed an anti-enclosure law in 1589)

Cornish Tax Revolt (1497):

- Cornish felt they should not pay for war in Scotland, as they were nowhere near the North + despised Reginald Bray (15,000 men reached Blackheath with support from commons, clergy, 1 noble + gentry)                                                                                         1. heavy fines crippled Cornwall for years after

Henry's last Parliament in 1504 limited the demand of extraordinary revenue + promised money would no longer be raised by this method...

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Exploration (VII)

Exploration remained slower than in Spain or Portugal...

1. John Cabot went from Bristol to discover New Foundland sponsored by Henry VII

2. William Weston (Bristol Merchant) led an expedition to the New World

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Tax Reform (Wolsey)

Tax Reform:

- control of tax payers - they were assessed individually under oath (also used local officials supervised by centrally appointed Commissioners)

- the inefficient old system of 15th & 10th did not raise sufficient income (replaced with with a directly assessed subsidy in 1522 rafted by Hales, judge of the Exchequer)

Raising Revenue for FP:

- the 1523 subsidy failed as only half of the anticipated £800,000 was raised (raised in statements rather an intended lump sum)

- the Amicable Grant in 1525 was a non-parliamentary subsidy (4th May 10,000 people rioted Lavenham)                                                                                                                         1) Wolsey faced a sophisticated constitutional opposition and as he was not backed by the king, he was forced to ask for benevolences

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Enclosure (Wolsey)

Economic issues were mainly caused by population increase from the Medieval era...

- Humanists, Wolsey & More blamed issues on enclosure (in 1489 + between 1514-15, legislation was passed against enclosure)

- in 1517, he launched a national enquiry into how effective the previous legislation had been (uncovered evidence againt 264 landlords + corporations)                             1) only 74 landowners entered into recognisances to restore lands to arable

- in 1523, he agreed to to suspend policy against enclosure (as Wolsey needed support of MP's + members of lords - his policy had been to weaken profiting wealthy opponents)

Other reforms:

- 1518, fixed poultry prices in London + examined scarcity of beef & mutton              1. but, no long-term improvement in prices or meat availibilty for the capital.        2. it angered London butchers & provincial cattle farmers

- he issued proclamations against profiting grain dealers (but in 1520 he referred 6 grain speculators' cases back to their local justices)

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Foreign Policy (Henry VIII)


- The Battle of the Spurs in 1513 - Theroann & Tournai were effective bargaining tools + secures the French Pension by 1514 (by 1514, war cost nearly £1-2 million)

- Henry was obsessed with presenting himself as a 'warrior king' by winning 'glory' through war (he spent £1,400,000 fighting wars between 1521-5)

Act Annexing First Fruits and Tenths to the Crown in 1534:

    1) annates paid by the Bishop were now payable to the king                                            2) legal support for dissolution (royal commissioners seized roof leading).                       3) financial burden increased on the clergy

Dissolution of Monasteries:

Valor Ecclesiasticus in 1535 showed income of religious houses was over £160,000 a year (monastic income was more than 3 times the income of royal estates)

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Trade (Henry VIII)

Though the market for raw wool declined, woollen cloth exports almost doubled...

- Bristol + ports on the east-coast, like Hull & Boston suffered as an increasing amount of exported cloth was routed through London (Southampton enjoyed a boom but was short-lived)

- 70% oof cloth exports were transported by English merchants from the 1550's (however, much of the trade was in foreign hands before this)

- there were 26 blasting furnaces by the middle of the century (although, the upsurge in iron ore smelting would only come in the second half of the century)

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Prosperity & Depression (Henry VIII)

John Guy argues that 'England was economically healthier' under the Tudors...

- population grew significantly from 1525 + a decline in the rate of mortality (along side this, agricultural prices rose significantly from the 1520's)

- debasement of the coinage created a short-term artificial boom in 1544-46 (but this caused a long-term cost to living standards)                                                              1. as a result, real wages declined + at its worse at the end of Henry's reign

- food prices almost doubled across Henry's reign (often due to bad harvests such as from 1520-21 & 1527-9)


- ECONOMIC CAUSES: poor harvests from 1535-6, levy's were now taken in times of peace, entry fines became more expensive + enclosure (after entry fines fixed at a certain price + hated subsidies repelled)

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Poor Relief (Edward VI)

Causes of Poverty:

- inflation between 1940-50's (leading to depression in cloth industry + rising unemployment)

Government Response:

- Vagrancy Act in 1547 - showed Edward's lack of humanitarianism (if still unemployed after 3 days vagrants were branded + sold into slavery for two years + children taken)

- Poor Act of 1552 established a parish register for the poor (appointed 2 collectors to collect alms + assess how much money was needed in each area)

The Vagrancy Act was widely unpopular + money counties refused to enforce it...

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Finance (Somerset)

Somerset continued Henry's disastrous policy of debasing the coinage (raising £537,000 but heightening inflationary pressures)...

- Scottish war was financed by land sales + borrowing (this only caused long-term problems of crown finance)


- influenced by writer, John Hales, Somerset saw enclosure as the route of poverty (appointed commissioners but achieved little as rate of enclosure was slowing anyway)

- Somerset introduced a tax on sheep in order to deter enclosure (this only succeeded in placing financial pressure on small farmers leading to the Western Rebellion in 1549)

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Finance (Northumberland)

Northumberland managed to achieve a measure of financial stability after Somerset's tumultuous policies...

- he brought an end to wars with Scotland & France (considerable reduction in Crown expenditure & secured £133,333 as French payment for Boulogne which was economicaly draining anyway)

- he abandonned the practice of debasement (but used unscrupulous methods to raise revenue, such as melting down church plate for bullion)

- Walter Mildmay helped Northumberland analyse shortcomings of royal financial administration (but, improvement plans did not come to fruition until Mary I)

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Rebellions (Edward VI)

Western Rebllion:

- Somerset's Subsidy tax of 1549 - 1d on a sheep and 1/2 on every pound (to raise money + ecourage farmers to return lands to tillage)

- peasants suffered mostly as cloth producers + farmers raised prices to offset the cost (though rebels made no complaint about enclosre or rack-renting)

- Somerset acted illegally, executing rebels without trials + confiscating and redistributing property (but did not aim to overthrow or challenge the monarch)

Kett Rebellion:

- 17 out of 29 of Kett's demands were focused on enclosure, rents + landlords (landlords deliberately obstructed a commisioner investigating illegal enclosure)

- Inflation meant wheat prices increased by 50% in 1548 + worsted cloth industry meant unemployment was on the rise

- Northumberland dealt leniently with the rebels + only 49 executions (in accordance with the law)

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Poor Relief (Mary I)

Causes of Poverty:

- population increase + debasement were key long-term factors for inflation (harvest failures between 1555-6 caused a massive strain on real wages)

- the 'sweating sickness' swept the country in 1557-8 (death toll was probably the worst of the century)

Government Response:

- emphasis was placed on enforcement of laws against grain hoarders (there was also strong encouragement to convert pasture land to tillage)

- Poor Act of 1555 which extended the 1552 Act (licensed beggars were now instructed to wear badges to encourage donation)

Overall, it is difficult to assess the success of these measures...

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Financial Reform (Mary I)

Though the level of royal indebtness rose during her reign - for a government at war - its financial record was satisfactory...

- Mildmay was regarded with suspicion but changes were implemented in 1554 (administration under Treasurer, Winchester was competent)                                      1. Court of Exchequer took over other financial courts (more centralised)

- plans for recoinage were drawn up from 1556-8 demonstrating thorough preparation (only implemented under Elizabeth)                                                                    1. for example, the Book of Rates in 1558 which raised customs revenue dramtically

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Economic Issues (Elizabeth I)

Causes of Poverty:

- Vagabondage remained widespread + Cecil worried its effect on law & order (unemployment made worse by trade embargos on weel in 1563-4, 1568-73 & 1580's)

- harvest failures caused food shortages in the mid-1550's & 1590's (Plague also affected London badly in 1563, resulting in the death of 20% of the population in London)                                                                                                                                                  1. smallpox epidemic of 1562 almost killed the Queen

- population increase of 43% between 1550-1600 (partly causing real wages of the labouring poor being lower than they had been a century earlier)

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Poor Relief (Elizabeth I)

- PRIVY COUNCIL: In 1576, it ordered the city of London to buy emergency corn (in 1590's it also prevented the export of cotton)


1. Poor Act of 1572, established the principal that local ratepayers were required to pay for poor relief (added branding to the range of punishments)                                          - HARSHEST LAW OF HER REIGN (ear-boring + exectution was not removed until 1593)

2. Poor Act of 1576, attempted to create national system to be financed + administered locally (towns required to make provisions for the 'deserving' poor)

3. Poor Act of 1597, 1st time offenders where whipped + sent back to Parish of birth (repeat offenders were executed)                                                                             - LAID FOUNDATIONS FOR THE POOR LAW FOR THE NEXT 250 YEARS

4. Poor Act of 1601, parishes required to raise rates (overseers appointed to each parish, relieve the 'impotent poor' + JP's supervised apprenticed children)

Elizabeth ensured a minimum level of subsistence for the deserving poor (a legislative achievement that remained largely intact until 1834)

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