Henry VII Government


Privy Council

The Privy Council was also known as the Kings Council. Its three main roles were:

  • Advise the King
  • Adminster the realm on the kings behalf
  • Make legal judgements

It was composed of an inner circle of nobility and churchmen; Between 1485 and 1509, about 50% Henrys council was made up of clerics and other churchmen. However, Henry also appointed nobles to his council on the basis that they had skill and were loyal to him; those who displayed the most loyalty were richly rewarded with top positions, such as his uncle Jasper Tudor, who became the most powerful noble in Wales. Furthermore, Henry also relied on laymen with expertise in law, finance or administration. These skilled men were so vauable he had little care for what class they came from, meaning gentry found their way into the kings council.

Henry made sure to attend as many of the council meeting as possible in order to have a full understanding of what was going on. Within Henry's reign, there was a total of 227 councillors although only around 40 attended each meeting at a time.

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Councils and committees

Henry introduced a number of offshoots of the Royal council

  • The Court of Requests was set up to deal with civil petitions of poor people who could not afford the pricier court costs
  • The Court of Star Chamber which had similar judicial properties as the Requests but didnt flourish until Henry VIII's reign
  • The Council Learned in Law:

It was the Council Learned in Law that was the most controversial change in Henry VII's reign. It was a financial based court, that maintained the kings revenue, whilst expoliting his preogative rights. It was not a court of law so had no option to appeal against its judgements. This caused great fear and anger amongst its targets. It was run by Empson and Dudley, using methods of bonds and recognizances. It reached such as level of unpopularity amongst the people that it was abolished by Henry VIII and Empsom and Dudley were executed. 

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Kings Court

The kings court distinguished from the Council as it followed the king around the country and was more performance based, with little political influence. Its main roles were: 

  • protecting and entertaining the king
  • looking after the king and his guests
  • acting as influencial courtiers

The court was important to nobles as the closer you were to the king, the more power you had access to. Political power of individual relied on their relationship with the monarch. Esch noble was given a household for the property and administration they presided over.

The court was also a place of informal business, where issues would be discussed in passing and the results woudl have huge significance on the legislation that would be passed

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Parliament was made up of The House of Lords and the House of Commons. The House of Lords was far more influencial as Henry appointed the members based on their loyalty to him, often picking clerics or nobles. The House of Commons spoke to the king via the Speaker and rarely with Henry himself, yet Henry did acknowledge that they were the speaking body of the economy.

Parliaments main functions were:

  • Granting taxation
  • Passing laws

However, Parliament met only 7 times in his 24 year long reign, and less as his reign drew to a close. Henry had little need for granting of taxation as he obtained a policy of aoividng expensive foreign wars, and any legislation he wanted, he could pass using the Council Learned; although he did use them for Acts such as the Acts of Attainder, which aimed to control the nobility by making it possible to convict people of treason without trial, and seize their property, or legislation to do with the Justices of the Peace

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Royal Finances

Money was received by the crown through ordinary and extraordinary revenue. 

Ordinary revenue:

  • income from feudal dues, such as profits from wardship or feudal aid
  • income from rent of crown lands, making up a large proportion of ordinary revenue (he also received land back due to attainders). They made £42,000 by 1509
  • profits of justices, such as court fees
  • customs dues, such as duties levied on wine, wool and cloth. They accounted for 1/3 of the kings income

Extraordinary revenue: 

  • parliamentary grants, although this was rare due to Henrys policy of peace
  • bonds and recognizances from the Council Learned in Law
  • clerical taxes
  • the french pension from 1492 onwards due to the Treaty of Etaples
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