Henry VIII in England and Europe

The internal government of England during first two decades of Henry VIII's reign. How Henry VIII experienced very different foreign relations from his father.

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Domestic policies

All Tudor monarchs feared internal rebellion, since they had no standing army or police to re-establish royal authority, so any serious failure in domestic policy that caused rebellion would bring criticism.

There eas no major reform of government administration under Wolsey who, acting as Henry VIII's "business manager", preferred to keep and further develop the administration established by Henry VII. (Sir John Heron had been appointed Treasurer of the Chamber by Henry VII and kept that post until 1524).

Relationships between the court and the country were key to national stability. Central government needed the support of local magistrates especially the Justices of the Peaces. Many local magnates and JPs were invited to court and sworn allegiance to the King, becoming a "King's servant". Some JPs did rise to the Privy Chamber or the Counsel. Wolsey used his powers to reduce alleged corruption and maladministration in the counties. (Sir Robert Sheffield was accused of aiding and abetting homicide in his counties, he was sent to the Tower and died there.) Wolsey had a great presence but little effect in the Court of Chancery. He had a greater impact on the work of the court of the Star Chamber. In 1516, he put forward the idea that any crime should be punished.

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Domestic policies

The caseload rose from 12 cases pa to 120 pa. Wolsey openly asked for complaints to be brought to the court promising that social status would be no barrier to justice or protection against prosecution. Wolsey's legal reforms are not beyond criticism. Sometimes his judicial investigations smacked of personal vendentta. (Prosecution of Henry Standish for praemunire). His reforms were to ambitious and by 1529 the Court of the Star Chamber collapsed under the workload, so many of the suits had to be remitted to local commissioners or even abandoned.

Financial management

Wolsey's most significant andlasting achievements were in Tax reform. The old system of fifteenths and tenths was inefficient. Wolsey aimed to replace these taxes with directly-assessed subsidy. Wolsey was assisted by John Hales from 1522, together they moved towards a system whereby taxpayers were assessed individually under oath by local officials who were to be supervised by centrally-appointed commissioners (often trained by Wolsey's house). When parliament granted subsidy, every adult had to be assessed, but only those adults whose incomes exceeded a prescribed limit had to pay tax.

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The Amicable Grant, 1525

The reform of the tax system caused problems because many of the propertied classes, resented the new subsidy assessments. In 1523, parliament voted subsidy at 4 shillings on goods and land, only half of the expected £800,000 was collected. In 1525 Wolsey had to raise money to pay for the war in France but, being already at loggershead with parliament, he did not want to risk calling a parliament to raise subsidy. Besides, the 1523 was still being collected. Wolsey instructed his commissioners to raise a non-parliamentary tax which he called the "Amicable Grant" to appeal to patriotic sentiments. Tax payers rebelled at the imposition of a forced loan. Wolsey backtracked and requested a benevolence (voluntary contribution).

Discotent grew, resulting in opposition across the English counties. (At Lavenham in Suffolk 10,000 men took part in a very serious uprising which threatened to spread, Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk suppressed the revolt). The King had caused the discontent by planning an expensive war aginst Fance, but Wolsey took the blame for the financial disaster. No further taxation was attempted after this. This was the breakdown in law and order in England whilst Wolsey was the King's chief minister.

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Relations with parliament / economic issues

Wolsey did not prove adept in managing parliament and called only two parliaments - in 1515 (dominated by worries of the Church) and 1523 (overshadowed by the need to raise funds to fight the war in France).

Eonomic issues, Tudor suffered from serious economic problems because of increase in population that caused social tensions, poverty, unemployment, high prices and food shortages. They did not understand the population problems and instead blamed it on the enclosure of fields. Government had already passed a legislation to restrict enclosure in the year 1489 then in 1514 and 1515, however Wolsey launched a national enquiry into how effective the previosu legislation had been. This uncovered evidence against 264 landlords and corporations. Afterwards, some 74 landowners entered recognisances to rebuild demolished farmhouses or to restore lands to arable. In order to secure the support from landowning MPs and members of the Lords he suspended his enclosure policies. Wolsey desired to protect ordinary people from extortionate overcharging for basic foodstuffs. He dealt with food racketeers fron the Court of the Star Chamber. In 1518, he fixed poultry prices in London and investigated the scarcity of other meats although there were no long-term improvements in the prices and availability of meat for the capital. He issued proclamations against dealers who profiteered in grain. (little to enforce these measures)

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