Wales under Henry VII and Henry VIII

  • Middle ages - marcher regions, own laws and customs, 1st line of defence, nobility in areas = quasi-kings
  • Crown controlled principality of Wales, before 1530s = had own legal system, possible to commit crime in one lordship then exile to another
  • Welsh law - continuation of blood fueds
  • Control needed to control nobility e.g. Duke of Buckingham had claim to throne, tried to visit Welsh estates with over 400 men, executed for treason in 1521
  • Before 1530s, tried to use Council of Wales and Marches to get control - council based at Ludrw Castle headed by members of royal family e.g. Jasper Tudor
  • 1501 - Prince Arthur sent to Wales to become Prince of Wales, died in 1502
  • 1525 - Henry VIII sent Mary as figuehead of CoW (1528 returned to London)
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Government of the North, 1485-1537

  • North - remote, poor communication, under threat of invasion by Scotlans
  • North Marches in 3 = Western, Middle, Eastern - controlled by wardens
  • Henry VII - vulnerable to invasion from north e.g Yorkshire loyal to Richard III
  • Economic hardship - 1489 tax revolt in Yorkshire, Earl of Northumberland (money collector) killed, Earl of Surrey LL in north until 1499, power reverted to wardens
  • Henry VIII - key noble families: Dacres, Cliffords, Percys and Nevilles (needed for 1st line of defence, no peace between them
  • 1525 - attempt to revive Council of the North - failed
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Law in Wales Act (1535) and (1542)


  • Cromwell introduced 1st Act, passed by parliament in 1536 (Act of Union)

Changed Welsh govt. structure:

  • Principility of Wales and Marcher lordships abolished, replaced with 12 counties
  • English sytle govt. system introduced - shriffs, coroners
  • Banned use of Welsh system in courts
  • Each county and town allowed to allocate 2 MPs to sit in English parliament
  • End of traditional military power of marcher lords


  • Introduced system of English law in Wales, end of traditional Welsh system incl, blood fued
  • News system of law courts - courts of great session - held twice a year
  • Recognised Council of Marches (CoW more formal body with President and Vice President appointmed by monarch)
  • Right to hear legal cases and oversee law and order in Wales and marcher counties (under Elizabeth - LL
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Re-establishment of the Council of the North, 1537

  • Oct 1536 - rebellion in Lincolnshire and northwards (failed)
  • Cromwell remodelled council in 1537 - powers to hear and decide cases of treason, murder and felony
  • Council - voice of govt. in LDN, ordersaw food supplies, enforced royal proclamations, regulated trade, organised local musters for military campaign
  • Council governed - Yorkshire, Durham, Northumberland, Westmorland, Cumberland
  • Permanent HQ in York
  • President of Council either bishop/member from South/Midlands e.g. 1538-1540 = Bishop of Llandaff-  no interests in decisions and impartial when dealing with disputes
  • Rest of council - gentry, lawyers and clergy
  • Councillors - increase power, appointed as Justices of Peace (JPs)
  • Signalled long-term decrease of power from traditional northern lords
  • Elizabeth I tried to put more Southerners into Council - rebellion 1569
  • Council responsible for combating recusancy - North openly Catholic
  • 1572 - Puritan Henry Hastings made President (Elizabeth's cousin)
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Borough representation

Boroughs - towns with right to send 2 MPs to sit in parliament, granted by royal charter

  • No. of boroughs increase - end of Elizabeth's reign = 191
  • HoC increased from 296 to 462 / HoL decreased (under Elizabeth)
  • MPs - Edward created 34, Mary = 25, Elizabeth = 62
  • Some boroughs = rotten, lower population, no MPs
  • New borough constituencies granted franchise e.g. Andover

Why did it increase?

  • Pressure from towns - cooperation between townsmen and govt. e.g. Edward VI parliament cooperated with York to ensure laws passed which prevented woodland areas being chopped down within 25km of city
  • Most MPs who represented boroughs not from town (Reformation 1529-36 = 50% townsmen / Elizabeth I = 23% in 1559, 14% in 1601)
  • MPs - claim expenses to cover cost of sitting in parliament (claim 2 shillings a day) e.g. Dunwich in 1559 accepted Sir Edmund Rowse as an MP as he would pay his own expenses
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Use of Patonage

  • Many local gentry who became MPs - controlled by member of nobility/monarch
  • As parliament grew and powers increased, monarch needed to ensure MPs obeyed Crown's wishes
  • Most powerful noblemen under Henry VIII, Duke of Norfolk - able to get his clients elected as MPs obeyed Crown's wishes
  • Most powerful noblemen under Henry VIII, Duke of Norfolk able to get own clients elected as MPs e.g. Great Yarmouth, Castle Rising and Reigate
  • Boroughs - ensure interests looked after in parliament
  • Nobility able to place clients in power to increase their influence
  • Monarchs - ensure MPs in commons did what they were told
  • Ambitious nobility and gentry wanted new opportunities e.g. new borough of Newton in Isle of Wight created in 1584 due to Sir George Carey (Elizabeth I's cousin)
  • New boroughs controlled by crown e.g. Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster
  • Crown could place own candidates in parliament
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Yeoman and Literacy

  • Literacy rates increased among yeomen
  • Growth of humanist ideas led to creation of grammer schools for boys - girls from wealthy backgrounds taught at home
  • Public grammer school open to rich and poor boys - taught reading, writing, English and Latin grammer
  • 'English' school created also, taught everything but Latin
  • Oxford student no. increased from 1,150 (1550) to 2000 by end of period
  • Under 1/2 nobility and gentry - rest yeomanry
  • Literacy rates = sign name in Church Court records
  • Illiteracy rates men = 80% / Women = 98% in 1550
  • 1600 = 72% / 92%
  • 1530 = illiteracy rates higher in north than south
  • Rebellions e.g. Cornish Rising (1497 and 1549) troubles mostly led by yeomen
  • Norwich (1580s) illiteracy rates from from 60% to 30%
  • Durham = 73% yeoma signed with a mark (1561-1631)
  • Literacy rates increased among yeomen - began to be within govt.
  • Roles = administration of Poor Law/voting in elections
  • After Revolt of Northern Earls (1569) no serious rebellion attempted by yeomen
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