Mid Tudor Crisis: Stability of Monarchy

Mid Tudor : Stability - Overview (1)

  • The death of Henry VIII in 23 Jan 1547 brought his 9 year old son to the throne
  • Within days, Henry's instruction that country should be ruled by a Regency Council has been ignored & Duke of Somerset had been made Lord Protector by the Council
  • Somerset's rule was autocratic & this angered many councillors.
  • Things came to a head with riots & rebellions in 1549. Somerset was unable to control the unrest, relied heavily on Earl of Warwick (later the Duke of Northumberland), which weakened his power. Somerset surrendered.
  • During the autumn/winter of 1549-50, there was a power struggle between the Catholics on the Council & Northumberland. N defeated the Catholics & became Lord President of the Privy Council.
  • Northumberland tried to reconcile Somerset, brought him back to court, but he was still plotting so had him executed in 1552
  • Under Northumberland there seemed to be more stability, until his position was threatened in early 1553 when Edward's health began to fail.
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Mid Tudor: Stability - Overview (2)

  • As Edward's health declined, an attempt was made to alter the sucession to prevent E's (Catholic) sister Mary for acceding the throne.
  • A devise was drawn up, declaring Mary & Elizabeth as illegitimate, and naming male decendants of Lady Jane Grey as heirs.
  • But as there were no heirs when Edwards died suddenly (July 1553), LJG was given the throne.
  • Mary did not accept this, fled to East Anglia to raise a force & it looked like there may be civil war.  However, Northumberland's forces, sent against Mary's, deserted & N was forced to surrender. LJG ruled for only 9 days.
  • Mary was at first popular, but soon there was unrest. As a female it was expected she'd marry, but her choice of Philip of Spain resulted in Wyatt's rebellion in January 1554
  • Wyatt's rebellion nearly toppled Mary, but then she faced no other challenges. Although some not happy with her religious policies & the burning of Protestants
  • Mary did not have children, she altered her will in 1558 to only allow her children to suceed, but when she was dying, she recognised her half sister Elizabeth as heir.
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Mid Tudor: Stability - Edwards Minority (1)

Question: How serious were the problems caused by the minority of Edward VI?

Serious Problems:

  • Royal minorities had caused problems before: there had been civil wars in the reigns of both Henry III, who became King at the age of 9 in 1216, & Edward V, who became King at 12 in 1483. E V had lost the throne to his uncle Richard III after only 3 months & was almost certainly murdered by him.
  • As a child king, Edward obviously did not have the authority his father had had, nor could he intimidate people as Henry had done through the Treason Act & over 300 executions.
  • This problem was compounded by Somerset’s decision to repeal Henry’s Treason Act & the heresy laws, which caused an upsurge of religious unrest.
  • As Lord Protector, Somerset did not have the same authority an adult king would have had, partly as his title went against H’s wishes (expressed in his will) for a balanced Regency Council.
  • The outbreak of serious rebellions in the South West & Norfolk in 1549 which resulted in the fall of Somerset showed how govt. authority had been undermined.
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Mid Tudor: Stability - Edwards Minority (2)

Question: How serious were problems caused by the minority of Edward VI? 

Not serious problems:

  • Henry III (1216-72), Richard II (1377-99) & Henry VI (1422-61) had all succeeded to the throne as minors but retained their throne into adulthood.
  • Edward was not sickly until his final illness in 1553 so the general assumption was that he would live to become an adult king & have an heir as Henry III & Henry VI had done.
  • Henry VII & VIII had established a strong Tudor dynasty by 1547 & no one challenged Edward’s right to the throne, including the rebels of 1549.
  • As Edward’s uncle, it was logical that Somerset should be L Protector. In a country used to monarchy, it made sense to have a Protector rather than rule by a Regency Council which might have difficulty reaching agreement.
  • The crisis of 1549, including the rebellions & the fall of Somerset, were caused more by Somerset’s incompetence & underlying religious & economic problems rather than by the royal minority as such. Following the crisis of 1549, Northumberland restored stability 1550-3 & there was no further unrest until it became clear that Edward was dying.
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Mid Tudor: Stability - Somerset (1)

Question: Was Somerset's attempted Coup of 1547 a threat to stability?

  • As Lord Protector, Somerset was able to use his position to increase his personal wealth & power - resulting in critism from opponents & even former supporters
  • Though the unrest was squashed, still concerns by the disorder & resentment of Somerset's personal style of governing. Led to anti-Somerset faction (little in common except dislike of Somerset) - incl Warwick, Paget & Wriothersley
  • Warwick - looked for chance to advance; Wriothersley - opposed to S's religious changes; Paget - didn't like the disorder & treatment of the common person
  • Though Somerset's support declined, it was the events of summer 1549 (rebellions) provided them with the oportunity to act.
  • As S lost his hold on power in October 1549, retreated to Hampton Court, then Windsor with Edward. Edward claimed he was being held prisoner, E abandoned his uncle saying S had threatened riots in the street if he lost power. Somerset was removed and arrested.
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Mid Tudor: Stability - Somerset (2)

Question: Was Somerset's attempted coup of 1549 a threat to stability?

  • The removal of Somerset did not guarantee Warwick triumph or end of power struggle.
  • The Council contained a majority who didn't trust Warwick, so he brought in his own allies & removed opponents so that he had a Protestant majority on the council.
  • In Dec 1549, rumours of a Catholic plot to remove Warwick, but by Jan 1550, the main Catholics had been removed (Earls of Arundel & Southampton) & Warwick was made Lord President.
  • Warwick also placed his own supporters in important positions around Edward to secure his position. However, these developments forced Warwick to ally with the more religiously radical Council members, which would impact on religiuos developments (see Religion)
  • Once Warwick (Duke of Northumberland) was secure he attempted a reconciliation with Somerset,even restoring him to court & Privy Council, but he continued to plot & was finally executed.
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Mid Tudor: Stability - 1553 Succession (1)

Question: How seriously did the attempt to alter the 1553 succession threaten dynastic security?             Seriously Threaten (1):

  • It could be argued that North. acted as an “overmighty subject”, putting his own ambition & interests above the security of the Crown. He married Lady Jane Grey to his son Lord Guildford Dudley & then persuaded the dying 15 year old King to alter his “Device for the Succession” in Jane’s favour.
  • Jane’s claim as the granddaughter of Henry’s sister Mary was clearly inferior to that of Henry VIII’s eldest daughter Mary; she knew this & did not want to be queen but was manipulated by North.
  • Legally the Succession Act of 1543 clearly overruled the “Device” of a 15 year old king which was never approved by Parliament. It also superseded the acts of 1534 & 1537 (quoted by the Privy Council in a letter to Mary just after E’s death) which had excluded Mary from the succession.
  • In June 1553, knowing E was dying, North. forced the Privy Council & other notable people to sign articles supporting Jane. When E died on 6 July North. kept his death secret for 2 days & forced leading London citizens to sign E’s “Device”.
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Mid Tudor: Stability - 1553 Succession (2)

Question: How seriously did the attempt to alter the 1553 succession threaten the dynastic security?         Seriously Threaten (2):

  • Conversely, it can be argued that it was Edward himself who threatened the security of his own dynasty by trying to interfere with the succession for religious reasons; he was quoted as saying, “if our sister Mary were to be queen, it would all be over for the religion we have established”.
  • Similarly Archbishop Cranmer showed disloyalty to the dynasty he was appointed to serve for religious reasons & b/c he knew Mary would burn him as a heretic. His later claim that “I never liked” E’s will & “if by any means possible it had been in my power to have prevented the making of that Will, I would have done it” was an obvious lie.
  • There was a real threat that the succession dispute in 1553 could have provoked not just a civil war but also a foreign invasionNorth. discussed with the French ambassador the possibility of French military aid against the half-Spanish Mary, while Mary herself requested help from her nephew Charles V.
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Mid Tudor: Stability - 1553 Succession (3)

Question: How seriously did the attempt to alter the 1553 succession threaten dynastic security?   

Not Seriously Threaten (1): 

  • North. incompetent: If North. was the main author of the attempt to interfere with the succession he was incompetent in how he set about it:
    • he did not have an army available to support Jane (disbanded his army in 1552),
    • he failed to prevent Mary escaping to East Anglia 
    • he also neglected to organise a propaganda campaign against her.
  • Nobility had a vested interest in supporting the principle of legitimate inheritance, on which their right to their own property depended; it was therefore never likely that they would support Jane against Mary.
  • Mary acted quickly & decisively to secure her rightful position by escaping to East Anglia, proclaiming herself Queen, sending letters to the Privy Council & important towns asserting her claim & quickly raising a large army.
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Mid Tudor: Stability -1553 Succession (4)

Question: How seriously did the attempt to alter the 1553 succession threaten dynastic security?   

Not Seriously Threaten (2): 

  • Deserting soldiers: As soon as North. left London to confront Mary, the Privy Council went over to her & many of his soldiers deserted despite being offered higher pay, showing how strong loyalty to the rightful heir was. In fact so many of his army deserted that North. had to give up & declare Mary Queen himself instead of fighting her. 
  • Religious divisions in England mattered less than her legitimacy: she was greeted with enthusiasm in London despite the presence of many Protestants there. Some historians have argued that Mary herself underestimated the extent to which her success was due to her legitimacy rather than her religion.
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Mid Tudor: Stability - Mary Female Ruler (1)

Question: To what extent did the challenges to Mary threaten the stability of the Monarchy?

Female Ruler: Stability threatened 

  • The last female monarch, Matilda, had provoked a civil war in the mid 12th century.
  • It was assumed that a female ruler would be too weak to control the nobility & would certainly not be able to lead an army into battle.
  • Mary’s marriage was only a problem b/c she was female: When Mary married Philip it was feared that he would dominate her because in the 16th century a wife was expected to be subordinate to her husband.
  • Because she was female, Mary could not win, whomever she married:
    • either her marriage to Philip led to fears that Spain would dominate England,
    • or if she had married an English noble like Edward Courtenay, the other nobles would be jealous & resentful.
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Mid Tudor: Stability - Mary Female Ruler (2)

Question: To what extent did the challenges to Mary threaten the stability of the Monarchy?

Female Ruler: Stability not threatened:

  • The fact that Mary was clearly the rightful heir mattered more than her gender.
  • Mary acted promptly & decisively:
    • against Jane in 1553 (when she fled to Norfolk & rallied support there) 
    • against Wyatt in 1554 (when she wisely ignored the advice of her councillors & stayed in London to rally support there), showing that her gender mattered less than her determination & political skill.
  • Mary had good advisers (e.g. Winchester on finance & Pole on church reform). She was able to govern effectively despite her gender, as shown by the improvements in the Navy & the land defence system (Militia & Arms Acts) resulting from the French war. 
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Mid Tudor: Stability - Mary Female Ruler (3)

Question: To what extent did the challenges to Mary threaten the stability of the Monarchy?
Mary's marriage. Stability Threatened:

If all 4 planned rebellions against the Spanish marriage had taken place (In Devon by Courtenay; in Leicestershire by Suffolk; in Kent by Wyatt & Welsh borders by Croft) or if Wyatt had not delayed his march on London by besieging Cooling Castle, the Wyatt rebellion could have succeeded, change her choice of husband or replacing her with Elizabeth.

The fact that the London militia defected to Wyatt, shouting “we are all Englishmen!” showed how unpopular the Spanish marriage was.

Mary was only saved by the loyalty of a few nobles (like the Duke of Norfolk, by then in his 80s) & their retainers. Penry Williams has claimed, “a crucial episode in Tudor history was thus determined with most of the political nation standing aside”.

The fact that there were very few executions (except Northumberland) after the Grey conspiracy & fewer than 100 after Wyatt (compared with 178 following the Pilgrimage of Grace, which never got near London) suggests that Mary’s govt. did not feel strong enough to be as brutal as Henry VIII had been.

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Mid Tudor: Stability - Mary Female Ruler (4)

Question: To what extent did the challenges to Mary threaten the stability of the Monarchy?

Mary's marriage. Stability Not Threatened:

  • Mary acted promptly & decisively against Wyatt, wisely ignoring the advice of her councillors & staying in London to rally support there.
  • Memories of the Wars of the Roses in the previous century & the hatred towards the gentry shown by the 1549 rebels (in both the South West & Norfolk) made the gentry reluctant to support any rebellion for fear that it would lead to a breakdown of law & order, threatening both their property & their social status.
  • Despite the factional rivalry between Paget & Gardiner over the Spanish marriage, Mary’s Privy Council generally governed effectively, especially in terms of increasing royal revenue, & there were no further rebellions after Wyatt despite the bad harvests & trade depression.
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Mid Tudor Stability: How Stable? Summary (1)

Question: How stable was the monarchy in the period 1547 to 1558?

There was a crisis because:

  • Somerset was able to seize power through manipulating Henry's will
  • The nature of govern. changed under Somerset so it was run through his household
  • The rebellion of 1549 resulted in the politcal elite abandoning support of the govern.
  • Somerset's overthrow in 1549 created instability
  • The power struggle between North. & the Catholics
  • The LJG affair resulted in raising of armed forces
  • Wyatt came close to toppling Mary
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Mid Tudor Stability: How Stable? Summary (2)

Question: How stable was the monarchy in the period 1547-1558?

There was not a crisis because:

  • The legitimate monarch always triumphed
  • The crown passed peacefully from Henry to Edward & from Mary to Elizabeth
  • Even during factional struggles, govenment continued
  • Henry's will was upheld
  • Somerset's attempted coup was short lived
  • LJG was queen for only 9 days
  • The ruling elite supported the rightful monarch: even in 1553 they supported Mary once Northumberland left London
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