To what extent was royal authority weak 1540-7?

Essay plan for the question "To what extent was royal authority weak 1540-7"?

  • Created by: Tiula
  • Created on: 07-05-11 10:58


  • royal authority was not particularly weak during this period compared to the rest of Henry's reign
  • faction was a powerful force in manipulating the king, but one could not make him do something completely against his will
    • e.g. Wriothesley tried to arrest Catherine Parr after his argument with her. Henry shouted that he was an "arrant knave, beast and fool".
  • his failing health made him more manipulable, yet he was still well enough to think for himself and carry out his own matters of state
  • the king's will heavily favoured the evangelicals who surrounded him at his death. Potential for manipulation, probably quite a bit happening
  • so: in the final months, royal authority was weaker in than in the rest of his reign, yet he was still capable of holding meetings and writing; he was not completely a puppet, and 1540-5 he was no weaker than in the rest of his reign
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  • faction was a powerful force
  • Cromwell had packed the Privy Chamber with evangelicals
    • managed to drive out Catherine Howard and put Parr in
    • however, Howard's affairs were genuine and Henry did not need persuading to have her executed (in fact, he tried to find a way not to. Distraught when he heard news)
  • Bishop Gardiner fell out with the king over a dispute about land. Wanted to come back to court to apologise, but the conservatives denied him access. Later he was cut out entirely from the king's will
  • however, faction could not make him do things he did not want to
    • Wriothesley (a conservative) tried to arrest Catherine Parr after she had had an argument with the king. The king, however, drove him away, calling him an "arrant knave, beast and fool"
  • Therefore, faction was influential, but Henry's authority was not very weak: he could and did things that he wanted to do, even without faction helping him.
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The king's health

  • suffered from frequent mood swings, irritability and headaches
  • had to be carried around court on a type of sedan chair -- difficulty walking
  • poor health made him easier to manipulate: Henry hated writing and found it "tedious and painful" -- often delegated his work to others
  • in his final months, Henry was bedridden. Leading conservatives arrested.
  • however, clearly fit enouh to lead the army into France in September 1544, even capturing Boulogne on 14 Sept 1544
  • a few days before his death, he was healthy enough to annotate documents for Surrey's execution (Jan 1544)
  • Therefore: the king's health, especially in his final few months, meant that he could be maipulated by others offering to ease his burden by doing his work for him. However, before he was bedridden, manipulation of the king was less easy despite his ailing health: he was still fit enough to run the country.
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The king's will

  • sealed 30th Dec 1546 with a dry stamp -- suggested that the king was not well enough to write
  • bedridden -- potnetial for manipulation
  • in the will, evangelicals came out well, given all the top positions
    • Gardiner (top conservative) left out: "too wilful... and much bent to the popish party"
  • however, in January 1547 (the month of his death) Henry received French and Imperial ambassadors, and annotated charges against Surrey, proving that he was capable of writing and holding meetings.
  • Royal authority fairly weak in these last few months. The evangelicals had a better foothold in court; the conservatives were arrested and cut out of the will.
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  • not really weak up until the final few months, when yes, Henry was manipulable
  • however, in the first few years of this period, royal authority was no weaker than it had been in the previous 20 years.
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