Structure of Society.
-English society at the end of the 15thC was not as rigid or heirarchal as Spain or France. On one level society had changed little from that of which had existed during the high point of the feudal system. (Monary overuling > great landowners/senior churchmen > to the base, those who laboured on their behalf)
-Society also had witnessed a growth of professional and mercantile bourgeoisie (middle class residents of towns/cities) > important in provincial cities like Norwhich and Bristol. London ovbiously.
-remants of the feudal system > apprent in laws, social relashionships and attitudes. However since Black Death (1348-49) & economic pressues > increased social mobility and had created alarm amongst more ocnservative-minded members of upper classes >liked to uphold traditional values by passing sumptuary laws which proved unenforcable.
-Sumptuary law: laws that attempt to regulate how individuals should dress depending on their social status. Example : Velvet of crimson or blue is prohibited to any one under the degree of knight of the garter; no person under a knight (excepting sons of lords, judges, those of the king’s council and the mayor of London) is to wear velvet in his gown and doublet, or satin or damask in his gown or coat.
-still dominated landownership. -Peerage (group who held one of the five ranks of the aristocracy e.g. duke, marquis, earl, viscount, baron) comprimised no more than 50 or 60 men. Not a closed caste. P. families died out on regualr baisis > were replaced by others who had acquired or brought kings favour. Crown offered relied on such families for matienance of country side etc.
-Henry VII (Unlike Edward IV &Henry 8) reluctant to create new peerage titles > poissibly due to deep distrust in nobility as class. Usurper. Main aims etc. Only trusted Lancastrian military commanders > Earl of Oxford, Lord Daubeney > much political influence. Never really trusted > Earl of Northumberland (enough though he had betrayed Richard 3 @ B.o.B). Although he relied on him to control northeast of England on behalf of the crown.
-key control methods> bonds and recognizances. Also Bastard Feudilism/retaining >by which wealthy magnates recurited knights ('retainers') to serves them (adminstrators,accountants sometimes military) Potential threat > so to limit power, bought in legislation against it.1487-law against retaining -1487 law reinforced by Act passed in 1504>licences could be sought. whilst at the same time remained consious to fact that loyal retainers were essential to maintain Crowns security. example: Lord Burgavenny, indicated for illegal retaining in 1507 >large sum £100,000 > however probably only piad £1000 and was pardoned by Henry VIII shortly after.
-below the peerage in status was the greater gentry. by late 15C often great landowners. Not a fixed caste.
-identity of greater gentry w. features such as: possession of knighthood, a coat of arms, considerable income, imposing country residence or courtly connections. lesser gentry- more in common with local yeomanry, living modestly in comparison, social horizons much more local that national.
-Sir Reginald Bray (important member of gentry) sought knighthoods as confirmation of their social status. 1490 - about 375 knights. Orignally, this status had imposed military obligations upon its holders. though dying out as specific obligation> was assumed that those holding status would assist in the admin. of their localities. -peerages and knights together owned 15-20% of countrys land.
-hugely important, not just spiritually >great landowners.
-social status of the clergy varied enormously. lower parish level (curates, chantry preists) modestly rewarded for dealing with spirtual needs of ordinary folk. > other hand. Bishops & abbots of larger religious houses were important figures > sit in House of Lords, political roles to undertake.
-Martin V, Pope (1417-1431) famoulsy declared King of England governed the Church in England on behalf of the Pope. Henry VII tended to use this power to appoint bishops that had legal training and whose administrative competence was valued more than their spirituality. Also reluctant to appoint men whose social background was aristocratic. E.g John Morton and Richard Fox.
-top end of the commoner groups > 'middling sort', the borgeosisie. In towns and cities, relatively small number of educated people proffesionals, most numerious and influential >lawyers, exercised considerable influence , often in collab with wealthier merchants.
-Lower down, but still considered respectable > shopkeepers and skilleds tradesmen. Tended to dominate the borough corporations (town councils) and played key roles in organisiations such as guilds and lay confraternities which were common feature of urban life in pre-reformation England.
-In countryside, middling sort comprised yeomen farmers who farmed substantial properties for an increasingly sophisticated market economy. decline in population (black death) had reduced demand for land and the resulting drop in land values had enabled the emergance of this group.
-Labouerers- usually dependent for income on the sale of their labour, grazing rights (legal term referring to the right of a user to allow their livestock to gree in a given area). very insecure.