Tudor Government

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Role + Key features of the council

Up to 1532

  •  Main role is to advise the king
  • Members could reach up to 50 in total however less usually carried out the work.
  • Councillors also worked in preogative courts and regional courts
  • After Wolseys fall an inner ring of councillors was set up around the king

Under Cromwell

  • A more formal government was created which involved the role for office of principle secretary (this included an oversight of other departments)
  • Cromwell created an executive Privy Council of 19 members. These met reguarly and can operate independantly of royal intervention.
  • Act of Precedence- defined the role of the privy councillors and who could serve.

After Cromwell (1540-47)

  • More disciplined Privy Council- Privy council aquired own staff and secretary + dealt with the king often meeting reguarly and on own initiative.

Somerset 1547-49

  • By passed Privy Council when making decisions and policy. Relied on personal relationship with Edward and own household staff. Became v. unpopular with other councillors +nobles

Nothumberland 1550-53

  • Rose to power through making alliances with councillors
  • Increased number of members to accomodate different interests
  • Northumberland revitalised the role of the Privy Council in government and prepared for its role in  keeping government stable in times of crisis

Historians Views on Privy Council

  • Elton- 'Cromwell responsible for the creation of a more formal Privy Council. He laid the foundations for the more formal office of principle secretary.
  • Servini- 'Privy Council came into being because it had to deal with important cricies (e.g Pilgrimage of Grace). When Cromwell came to dominate again  it was a much more personalised control of government by Cromwell.
  • Guy- 'It was only after the fall of Cromwell that the council became more formalised. 
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Establishing Royal Authority


  • Prior to 1536 royal Authority in the regions was exercised from London through common law judges travelling the country. Under the tudors the JPs roles has become more important in law and order.


  • Under Cromwell Wales was brought into the administrative system of England and also into parliament and county judicial administration
  •  Regional council was reorganised to supervise royal authority across the region.


  • Henry VIII brought the North under more direct control. The Earl of Northumberland was made to name the king as his heir.
  • After the defeat of the Pilgrimage of Grace the council of the North was reorganised and became the executive authority acroos the North (under direct authority of the King)
  • Heads of the Councils owed their loyalty to the King not local loyalties
  • Cromwell also passed an act of parliament which removed certain regions and cities independant of judicial authority.

Establishing royal power over the nobility

  • Henry + Cromwell were determined to establish that the route to authority, power and wealth lay through the King
  • Faction was permitted within certain limits which were defined by the king (Faction was allowed to be for influence on the king but not for the possession of the throne).
  • Henry intended to create a 'service nobility'- a nobility that recognises that its dependant upon the king.
  • Under Henry + Cromwell the balance between the Crown and the nobility was tilted in the Kings favour
  • However there was still the need for local nobles to co-operate in enforcing local law and order.









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The Development of the Tudor Government Machine

Evidence to suggest that royal power was strengthened

  •  Council became a formalised Privy Council. In 1540 it became a distinct permanent insititution of government.
  • Judicial function of the council were transfered to court of star chamber and court of requests

Evidence to suggest that Cromwell had a significant impact on tudor government

  • Cromwell witnessed a shift of political emphasis to his own office of secretary. The office was one which english government could be dominated.
  • Cromwell transformed the Government of the realm from a personal process into one carried out by the impersonal operations  of a centralised bureaucracy
  • Elton claimed Cromwell transformed the office of secretary. The modest household office was transformed into a great office of state.
  • David Loades- 'Cromwell's exploitation of office was novel and he deserves great credit for spotting potenitialities of regular/ unchallenged access to the King's person.
  • Cromwell engineered a sunstantial increas in Royal income by the reorganisation of financial admin. (Court of Augmentations + Court of Wards)

Evidence to suggest that Cromwell's changes were not as significant

  • John Guy- 'Cromwell didn't bring it about as a conscious act but the transition had its origins in the crisis of 1536 (the fall of Anne Boleyn + Pillgrimage of Grace)
  • Cromwell had many political enemies- not ideal to solve governmental issues.
  • Starkey claimed Cromwell creatda more complex even chaotic financial machine. 
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