Tudor government: Mid Tudor crisis?

an overview of governmetn and the question of a crisis in the reigns of Mary and Edward.

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What is a Crisis?

  • A time when the government loses control
  • threat of invasion
  • continuous problems
  • all society pressured

can a 20 year period be a crisis if a crisis is a 'brief moment of danger. Or it could be that only certain years were crisis situatios, e.g 1547 or 1553

What creates a crisis? immediates short term problems or a combination of long term problems?

A crisis is mainly when the state of England was in danger of collapse, or the monarch's position was in danger.

2 different schools of thought:Revisionist: interpret events in terms of constsituion, politics and changes in th ruling elite. Marxist: general theories based on long term changes in the economy and society.

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Was there a Mid-Tudor crisis?


  • Dynastic crisis: Edward was too young, Mary was small minded and a woman
  • Religious crisis: catalyst for 2 revolts
  • Aftermath of henry's Foreign Policy
  • economic crisis: debasement of coinage
  • social crisis: poor harvests, disease, unemployment


  • Government never lost control
  • 1549 rebellions never aimed to topple the government
  • council functioned effectively
  • series of short lived probs: normal situation
  • economy undergoing restructuring
  • nvere danger of foreign invasion
  • The Tudor state was more powerful than it had ever been because of Cromwellian reforms
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Government under Somerset

machinery of government was inefficient under Somerset.

  • He neglected the council
  • kept and worked through his own council
  • problems were getting worse, but council didn't adapt
  • half heared policies created confusion
  • s introduced no reforms
  • S pre-occupied with war
  • S stubborn and unable to adjust to new conditions.
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New acts that created growth of Popular discontent

  • The New Treason Act(1547) repealed the old heresy laws and allowed people to discuss religion freely. Therefore authorities had fewer powers to deal with religious arguements and unrest.
  • The Chantries Act(1547) allowed commissioners to collect gold and silver from the chantries, which was melted doen to make coins. this lead to inflation and more discontent.
  • The Vagrancy Act(1547) made a savage attack on vagrants looking for work.Any able bodies out of work personl for more than 3 days was branded and sold into slavery for 2 years. many authorites refused to enforce these laws.

By the middle of 1548 the privy council was forced to take measures. The government blamed enclosure as a cause of inflation and unemployment and commissioners were sent out, which increased unrest.

In 1548 the government issued proclamations to prevent riots, e.g banning football, rumours.

In 1549, Somerset was unable to take decisive action against the uprisings.

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1549-The Year of the Many Headed Monster

In 1549 23 counties were effected by uprisings, the two major ones being the Western and the ketts rebellions. The vast majority were successfully quelled by local authorites, but as a whole it signified the deep problems in the country.Were the rebellions a threat to the government?


  • In some cases, the local gentry failed to deal eith the uprisings and the central gov had to intervene.
  • raisng troops was difficlut and expensive. The normal methos was through asking for support from local militia.
  • Somerset had to bring his troops back from the border, ending his policy of garrisoning.
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1549-The Year of the Many Headed Monster Continued


  • There was no attempt at co-operation or synchronisation between the isolated uprisings. There was no attempt at cross-regional co-operation.
  • The rebellions were not directed at the government or the monarch. There was no attempt to march to london.
  • The gov was always in control of it's forces.
  • There a significant lack of gentry leadership.

Western Rebellion:

  • Cornwall, June 1549
  • Lead by Humphrey Arundell and Rober Welsh(vicar)
  • Trigger: 1) resentment of William Brody a commissioner investigating church property. 2) New Prayer Book
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1549-The Year of the Many Headed Monster Continued

  • A local gentleman Hellier was hacked to pieces, after he tried to calm them. Other gentry made unsuccessful attempts to conciliate
  • Lord Russel was urged by the gov to find a peaceful settlement. Russel was provided with only a small army.
  • 28th july Russel began to advance, confrontations at Fenny Bridges.The rebels were defeated at sampford Courtnay.
  • Punishments: 300 killed in battle, Welsh hanged surrounded by 'popish trash'.
  • Government forces illegaly executed and confiscated without trials.

Ketts Rebellion

  • East Anglia/Norwich, july 1549
  • Led by Robert Kett and other yeoman farmers.
  • 6-8 July drunken feast..high spirits..anger..crouds broke down enclosure fences/flowerdew was pulling down the abbey
  • size and speed scared the local authorities, the sherrif was nearly arrested when he attempted to disperse them. Gentry were powerless.
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1549-The Year of the Many Headed Monster Continued

  • 21 July herald offered pardon to those who left, compromises were offered, e.g price of wool reduced. Herald failed to arrest Kett.
  • an army of 1800 under command of William parr sent to cut off supply lines, only 20 dispersed. 3000 rebels were slaughtered in battle, and Kett was hanged. They were dealt with in accordance to the law. Only 49 were executed.
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The fall of Somerset an the Rise of Northumberland

The coup that was to remove Somerset can be attributed to the 1549 rebellions and Somerset's handling of them.

Somerset's support of the anti-enclosure measures had given him the reputation of a friend to the commons.

When somerset ordered all loyal subjects to hampton Court, 18 councillors issued counter-proclamations and Somerset was placed in the tower.

Northumberland in Government:

  • Northumberland revived the council, giving it new blood. 12 new councillors were appointed in 150. The administartive machine first expanded by Cromwell was revitalised. He took complete control of the council and restored privy council to the centre of government.
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Social/Economic Policy

  • popluation and unemployment were still rising and living standards falling
  • 1550 antwerp cloth market collapsed.
  • 1551 debasement increased inflation
  • grain prices rose.
  • the vagrancy and shepp taxex were repealed. A new treason act was passed which restored censorship and gave authorities more power.
  • A new poor law made it easier for local parish and twon authorites to help the agedm infirm and crippled. the worst social distress was eased, though underlying problems still existed.
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Mary and Government

  • Privy council was too big, up to 43 members, and too many had too little experience. It created rivalry between the factions.
  • The catholics were lead by the chancellor and the moderates by Paget. It is now thought that the 2 were able to co-operate sucessfully in order to restore effective government.
  • Mary did not exert any leadership, or show any real confidence in her council. She preferred to consult Renard than the PC
  • It has previously been maintained that parlament was strongly opposed to mary's policies.
  • However, there si little evidence that Mary packed the HoC with catholics through rigged elections. There were lively debates and criticisms but these were genrally constructive.
  • Mary was forced to give a way crown lands in order to re-establish monastic foundations, it was therefore important to find new sources of income.
  • 154 drastic changes were made to revenue courts, it was planned to restore the debased coins(not implemented til 1560), custom rates were revised, 1557 book of rates introduced and 1555 survey of crown lands completed.
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Mary and Government Continued

  • It was Elizabeth who would experience the benefits of these reforms however.
  • Mary experienced a series of bad harvests and outbreaks of epidemics, high mortality and food shortage. Towns were badly hit.
  • Therefore, the gov restricted movement of industry to the country, in order to reduce urban unemployment and no. ogf vagrants. This policy was too short sighted.
  • what was needed:
    • a variety of industries in town and country.
    • gov encouragement of the search for overseas markets, to replace the trade loss with collapse of Antwerp cloth market.
  • gov became more involved in domestic comerce, encouraging 'retail trades act' and 'woolen cloth act'. charters of incorporation of boroughs doubled and local authorities were encouraged to take measures against hoarders.
  • gov also actively fostered trade, seeking ports to calais like Bergen and Bruges. The new world market was thwarted. contacts developed with morocco and Guinea. traders did not protest at the higher duties in the new book, therefore positive relationship.
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