Breadth 1 - Changing relationships between crown and the nobility: 'over-mighty subjects'


Were major landholders more important as props to the crown or as potential rivals?

  • King needed to deal with internal and external threats - expected to be good military leaders
  • Head of legal system - had to settle nobles
  • Had to have strong personality
  • Expected to delegate tasks to nobles

Lands and offices of the state

  • Bureaucratic methods:
  • The Exchequer - dealt with finances - tax and other revenues
  • The Chancery - legal documents etc. - held Great Seal - headed by chancellor (often a bishop)
  • The Office of the Privy Seal - travelled with king authenticating documents
  • The Kings Chamber - headed by a chamberlain - had power over who could see king etc.
  • King also took advice from councillors (nobility) - government policy, justice, order, trade etc.
  • The Great Council - Made of any lord in parliment - could be called quickly for emergencies - war, govenment's decisions etc. - king had influence of these lords
  • The Continual Council - small group of king's personal advisers - officialised under Richard II
  • Key officers appointed by king - treasurer, chancellor, Captain of Calais etc. - often travelled with king and had large estates/power
  • Important that king took advice from leading nobles - had most land/power - insulting to take advice from lesser nobles
  • However shouldn't be dominated by few individual nobles - 'evil councillors' often blamed
  • Royal proclamations legally binding - Nobles and gentry enforced them
  • King could call parliment at any time - Nobles, gentry, bishops - key to gain tax for war

Church patronage

  • Church very powerful
  • Regular clergy - monks, nuns, friars - lived together
  • Secular clergy - preiets, deacons - lived among the people
  • Clergy took tax exemptions on their land
  • Ran own justice system - didn't impose death penalty

Relations with the papacy

  • Roman Catholic chruch - first allegiance to the pope
  • Pope could approve/disapprove of king - important, e.g. Henry VII
  • King asked pope if he could marry distant relation - important political matches
  • Had to approve appointments of clergymen - however king had significant influence - needed support of bishops as involved in government offices

Church careers and political advancement

  • Allowed for political advancement
  • Low gentry could become important figures through the church
  • Some nobles 'gave' children to church not needed to continue bloodline

'Over-mighty subjects' and 'under-mighty monarchs': noblemen as necessary props to the crown but also potential rivals

  • Nobles had influence on king - either good or bad
  • Henry IV's usurpation made king's hereditary claims less legitamate - lots of rebellions followed as nobles saw opportunity to seize throne

Curshing conspiracy by force:examples for the reigns of Henry V and Henry VII

The Southampton Plot: conspiracy agaisnt Henry V in 1415

  • Henry had good repuation - wars in France
  • However - at start of reign was anti-Lancastrian sentiment
  • Southampton Plot aimed to usurp Henry with Edmund Mortimer, earl of March
  • Led by Richard Conisburgh (3rd earl of Cambridge), Henry Scrope (3rd Baron Scrope of Masham) and Sir Thomas Grey
  • Included…


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