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How Did Henry's Gov't Work (In Depth) Notes

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History Revision Notes Unit 1 A7.

THE NATURE OF TUDOR GOVERNMENT. How did Henry's government work? In-depth. The Council. Did Henry significantly change the nature of the council?
NO: Henry's council's composition and activities were largely the same as those of his predecessors. E.g. 29 of his councillors held the same office under one or both of the Yorkist Kings; the Council was made up of predominantly clerics and nobles. YES: However, Henry was wary of granting hereditary titles as well as appointing already-high-powered men. For example, Giles Daubeney (made a baron in 1486) was virtually the only new creation of Henry's reign. He was a ruler who often distrusted the nobility, which was important due to his usurpation and therefore tenuous position. Henry appointed his chief secular advisors from lesser landowners and professional men, as it was ability, rather than social status, which was valued by Henry in his advisors (however, we must note that all of these advisors were not really 'middle-class' as they were very close to the landed aristocracy in their aspirations and values). How did Henry's Council work?
- The Council was made up of roughly 27% clerics, 22% officials, 20%
courtiers, 19% peers and 12% lawyers.
- It looked after matters of internal security, defence of the realm and foreign affairs.
- It held regular meetings in the Star Chamber.
- Attendance ranged from 4-40, with 7 as the usual. The King often attended. In practice, Henry's council ran very fluidly. The Council Learned in the Law (The Council Learned). This was a small, separate body underneath the Council. It was made up of twelve members (although they never met all at the same time) who had received legal training.

The president was originally Bray (Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster), however he was replaced by Sir Richard Empson in 1504 and the Council's notoriety rose.

Functions.
- The Council Learned carried out a range of prosecutions on behalf of the Crown.
- It also acted as a debt-collecting agency; the "enforcement arm of the Chamber".
- Offences dealt with by this body included problems with exports and Customs dues, failure to take up knighthood, misconduct of sheriffs and infringement of the King's rights of wardship and livery. Complaints.
- The Council Learned operated without a jury (nothing exceptional about this).
- Too much discretion was left to its members involving the fixing of penalties - in matters of royal prerogative the penalties were fixed upon the King's discretion.
- Bonds and recognisances (written promises to pay a certain amount of money to the King if one offended him) were used widely by Henry - in 46 out of 62 peerage families - to keep the nobility under control, and were managed by the Council Learned. This was seen as blackmail, and resentment was focused upon the Council Learned in the Law. Empson and Dudley. There were numerous problems involved with Sir Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley, the Council Learned's Chancellor and Speaker, respectively. They were Henry's instruments for delivering his scheme of bonds and recognisances, as well as other matters dealt with by the Council Learned.
- They were accused of falsely stating that lands were held by feudal tenure, meaning that profits would go to the King rather than his subjects.
- They were occasionally guilty of corrupt practices. E.g. Thomas Sunnyff was accused of murdering his still-born child and was eventually forced to pay £500 to prevent rotting in jail.
- Their enforcement was too harsh; Dudley listed over eighty cases in which he believed that Henry had taken excessive bonds. This system of law enforcement is described by Lockyer as "crude". The Star Chamber and the 1487 Tribunal. Star Chamber: Functions.
- Had some part (although not a leading one) to play in enforcing law and order.
- Acted like a normal law court.
- Dealt with issues initiated by private suitors, often concerned with rioting (usually a disguise for land-ownership disputes).

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