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The Government Of Henry Viii (Including Extensive Coverage On The Role Of Wolsey) Notes

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Structure of Government.
- The three main parts of Henry's government were i) the Court (everyone in attendance to the King. Key persons = Wolsey, Cromwell and the Duke of Norfolk), ii) the Privy Council (gave the King advice of matters of state. Key persons = Cromwell and Wolsey) and iii) the Privy Chamber (part of the Household. Head = Groom of the Stool. Tended to King's requirements and looked after the Household. Key persons =
William Compton and Henry Norris).
- Highly autocratic - King has all real power.
- David Starkey has argued that the importance of the Privy Chamber (particularly of the Groom of the Stool) grew throughout Henry's reign.
- People could begin to more than one of the parts of gov't at once.
- The Privy Council handled the routine matters of state, and had around 20 members. Henry drew up its agendas but never attended its meetings, as he found them boring.
- As a result, he gave Wolsey much power and influence - he was willing to carry out the tasks which Henry found mundane.
- In the last years of his reign, Henry allowed the dry stamp (a method of 'forging' his signature) to be used. This was only every given to three men at one time, and all documents signed by it had to be listed in a book which Henry initialled. Faction and Patronage.
- Several factions (groups with shared interests) existed in Henry's gov't:

1. The Aragonese faction supported the interests of the humiliated Catherine of Aragon.

2. The Boleyn faction (orchestrated Wolsey's demise).

3. The conservatives under Norfolk and Gardiner (tried to dispense with Archbishop Cranmer).
- 200 worthwhile posts at court by 1457.
- The King, along with Wolsey and Cromwell, decided who would be given posts at Court.
- The mechanics of faction and patronage were inextricably linked, e.g. Sir Ralph Egerton of Ridley - elevated by patronage and humbled by faction ("an example of what success at court could mean, how it could be won and how it could be lost" - Eric Ives). Became a leading courtier, being appointed to Princess Mary's council and a commission on Ireland. By 1525, he held fifteen crown offices. His wealth became the subject of envy at Court (>£400 set aside). His son was a minor, so when he fell from the King's favour, his offices reverted to the Crown. Similarities and Differences compared to Henry VII's Government. Similarities:

Ellie Lacey

The fundamental structure of Henry VIII's government was the same as that of his father (it comprised the Privy Council, the Household etc.). Both Kings appointed men to high positions at Court and within the Councils to aid the running of the country (e.g. Sir William Stanley, Bray, Morton under Henry VII; Wolsey, Cromwell under Henry VIII).

- Henry VII was far more involved in the day-to-day tasks of gov't. E.g. He signed all of the accounts himself, whereas Henry VIII used the dry stamp towards the end of his reign and showed less interest in personal involvement in mundane tasks.
- Henry VII attended more of the Privy Council meetings.
- Henry VIII allowed more power to be given to his top advisors than Henry VII would have (e.g. Wolsey, Cromwell), probably due to the fact that he felt more secure on the throne.
- Henry VII used patronage more carefully, so patronage was more of a problem under his son.
- Henry VII was a more 'personal monarch'.
- Henry VIII got rid of Empson and Dudley - he wanted to move on, score points with nobility, and see his own men rise. Key players in Henry's government.


Privy councillors chosen by Henry VII. Most of the old council present.
- Inherited council.
- E.g. Bishop Richard Fox (Lord Privy Seal) Thomas Howard Sir Thomas Lovell Policies:
- Henry did have an impact on the council, e.g. by getting rid of Empson and Dudley (trying to rid himself of opponents), which led to a change in policies.
- Henry wanted a change from his father's unpopular methods. E.g. The Council Learned in the Law was abolished. E.g. some bonds cancelled.
- Councillors against an aggressive foreign policy, but Henry found support in other ministers. Henry's attitude:
- Henry keen to distance himself from the miserliness and unpopular policies of his father.
- He was very eager for an aggressive foreign policy (swore oath to attack France on his accession) - very keen on imperial kingship.
- He made it clear that he would not tolerate threats, e.g. by executing the Earl of Suffolk.
- He would allow more patronage.
- Henry took England's stability for granted.

Ellie Lacey


- Son of a butcher
- Educated at Magdelen College
- Had a steady rise through the Church.
- Became Henry's leading advisor in 1513.
- Dominated foreign and domestic policy for 15 years.
- "The King's court should have the excellence but Hampton - Court hath the pre-eminence" - John Skelton.
- Died on his way to face treason charges.

- The court of the Star Chamber became more important as Eolsey wanted to root out corruption.
- The Act of Resumption 1515 to increase revenue.
- Wanted the subsidy to replace the 15ths and 10ths tax.
- The 'Amicable Grant' (1925) failed miserably. Planned to raise money for Henry's French expeditions, and caused rebellion in East Anglia.
- Raised income (subsidies raised to £322,099) but could not fund war.
- Eltham Ordinances 1526 - attempt to keep power.
- Church > centralised. 30 Churchouses closed. Wolsey = papal legate. V. powerful; could appoint bishops.
- Enquiries into enclosure. Henry's attitude:
- Much debate over who was more in control: Henry or Wolsey? It is a highly controversial issue.
- Eric Ives has argued that Wolsey "could effectively propose a policy but was always careful to ensure that Henry owned it". This suggests that he did always have to ensure that Henry was happy with proceedings, and did not have overall control.
- Wolsey "enjoyed exceptional favour" (Guy) and the King trusted him totally and gave him much responsibility during his time in power. This is undeniable. Wolsey enjoyed this influence for 15 years.
- Henry "acknowledged" Wolsey's "faults" but retained "no spark of displeasure" (Henry VIII himself).


- Son of a cloth worker.
- No formal education.
- Wide foreign travel.
- Built up legal firm, worked for Wolsey.

Ellie Lacey
- Became an MP in 1525.
- King's Chief Minister, UNOFFICIALLY.
- Never as powerful as Wolsey.
- Protestant leanings. Policies:
- Act to abolish sanctuary in 1540.
- Court of Augmentations established in 1536 to deal with income from monasteries' dissolution.
- Business of gov't decentralised, according to Elton. However, Revisionists argue that this only happened partially.
- By 1536, main Privy Councillors = 20. Debatable as to whether or not their influence increased.
- Act of Union 1536 brought Wales under the English legal and administrative systems. Divided into three systems.
- Authority of Council of the North increased.
- King's authority > rapid and direct. Henry's attitude:
- Henry did not allow Cromwell the same latitude as he did Wolsey. Instead, more power went to the Council and the Court. Henry had >
- "Henry was much nearer to decisions in detail than he had been" (Eric Ives).


Cromwell = great Chamberlain until 1540, when he was executed. The Privy Council split into factions: Norfolk/Gardiner (Conservatives - wanted counter-Ref and personal gain. Engineered Catherine Howard's marriage, and wanted to remove Cromwell and Catherine Parr) v. Reformers, e.g. Cranmer and Dudley (wanted Prot. reform and personal gain. Obtained dry stamp).

- Henry married 3 times in 3 years.
- No chief minister; Henry in charge, particularly on areas of religion and foreign policy.
- Regency council set up for Edward: 16 members, Prot.:Cath. 50:50.
- Henry manipulated by both groups. Difficult to tell how much. Henry's attitude:
- Henry had a stronger personal grip on power during these years.
- It is difficult to tell how much of an influence the factions had on Henry.

CONCLUSIONS:At NO STAGE in Henry's reign can he be removed from the political equation.

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